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Mad at CAD - what really ticks off users!

Having attended AU 2006 this year I have come up with some issues that reverberate with users from round the world.  Some of these were shared with me in conversations and some are gleaned from emails.  I have also added suggestions to possibly fix them (which may be too simplistic and impractical).

1.  Functions that require exact steps to complete.  I am not talking about having a procedure for getting things done, I am talking about an exacting process that if you miss one little thing the software veers off in an unexpected way.  I think most of these are in the verticals and not so much general AutoCAD issues. 

Possible Solution: Make functions a little more forgiving.  When something is done out of step - provide a warning.

2.  File format changes.  When you move from one version of the software to the next it becomes a great inconvenience when the file format is not compatible.  Now they have to save it back to an older version (lost time).  Or they get a file from someone outside the office that is on a version ahead of them and they can't even open it.

Possible Solution:  Allow older releases to open newer releases as far as the older entities are concerned and provide a warning that some entities may not be displayed.  This would allow users to at least see something.  Or provide a patch to the old software so that newer version files can be opened but not saved back in the new release format.

3.  Confusing messages about where products are headed.  When Autodesk acquired Revit then started giving out mixed signals.  Was Revit the only product for Architects that they would focus on?  What was to become of ADT?  Was it to be retired soon?  I understand that new technology will eclipse planning and it can be hard to read a foggy crystal ball.

Possible Solution:  Make sure that a unified message is going out to the end users.  Confusion among customers causes slow downs in adoption of new technology and delayed purchases.

4.  Making it too hard to get answers.  Why do software firms seem so distant when you have a question or concern.  With the maturity of software like AutoCAD, the level of complex questions that users run in to is often only answerable directly by the developer.  I know that the reseller channel is there, and discussions groups and AUGI forums, but many of these are user to user.  I do appreciate the knowledge base on the  Autodesk site.  I am not saying that there is no way to find out answers, I am just saying that we need more.  And users don't want to pay more to get it.  This hold true for all the big developers, Autodesk, Adobe and Microsoft.

Possible Solution:   Include support with the software that allows users to directly contact people who know the answers.  Make it free.  ( I know - a pipe dream)

5.  Moving too fast or too slow on software releases.  Many are frustrated that new software comes out so frequently (and with no great tools included that satisfy a real need) and that software comes out too slowly (that actually fixes real problems).

Possible Solution:  Software vendors should focus on real world fixes to real world problems, then focus on new features.  This especially applies to mature products.  Make the old stuff bulletproof.  Users are more forgiving of newer software that is rapidly expanding in feature sets, but less likely to put up with old problems that do not get fixed.

6.  Commands without context.  No hint as to how to use a tool in the real world.  What are the exact steps to complete?  Where should entities go?  Model Space?  Paper Space?  What are the best practices that were mimicked by the developers and programmers?  What did they have in mind when they created the tool?

Possible Solution:  Beef up the Help files to show best practices.  Show exactly what is meant by each command and what context it would be used. 

7.  Leaving old tools out of new releases.  They are still there, we just can't figure out how to get them to run.    Sometimes they are hidden in the command line.  Sometimes they are undocumented.  Sometimes they are moved to another palette. 

Possible Solution:  Publish a list of commands that were moved or deleted.  Publish a list of the undocumented commands.  Oh - I know I can find these at many web sites and blogs, but should it not be up to the vendor to provide these lists?

8.  Changing names on commands.  Sometimes these commands are not removed or moved but they are renamed.  This is very annoying.

Possible Solutions:  Don't change the names!

9.  Make the easy things work without my input.  How many times have I heard users say "It should know".  This is because most software has taken input that could be used to set other variables to assist the software.  Take text sizes.  Often the software knows what scale and size the text should be based on scaling used for block inserts, dimensions, viewports or plotting. 

Possible Solution:  Make all of the scale related variable set all of the scale related functions in the software.

All things being equal, we have come a long way.  But I am still concerned that some of the functions that have been around for a LONG TIME, have still not fully matured.  Users complain, CAD Managers complain and the industry suffers from long neglected fine tuning.