Dialog Box October 2005

13 Oct, 2005 By: Cadalyst Staff Cadalyst

Letters from our readers

To be considered for publication, you must sign your letters and include your company's name, address, and daytime telephone number. Letters are subject to editing for length and clarity. Send letters to:
Cadalyst Dialog Box
859 Willamette Street
Eugene, OR 97401
fax: 541.984.5328
Tablet turnaround
To follow up on my display of frustration over AutoCAD 2006's tablet configuration. I must retract much of the claim that Autodesk has abandoned us. I was frustrated trying to import my previous customization, partly due to the lack of clarity in the warning in the "documentation" that certain menu construction would be a problem in the import process. It was enough of a problem that I had to uninstall and reinstall several times to clean up the mess.

I was able to make almost everything work after several days of manual cut and paste, old menu to new, and alterations cell by cell. Many times the program indicated that a menu I was modifying was no longer a valid file. I was determined to make things work, so I saved the file at various stages along the way under incremental names, and eventually got it almost working. I received a call from Autodesk tech support, and they helped me with one of the last two stubborn obstacles. Now I have my menu working, with the exception of one puck button, which I conclude I will never have. But I can live without it.

I am now again confident that Mechanical Desktop is still the very best solution for the kind of work I do. Now that my menu is working, it's faster, more accurate and more logical than any of the other CAD programs I use (Inventor, SolidWorks, Pro/ENGINEER Wildfire II, Rhino).

It's such a relief to insert a washer and constrain it onto a hole in about three or four picks, instead of the maybe 30 in Pro/E. Multiples can be inserted so easily in an area of an assembly, then constrained with maybe three picks each. Pro/E makes you struggle with so many picks to get the washer constrained to the hole-all kinds of picks-and it seems like every pick has to be made from a different area of the screen.

I also like the display returned when the distance command is executed. You know exactly what the result means.

— Ed Galicki
San Diego, CA

Steve Johnson adds more on tablets:
Autodesk is quite correct about tablet support in 2006, and I was mistaken. Despite several reports to me that suggested otherwise, tablets are indeed supported, and 16 buttons can be customized (except the pick button), as in earlier releases. It now appears that some of the tablet problems reported to me were due to driver issues. Problems people were having with assigning macros beyond button 10 were actually issues with understanding how to do so in the non-intuitive CUI dialog box, rather than any inability of the software to do so. My apologies to both you and Autodesk for the misleading information.

I do not believe that Autodesk has stabbed its users in the back, or that it doesn't care about users who do extensive customizing. On the contrary, CUI was an attempt to make life easier for such users. A failed attempt, but an honest attempt nevertheless. Here's hoping that AutoCAD 2007 comes with a fully-baked menu system!

Area aid
I've tried writing (using VBasic) a routine that takes two closed simple polylines (no crossing lines) and returns the common (intersection) area of them. Do you have a source for something that shows me how to write this?

— Charlie

Bill Fane responds:
The bad news is that of all the things I know, Visual Basic is not one of them. The good news is, here is a trick that might work:

  1. Create a new layer, perhaps called AREA.
  2. Apply a hatch pattern to the common region. Put it on the AREA layer.
  3. Apply a Field object (AuotCAD 2005 and later) that reads the hatch area.
  4. Turn the AREA layer OFF (don't freeze it) so it is invisible.
  5. The Field object updates whenever the polylines (and hence the hatch boundary) are edited. Using VBA or AutoLISP you can easily read the current value from the field object.
When all else fails, try cheating <g>.

Free DWG?
Just got a tip from my reseller that Autodesk is supposed to release a new DWG viewer any day. This would be great for us (the free Volo View Express was a great tool when it was available) since we're definitely not going with the DWF format. We're currently making do with quite a few seats of Volo View 3, and our other users get by with shareware products from other vendors. I haven't found anything on the Autodesk Web site yet. Have you heard any information regarding this product?

— Carl Oliver

Autodesk blogger Shaan Hurley recently confirmed that a free DWG viewer will be released concurrently with a stand-alone batch DWG conversion tool. However, he did not specify a release date, saying only that the original Sept. 21 date had been delayed. Both SolidWorks and Informative Graphics offer free DWG viewers for download. -Eds.

BIM? Bah!
AEC Tech News #151, about GSA instituting requirements for BIM starting in FY06, caught my eye.

It appears that GSA, which is part of the government of the people, by the people and for the people has embarked on a policy of limiting competition from A/E firms who can't afford to upgrade to software with BIM capabilities.

In years past, I worked for governmental agencies and was involved in acquiring A/E services for my agency's building projects. Part of the criteria was to promote competition and afford opportunities to the small- and medium-size and minority- and women-owned firms to compete for projects in (nearly) the same arena as the big boys.

While CAD capabilities were preferable, they were not considered as a plus or minus in the selection process. NOW it appears, not only do you have to be CAD literate, GSA will require you to be proficient in a process which, from what I've read, is still in its infancy in development and fraught with errors and inconsistencies.

All I see here is a government mandate that will force offices to upgrade CAD and building management software. Autodesk and Bentley must be turning cartwheels!

— Tom Irvin

Michael Dakan replies in AEC Tech News #152.

Hatch horrors
I am absolutely amazed that nobody is addressing the hatching problems with AutoCAD. Simple hatching commands that cheaper CAD packages accomplish in a transparent manner are a nightmare with this software (I am using AutoCAD 2005). Simple cross-sections often do not hatch, will only hatch by drawing false lines or have to be redrawn. The Gaptol tool is irritating. The Gaptol default of 0.00 or resetting the HPGAPTOL gives little or no feedback as to what is really needed to resolve a hatching problem.

For a software package that has been around as long as AutoCAD, this problem area appears to be beyond the reach of AutoCAD programmers to resolve. Though I like using AutoCAD, the time spent resolving its bugs certainly has a measurable negative effect on my ability to produce a simple drawing in a given amount of time.

— John Falkenstine

Steve Johnson tracks AutoCAD bugs and workarounds in his monthly Bug Watch column. Alas, he finds them, but can't fix them. -Eds.

About the Author: Cadalyst Staff

Cadalyst Staff