Why use the Commandline

Author's comment:

AutoCAD is a great program but the problem is that the user interface is burdened by endless slow to use menus NONE of which, unlike the Commandline, give access to ALL commands.  Autodesk now acknowledges this with the introduction of the new "Smart" command line. Here are a couple of good descriptions: article 1 and article 2 but as flexible and helpful as the upgraded Commandline is to the new user it is not an answer for experienced professional users who wish to use MYCADKEYS' short aliases and reduced key input..  All AutoCAD has ever needed is short logical easily remembered command names and the removal of endless key pressing to confirm intentions.  AutoCAD made an attempt with Aliases but these are often clumsy and random and do not cover all commands (1400 if you count system variables).  Now there is an alternative.  MYCADKEYS.

Many drafters avoid the Command line because of long command names, and sometimes long or confusing aliases plus a need sometimes for multi-character responses to command options including some of both object-snap and object-select prompts. Most frustrating, however, is the resulting need for repetitive pressing of <enter> to confirm every input because of the irregular number of characters required to answer prompts. Also the comparative ergonomics of using a mouse or keyboard should not be overlooked. Mouse: Think of command, look for icon, move mouse, click menu icon, look for options, move mouse, click option or type option at keyboard and press <enter>..Keyboard:  Think of command, type one or two character alias, press <enter>, anticipate command option and press one key required response,  The mouse option requires repeated mind-hand-eye-hand coordination plus an <enter> per operation whereas the same can be achieved at the keyboard almost with the eyes closed but using ten fingers responding to mind-muscle memory. (Think of the pianist - not only play with one finger but press <enter> to confirm every keystroke).

Why I use the command line:

Here’s what Dave Espinosa-Aguilar has to say about the Command-line and keyboard:

Why I type:

  1. It is the only consistent AutoCAD interface since its inception.
  2. It is the fastest interface to most settings and command options.
  3. The fastest users always type (using aliases).
  4. Examine DIMTXT vs DDIM dialog (6 clicks) to set dimension text height.
  5. It is the only interface to certain settings and command options including legacies.
  6. Examine PURGE vs. –PURGE for Regapps.
  8. Examine –ARRAY/C, UCS/3P, etc.
  9. Scripting cannot use dialog interfaces.
  10. If you ever get into programming, you MUST know typed versions of commands and system variables.

About Dave Espinosa-Aguilar:

A consultant in the CAD and Multimedia industry since 1986, Dave Espinosa-Aguilar has trained architectural and engineering firms on the general use, customization and advanced programming of design and visualization applications from Autodesk including AutoCAD, AutoCAD Map, Architectural Desktop, Land Desktop & Civil 3D, 3D Studio MAX and Autodesk VIZ. Dave's passion is streamlining and automating design production environments through onsite customization and programming, and he has authored the facilities management applications of several Fortune 500 companies using AutoCAD ObjectARX, VB/VBA, AutoLISP/DCL and MAXScript technologies. Dave has also produced graphics applications and animations for Toxic Frog Multimedia and has co-authored several books including NRP's "Inside 3D Studio MAX" series. He has been a speaker at Autodesk University since its inception, and served on the Board of Directors for Autodesk User Group International for 6 years including the office of President in 1996. Dave currently works for the City of Richland (Washington) GIS department as a software engineer.

Value of AutoCAD Command line recognized:

Kate Morrical in AutoCAD Insider lists the seven (possibly eight) ways that commands can be issued to AutoCAD and describes the new upgraded Command line features. At long last Autodesk is acknowledging, just perhaps, that they got it right the first time and that the Command line is the best User Interface for AutoCAD.  Kate lists the alternative menus and then describes the AutoCAD 2013 improvements to the Command line.  As an AutoCAD user who has used the Command line (to the exclusion of menus) for nearly thirty years I am intrigued to see the dawning recognition that while menus are great for casual users and beginners they are slow and cumbersome and screen space wasting.  With the possible exception of the main pull-down menu bar at the top menus are all unnecessary and encourage a lazy attitude to learning AutoCAD.  The 2013 "upgrade" offers some efficiency improvements to the Command line while strongly convincing me that that I was right to stick with the Command line and keyboard shortcuts.  Autodesk is implicitly acknowledging the same.

Now move from there to improving the naming logic of default keyboard shortcuts (Aliases) to make them easier to learn and to include complex combinations of commands and command options, then reduce the number of keystrokes required to execute commands and the Command line suddenly becomes much faster and more effective; guaranteed to outperform any menu including the new 2013 Command line.

