Hindsight Is 20/20 and this is AutoCAD 2020 autocad 2020 house

Hindsight Is 20/20 and this is AutoCAD 2020

Autodesk just announced and released AutoCAD 2020 to the world. Like the many releases before it, this one introduces many feature-rich enhancements aimed at making you more productive. If you feel like you’ve heard similar promises before, you probably have. Throughout my 23-year tenure as an AutoCAD user, it’s a tagline I sure feel I’ve heard Autodesk echo with each “new” release.

But as they say, hindsight is 20/20 - and this is AutoCAD 2020!

Just Another Annual Release?

Shifting focus to AutoCAD 2020, it’s easy to surmise it as just another annual release. A release for the sake of releasing a new version akin to flowers blooming in spring. A release no more and no less exciting than the one before it. A release defined not by foresight, but instead the burden of hindsight.

While some will undoubtedly look at AutoCAD 2020 through such a lens, I believe that lens is incredibly short-sighted.

The Future of AutoCAD

Hindsight Is 20/20 and this is AutoCAD 2020 AutoCAD desktop web mobile

There’s no lack of opinions about what AutoCAD could be, and perhaps more importantly, what it should be. Like most AutoCAD users I know, I surely have my ideas about what I believe the future of the software should be.

From Revit to Inventor and beyond, there's no lack of highly specialized tools whose feature set is far more capable than AutoCAD. What many see as a weakness of AutoCAD is what I celebrate and see as its key strength. Others may disagree with me, but I don't want AutoCAD to become Revit or Inventor.

That's not a knock on either tool, rather an acknowledgment of each tool’s strengths. Tools like Revit and Inventor were purpose-built for the specialized jobs they do. Despite the many powers each brings to the table, they are woefully inadequate when the scope of a job extends beyond the narrow focus of their intended function.

Strength in Versatility

In my experience, the power of AutoCAD isn't in its specialization, but rather in its versatility.

I choose AutoCAD because it doesn't matter if I'm drafting a semiconductor or the solar system; the versatility of AutoCAD is up for the task.

It's though that lens I see the future of AutoCAD not as an increasingly specialized tool, but rather one that celebrates its long heritage of versatility. In the past, we defined that versatility through the lens of how efficiently AutoCAD let me draft a polyline or add a dimension to a drawing. While such functionality remains essential, I question if that's where the priority needs to be today?

My Evolving Workflow

When I started The CAD Geek in 2006, it was from a desktop computer attached to a massive CRT monitor that consumed nearly every square inch of my desk. A flashy new flat screen monitor soon replaced that CRT monitor, and a laptop soon replaced the desktop computer itself.

Today, I write this post not from a laptop, but instead an iPad.  Not just that, but through the magic of tools like Dropbox, I've reviewed and edited this post on both my laptop and my iPhone. The ease in which I can take a written document from device to device was unfathomable just a short time ago but is a baseline expectation I have for word processors today.

Candidly, with DWG as ubiquitous to design as DOC is to written documents, I question why my workflows surrounding each are so different? More specifically, from tablet to desktop and mobile, if I can seamlessly take this blog post to any device I use, why can't I do the same with a DWG file?

In my eyes, therein lies the future of AutoCAD.

The Static AutoCAD Workflow

Realizing the long-promised vision of being able to take my design from the office to the field and back again. Being able to share a design without concern of the recipient having access to AutoCAD, much less having the right version installed.

At the end of the day, I don't need AutoCAD to be more specialized - I need it to be more versatile.

Feature-Rich Enhancements of AutoCAD 2020

When I look at AutoCAD 2020, there are the feature-rich enhancements we've come to expect. Though I'm eager to use the new Block Palette and Drawing Compare tools, that's not what excites me the most about AutoCAD 2020.

What excites me most about AutoCAD 2020 boils down to the versatility it affords me. More specifically, the dream of DWGs being as frictionless to work with as the written documents I author is more attainable than ever. From desktop to web and mobile, the versatility of having anywhere access to AutoCAD is no longer an abstract promise, but rather a present-day reality.

