tvCAD – a Replacement for ACNE

After much (years!) ado, here it comes…

Before the end of 2015 I will be shipping tvCAD.

Interested? Please drop into and I will keep you in the loop on its progress. There’s an email list there which will give you direct access to me and to the development process. Please, drop in, have your say and let’s make this happen.

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ACNE doesn’t like A$ Blocks

Greetings. Long time no see read. I’ve been a little busy in the last couple of years, working on the things. Like most good intentions, the nearly-100 unpublished blog posts hidden in the caves of this site are still there, I will endeavour to see if any of them are still relevant. Well, I hope I will endeavour.

Today’s ACNE rant / warning – it seems to ignore blocks whose name starts with A$ inside AutoCAD, they are created by pasting a block into a drawing. If you rename the block (I just remove the A$ prefix) it should work – I haven’t tested that part yet.

ACNE is also not a fan of blocks that haven’t been ATTSYNCed.

ACNE Doesn’t Like Apostrophes

ApostropheIf you’re using ACNE then don’t use any apostrophes in your block attributes. They (apparently) mess up an internal query when it is parsing drawings which I am presuming results in lost data.

If you’re wondering whether you have this problem or not, look at C:ACNELog.txt and search for the word “syntax”. If you want to be even more thorough, search for the word “error”. If you find one that puzzles you, post a comment here and we’ll see if we can solve the mystery together.

On another note, my humble apologies for my lack of posts here. I have had a busy year so far. There are plenty of half-written posts just waiting or me to refine them into something sensible so they can see the light of day. I hope to get more posts up after the next month or so.

ACNE and the case of the Missing Cable Numbers


from, I’m staring at the drawing and I know all the blocks and attributes are right. I have run the drawing through ACNE more than once and I get the same result: some of the cables are missing from the cable schedule. Why?

This is an easy mystery to solve but a PITA to eradicate. The problem is that the block has been changed in some way but has not had the ATTSYNC command run on it. The attributes in the (original) block definition don’t match the ones in the insertions, the copies of the Definition that you can see.

So, to fix it, go through the motions of the ATTSYNC command. If you’re using AutoCAD LT then this command was introduced in the 2010 version. Older versions don’t offer it. If this is your dilemma, try Ctrl-C copying the whole drawing and pasting into a blank template, then use the new drawing you just created. Be aware you will lose any uninserted blocks if you abandon the old drawing. I can’t guarantee that will work because I don’t have a copy of LT to try it out on.

So, why is the ATTSYNC problem a PITA to eradicate? Well, how many blocks in your drawing set need ATTSYNCing? How can you be sure you’ve fixed them all? Also, be aware that ATTSYNCing moves all of the attributes in every occurrence of the block back to their originally-defined positions. If you have spent hours dragging attributes left, right and everywhere to make them line up then this will break that. That’s the main reason I don’t advocate moving attributes away from their defined positions – you paint yourself into a corner. Don’t do it.

Installing ACNE on Windows 7

There are two parts to the Windows 7 and ACNE tale – installation and running. The crux of the matter is that you need to install and run ACNE as a Windows XP compatible application, primarily because ACNE was originally developed to run in Windows XP. Although Windows 7 is pretty good at eventually figuring this stuff out for itself, you’re always better off doing it properly and telling the operating system what is going on.


Right-click the installer file, click properties and then go to the compatibility tab.Set it to be compatible with Windows XP. I don’t think it really matters if you choose Service Pack 2 or 3 from the list. I chose Service Pack 2 because it was the current one when this version of the program was compiled. As this is an installer it will need to run with Administrator rights. It will trigger a UAC response when it installs – this is ok. Actually it’s great. UAC is great. Never turn it off. No, seriously.




In Windows 7 To set ACNE to run in XP mode. Right-click the actual acne.exe file,click properties, compatibility & set to XP sp 2 or 3 mode. It doesn’t need to run as Administrator, which is good practice anyway. You should only run a program as Administrator if you desperately need to (ie. the installer, as above). It can make the difference between a program crashing-and-burning itself, or your whole computer.


While you’re at it you should probably tweak the shortcut you use in the start menu as well. The procedure is the same … right-click the shortcut and click properties …


That should do it. If you have any questions, comments or tips, please feel free to add them here.

Using ACNE with Excel 2007 or 2010

ACNE was originally developed to run in Windows XP and with versions of Excel that used the .XLS format (97 & 2003). Excel’s file format changed to the .XLSX format with the release of Office 2007 and continues with Office 2010. Both ACNE and Excel need some adjustments to make ACNE work properly. Without these tweaks ACNE will produce worksheets with 1-million-rows, about 127MB in size, and will take a month of Sundays doing so. Fear not – this is easily fixed.

ACNE and Excel …

1. Go to Excel options … in 2007 …


…or Excel options in 2010 …


2. Set Excel to save as Excel 2003 format (XLS, not XLSX) by default…


3. Also make sure it creates 3 worksheets. That is the default setting …


In ACNE, when you specify the name of the spreadsheet to save, make sure you type the “.xlsx” extension. You have to type it –  the dropdown list of file types (all one of them) will save it with the .XLS extension but it will actually save the file as the newer format.


If you leave the extension as .XLS then it will actually save it as the latest version but when opening Excel, it will warn you that the file extension does not match the type the file is saved as. This won’t break anything but it’s not a good look if you’re sending these file to people you are trying to not unimpress.

As an aside, notice how I named the spreadsheet in my example? This format makes it very easy to keep track of all the different cable schedules. In a nutshell …

  • ACNE = whatever you’d like to call the spreadsheet
  • yy = the year
  • mm = month. Always use 2 digits so it sorts properly
  • dd = day. Always use 2 digits so it sorts properly
  • x = today’s version. I use a-z. When you get to z you’ve had enough – go home.



It’s a little tedious but with these workarounds ACNE will happily generate cable schedules in using the latest version of Excel.