General Software

First Look Review: PRO Menu 2007

26 Nov, 2006 By: Patrick Davis

Add-on offers 80 new tools to increase your AutoCAD productivity

One reason AutoCAD is so popular across so many different disciplines is because it's easy to customize it to suit your needs. Many customization methods are available, but they require your time and experience to make work well. Fortunately, numerous third-party options are available to make AutoCAD work better for you. One such product is PRO Menu by MultiCIM Technologies. PRO Menu is a collection of about 80 AutoCAD utilities that make AutoCAD more intuitive and make you more productive.

PRO Menu
Pros: Effective; easy to use; great tools; no programming required.
Cons: None significant.
Price: $99 AutoCAD version; $59 AutoCAD LT version; site license available.

MultiCIM Technologies

For this review, I tested PRO Menu 2006 for AutoCAD 2006 and a beta version of PRO Menu 2007 for AutoCAD 2007. The installation routine is fast and simple. During the installation, PRO Menu creates a new profile based on a selected existing profile. PRO Menu then becomes the default user interface file in place of the default ACAD.CUI file.

If you use any of the vertical products such as Autodesk Building Systems, Architectural Desktop or Mechanical Desktop, you have two choices. You can load PRO Menu using the generic profile that lets you start one of the verticals as AutoCAD, or you can load PRO Menu as a partial CUI file. There are pros and cons to each choice. For example, if you load PRO Menu using the profile that loads Architectural Desktop as AutoCAD, then you lose the Architectural Desktop tools and functionality, but you get full use of the PRO Menu toolset. If you load PRO Menu as a partial CUI in Architectural Desktop, then you lose some of the functionality of PRO Menu including Expanded Shortcut Menus, Programmed Mouse Button and Mouse Button Access to Enhanced OSNAP Menu, to name a few. Most users of vertical products, I suspect, will choose the latter option: loading PRO Menu as a partial CUI file.

PRO Menu adds several new pull-down menus with expanded layouts for a more logical and cleaner layout, including Construct, Layers, Text and Solids. The Construct menu adds commands to copy or create new objects based on existing objects. The Layer menu adds commands for controlling layers. The Text menu contains commands for working with text and attributes, and the Solids menu contains command for working with solids and regions.

PRO Menu also adds several new toolbars, many of which have a corresponding pull-down menu option. While these new toolbars are effective, it's the Toolbar Swapping option that really stands out. If you're a toolbar user, then you're well aware of how much screen real estate those toolbars can use. With Toolbar Swapping, you can display any of 11 specific toolbars with a single click. The real trick to toolbar swapping is advanced placement of the toolbars on screen. If you place all the swappable toolbars at the same location, you only use that portion of the screen.

Using PRO Menu's Toolbar Swapping tool, you can quickly switch among 11 toolbars, conserving valuable screen real estate.

I've always been very selective as to which toolbars I use because of the amount of screen real estate they use. Now that I use dual monitors, I have expanded the number of toolbars I rely on. While I now have plenty of screen real estate for toolbars, I still really like this option. Toolbar Swapping is a great idea and I can't help but wonder why Autodesk hasn't introduced a similar function.

PRO Menu also provides an Enhanced Osnap Menu. This menu adds new cues that show which osnaps are currently running. In the figure below, notice the square around the Endpoint osnap icon. This indicates that the Endpoint snap is active. The Enhanced Osnap Menu also provides submenus for preselecting objects and some predefined osnap modes.

The Enhanced Osnap Menu adds new cues to show you which osnaps are running.

It's just not possible to discuss all the tools and features that are available in PRO Menu. There are numerous expanded menu tools that provide a more intuitive interface. New layer features provide quick and easy tools to change layer settings, by picking objects on screen or using a popup list for layers that are hidden. The new display and viewport controls let you save and restore views with a single click, as well as creating irregular shaped viewports in AutoCAD LT.

PRO Menu is currently available for AutoCAD 2002 to 2007 as well as for the verticals for $99. It's also available for AutoCAD LT 2000 through AutoCAD LT 2007 for $59, with a less-comprehensive set of features. Fully functional ProMenu trial versions are available, and I encourage you to download the software and try it for yourself.

With approximately 80 new tools, a slight learning curve comes with the tools -- but that's mainly learning where the tools are located. All the objects created with the software are standard AutoCAD objects, so you'll have no proxy object issues if you share your drawings with users not using PRO Menu.

After using PRO Menu for a few weeks, I'll admit that I was more than a little disappointed in Autodesk -- I'm really surprised that these utilities have not been incorporated into AutoCAD.

If you're using a vertical product such as Architectural Desktop, your productivity might not increase as dramatically when compared with the gains experienced by vanilla AutoCAD users. During my day-to-day work with Architectural Desktop and Autodesk Building Systems, I found that I didn't use many of the PRO Menu tools because I'm accustomed to the process and workflow tools in those programs. However, when using plain AutoCAD, the Swappable Toolbars and Enhanced OSNAP Menu and Layer tools were very helpful.

PRO Menu is a relatively inexpensive add-on to AutoCAD, but before you buy, download the trial version and familiarize yourself with the product to make sure that your individual process and workflow will benefit from the utilities the software provides.

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