Cloud Storage

Hindsight Is 20/20 and this is AutoCAD 2020 autocad 2020 cloud connectivity

Like so many, Dropbox is where I store most of the files I create and edit. Although tools like Microsoft Word offered great integrations with Dropbox, AutoCAD was a lone wolf. Taking advantage of online collaboration tools meant moving DWG files to an AutoCAD-specific storage destination.

With AutoCAD 2020, I no longer have to choose between collaboration and siloing my data. Everything can remain in my chosen cloud storage service. From Dropbox to Microsoft OneDrive and Box, they all now integrate with AutoCAD web and mobile.

AutoCAD Web

Hindsight Is 20/20 and this is AutoCAD 2020 autocad 2020 web app

If you've heard me talk about AutoCAD recently, there's a good chance you've heard me gush about the continuously improving web version. What started as AutoCAD WS and later AutoCAD 360 is now AutoCAD Web. While all three are different versions of a browser-based AutoCAD experience, the current AutoCAD Web is completely unlike its predecessors.

What fascinates me about AutoCAD Web is the fact it uses the core engine of AutoCAD (Windows). You heard me right. The core code that powers AutoCAD (Windows) also powers AutoCAD Web.

Because both versions run the same core code, creating and editing drawings with AutoCAD Web performs like a desktop (not web) application. The web version even has a command line just like the Windows version.

Despite the similarities, it's important to note AutoCAD Web doesn't include all the commands found in AutoCAD (Windows) just yet. Because of this fact, you'll likely find the desktop version more efficient but make no mistake. AutoCAD Web is a competent tool!

AutoCAD Mobile

Hindsight Is 20/20 and this is AutoCAD 2020 autocad 2020 mobile app

Taking hardcopy drawings into the field is a chore to say the least. Despite no formal training, I often jest about becoming a job site ballerina as a result of taking drawings into the field. You know the pose, attempting to balance on one leg while you use your other leg as a precarious writing surface for your drawings?

AutoCAD Mobile lets you stop being a job site ballerina, and instead leverage a mobile device to interact with your drawings.

Like the web version, AutoCAD Mobile also shares its DNA with the desktop version. The key difference is it lets you take files offline. So, with or without an internet connection you can interact with and edit DWGs from an iPad, Android tablet, or even Windows tablet in the field.

Although AutoCAD for Mobile does integrate with cloud storage services like Dropbox, it also works with the Save to Web and Mobile function of AutoCAD (Windows). With it, no third-party cloud storage service is necessary. Just save your drawing to web and mobile and pick up where you left off from a web browser or mobile device.

In Summary

Despite the many specialized tools on the market today, AutoCAD remains the world’s most popular design tool. In my opinion, a key reason for that status is the versatility AutoCAD offers its users. Although I'd wager AutoCAD (Windows) remains the primary way most users interact with AutoCAD today, I also believe it won't be long before web and mobile are just as critical as the desktop experience.

I frame that opinion around my own experience authoring documents like this blog post. When Microsoft first introduced the web and mobile versions of Word, I scoffed at the idea of trading a powerful desktop experience for a lesser web and mobile experience. Despite neither the web or mobile version of Word offering all the features I use in the desktop version (even to this day), the versatility they offer makes each a critical part of my writing workflow.

The idea I can take my AutoCAD DWGs anywhere I need, share the drawings with anyone regardless of their access to AutoCAD, and transition between all the computing devices I own is powerful. Because the barriers to accomplish even a fraction of that were so high just a few years ago, I believe the industry is still learning how to leverage the power and versatility AutoCAD (desktop, web, and mobile) now offers.

Hindsight is indeed 20/20, but in my opinion, AutoCAD 2020 only looks back to recognize what makes it the world’s most popular design tool - the rest is foresight.

Autodesk 2019 New Feature Webinar Series

Autodesk 2019 New Features Webinars by The CAD Geek

Last week, the technical team at CADD Microsystems came together to put Autodesk's 2019 products through their paces. I already shared my first impression of AutoCAD 2019 several weeks ago, but the purpose of last week was to look at the holistic portfolio of products. We tested out the new features and collaboarated with one another to discuss how the release stands to beneft the real-world projects of our clients. Beyond the enjoyment of having the team together, seeing how each of our specialists priortized the new features is incredibly beneficial as I begin recieving questions from clients and readers of The CAD Geek.

