Bug Watch: January 1, 2003

31 Dec, 2002 By: Steve Johnson

Autodesk BigFix Service Dies

In my commentary in last month's column, I mentioned that Autodesk provides a BigFix service that informs users of the availability of updates. That is no longer true. On November 30 2002, Autodesk discontinued its BigFix service. So a level of service I described last month as "not good enough" has slipped lower still.

Dimstyle dialog distress (2000 to 2002 SP1)

In the Text tab of the Dimstyle (nee Ddim) dialog box, a handy little [. . .] button takes you to the text style dialog box. If you choose a TrueType font in there, be very careful. If you move the top dialog box before applying the changes, or if you switch to another program and back to AutoCAD again, AutoCAD crashes, complaining of an exception in ACDIM.ARX, with this message:

FATAL ERROR: Unhandled Access Violation Reading 0xffffffff Exception at 33018509h

No known workaround.

Layout of order (2000 to 2002 SP1)

AutoCAD 2000 introduced a feature that lets you have multiple paper spaces, known as layouts, in a single drawing file. For example, you can have a drawing of a long pipeline in model space, then a large number of layouts, each containing a title block and a viewport that shows a short section of the pipeline. Thus, a single drawing file can encapsulate a whole series of what will end up as plotted drawings. You can tell AutoCAD's Plot command to plot all layouts, and it will do so.

So where's the bug? A trip to the plotter's output bin reveals the problem. The plots don't come out in any kind of logical order. The larger the number of layouts, the worse it gets. If you produce multiple copies of a large series of plots, somebody has to sort the mess out-a tedious and error-prone job.

The exact order in which AutoCAD plots the layouts depends on a number of factors. The first thing to understand is that layouts are not plotted in the order in which the layout tabs are arranged. That's a shame, because you can rearrange the order of layouts by right-clicking on a layout tab. Don't bother trying that as a workaround, because tab order is ignored when plotting.

Next, although AutoCAD defaults to layout names such as Layout1, Layout2, Layout10, etc., the layouts are not plotted in number order. They are plotted mostly in alphabetical order, so you'd expect Layout10 to come after Layout1 but before Layout2. You can work around this part of the problem by giving layouts names such as Layout001, Layout002, etc. or LayoutA, LayoutB, etc.

Earlier, I said that layouts are plotted mostly in alphabetical order. Why "mostly"? Because when you have less than 9 layouts, the first layout always plots last. For example, layouts named Layout1 through Layout5 are plotted in the order 2 3 4 5 1.

With more than 9 layouts, the order is even more complicated, because the layout in the middle is plotted first, and the first layout is plotted in the middle. With an even number of layouts, obviously there is no middle layout. In that case, AutoCAD grabs the layout just after the middle and swaps that with the first layout. For example, layouts named Layout1 through Layout12 plot in the order 4 10 11 12 2 3 1 5 6 7 8 9. That's not the sort of thing you want to deal with when you have multiple copies of drawing sets to bundle up and a tight deadline to meet.

Workaround: Use this LISP/DCL routine (5KB ZIP file) to add a Plotall command to AutoCAD. This routine presents a dialog box and plots all layouts in the order you specify. There is also a -Plotall command (note the leading hyphen), which is a command-line version for use in menus and scripts.

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