In 2009 AutoCAD Architecture (ACA) largely shunned the AutoCAD Ribbon interface leaving it for the Visualisation workspace alone (right). In contrast ACA 2010 totally embraces the ribbon with a new task focused interface. If you look into the CUI it retains the structure to handle toolbars and menus but ships with none*.
The AutoCAD Architecture 2010 User Interface
In addition to its new Ribbon ACA carries over the Properties, Content, Layer and Xref and Project Navigator Palettes. It has all new icons which follow the Autodesk "gray and light blue/yellow" corporate colour scheme which I have mixed feelings about. The icons are cleaner but in some places the "grayness" is just overwhelming, sometimes even confusing, but more on that later.
Recently I came across an old screen-shot from ADT 3.0. it's interesting to see how much things have changed, a pity some other aspects of the application haven't seen as much evolution...
What follows is my tour of the new UX. The ACA Ribbon, like AutoCAD's, can be customised so if you really don't like something you can change it. That all happens in the, dreaded by many, CUI dialog which has had some performance improvements this time around. I've found it mostly OK out of the box but have customised the way it works to better suit how I work. I'll save that for a later post as this one just looks at what's new and changed in this box of tricks along with few comments on how I would have changed it.
Note: This post was prepared with a pre-release version, if there are major changes I'll revisit and update to match the production User Interface. Most images are thumbnails, indicated by a spyglass icon lower right, click to see the full version.
The Application Button:
This isn't new but has had a considerable make over for 2010. It looses the embedded Menu Browser and echoes other Fluent UX applications by focusing on file related tasks. You can also access application options here (in addition to command line right click). With the application menu gone the only access to menus, from third party applications etc, is Menubar 1, or the Show Menubar option on the Quick Access Toolbar.
Command Search aids migration to the new interface by providing access to commands along with their new location on the Ribbon/Application Button. There is also a Command Reference in the Help files mapping the old and new UX. The application button also has recent files with several sort options including access date. Anyone remember that appearing in the AutoCAD Today file list, circa 2000i? It was there in 2009 but tended to be forgotten, lost in the menu list.
The Application Button has both scroll and fly-out elements. This example shows the Export command where you can scroll, with a none too obvious scroll button, for additional options. Fly-outs offer command specific alternatives, for example the file format of the resulting export. At first I thought our often used Export Property Data command had gone but scrolling the Application Button > Export list revealed it.
The AutoCAD Architecture Quick Access Toolbar:
The Quick Access Toolbar (QAT) first appeared in 2009 but has been refined for 2010. it's intended to allow personalisation, for your frequently used commands, without the need to delve into the CUI and change the main interface. It's always been easy to add a command, Right Click > Add to QAT, but in 2010 it's just as easy to remove a command using Right Click > Remove from QAT on the tool. You can also have the QAT appear below the ribbon which gives much more room to stack up your favourite commands.
The AutoCAD Architecture Ribbon:
All the AutoCAD 2010 ribbon features like fly-out panels which (can be pinned) and tear off tabs all apply to AutoCAD Architecture. The big improvement with tear off tabs is they stay visible when you change ribbon tabs (2009 they displayed with their host tab only) The Ribbon is quite complex but reasonably logically arranged. "Primary" Ribbon Tabs are supplemented by task/object specific context ribbons
Collects the most often used controls for adding AEC and AutoCAD Objects. Common edit commands are on the Modify panel with a small view panel for preset views, visual themes and zoom. The Layer Panel is pretty squashed but the fly-out grows to cope with longer layer names (plus there is still a full Layer Palette). The Ribbon AEC Tools totally miss the Right Click > Apply to (AutoCAD Object) and Import Styles that are possible on their Tool Palette equivalents.
Some choices on the Build panel seem a bit strange due to the primary tool that is displayed. Roof Slab also includes Roof (OK) and other Slabs which may not be at all roof related (like a floor). You'll look in vain for "Massing" but find all of them, including some very un-boxy ones, under "Box". Structural items appear on the "Column Grid" fly-out. It's something you adjust to pretty quickly but I'd rather have seen the text labels dropped, larger icons and dedicated controls for columns, beams, braces, slabs and mass appear here. I'd also like the last used fly-out command to be retained (for a session) but this panel is static. The trade-off is you don't get constantly changing tools as you flip between files which could have been a problem with a "drawing'centric last used" behaviour.