New Features Webinar Series

While last week we focused on exploring the new releases, this week our focus is on sharing what's new in Autodesk's 2019 products. Our eight-part webinar series begins tomorrow (April 17th) at 1:30 pm EST, and concludes on Thursday (April 19th) at 3:00 pm EST. In addition to the full webinar schedule found on the CADD Microsystems website, you can conect with me as I present the following presentations this week:

Wednesday, April 18th

Thursday, April 19th

I do hope you'll be able to join me for at least one of the webinars I'm hosting this week. Of course if schedules or time zones do not align, we'll have recordings of each webinar available shortly after each broadcast.

Thoughts About AutoCAD 2019

What People are Saying About AutoCAD 2019

Yesterday Autodesk not only announced AutoCAD 2019, but also major changes about the way AutoCAD is offered to customers. As I shared in my post A First Look at What’s New in AutoCAD 2019, I’m quite excited about this release even as it breaks the typical mold of what we think of when it comes to new releases. The announcement of One AutoCAD focuses on the overall process of design, not just the part that happens while I’m trapped behind my desk in the office. Although this shift delivers a small number of new features in the desktop application, it delivers a wealth of new features to the overall AutoCAD ecosystem.

Of course, that’s just my take on One AutoCAD announcement. Many others have also weighed in since yesterday’s announcement, and below is a cross-section of what they’ve had to say.

Kean Walmsley, Through the Interface

Shaan Hurley, Between the Lines

Michael Alba, Engineering.com

Jimmy Bergmark, JTB World Blog

As you can see, there's a lot to talk about not just with the announcement of AutoCAD 2019, but also the broader One AutoCAD. Stay tuned here on The CAD Geek and with the authors outlined above as we dig into the many pieces and parts of this release over the coming weeks. Likewise, let us know your thoughts about One AutoCAD in the comments below.

AutoCAD 2019 Guitar

A First Look at What's New in AutoCAD 2019

Despite the fact there's snow on the ground where I live in Richmond, VA, the calendar says it's spring. That's important because flowers are as synonymous with spring as new releases of AutoCAD. Today Autodesk announced the release of AutoCAD 2019. While in years past the focus has been on enhancements to the general design and documentation tools AutoCAD is known for; this year is a bit different. Although there are new features to talk about inside AutoCAD 2019, that's not the biggest news this year - One AutoCAD is. There's a lot to be excited about with One AutoCAD, and this post will only scratch the surface of what it means to you. Stay tuned for our continued coverage of AutoCAD 2019 over the coming weeks, but for now, let me introduce you to AutoCAD 2019!

Specialized Toolsets with One AutoCAD

The most impactful news related to AutoCAD 2019 is undoubtedly the introduction of Specialized Toolsets. Otherwise known as One AutoCAD, specialized toolsets essentially consolidate the AutoCAD product line into a single product offering. Former vertical products such as AutoCAD Architecture and AutoCAD Map 3D are now Specialized Toolsets.

AutoCAD 2019 Toolsets

Starting today, subscribing to AutoCAD provides not only access to AutoCAD but also seven Specialized Toolsets including:

  • Architecture Toolset – Formerly AutoCAD Architecture
  • Mechanical Toolset – Formerly AutoCAD Mechanical
  • Electrical Toolset – Formerly AutoCAD Electrical
  • MEP Toolset – Formerly AutoCAD MEP
  • Plant 3D Toolset – Formerly AutoCAD Plant 3D
  • Map 3D Toolset – Formerly AutoCAD Map 3D
  • Raster Design Toolset – Formerly AutoCAD Raster Design

Functionally, this shift is mostly just a rebranding of AutoCAD vertical applications to Toolsets. The installation experience remains the same as installing AutoCAD plus any number of AutoCAD vertical applications. Although AutoCAD with Specialized Toolsets certainly delivers more value than ever to AutoCAD subscribers, I do wish Autodesk would have offered a unified install experience for AutoCAD and its many Toolsets (something akin to the former Autodesk Design Suite installers).

