AutoCAD 2008 Service Pack 1 Arrives with a Pleasant Surprise (Bug Watch AutoCAD Tutorial)

31 Oct, 2007 By: Steve Johnson

Hooray! Your dialogs are going to stick -- hopefully! Plus, what to do about those massive scale lists.

AutoCAD 2008 Service Pack 1
As usual, Autodesk has released its midterm service pack for AutoCAD. I'm very keen on one aspect of this update, because for the first time it has been configured so it can be uninstalled. That means you can install it and try it out relatively risk free. If Service Pack 1 introduces any problems you can't live with, you can easily remove it. In Windows XP, this is done via the Control Panel by selecting Add or Remove Programs and checking the Show updates box to make Service Pack 1 visible. In Vista, select Control Panel, then Programs, then Programs and Features and click View Installed Updates.

Autodesk deserves a pat on the back for this configuration. Not only does it make life easier for users of the finished Service Pack 1, it makes life easier for beta testers too. They are user volunteers who have to install and uninstall multiple prerelease versions of Service Pack 1 until it's considered ready for release. This uninstall feature makes that process much simpler. It may seem like a minor detail, but if it's awkward to test something, that discourages testing, and that in turn harms the software quality.

What does AutoCAD 2008's Service Pack 1 fix? You can visit the Read Me page to get some clues. Although long, the list of fixes is perhaps not as comprehensive and detailed as one might hope. If your problem isn't explicitly mentioned, you will have to suck it up and see.

Note that this Service Pack 1 should not be confused with earlier Service Pack 1 versions that were released for vertical variants of AutoCAD, such as Civil 3D 2008. Those verticals will come out with later service packs that incorporate the contents of AutoCAD's Service Pack 1. Indeed, Civil 3D 2008 Service Pack 2 is already out. It was an installation disaster area for some users, but Autodesk replaced the faulty one quickly. If your installation file isn't called c3d2008_sp20.exe, make sure you have the latest Civil 3D 2008 service pack download from the Autodesk site before installing it.

Don't expect a Service Pack 2 for base AutoCAD 2008, though. AutoCAD 2007's Service Pack 2 was a special case because of the need for Vista support. If AutoCAD 2008 Service Pack 1 doesn't fix your problem, you will have to put up with the problem or wait for AutoCAD 2009. If you are very lucky, there may be a hot fix, but there haven't been many of those for 2008.

A Lack of Dialog Re-re-re-re-revisited (2005 to 2008 Pre-Service Pack 1)
No, I don't have a stutter. I've written about various AutoCAD dialog boxes going AWOL in February 2006, March 2006, May 2006, September 2006, November 2006, and July 2007. You're probably sick of reading about this bug by now. I've raised false hopes before, but this time it appears that AutoCAD 2008 Service Pack 1 really does fix it. If not, please let me know!

Viral Scales (2008 Pre-Service Pack 1)
Over the years, AutoCAD has had a few things that get transferred from drawing to drawing in a viral manner. A drawing can contain thousands of AppIDs from recalcitrant third-party products, an educational plot stamp that has traveled far beyond an actual educational version of AutoCAD, and a plethora of layer states that make you wait and wait. Now it can have a vast number of annotation scales, too.

If you use AutoCAD 2008's annotation scales feature and set up your own scales, you've probably noticed that drawings using nested xrefs have enormous scale lists with scales like this:

AutoCAD 2008's nested xref scales.

With a few dozen of these _XREF_XREF_XREF scales, it's a minor inconvenience. With thousands of them, it can cause severe performance degradation. It also can crash the Scalelistedit command's dialog box.

Workaround. Service Pack 1 provides a partial fix to the problem. With Service Pack 1 installed, AutoCAD 2008 no longer creates scales like these. However, because scale lists are stored in each drawing, any existing styles in those drawings will still be there and will need removal. This will need to be done to each infected drawing. In an xref tree structure, you need to start cleaning up the drawings at the bottom and work your way up. That is, clean the children, then the parents, then the grandparents, and so on.

If the Scalelistedit dialog box doesn't work, you can use the -Scalelistedit command (note the leading hyphen) to reset the scales. The Reset option will revert the scales to the default list while retaining any other scales that are actually in use. Unfortunately, the default list is hardwired into AutoCAD and is quite likely to be unsuitable for your needs. For such cases, I have written SCALELISTDEL.LSP, a set of scale list utilities in LISP that you can use to fix up your scale lists instead of using the Reset option. Read the comments in the code to see what commands are available and what they do.

The above process will rid you of the _XREF_XREF_XREF scales, but you will still have one set of _xref scales in your parent drawings. Autodesk does not consider this a bug, and it is not likely to be changed in the 2008 release cycle. It might not be a bug, but it is poor design. I will discuss this and other scale list design flaws in a future "Bug Watch" column.

Annoyance Watch
Thanks again to all of you that have been sending in your annoyances. Watch this space next month to see if your annoyances made it!

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