Sticky Update Pudding (Bug Watch AutoCAD Tutorial)

31 Aug, 2008 By: Steve Johnson

New and improved AutoCAD 2009, twice! But is it enough? Also, how to shake off some of the stickies and scroll to see your old commands.

AutoCAD 2009 Update 1
Service Packs are so last year. The current Autodesk fashion is to call them Updates, although even Autodesk is confused by the terminology. I've seen at least one Autodesk person call it Service Update 1, and the installation filenames contain the old "SP1" nomenclature. The 32-bit version of Update 1 can be found here and the 64-bit version is here. The update supports LT, and updates for the vertical AutoCAD variants are finally trickling through. The delay between updates makes life difficult for people with multiple AutoCAD variants to support. Autodesk needs to improve cooperation and interoperability between AutoCAD and its variants. It really needs to consolidate the various AutoCAD-related code bases, which would surely bring great benefits to both Autodesk and its customers.

As always, remember to read the Readme first. This update has had a considerably shorter gestation period than the traditional six-month wait for the first AutoCAD Service Pack, so you may wish to exercise even more paranoia than normal. Save and export your AutoCAD profiles, save your workspaces, make backups of your CUI files, and put them somewhere safe where AutoCAD and the update can't find them. Also, just because the read-me page says something is fixed, don't take it for granted that your particular variant of that problem is fixed. Try it out for yourself.

Does the shortened time before the first update indicate that there will be more updates in store? Probably. Although Update 1 (U1) fixes a lot of stuff, there's still a lot left to fix in 2009. It seems I may have been wrong in my April Release 13 comparison when I predicted that, "we will see AutoCAD 2009 Service Pack 1 and a few hotfixes, but nothing like the spectacle of Autodesk chasing its tail from 1994 to 1996, removing and introducing bugs like crazy."

If you usually wait until SP1 is released before you put an AutoCAD release into production, maybe you should wait for U2 or even U3. Even with Update 1, maybe AutoCAD 2009 isn't yet ready.

AutoCAD 2009 Subscription Bonus Pack 1
Subscription users can download a small set of new and enhanced commands for AutoCAD 2009. Again, users of vertical variants will have to wait or do without. One thing you should take note of is that Bonus Pack 1 incorporates Update 1, so the above caveats also apply here. The Bonus Pack has also had a short gestation period, so expect a few rough edges. Bear in mind that the Bonus Pack Readme leaves a lot to be desired, and it would be wise to also read and digest the Update 1 Readme before installation.

Sticky Stuff 2 (2009 to 2009 U1)
Last month I described one way of reducing the "sticky" behavior that puts some people off AutoCAD 2009. Here's another one, and the difference it makes to AutoCAD's responsiveness can be dramatic.

Dual screen setups are quite common among CAD users, and are likely to become even more common as the hardware plunges in price. Yes, a large wide screen is good, but two large wide screens are even better. It is common practice on dual screen setups to move palettes and other screen elements onto the screen that's not hosting the main AutoCAD window, leaving a larger drawing area. One such thing that gets moved to the secondary screen is the command line. In AutoCAD 2009, doing this can cause very poor response to keyboard input. Every time you enter something, there is a delay. The delay varies from PC to PC, but I've seen it cause a "stick" of over a second after every keyboard input, which is totally unacceptable.

Workaround: Don't do that, obviously. Instead of having a floating command line, choose some other kind of configuration. You could shrink the docked command line area to just two lines, or attempt to do without one altogether.

Some people can do without a command line with Dynamic Input turned on, but that has had a long history of introducing its own stickiness to AutoCAD. Improvements have been made, so if you've given up on Dynamic Input in the past for this reason, try it again in AutoCAD 2009 and see if you can live with it.

Another possibility is to turn off the floating command line and use the Text Window in its place. Press F2 to toggle it on. Despite the similar appearances of the floating command line and the Text Window, there can be a world of difference in performance. One drawback is that the Text Window and the main AutoCAD window are independent. If you switch to some other window that obscures the Text Window, switching back to the main AutoCAD window does not automatically bring the Text Window back to the front again.

If you do decide to switch off the command line, there's a trick to it. Make sure you dock the command line first, and then switch it off by hovering over the handle on the left and clicking the X that appears. Don't turn off the floating command line directly, because if you do it that way the stickiness will remain in place even though no command line is visible at all!

Scroll Bar Humbug (2002 to 2009 U1)
When you flip to the Text Window, the vertical scroll bar sometimes fails to appear, preventing you from seeing command sequences that have scrolled off the screen. I'm not entirely sure when I first saw this bug; it may have been around before AutoCAD 2002. Because it doesn't want to appear on demand, I've had to take a guess, but it has certainly been around for years.

Workaround: Grab the edge of the Text Window and resize the window slightly. The scroll bar will then appear.

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