Beyond the mechanics of installation, your access to AutoCAD with Specialized Toolsets is something you’ll likely want to speak to your reseller about. Although all new subscriptions to AutoCAD now include Specialized Toolsets, existing subscriptions to AutoCAD and AutoCAD verticals are unchanged at launch. Generally speaking, you can switch your AutoCAD or AutoCAD vertical subscription to AutoCAD including Specialized Toolsets at no charge for the remainder of your term. There are some exceptions to this policy that a reseller such as CADD Microsystems can help determine whether they apply to you.

AutoCAD 2019 (for Windows)

Beyond the introduction of One AutoCAD, we see several new features added the conventional (Windows) version of AutoCAD as well.

Modernized User Interface

Updated AutoCAD 2019 Interface
Updated AutoCAD 2019 Interface

One of the first things you’ll likely notice upon opening AutoCAD 2019 for the first time is the refreshed icons throughout the interface. This is not a significant update to the user interface, but instead a modernization of the icons used throughout the interface. The new icons move away from the heavy gradients used in previous versions, opting for a flat design language instead. It’s a matter of personal taste, but I really enjoy the new icons, and find the flat icons far easier to identify.

Speaking of identification, AutoCAD 2019 eliminates a longstanding annoyance I’ve had with the Status Bar. When looking at the Ribbon you can quickly identify what toggles are enabled, and which are not by looking for a blue background. The blue background indicates a specific toggle is currently enabled. By contrast, the design language in the Status Bar has been what I can only describe as a glowing line effect. Gone is the glowing line effect in AutoCAD 2019, and Status Bar icons now have a blue background like their counterparts in the Ribbon.

Drawing Compare with Revision Clouds

Once you get past the subtle user interface updates, the flagship new feature in AutoCAD 2019 is a brand-new Drawing Compare tool. Although there are indeed similarities between this new tool and the compare tool found in AutoCAD Architecture (err the Architecture Toolset), the compare tool was built from the ground up.

AutoCAD 2019 Drawing Compare with Revision Clouds
Quickly identify and place revision clouds around what's changed between drawing versions with AutoCAD 2019.

The basic idea of a drawing compare tool is simple. Compare two versions of a drawing and identify the differences. Like the old Drawing Compare tool from AutoCAD Architecture, the new Drawing Compare tool in AutoCAD 2019 does a wonderful job at that primary task. What sets the two apart is the control you get with the new Drawing Compare feature. Not only does the new Drawing CoOmpare seem to perform better, but you also have the option to specify the colors used to highlight the differences between drawings.

Although AutoCAD users always welcome customizability, the new Drawing Compare tool adds some new functionality too. You can control whether text and hatches are considered when comparing drawings, and even insert information about compared files such as filename, who last saved each file, and when each file was saved as a table into the current drawing.

Finally, the standout improvement of the new Drawing Compare tool is the ability to automatically place a revision cloud around what’s changed between two drawings. Likewise, an adjustable Margin setting lets you choose whether to put a revision cloud around every change or to group many changes inside a single revision cloud. The choice is yours, but no matter what you choose clouding drawing revisions is far less tedious in AutoCAD 2019.

Shared Views

Although I come across few AutoCAD users who leverage the Design View functionality inside AutoCAD 2017 and 2018, the new Shared Views feature is one that excites me for its evolutionary impact on the industry. Collaboration today almost always means converting a DWG file into a new file format everyone on the project team can open – typically PDF. Although PDF is an excellent way to archive final plans, I find it’s rarely implemented in a way that allows for rapid collaboration among project teams.

This type of rapid collaboration is where I find the new Shared Views functionality inside AutoCAD 2019 to be most valuable. With just the click of a button in AutoCAD, I can forgo converting my drawing to PDF, and instead share a simple link with project stakeholders in a fraction of the time. Stakeholders can then view, review, measure, comment, and markup the drawing view I shared using Autodesk Viewer inside their web browser.

Publishing a Shared View from AutoCAD 2019
Publish Shared Views from AutoCAD 2019, and then view in a web browser.

