Follow Up: Programming (CAD Manager's Toolbox)

10 Mar, 2009

Whether you learn programming with AutoLISP or other languages depends on your ultimate goal.

I received a great reader response to the last issue of the CAD Manager's Toolbox regarding my advice to AutoCAD users to learn AutoLISP. I'd like to share the response with you and use it as a springboard to offer some more advice on programming for CAD managers.

Michael from Denmark wrote:

"I've been programming for CAD the last 12 years, and I would never, ever recommend anyone to start with AutoLISP. Why? I think it's obvious that learning a language that is that software [dependent] is a mistake. Learn Visual Basic instead, and for that learning time you also get the ability to write a lot of other applications."

My response:

Michael is correct in stating that AutoLISP is a language that is proprietary to Autodesk products. Michael is also correct that learning Visual Basic (either VBA or .NET flavors) will allow you to program other software tools in addition to AutoCAD. If your desire is to become a serious programmer working on different types of software products, then learning AutoLISP probably shouldn't be your first priority.

However, so many of the CAD managers I see who have no programming knowledge are using AutoCAD (or AutoCAD extensions like Civil 3D, P&ID, Mechanical, Architectural, etc.) that customizing their AutoCAD tools is the best place to start. I've also taught programming languages for years and have seen firsthand that CAD users who understand AutoCAD learn AutoLISP much faster than they learn an event-driven language like Visual Basic.

Therefore, my recommendation that those unfamiliar with programming start with AutoLISP is simply a way to get more CAD managers into the productivity-generating benefits of programming with the least amount of confusion and time invested.