A Tip of the Hat to Old Tricks

Over the years, AUGI has presented a multitude of Tips and Tricks to our members. There have been countless hours saved by embracing those tips, which enabled you to work with software that just did not do what you wanted.  AUGI tips made you faster. AUGI tricks made you more productive. And they continue to provide so much benefit.

Many of us have been using AutoCAD® and other tools for a long time. Even Revit® and Inventor® users can name many past versions and commands that they loved. I find that many of the habits I have acquired in the past may actually be counterproductive to my efforts to embrace the newest versions. I am sure you have heard the old saying, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” But I sometime think that it might be even truer that “You can’t teach an old dog to stop doing old tricks.”

By “old tools” I am talking about the custom stuff you have collected or created over the years.  The utilities you have purchased that do that one thing that Autodesk has not included in the product yet (or at least weren’t included when you got the utility).  I am also talking about that tip you picked up at AU. That trick that someone showed you three releases back that you still use (even though new tools have replaced it). I am also talking about that custom programming you did in LISP, VBA, or whatever from yesteryear. That cool routine you created using embedded Autodesk tools in their programs.  I am talking about that third-party tool that works with your software to extend its use. All of these are candidates for being thought of as “old tools.” They worked great in their day, but has that day passed?

Am I being held back by my fondness for old tricks? Is there a better way of doing things that I have not embraced? Are my old tips really that old? Do I still use custom tools even after Autodesk has programmed in a function for it?

I have been thinking about this for some time and have decided that – YES – I am doing some things “the old fashioned way.” The stuff I created and the workarounds I developed have served me so well.  I love the workflow I have. I am so fast when using my typical tools.

Is there a benefit in using old tips, tricks, and custom tools? One could easily justify the continued use:

  1. They still work fine
  2. I don’t have to think about which tool to use
  3. I don’t have to get retrained
  4. I am getting my job done fine without the new tools
  5. There is zero learning curve
  6. My old tools allow me to maintain productivity
  7. Our standards do not use the newer entities, families, or data types
  8. I get a warm and fuzzy feeling when I use my trusted tools :-)

Have you thought these same things? Heard others say these things? Said these things yourself? When there are so many good reasons for holding onto yesterday’s methods, why change?

There can be problems with using old tools.  Here are a few.

  1. Old tools don’t fully exploit the new interface
  2. Old tools won’t create or embrace new entity types
  3. Old tools are getting harder to maintain
  4. Old tools use new software in old ways
  5. Using older tools does not avail your team to the productivity and time savings that new tools provide
  6. Autodesk may retire a command or system variable you depend on (remember DDIM?)

Be it old tools, old customization, or old programming, the CAD manager and CAD user have to think these issues through and define the best and most productive environment possible for the current release they use.

Principles for Embracing New Software Versions

Here is my approach when new versions of software come out. I need to rethink the use of the “old stuff” that I have come to know and love. I keep a few things in mind when I make the jump.


Use the out-of-the-box tool first.  Act like a new user who does not know what you have customized, replaced, enhanced, or whatever. See if there is a new embedded command or feature that does what you need done.

Embrace new tools when they fully work for you. Test the new tool that you uncovered and see if it fully does what you want it to do.  Does it create entities as expected? Is it easier to use? Is it easy to learn?

Retire old methods as soon as you can. If the new tool does what is needed, then stop using the old tool.  Force yourself to stop by retiring the old method and jumping to the new. There will be a learning curve. There will be an instinctive move toward the old tool. Fight it.

Keep the ones that still fill a need. If Autodesk still is not hitting the target that your old tool does, then keep it.  Return later for another review. Look at the older things again in the next release to see if they still shine.

Upgrade your stuff. Any tool that you keep needs to be reviewed for proper alignment with current versions and continued stable functionality. Test them all when you load the new release. Don’t get caught by trying to use an untested old tool when the project timeline is critical.

In a nutshell, here are the steps. See if your old tools still work. See if there are tools in the new release that replace your old tools. See if the new tools do everything that your old tools did. If they do, then stop using the old tools. If they don’t, then keep the old stuff around.

Most of you embrace the new. Most of you encourage others to move toward new technology. Most of you are blazing new trails through the forest of software options.  I applaud you. But I fear that there are a good number of users happily living in the past. How about you?

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