A First Look at AutoCAD 2021.1

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Just as the spring typically brings us a new release of AutoCAD, the end-of-summer and early-fall typically bring us the annual “little-r” or “dot-one” update to our favorite drafting software. This year is no different as Autodesk released its AutoCAD 2021.1 this week.

As in past years, while the update does introduce some new features we’ll see in the next version of AutoCAD, the update itself predominately focuses on enhancements to existing features. Among the features you’ll find inside this update, the enhancements to the Blocks Palette are the most significant.

Blocks Palette Enhancement

First introduced in AutoCAD 2020.0, the Blocks Palette continues to improve with each update of the software. AutoCAD 2021.1 is no different as we see several enhancements centered around the broad “anywhere, anytime” theme seen throughout the last several releases of AutoCAD. These improvements include a new Favorite and Recent tabs of the Blocks Palette, plus new control options.

Favorite AutoCAD Blocks

First, we see an expanded integration between the AutoCAD Blocks Palette and popular cloud storage providers such as Dropbox, OneDrive, Google Drive, and more. Such integration with cloud storage providers has been a theme throughout several parts of AutoCAD in the last several releases, so it’s no shock we see deeper cloud integration with the Blocks Palette.

With AutoCAD 2021.1, you can mark blocks from the Current Drawing, Recent, or Libraries tabs as a favorite. You can think of the new Favorite tab like a bookmark you might save in a web browser. While you are free to choose any storage path of your choosing, the real magic comes from specifying a cloud storage location.

When you specify a cloud storage location, your favorite blocks sync across devices. As with the cloud integration seen in other areas of AutoCAD, this gives you easy access to your favorite blocks not just from the desktop version of AutoCAD, but also and AutoCAD for Web.

Recent AutoCAD Blocks

AutoCAD 2021 added the Recent tab to the Blocks Palette. As great as the dynamic library of recent blocks can be, it is also an interface that tends to quickly gather clutter. Working to address that very issue, AutoCAD 2021.1 offers several new options to manage the blocks you see on the Recent tab.

AutoCAD Blocks Palette Remove From Recent List

The first of those is the ability to clear individual blocks from the Recent tab. Just right-click on any block displayed on the Recent tab and choose “Remove From Recent List.” Easy peasy!

Of course, you may get to the point where, to eliminate clutter, you need to declare bankruptcy on the blocks shown on the Recent tab. If that is you, AutoCAD 2021.1 has you covered there too. Just right-click, and then choose “Clear Recent List.” Just like that, the Recent tab is cleared, and you have a blank space to start anew.

Block Palette Control

As the Blocks Palette matures within the software, so too does our access to it. AutoCAD 2021.1 further expands our command-line access to the Blocks Palette with a new BLOCKSYNCFOLDER system variable. With it, you can specify the path AutoCAD uses to store blocks displayed on the Recent and Favorites tab.

Multiple Monitor Improvements

Although the Blocks Palette is where you will find many of the AutoCAD 2021.1 updates, there are other worthwhile features packed inside this update too. Among my favorites is the new multiple monitor updates.

If you run AutoCAD from a laptop, you’ve undoubtedly found yourself playing Where’s Waldo with various AutoCAD user interface elements like Tool Palettes, the Command Line, Ribbon panels, and even toolbars. The AutoCAD 2021.1 update aims to fix that.

Now, when you undock your laptop, thereby switching to a single-screen configuration, all AutoCAD user interface elements automatically move to the same location on the screen in use. We should no longer find ourselves hunting for user interface elements stuck on a screen that no longer exists!

As a laptop user myself, this is the quintessential definition of a “small but significant” new feature.

AutoCAD Web App – Open in Desktop

Finally, while the spotlight is brightest on the Windows version of AutoCAD, AutoCAD for Web continues seeing new features added to it too. Among the newest features we find inside AutoCAD for Web is the new Open In Desktop feature.

Similar to what you may be familiar with using Microsoft Office, the new Open In Desktop feature allows you to take a drawing you have open in the web version of AutoCAD, and finish editing it with the fill desktop version of the software. As useful as this feature can be, it’s worth nothing the Open In Desktop option is only available with drawings saved to AutoCAD Web & Mobile or Microsoft OneDrive.

In Summary

Consistent with past “little r” or “dot-one” releases, AutoCAD 2021.1 does not seem to distract from what I anticipate will be a larger portfolio of features added in AutoCAD 2022 next spring. Overall, I would classify the new features we find inside this release as enhancements to existing features, not so much the introduction of groundbreaking new features.

Still, while the new features inside AutoCAD 2021.1 mostly enhance existing features, I do believe it does so in a meaningful and worthwhile way. As such, I’ve found my initial interactions with the update to be frictionless and worth the time to update.

Have you installed AutoCAD 2021.1? What has your experience with it been? What features are your personal favorite? Let me know in the comments section below.

Further Reading

To learn more about AutoCAD 2021.1, be sure to check out the following resources:

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