AutoCAD 2015 Designed to Fine-Tune Workflows

9 Apr, 2014 By: Robert Green

Updates to AutoCAD 2015 are geared toward optimization — helping you do your job, not trying to change how you work.

I'm aware that CAD managers support a variety of software, so I usually keep the CAD Manager's Newsletter product-agnostic. But, because so many of us have to manage AutoCAD to some extent, I'll make an exception for the introduction of AutoCAD 2015.

You can read more about AutoCAD 2015's new features here if you want to get a broad idea of what's in the release. For our purposes, I'll focus on how I expect the new release will affect CAD managers. Here goes.

Initial Impressions

When a new version of AutoCAD is unveiled, you never know what the focus will be. So, when I finally got my hands on AutoCAD 2015, I had no idea what I'd find. I did wonder if the emphasis would be on cloud technology (that many aren't using yet) or collaborative functions (based around messaging systems that haven't been widely embraced). In short, I questioned whether the new AutoCAD would hit the mark with users.

Now that I've worked with the new release for about a week, I am impressed. It isn't a bold release packed with a bunch of startling new commands, but rather a welcome optimization release.

AutoCAD 2015 is geared toward refining the user experience rather than changing how the user operates. In other words, Autodesk seems to have focused on making their tools work in ways that support how users actually work. I'm pleased that Autodesk is listening to its users!

Interface Changes

I've often taken software manufacturers to task for altering software interfaces in unnecessary ways just so it seems like something has changed. In this case, I have to hand it to the designers at Autodesk for producing an AutoCAD interface that is easy on the eyes and puts almost all the tools where you expect them to be.

A dark theme makes AutoCAD easier to look at for long editing sessions, yet tool placement is consistent with recent releases.
A dark theme makes AutoCAD easier to look at for long editing sessions, yet tool placement is consistent with recent releases.

The changes that stand out for me include:

  • The streamlined, tabbed interface yields maximum drawing space and the eye strain–reducing dark theme is designed for all-day use. In fact, the soft, dark look of this interface takes me back to the days of big tube screens in darkened CAD rooms — where I never experienced eye strain!
  • Another big interface change is the much-improved use of graphics processing units (GPUs) to sharpen the graphics quality of linework and text on screen. The combination of lower contrast and sharper graphics makes the software much more pleasant to look at all day.

Greater use of GPU resources yields higher-quality visual style output in model space and paper space viewports.
Greater use of GPU resources yields higher-quality visual style output in model space and paper space viewports.

  • A new ribbon gallery function assists with block insertions and tracks blocks that have already been inserted, much as Design Center does. Being able to rapidly insert blocks and easily determine which blocks are resident is a feature I find myself using from the ribbon now. Previously, I would close Design Center because I didn't use it much.
    Ribbon galleries speed block insertion.
    Ribbon galleries speed block insertion.
  • The process of selecting objects uses highlighted graphics, and command previewing (such as stretching and trimming) now shows you the results of the command based on the hovering point of the cursor to avoid improper selections. When selecting points using osnaps commands, you can now ignore end and intersecting geometry on dimension entities so you don't accidentally pick a nongeometric point.
  • Finally, though the interface looks a lot different, all the commands and ribbon elements are consistent with recent releases so you don't waste time looking for the commands — they're where you expect to find them.

Taken cumulatively, I find the new interface to be something users can work with more comfortably and productively. And since the changes don't rearrange what users already know, it shouldn't take much to get them up to speed with the new version. I think I could drop AutoCAD 2015 in front of a 2013/2014 user and they'd get right to work and would like the new tools in short order.


New User Favorites

AutoCAD 2015's new functions aren't readily apparent via the user Interface; there are some that you could miss entirely if you don't know how to find them. Here are a few that I predict will enjoy wide user acceptance:

Lasso Selection. When selecting an object, you may now window around rectangular zones by clicking the mouse button and releasing before picking the second zone point, like normal. But, if you keep the mouse button clicked down, you can now draw irregular boundaries around objects using a "lasso," much like drawing a polyline.

Natural Sort. Layer lists, style lists, etc., are now manipulated in natural sort order, so you'll see text lists such as 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11 instead of 1,10,11,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9.

Text Enhancements. Paragraph-style text (mtext) feels more like Microsoft Word in terms of supporting bulleting and number lists. It also includes autosensing of capitals, easier sub- and superscript font handling, improved fraction stacking, and user-definable tabs. All in all, you can work with text without as much cussing as in prior releases.

TextAlign. This new command lets you align text entities by selecting an existing text or reference line.

As I work with these commands, I keep thinking, "Shouldn't it have always been this way?" and, "I've done a lot of AutoLISP work over the years to emulate these functions!"

Among the new offerings, there are no superfluous commands that do nothing — what I call gingerbread commands. (I don't know how well that term translates to other languages, but it seems to resonate with most CAD managers I've talked to.) It is my pleasure to report that AutoCAD 2015 does what it does well, without a bunch of gingerbread.

Maps and Clouds

Two groups of functions that have crept into recent releases of AutoCAD have to do with using map/Earth data (such as MapQuest data) and point clouds. Both areas are more optimized in AutoCAD 2015, so if you use these features be sure to explore the 2015 updates.

Mapping. Maps now place and update more quickly, thanks to the use of Microsoft Bing online map data that you can zoom in on to achieve higher resolutions with less regen time than in past releases. A licensing agreement with Bing allows the perpetual use of map geometry, so the picture you save is the picture you'll continue to have over the life of the drawing it is stored in (unless you intentionally update it).

Point clouds. You can now clip, view, and render point clouds in a much more intuitive manner. The new Point Cloud Manager also makes it a lot easier to move between multiple point clouds in the same drawing session.

Clipping and rendering of multiple point clouds creates much more intuitive reality capture process.
Clipping and rendering of multiple point clouds creates much more intuitive reality capture processes.

Minimalist Feel

At first glance you may look at AutoCAD 2015 and say, "It looks like 2014, but darker." A deeper dive into the program, however, reveals an optimized piece of software that is geared toward user comfort and efficiency. I find the release to be refreshing because it's designed to decrease eye fatigue, it presents better-looking graphics, and it adds functions that solve known user problems. Overall, it's clear that user input helped shape this release. I've often taken software companies to task for not listening to users and instead pushing out meaningless new features, so I must give Autodesk credit for its efforts on AutoCAD 2015.

While it may seem at first that not much has changed, it has, so take the time to explore the new features. And isn't that what a well-designed software update should do — provide improved capabilities while retaining its familiar feel?

Summing Up

Like all AutoCAD releases before it, AutoCAD 2015 may or may not be your cup of tea — you'll want to evaluate it for yourself, of course — but it is a substantial enough optimization that I would recommend you at least test it out for yourself and run it past your users.

I'll be interested to hear your comments as you have a chance to look at the new AutoCAD. I await your feedback at Until next time.

About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green

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Re: AutoCAD 2015 Designed to Fine-Tune Workflows
by: jmaeding
April 9, 2014 - 3:44pm
hmm, how about a CAD Manager based release? Maybe make Etransmit actually work. I do like the things they did though to 2015, so long as they behave in future production.
Re: AutoCAD 2015 Designed to Fine-Tune Workflows
by: jmaeding
April 9, 2014 - 3:54pm
So I just tried the lasso selection on a file with some real xrefs, but no heavy topo. Took about 5 seconds to respond once I let go of the mouse. Gingerbread....
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