AEC Tech News (#313)

19 Apr, 2012 By: Cadalyst Staff

Autodesk Strives for Consistency, Cloud-Centricity in 2013 Product Lineup

Updated components for AEC, manufacturing, and entertainment suites are integrated with each other — and with the Autodesk 360 cloud computing platform.

By Cyrena Respini-Irwin

"We will not be working — any of us — in the way that we worked five years ago." That bold assertion is Autodesk President and CEO Carl Bass's take on the impact of cloud technology, which he considers a watershed "much bigger than the shift to PCs, much bigger than the shift from DOS to Windows."

At the company's 2012 Media Summit last month in San Francisco, Bass told the audience in no uncertain terms that cloud, mobile, and social technologies are reshaping design workflows. "We're moving to a world where the computing center of the world is really where you are ... I'll never [again] be in the position of saying 'I'll email you those files when I get back to the office.'"

The summit coincided with the launch of Autodesk's 2013 software portfolio. The seven 2013 design and creation suites feature expanded toolsets, automated industry-specific workflows, and toolbars that connect users to the Autodesk 360 cloud computing platform.

Cloud and mobile technologies have made a big splash in the CAD market in a short amount of time. According to Bass, in its 28 years of operation, Autodesk has totaled 12 million paid users of its professional products; by contrast, AutoCAD WS, a cloud-based CAD editing app, has already racked up 7 million users — in less than two years. "It's an unbelievable amount of usage … and I still think we're really at the beginning," said Bass.

Autodesk President and CEO Carl Bass showcases artwork created with the company's SketchBook mobile drawing and annotation app. Image courtesy of Autodesk.
Autodesk President and CEO Carl Bass showcases artwork created with the company's SketchBook mobile drawing and annotation app. Image courtesy of Autodesk.

This impact is not limited to design professionals; consumers are benefiting from the democratization of design technologies enabled by the cloud. Autodesk is actively courting that market, and for good reason: There are far more makers, hobbyists, and casual designers in the world than professional CAD users. The company's SketchBook Mobile drawing app for iOS- and Android-powered devices has been downloaded 10 million times in the two years since its introduction. Instructables, the online do-it-yourself community that Autodesk purchased last year, garners 13 million unique visitors per month. "It's a new group of users who are interested in creating things, who are interested in being imaginative and creative," said Bass. Read more »

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Cyrena Respini-Irwin is Cadalyst's senior editor.


First Look Review: CadTempo 5.2

Automatically track and chart time spent using popular CAD applications, Microsoft Office, and more.

By R.K. McSwain

CadTempo, a software application from Rockford, Illinois–based Engineered Design Solutions, tracks working time in popular CAD applications including AutoCAD, AutoCAD LT, ArchiCAD, Inventor, Inventor Fusion, 123D, MicroStation, Pro/ENGINEER, Revit, Rhino 4.0, SolidWorks, SketchUp, and 3ds Max. It also can track working time in Microsoft Word and Excel, and Corel Word Perfect and Quattro Pro. CadTempo automatically records who accesses a document, how long the document is open, and how much time is spent editing it. CadTempo runs independently of the monitored applications and thereby prevents software integration problems.

I reviewed a single-user version of CadTempo 5.2, tracking activity in AutoCAD, AutoCAD Civil 3D, and Microsoft Word. During the very easy installation process, the program prompts you to select applications or file types (such as DOC and DXF) that you would like to monitor automatically. AutoCAD is selected by default.

When you launch a monitored application, the CadTempo Task Timer also starts and presents a dialog box where you can confirm the default task name and user (or modify them) and, optionally, add details about the task in the Additional Task Info field. You can also start the Task Timer manually. When you end a monitored application, CadTempo prompts you to save that task or continue tracking. As an example, if you close your CAD application and are going to reopen it, you might want to continue tracking rather than stopping and starting a new task. The CadTempo Display Timer lets you view a summary of the current task with elapsed time. Read more »

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Cadalyst contributing editor R.K. McSwain is a designer and CAD systems administrator for Pate Engineers.


The World of AutoCAD Programming Platforms, Part 1

VBA remains an option, but its days appear numbered. Check out the other choices available for AutoCAD customization.