Beyond the inherent time savings for design teams, Shared Views also help streamline collaboration workflows for project stakeholders. As a web-based tool, stakeholders can focus on intuitively offering their feedback, not investing time installing new software or making sure it's up-to-date. Shared Views do expire after 30 days, but you always maintain control of the links you create. You can terminate links you no longer need or extend those you need to keep.

As much as I’ve enjoyed Shared Views in my testing, I also recognize this is a radical departure from the way teams typically collaborate today. Though I do see benefits of this workflow for both designers and stakeholders, I believe the adoption of Shared Views will be evolutionary at best.

AutoCAD 2018.1 New Features

Beyond the new features exclusively available to AutoCAD 2019, users also receive access to the new features Autodesk added to AutoCAD 2018 in the fall with its AutoCAD 2018.1 update. My personal favorite feature from that update was the new Views and Viewport functionality. If you missed the update, I wrote a blog post and recorded a video about the update titled Sheet Setup Made Easy with AutoCAD 2018.1 Views and Viewports.

In addition to the new Views and Viewport functionality, AutoCAD 2018.1 also added several new Layer tools. This new collection of Layer tools primarily focus on letting users more easily identify and manage Layer Property Overrides – especially through External References. In case you missed it, you can learn all about the new features of AutoCAD 2018.1 from the Official AutoCAD Blog.

AutoCAD Web App

As I wrote about the release of AutoCAD 2018 last year, one of my key observations was the way Autodesk was working to modernize the then 35-year-old codebase that is AutoCAD. In summary, I found the 2018 cycle to be more about putting the necessary infrastructure in place to do amazing things in the coming years. Seeing AutoCAD 2019 (for Windows) for the first time, I simply figured this was another year of building infrastructure for great things in the future. That was until I had my first look at AutoCAD Web.

The new version of AutoCAD Web is not AutoCAD WS or AutoCAD 360 of yesteryear - or even a continuation of those projects. AutoCAD Web is now powered by the same underlying engine as the (Windows) desktop version of AutoCAD. Put simply, AutoCAD Web is the desktop version of AutoCAD running in a browser.

Recognizing how ambitious of an undertaking running AutoCAD in a browser is, I was hopeful the team could pull it off but apprehensive about how great it would be in its initial version. Taking AutoCAD Web for a test-drive, I am genuinely impressed by what Autodesk has accomplished.

Although not all the AutoCAD (Windows) commands are there just yet, the ones that are there perform as well, if not better than their desktop counterparts. With this initial release we have the following commands:

AutoCAD Web Commands

  • LINE
  • ARC
  • TRIM
  • COPY
  • REVCLOUD (Revision Cloud)
  • MLEADER (Multi Leader)
  • MOVE

Using the above commands, I was able to draft a simple floor plan in about the same time it would have taken me with AutoCAD 2019. I plan to conduct an in-depth review of AutoCAD Web in a future post, but my first impressions are incredibly positive. Although features like Shared Views discussed earlier are additions I feel the industry will have to evolve towards using, AutoCAD Web is something I can see teams realizing an immediate return from. Because of its desktop DNA, the web version appears to be a plausible alternative to the desktop version for passive AutoCAD users, and an invaluable supplemental tool for active AutoCAD users.

In Summary

The significance of AutoCAD 2019 is not so much about the new features added to the Windows version, but instead the manifestation of the long-prophesized promise of anywhere, anytime access to the power of AutoCAD. One AutoCAD simplifies the previously complex web of numerous vertical flavors of AutoCAD into a simple-to-understand package. A single subscription now provides customers with the full AutoCAD experience with over a half-dozen Toolsets (formerly known as AutoCAD verticals).

Looking beyond the desktop, AutoCAD Web begins to pull back the curtain of what I believe to be the future of AutoCAD. Prior to this release, I was apprehensive Autodesk could deliver a desktop-caliber AutoCAD experience in a browser, but that’s precisely what they’ve done. Likewise, being a web-based tool, I expect we’ll see numerous updates to AutoCAD Web throughout the year.