Here’s what Colin Wright has to say:

Why I use the Command-line:

If you’ve been an AutoCAD operator for less than fifteen years you probably draw using 80% menus and 20% or less keyboard command line but us oldies going back to pre-Windows and earlier might use 80% keyboard and 20% menus.  A few of you, like me, might just go right back to the era when the first rudimentary side-bar menu was regarded as a great advance in the user command interface.  Call me old-fashioned if you wish but I have always stuck to the command line keyboard input.  In the early days it was because I was determined to learn ALL of the commands and their command options and input parameters without having to poke around in a menu.  I later also discovered that when trying to help others it was much easier to say what to type rather than explaining where to find a command in their version of whichever menu they preferred.

As time went on and I discovered shortcuts and the PGP file I realized that entering the full command name was generally faster than using menus and using shortcuts made it no contest.  So I stuck to keyboard but was not content to leave it there.  I first re-wrote the PGP file to make more sense of the confusing way Autodesk chose command aliases but then discovered that if I used Autolisp I could not only start commands with aliases but also customize them and completely execute them also.  In this way I was able to completely redesign my user interface and ever since, apart from little used or new commands, have never used menus; although I do admit that menus are great for learning new commands or using unfamiliar ones.  The result is that I have a clear unobscured screen, faster command execution but better still have learned how to customize commands to the extent that keystrokes are reduced to an absolute minimum where the only time that I use the <enter> key is to start a command or terminate arbitrary length input such as text.  If you doubt the efficiency of the keyboard think about a pianist trying to play the piano with one finger (including having to press a special key, <enter>, every time you strike a key or chord to confirm that you did in fact previously strike the right note(s).  

One of the problems with AutoCAD is the difficulty of creating unique short names for the plethora of regular commands and this is made even worse when you have created perhaps hundreds of special custom functions with quite complex concepts.  Creating command names is one thing but then trying to fit them into menus or design unique icons for them is even more difficult.   When I think about the amount of programming that Autodesk puts into AutoCAD just to provide menus and dialog boxes I sometimes wonder if it would have been better to develop a better keyboard interface. 

About Colin Wright:

Started using AutoCAD mid-eighties (Release 1).  Used AutoCAD virtually full-time as an architect specializing in documentation for nearly thirty years and Autolisp since its introduction.   Learned to issue AutoCAD commands entirely from the keyboard and never changed.  Found menus useful for learning command names and parameters but otherwise found picking in menus far too slow and also found the growing plethora of menus was wasteful of screen space and difficult to use when altered or too many.  The appearance of dialog boxes made the learning of and the use of seldom used commands much easier but also slower so by preference used command-line versions that also aided simpler and more keyboard-efficient Autolisp programming.   Began first TAFE public AutoCAD Course in Brisbane Queensland and later taught AutoCAD at University of Technology Brisbane for several years.  Contributed to ISO/DIS 1356 Standard on Layer naming during public consultation stage.  Over a period of approx. twenty-five years programmed ACADUI (now improved and re-badged as MYCADKEYS) a sophisticated alternative AutoCAD user interface that uses an absolute minimum of keystrokes to commence and execute the majority of common editing commands, provides an extensive range of enhanced commands and a complete semi-automatic set of layer commands including an ISO/DIS compliant naming system.  CAD manager of a large firm of architects for ten years.

Contrary to common belief menus are not faster than the keyboard:

What has happened to the concept of learning and memorizing?  Multiple choice menus are destroying our ability to think for ourselves and are suppressing individual creativity.  More disastrously our thoughts are reduced to selection from a multiple-choice list of answers rather than thinking ahead for ourselves.

Don’t be caught in the menu trap.  Learn your program and learn to use the keyboard.  AutoCAD started with a Command line, still has a Command line and appears since release 2013 to be moving back to the Command line in preference to menus.  Has Autodesk seen the light? 

Menus are good but!

There are 55 or so usable characters on the average keyboard, each of them capable of providing a separate and complete instruction.  Mind-to-hand coordination of touch-typing is more efficient than mind-hand-eye-hand coordination required for the use of a mouse and screen menus.  Even if this were not true, sequential picking with a mouse could never match the almost intuitive flow of ten fingers on a keyboard.

Menus, like multiple-choice questions, can be helpful for the casual user, but when the answer is already known there is no point delaying a response by hiding it among a forest of irrelevant menu options.

If for no other reason, the banishment of the sheer visual confusion and the waste of space created by multiple screen menus is justification enough for using the keyboard in preference to abstract hard-to-understand pictograms.  Add to this the replacement of long command names with one-or-two keystroke shortcuts and we are communicating with AutoCAD in the fastest most efficient way possible.