Bug Watch October 2004

14 Oct, 2004 By: Steve Johnson Cadalyst

Autodesk beefs up Communications Center content

In August's column, I noted the lack of communications provided by AutoCAD's Communications Center. I'm happy to report an improvement. As I write this, my Communications Center contains links to 10 tips and other items. Autodesk informs me it's adding tips at a rate of two per week. I'd like a little more information in some of the tips, but it seems the idea is to let users know about some handy features that might otherwise have escaped notice. If that's the case, this feature is working fairly well and you might want to give it a try. For example, I had somehow missed the fact that you can specify a rotation angle when pasting a selection set. Thanks to Communication Center -- and Patrick Emin, who supplied the tip -- that gap in my knowledge is now filled.

Oh, and if you're feeling paranoid about allowing AutoCAD to access the Internet when you turn on the Communications Center, don't let that influence your actions too much. AutoCAD repeatedly attempts to access the Internet anyway, even when Communications Center is turned off. No, I don't know why, and Autodesk isn't telling.

AutoCAD 2005 Service Pack 1
One of the items pointed out by Communications Center is the availability of SP1 (Service Pack 1) for AutoCAD 2005. Autodesk appears to have settled on delivering releases about 12 months apart, with a single service pack about halfway through the product cycle. The company has been trying to do this for years, but now it's actually happening. I know many people think 12 months is too short for an AutoCAD product cycle, but I think 6 months is about right for a service pack.

So, what's in this service pack?

In the past, I suggested that Autodesk has been a little too coy about describing the problems fixed by service packs. I'm happy to report improvement here, too. The readme file contains brief descriptions of 37 problems that SP1 fixes.

For example, SP1 fixes one bug I was going to write up for this month's Bug Watch. If you use the interactive toolbar menu editing features, you've probably crashed AutoCAD 2005 on several occasions, probably losing some work while you were at it. If so, or if you have one of the other 36 problems described, SP1 is for you. Now, on to this month's bugs.

Magic Spell (13 to 2005 SP1)
Here's a neat trick. With a little sleight of hand, you can make AutoCAD forget how to spell simple words such as "it" and "is." Edit the custom dictionary file and add the standard abbreviations used in your workplace. Abbreviations like IS and IT are used in some disciplines, so add them in. Now use the Spell command on this piece of text:

Is it correct?

The custom dictionary contains the uppercase word "IS." When the spell checker finds the mixed-case word "Is," it incorrectly reports a spelling error. "Is" is one of the suggested replacements, but the abbreviation "IS" is not. The same applies to "it." If the dictionary entry is uppercase, a word in the drawing is accepted as correct only if it is also in uppercase. This is true even if the word is in the main dictionary and would normally be considered correct. This behavior makes no sense and is clearly a bug. Autodesk has no plans to fix it in this or in the next release.

Workaround: Convert the custom dictionary file to lower case. If the dictionary entry is lowercase, the word is accepted whether it's in upper-, lower-, or mixed-case. For place names, you can use mixed-case -- for example, "Albany" in the dictionary correctly matches "Albany" and "ALBANY," but not "albany."

A Spell of Bother (2005)
Here's an interesting bug that affects only some computers. I know of one workplace that has five identical AutoCAD 2005 computers. Three of them have the problem, and two have no trace of it. All the computers also run AutoCAD 2004, and the problem doesn't occur with that release.

The problem is that Spell doesn't check mtext. You can create a piece of mtext with an obvious spelling mistake in it, run Spell, select the mtext, and AutoCAD lulls you into a false sense of security by accepting the mistake without comment.

Workaround: Some people have found that when other objects are selected at the same time as the mtext, the mtext is checked. My own experiments show that mtext is checked only if you select a piece of single-line text that contains a spelling mistake before you select the mtext.

As a quick and dirty workaround, I wrote a LISP routine. It prompts for a selection set, creates some text with a spelling mistake, runs the Spell command, and then selects the text and the selection set. This seemed to work, and I was going to share the routine with you. However, a bit more testing proved that this only works most of the time. You can run it twice in succession on the same mtext, and it works one time and not the next. So, at this stage there's no reliable workaround. Autodesk is hoping to sort this one out in time for the next release.

Stop Press: Autodesk has released a fix for this bug. It is a replacement for the ACDB16.DLL file, and it works for me. As usual, read the readme before proceeding. If you have problems, you will need to restore the original ACDB16.DLL file.

Dizzy Spell Revisited (13 to 2005 SP1)
A couple of years ago, I described how the Spell command is rather badly limited by the undocumented inability of the custom dictionary to use more than about the first 1,000 words. I came across some more details about the custom dictionary's limitations and thought I would share them with you.

  • It accepts simple ASCII characters only. If you can't enter the word in Notepad, you can't use it. Not too much of a limitation for most users, I would've thought.
  • Maximum word length: 63 characters. Again, not a huge problem for most users.
  • Maximum file size: just over 9KB. Hmm, that's pretty small.
  • Maximum word count: 999. This limit is very easy to reach and breach.

Wrong Spelling Revisited (13 to 2005 SP1)
While I'm dredging up old spelling errors, I'll mention this one again. In June 1998, I described the feature where you can insert a line in your custom dictionary to indicate a word that should always be considered a spelling error, thus:


The problem was that as soon as you use the Spell command to add any new words, the custom dictionary file is recreated with all the tildes removed. Therefore, instead of the word TOAD always being brought to your attention, it is ignored, exactly the opposite of what you want. This problem still exists in the latest AutoCAD.

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