Bottom line, I’m genuinely excited by everything AutoCAD 2019 delivers, and can’t wait to help my customers out with it as they find creative ways to apply it to their business. Want to maximize your subscription to AutoCAD and your other Autodesk products? Fill out this quick form to set up a meeting to discuss how I might be able to help your organization.

A CAD Geek’s First Impression of AutoCAD 2018 AutoCAD 2018

A CAD Geek’s First Impression of AutoCAD 2018

Spring is in the air, and a new version of AutoCAD is now on the street. Today Autodesk announced the release of AutoCAD 2018, and it is one worth celebrating. Not only does it introduce some impressive new features, but it also represents the 35th-anniversary of AutoCAD. To put that milestone in perspective, MS-DOS 1.0, an operating system long succeeded by Microsoft Windows (not to mention discontinued in 2000),  turned 35 in August of 2016.

35 Years of AutoCAD

AutoCAD reaching its 35th anniversary is both an incredible accomplishment, as much as it is a liability of the platform itself. Just as we celebrate the fact AutoCAD 2018 can still open drawings from those earliest versions, it is hard not to ask whether 35 years of baggage is a good thing?

What excites me most about AutoCAD 2018 is what I believe this release represents along that 35-year timeline.  While there are certainly new features to talk about in this release, I think the biggest takeaway is the investment Autodesk has made to both modernize and innovate the AutoCAD platform itself. Opening AutoCAD 2018 for the first time you will find both tangible and intangible examples of these efforts. While there are 35 years of DNA inside AutoCAD 2018, there are not 35 years of baggage.

The Modernization of AutoCAD

In the simplest of ways, this modernization has meant restructuring the underlying code of AutoCAD to apply best computer science practices for the year 2017 – not 1982. In some cases, this means a new feature in the desktop version, but in other cases, it means Autodesk can achieve greater feature parity between the desktop and mobile versions of AutoCAD. Even if you are not (yet) among the group of people using the mobile version of AutoCAD, a more scalable codebase is a good thing for all AutoCAD users.

A CAD Geek’s First Impression of AutoCAD 2018 autocad 2018 high resolution 4k

It is for those reasons I find AutoCAD 2018 to be such a fascinating release. In my eyes, this version represents the 35-year legacy of AutoCAD as much as it does the very future of AutoCAD. The simplest example of this is the introduction of full support for high-resolution (4K) monitors. You can now run your monitor at full resolution without fear of interface elements within AutoCAD not scaling correctly. Autodesk even updated the classic toolbars to support 4K monitors.

Modernized Collaboration – External References

For those of us still waiting for our hoverboards, the future sounds great, but the fact of the matter is we are all stuck in the project-based realities of today. The bottom line is a tool like AutoCAD must, above all else, support my project collaboration needs of the present. Squarely addressing those needs are the many enhancements to external references (XREFs).

Relative path external references have been an option within AutoCAD for many years, but my experience is most users struggle to make sense of them. Currently, the second most popular search about relative paths is “AutoCAD Relative Path Cannot be Assigned.” That tells me my experience supporting AutoCAD users is not isolated. Despite being a long-standing best practice, many people simply give up on relative paths since they are too difficult to tame. Although this seems to save time at the moment, it ignores the project collaboration issues that are likely to arise later.

Although the core functionality of external references is unchanged in AutoCAD 2018, the workflow for creating references is significantly improved. The first small but significant change is the application of a relative path to all new external references. You still have the option to choose Full Path if you wish, but the out of the box default is now Relative Path.

For those with a strong knowledge about the differences between Full Paths and Relative Paths, you know you cannot set a Relative Path until you save the drawing. If Relative Path is now the default, conventional AutoCAD wisdom tells us we have a mess on our hands. That is where the second key improvement to external references comes into play. You can now specify a Relative Path reference before you save your drawing. Apart from crowning a new second-place search result, this change alone should make relative paths far more approachable for users.

Other improvements to external references include a notification to update reference paths when you save a drawing in a place that breaks an existing reference path. While it is still possible to break external reference paths, AutoCAD 2018 makes it far harder to do so. In cases where you still encounter broken reference paths, the Find Replace Path tool from the Reference Manager is now inside AutoCAD.