Not many surprises here except perhaps the amount of space dedicated to Attributes. About all I use them for is displaying AutoCAD Architecture's far superior Property Set Data in Object Tags so not sure why they are considered important? If you have AutoCAD Architecture you shouldn't be using them for real data as it should be held in object/style property sets in my opinion.
AutoCAD Architecture MV Blocks feature alongside their AutoCAD cousins. It's a pity the Multi-View Block Creation Wizard is missing but that's because it doesn't exist, maybe in 2011?
There aren't any surprises on the Annotate Ribbon other than some slightly odd selections on the Schedule panel. Rather than generic tools to add/manage schedules it mostly has specific tools linked to preset schedule styles. I wonder how many people actually use the OOTB schedules? All ours are specific and added from Tool Palettes so i doubt this panel will get much use at all.
Render includes the expected controls for running a render, letting materials, location and lighting options but also has Cameras. While they are used for rendering I'd probably expect to find them on View?
View has the Steering Wheels (which I still don't like), preset views, coordinate systems and visual themes. There's a panel to manage windows (tiled etc) and here is where you find visibility controls for the status bar & command line. Seems a little odd that Cameras are not on the View tab, likewise the render'like Visual themes appear here and not on Render.
Manage has AutoCAD Standards and AutoCAD Architecture's unique Project Standards. Style & Display Manager are here along with some content specific stuff like the Structural Member management tools. Customisation includes the CUI, PGP and AutoCAD Architecture's Tool Catalog Generator. The whole Tool Palette/Content Browser set-up seems little changed from 2009,87... but all my tool catalogs worked fine.
Context Sensitive Ribbon Tabs;
Adding content with AutoCAD Architecture generally does not change the ribbon. Selecting content after placement brings up object specific contextual tabs which have a green tint to distinguish them. Below you can see the Wall and Space Object tabs.
New names and locations for old commands:
"Copy [Style] and Assign" AKA "Save As": Until now "Save As" with it's little floppy disk icon was associated (by me at least) with files. The AutoCAD Architecture Ribbon also uses this for styles within a file. It's the old "Copy [Style] and Assign" command which is still seen on the Right Click menu. Seems odd to have two names for the same command?
Align (Modify Fly-out): My favourite command which can eliminate the need to copy/move/rotate/scale is found on the fly-out of the Home > Modify panel alongside some of the AEC modify tools for spacing and repositioning. Since they work on AutoCAD objects I have no idea why these, and the superior AEC Array, aren't core AutoCAD?
You open, rather than Import, IFC & DGN Files?
I looked for this on the Insert Tab but it's deemed to be a File Open operation rather than insertion so lives on the Application Button. DGN "Import" is the same but as I'll probably never use it I don't care where it is! Seems odd that both descriptions refer to importing data but the destination is a new, rather than the current, file so I guess it makes sense.
Overwhelming grayness bleeds life from Project Navigator:
This is where I take issue with the new Autodesk colour scheme. Below left you see the 2009 Project Navigator which I think is much easier to read. Folders are yellow, a Windows standard that has always been constant and lives on in Windows 7, with Constructs and Elements clearly defined by icon and colour. The blue Construct Icon, with it's inserted box in element colour, even hints how these project components are related a Elements are inserted into Constructs.
ACA 2010 (right) replaces that with a bland all gray scheme which does nothing to help identify project components Combine that with similar icons that have no meaning and you have a new tool that functions exactly the same but is harder to use. I vote for pressing the undo button on this change in the next update.
If you got this far congratulations and thank you! I'll be posting more on the ACA 2010 User Experience once I settle into the release version including how I'm customising some aspects for better work-flow.
* The optional Express Tools does load a menu in addition to the Express Ribbon Tab