AutoCAD 2009: Changes to the User Interface (Circles and Lines AutoCAD Tutorial)

30 Apr, 2008 By: Lynn Allen

The modifications are extensive, and they may help you get your work done faster.

I'll be the first to admit that I cringe whenever I see Autodesk change the AutoCAD user interface (UI), and I suspect many of you are nodding your heads in agreement. I know where everything is, I am comfortable, and I've set my system up to feel like the perfect easy chair. So why do the powers-that-be choose to do such a thing? I promise you they aren't trying to complicate your life — they genuinely want to help you get your work done faster. Following along with the new Office 2007 UI, the updated task-based AutoCAD 2009 UI is intended to help you get to the commands you need faster. Will it take a little getting used to? Absolutely. Will you prefer it when all is said and done? I believe so. Can you put back your familiar UI if you want to? Of course you can. But promise me you'll give it a chance before you banish it into oblivion — you might find yourself sailing along faster than ever. Wouldn't that be nice?

The biggest UI change in AutoCAD 2009 is the new task-based ribbon. The ribbon will display when you select the 2D Drafting and Annotation workspace. The ribbon comprises six different tabs, and each tab is composed of multiple panels. Each panel contains tools (much like toolbars). While it may take you a while to adjust to the reorganization of the AutoCAD commands, I assure you it's not as daunting as you might think.

Click for larger image The new AutoCAD 2009 ribbon is task based and easily customized. (Click image for larger version)

Grabbing the panels at their base allows you to reorganize them or even tear them off of the ribbon (much like a toolbar). All of these panels are customizable via the CUI. Once you have them just as you desire, you can lock them down by selecting the lock in the lower right corner of the drawing editor.

If you are greedy with your screen real estate, you might choose to minimize the panels and/or the tabs by right-clicking on any of the tab titles. You can also use the down arrow to the right of the Output tab to cycle through the minimizing options.

Feel free to minimize the ribbon to suit your preference.

By default you might notice that the familiar menu bar has disappeared from the screen. No problem — you can bring it back by right-clicking on the Quick Access toolbar and selecting Show Menu Bar from the shortcut menu. You might find this handy while you are adjusting to the new ribbon (especially if you need to get a project out the door quickly).

Use the Show Menu Bar option in the Quick Access toolbar to bring back the beloved AutoCAD menus.

You'll find that some functions automatically change the ribbon for you, such as mtext or while editing a table. Though this is a behavior change by AutoCAD, please do give it a try.

Note: The Dashboard that was introduced in AutoCAD 2007 is no longer with us. I must admit I was a Dashboard fan, and I am sad to see it leave us. You can undock the new ribbon and position it vertically on your screen for dashboard-like behavior, but it doesn't have the powerful roll-up capabilities that the Dashboard had.

The Quick Access toolbar that lies across the upper left corner of the drawing editor is also new. Here you'll find popular standard commands such as Open, New, Undo, Redo, and more. You can easily add your favorite commands by selecting Customize Quick Access Toolbar from the shortcut menu and dragging the commands of choice to the toolbar. I like to have my Sheet Set Manager and Xref Manager easily available and have added them.

In the upper left corner of the Drawing Editor, you'll find the great big red A that accesses the Menu Browser. Here you'll also find the familiar AutoCAD menu in a vertical fashion.

The AutoCAD menu can also be found in the Menu Browser.

The Menu Browser also displays a robust listing of your recently used documents. Here you can choose to display icons or images. You can also choose to list your documents by type or date. The latter option makes it easy to find a drawing file you were in last Tuesday, for example, but you can't remember the name.

The Menu Browser can also store as many as 50 recently used documents as long as you give it such a number in the Options dialog box. Sadly, the menu browser defaults to the standard value of nine, which is too low. I also love the Pin feature that allows you to pin a drawing file so it always remains on the list!

The menu browser provides a much more thorough viewing of your recent documents.

You can view your open documents in the menu browser (although I'm not sure this is the route I'd take to do that) as well as access your recent actions. Recent actions consist of anything you've selected off of the AutoCAD menu. I must confess I don't see the real value in this yet as it's probably faster just to grab the command again from the menu or from the command history.

Some modifications to the Status bar are welcome changes. I've always had a difficult time discerning whether a toggle was on or off. Now it is really clear when a status bar option is on because the button turns blue. (I love that!) A right-click on any status bar toggle now displays some frequently used values, which in turn keeps you from having to go into Settings to make a change. I am all for not having to execute an extra click to change your settings!

Right-click on a status bar setting to select a different value.

If you are really adventurous, you can choose to change the toggles from text to icons. This frees up more room on the status bar, but you'll have to learn to associate the proper icon to the toggle.

Toggle the Use Icons option to free up more status bar space.

Of course, if you absolutely decide you want the pre-2009 user interface back, that's no problem. Simply restore the AutoCAD Classic workspace. This will put your world back to the toolbars, pull-down menus, and other interfaces that you've come to know and love.

Before you do, though, give the new AutoCAD 2009 UI a try. You might just find yourself a step further ahead in productivity. Until next month, happy AutoCADing!

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