AutoCAD LT Missing Plot Styles

AutoCAD plot style missing

I dunno, perhaps AutoDesk are punishing you for buying the cheap version. Perhaps I am a bit too cynical about these things. That’s quite likely.

You’ve just installed AutoCAD LT, opened your first drawing in it and gone to print it.

AutoCAD plot style missing
screenshot from the full version - your mileage may differ

“Missing or incompatible plot style” WTH? I thought that was one of the ones you get when you buy AutoCAD (LT). Does it cost extra? Gaaahhh!

Here’s the issue – the “grown-ups” (full) version of AutoCAD, the one that makes Autodesk an obscene amount of money instead of just a lot, has a collection of plot styles whose names differ from the LT version that you have now just been punished for buying. For exampleinstance, the run-of-the-mill “Color-dependent Plot Style Table” in AutoCAD is called “acad.ctb” but the equivalent plot style in AutoCAD LT is called “acadlt.ctb”. Why? DO NOT ASK WHY !! There’s nothing to be gained from that.

Plot settings, including the assigned plot-style, are saved in the drawing. Thus begins an ongoing plot-style tug-of-war between the Full version crowd and the LT crowd. You just backed your Ford into their BMW. The irony here is that the real fault lies with whoever designed the carpark (to continue the analogy).

Solution: copy, and then rename the copies of all LT plot styles with “lt” at the end of their names.

How: The “stylesmanager” command which, rather unintuitively, opens the folder containing the plot styles. You’re on your own from there. Double-click them if you actually want to edit them. It’s also in the file menu (“menubar 1” to get your old friend back) and it’s probably buried in the ribbon somewhere too, right next to the “create new layer” button, no doubt. Don’t ask me where, that thing hurts my eyes. If you click on the AutoCAD logo at top-left it’s here …

Plot styles from the big A button at top-left
I much-prefer the Quick access toolbar to the ribbon.

You could say it looks like a bit of a shell game to separate the two versions but, IMHO,  it’s more likely due to Hanlon’s Razor. Either way, it’s a broken User Experience. You’re now pissed off for no good reason. Maybe the Full version and LT teams should do lunch or something, compare notes. We’re all on the same team, you know?

AutoCAD Find and Replace Wildcards are broken

so far, so good

Update in 2015 – it’s not a bug as such but a usability issue – as an aside the dot (period) wildcard matches any single non-alphanumeric character, similar to a question mark but much more restrictive. Curiously I would expect it to match a dot, which is does here. The cause of the confusion is still the lazy versus greedy aspect.

This frustrated me so much over the years that I wrote a replacement for Find and Replace where you can be selective about what wildcards to use. Oh, and it lives in a tool palette so you don’t have to keep opening and closing a window. Check it out.

…returning you to the original post…

I found this bug when doing a find and replace on some IP addresses in an AutoCAD drawing. I was using it as a template for a new drawing so I wanted to reset the IP addresses to a default to avoid duplicating the existing values.  Here is what I started with …

so far, so good

So, I fired up my trusty AutoCAD Find and Replace window, like thus…

AutoCAD Find and Replace window. Finding *.*.*.* and replacing with

… and then selected the block in question & hit Replace All. I got this …

Not the desired result. Huh?

That ain’t right. I tried the same thing in Excel. From this …

Same procedure in Excel, before

… using the same Find and Replacement text …

Excel Find and Replace Window

… and I got this …

Replacement in Excel - ah, that's better

That’s more like it. To paraphrase Sesame Steet, “One of these things does not work like the other ones.”

So, why are they different?

Initially, I thought the difference was that Excel’s search is greedy and AutoCAD’s search is an inconsistent mix of lazy and greedy. Here is an explanation of the difference between lazy and greedy text searching, as it pertains to using Regular Expressions. In a nutshell, a lazy search reckons it is done when it has found the bare minimum it needs to satisfy the requirements of the search. The * wildcard I used in the find section will match one or more of any character. A lazy search reckons it’s done when it matches one character, a greedy search will keep matching characters until it eventually runs our of ones that match the search string. In Excel’s  case it stops when it gets to a dot, in AutoCAD it did that with the middle but not at the beginning and the end.

The more I looked at it the more I realised that isn’t right. AutoCAD had actually ignored the first and last wildcards in the search. Instead of looking for *.*.*.* it has looked for .*.*. As Occam’s Razor inevitably predicts, it’s not as complex as I first thought – it’s simply somewhat broken.

I’d say that’s a bug, folks. I guess I’ll be using ol’ faithful Excel for that find and replace exercise. Well, actually, it’s not that bad – the ? wildcard still works so I can use ???.???.???.??? in various number of ?’s to (eventually) get there. It’s still a bug, though.