The external reference tools you are familiar with are still inside AutoCAD 2018; they are just better-designed for the needs of project-based collaboration now. From my experience troubleshooting issues with external references, just this improved feature set alone could be reason enough for some firms to upgrade to 2018.

Another Express Tool Grows Up – Combine Text

Over the years, many of the Express Tools (or Bonus Tools as longstanding AutoCAD veterans like to call them) have “grown up” to become full AutoCAD commands. While this promotion means little to many AutoCAD users, it can be a big deal for AutoCAD LT users.

Starting with AutoCAD 2017.1, the Convert to Mtext Express Tool is now the Combine Text tool. Unlike the Express Tool version, this new version is available for both AutoCAD and AutoCAD LT users.

A Design Tool for Today – and Tomorrow

There are far more new features inside AutoCAD 2018 than outlined in this post. Stay tuned over the coming weeks as I take a more detailed look at many of those features. Before we reconnect for those posts, I do need to share one last detail about AutoCAD 2018 – the DWG file version. AutoCAD 2018 saves to a new AutoCAD 2018 DWG file format. Like previous releases of AutoCAD, you can save to previous versions of AutoCAD if needed. In my limited testing, I did not notice any compatibility issues saving 2018 drawings back to the 2013 file version.


In summary, while the new features inside AutoCAD are beneficial, I find the real benefit of 2018 to be what rests behind the user interface. In addition to being more scalable, a modern code base means AutoCAD runs even better on your current hardware. Using AutoCAD 2018 over the last several months, I have noticed increased performance with everyday tasks like opening and saving drawings. Though your mileage may vary, the incremental gains tend to add up quickly over the period of several days to a week.

Current subscribers of AutoCAD can download AutoCAD 2018 from the Autodesk Account website now. If you do not already subscribe to AutoCAD and would like to setup a chat to discuss AutoCAD 2018, I invite you to complete a quick form. If you would like to learn even more about AutoCAD 2018, read my First Look at AutoCAD 2018 on the CADD Microsystems blog.


InfraWorks 360

InfraWorks 360 2016.4: More Awesome and More Affordable

With quarterly releases, InfraWorks 360 remains one of the most actively developed applications in Autodesk's product portfolio. This week marked the fourth release of the 2016 cycle, and like earlier releases - there's plenty to be excited about! Some of the new features you will find in this new release includes:

  • Raster Overlays
  • Improved Cloud Model Management
  • Model Builder Updates
  • More Responsive Modeling Options
  • Advanced Intersection Modeling: Acceleration & deceleration ramps, Center Turn Lanes, and more!
  • Expanded Drainage Calculation Options
  • AND MORE!!!

These new features certainly make InfraWorks 360 2016.4 anything but a lackluster release. As incredible as these new features are, they are not my favorite part of this update. So what is my favorite part of this release? The dramatically simplified licensing options.

Licensing typically isn't anything to get excited about, but this one time I'll take exception.

Before this week, gaining access to everything InfraWorks 360 had to offer required four separate licenses. You had to purchase InfraWorks 360, and then licenses for each of the three advanced design modules (Roadway, Bridge, and Drainage).

Starting this week, when you purchase InfraWorks 360 you will also receive all of the advanced design modules at no additional charge. InfraWorks 360 is now a single price for the entire tool set. You no longer have to purchase individual design modules on top of your InfraWorks 360 purchase. And even though Autodesk has combined four licenses into just one license, the price for InfraWorks 360 has gone down (not up)!

Current InfraWorks 360 customers may download the updated version by logging into the Autodesk Account page.

Reach out to your reseller to add InfraWorks 360 to your software portfolio.

The new External Reference tools you didn't know about in AutoCAD 2014 convert path type

The new External Reference tools you didn't know about in AutoCAD 2014

Each new release of AutoCAD brings with it a number of significant enhancements. For instance the 2014 version introduces incredible tools such as Design Feed and Live Maps from Bing. As useful as these are, I oftentimes find the smaller, less celebrated features to be among my favorites. One such enhancement in AutoCAD 2014 is the new external reference (xref) tools we find in this release.