By Andrew G. Roe

AutoCAD's open architecture has long been one of its most appealing qualities. The freedom to customize menus, add custom commands, and develop add-on programs that run within AutoCAD has motivated numerous users to get under the hood and do some fine-tuning.

With AutoCAD 2013 now on the street, the options for programming AutoCAD remain robust, although the landscape continues to evolve. Autodesk has indicated for several years that Visual Basic for Applications (VBA), a programming environment introduced in the late 1990s, will eventually be phased out. VBA still has a pulse for the time being, but it appears to be on life support, as Autodesk is promoting Visual Studio.NET as the preferred development platform instead.

The .NET environment — which is more versatile and complex than VBA — has gained popularity in recent years, but has left some less-experienced programmers out in the cold. Meanwhile, the growth of mobile devices and cloud computing has introduced new considerations for CAD users and programmers. To better understand this shifting landscape, let's review various customization options, starting with the simpler methods and progressing to more complex alternatives.

Simple Customization

First off, AutoCAD offers plenty of customization options for non-programmers. Custom menus and commands have been achievable since the early days, before AutoCAD releases were tagged by year. Using customization tools from the AutoCAD ribbon, along with some behind-the-scenes work, you can customize the user interface, define external commands that invoke other programs from the AutoCAD Command prompt, create aliases for AutoCAD command shortcuts, and craft scripts to batch-process groups of commands. Read more »

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Cadalyst contributing editor Andrew G. Roe is a registered civil engineer and president of AGR Associates.


Mark Your Calendar: AEC Events


Creating Knowledge Workers for the Greener Product Marketplace
April 24, 2012
2 p.m. ET
During this webinar, panelists will demonstrate and discuss their success stories using Sustainable Minds' cloud-based software for greener product innovation. This will be the first of three webcasts on the topic moderated by Sustainable Minds' CEO and founder, Terry Swack. Read more »

IMAGINiT Know It. All. Virtual Event
May 1–3, 2012
10:30 a.m. ET
At this complimentary virtual event, attendees will hear from IMAGINiT technical experts who will showcase the new enhancements in the Autodesk 2013 products. Topics will include implementation strategies, the latest IMAGINiT Clarity for Autodesk Revit Server, Autodesk 360, Autodesk Vault, and Rand Secure Archive, as well as tips and tricks on AutoCAD 2013 from Autodesk Evangelist Lynn Allen. Read more »

PlanetPTC Live Orlando 2012
June 3–6, 2012
Orlando, Florida
PlanetPTC Live, PTC's annual user conference, will provide networking opportunities for those involved in design, manufacturing, and product lifecycle management. Read more »

For a complete list of CAD meetings, conferences, training sessions, and more, check out our calendar of events on Are you hosting an event that you would like to include in our calendar? Submit details at least two weeks in advance to


What’s New at


Cadalyst Poll: How Much Do You Spend on Your CAD Workstation?
Do you ever wonder how much money your peers spend on their CAD systems? Simply scroll to the bottom of the Cadalyst home page and vote in the latest Cadalyst poll to find out! You can even bookmark the results page and come back later, to see how the results change as more voters weigh in.

CADspeed Blog Post:
How Much RAM Should You Buy for a CAD Workstation?

Start with the minimum RAM recommendation for your primary software, then get a feel for how much more memory you'll get with incremental spending. Read more »

All-in-One CAD Tip #1: AutoCAD Ribbon, Civil 3D, CAD Management
Learn how to customize the AutoCAD ribbon, share Civil 3D data, and more effectively manage your CAD team. Sponsored by the HP Z1 All-in-One Workstation. Read more »

PTC Introduces Modular Product Design Creo App and Windchill Mobile
Creo 2.0 includes updated versions of the nine original apps in the Creo family, plus a new tool for building 3D-based product assemblies, while Windchill expands to iOS devices. Read more »

Clear Out Junk Files with Wise Disk Cleaner
This free utility will help you remove all those old system files and temporary Internet files cluttering up your computers. Read more »

Autodesk 360 Moves AutoCAD 2013 to the Cloud
Whether you plan on using it or not, you need to explore Autodesk's new cloud solution — it will change the way we use AutoCAD. Read more »

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