Since xref’s are the way I typically assemble projects, I find these new, less celebrated, tools incredibly handy. Specifically, AutoCAD 2014 provides us with the ability to change both the xref type (attach/overlay), and the xref path type (full, relative, no path) for xref’s already in your drawing.

Changing Xref Attachment Types

Based on the way I assemble my plans, I prefer using the Overlay path type when setting up xref’s for my projects (this helps me avoid the dreaded circular xref’s). Regardless of which side of the fence you fall on, you’ve undoubtedly run into an instance where an xref in your drawing was opposite from your preferences. In my case, I have a drawing that’s been attached to my drawing:

An Attached External Reference
An Attached External Reference

Prior to AutoCAD 2014, fixing this typically meant detaching the xref, and then reattaching it - losing any custom settings like layer states in the process. With AutoCAD 2014 there’s no need to apply such a cumbersome process, as the type cell in the Details panel of the External References Manager is now a dropdown list. All you need to do is click on this dropdown list, and choose your preferred path type:

Changing the attachment type of an existing External Reference (xref)
Changing the attachment type of an existing External Reference (xref)

Changing Path Types

I have been a strong advocate for Relative Path xref’s ever since their introduction many years ago. Unfortunately, even the most diligent project setup was easily destroyed by fixing a broken xref path by browsing to it (as this converted the path to a Full path xref). Thanks to AutoCAD 2014, these all-too-common changes do not have to destroy your project setup any longer. Provided AutoCAD can find the reference file, you can now change the Path Type of any reference by right-clicking its name in the External References Manager. In the example below, I want to change from the current Full path to a Relative path xref:

Converting a Full Path external reference (xref) to a Relative Path xref.
Converting a Full Path external reference (xref) to a Relative Path xref.

While this integration into the External References Manager is great, it’s also important to point out the Path Type function has also been added to the -XREF (command line version) command. Starting the command-line version of the command now gives you the option to select a PATHTYPE function.

The PATHTYPE function within the command-line version of the XREF command.
The PATHTYPE function within the command-line version of the XREF command.

Even if you don’t typically type your commands, this is an important inclusion as it allows you to write a script to manage xref path types in your drawing.

Learn what’s new in AutoCAD 2011 this Wednesday in Richmond


Yesterday I had the privilege of attending the AutoCAD 2011 Product Launch Event here in San Francisco, CA. After the webcast I got to attend several breakout sessions where many of the product managers demonstrated some of the most compelling features inside AutoCAD 2011. I’ll write more about the event later, but suffice to say the day was packed with technical insights, and even gave us a chance to voice our opinions about the software and where it’s headed. Having the chance to attend the launch event for the past two years, I can vouch for how seriously Autodesk takes feedback from users like you and I. Not only were product designers, Q&A staff, and others in attendance at the feedback session, but so was Autodesk CEO, Carl Bass. Again, more on the launch event later; how can you get a chance to learn about the new features inside AutoCAD 2011?

AutoCAD Civil 3D 2010 Gets Ribbonized

image Ever since Microsoft launched Office 2007 the trend has undoubtedly shifted from the traditional interface employing menus and toolbars, to the “new and improved” ribbon. Users of vanilla AutoCAD got ribbonized with last year’s 2009 release. While a classic workspace was still shipped with the product, the ribbon was an integral part of the default workspace. On the other hand, Civil 3D users got a stay of ribbonization in the 2009 release, but 2010 is a whole different story. You guessed it; the 2010 release of AutoCAD Civil 3D has been ribbonized!

Many of you have probably launched “AutoCAD Civil 3D 2009 as AutoCAD” at least once since installing it. Under that configuration, you got the full ribbon experience! If you were like me, you took a look at it, thought eh’ that is cool, and proceeded to change back to the AutoCAD Classic workspace. Here’s the deal, the ribbon in 2009 was cool, but not overly useful (in my own opinion). I personally felt Autodesk ribbonized AutoCAD just so they could be like every other software manufacturer, following in the footsteps of Microsoft. To be fair, I can certainly see how the Ribbon might help someone first learning AutoCAD.