AEC Tech News #157

14 Dec, 2005 By: Michael Dakan

Cadalyst AEC Tech News

Autodesk's Answers to File Sharing

Free downloads now available for viewing and converting DWG, DWF

Autodesk recently added two new utilities to its line of free tools available for working with Autodesk file formats and for viewing and converting them from one version of AutoCAD to another. The new DWG TrueView and DWG TrueConvert join DWF Viewer and Inventor View. You'll want to check these out if you do much work with DWF files and need maximum flexibility for handling those files, especially if you need to convert one version of DWG to another.

Also available is DWF Composer, a $99 program that combines most of the functionality available in the free utilities with redlining markup, review process tracking and integration of redline markups with Autodesk design software applications. DWF Composer is pretty much the latest incarnation of the older Volo View software, with even more functionality.

New: DWG TrueView and DWG TrueConvert
The two newest members of the suite of free utilities are DWG TrueView and DWG TrueConvert. DWG TrueView is strictly a DWG Viewer based on the latest AutoCAD 2006 technology, which means that you can view DWG files created with virtually any version of AutoCAD up to the latest 2004 file format.

Of course, to see all the information in the latest AutoCAD versions, including custom objects created with ARX applications such as Architectural Desktop, the file creator must first save the drawing as an AutoCAD file, which strips some of the object information, but maintains a true representation of all the graphics in the file, including custom objects.

DWG TrueConvert is probably the most significant new utility of the group because it allows you to convert any version of AutoCAD file to any other, back to Release 14. That includes forward compatibility with the latest version of AutoCAD. This means that an AutoCAD 2000i user, of which there are still a surprising number, can open and edit an AutoCAD 2006 file after first converting it. Autodesk has always been careful to maintain backward compatibility with the DWG file format so that users could always open a file created with an older version of AutoCAD with the latest version of the program. DWG TrueConvert marks the first time I am aware of that Autodesk has offered forward file compatibility.

DWG TrueConvert is essentially an upgrade to the older Migration Tool Batch Converter, which allowed easier forward migration of older drawing and support files when you implemented an upgrade to the AutoCAD application. DWG TrueConvert allows you to convert a single file or to batch process multiple files at once. As is the case with DWG TrueView, you must save any drawing file that contains custom ARX objects as a plain AutoCAD file before converting to a different version, in order to maintain a true graphic representation of the complete file.

Correction: Autodesk Green Building Index
In this last issue of AEC Tech News, I discussed the Autodesk Green Building Index, a measure of how much architects are using green building techniques in their practices. The survey that resulted in the Autodesk Green Building Index showed that architects are currently using these techniques more than they have in the past, and that five years from now they expect that they will be using them about 100% more than they are now.

In discussing the survey methodology that resulted in the Index, I mistakenly said that the invitation to participate in the survey was sent only to a list of Autodesk users. I had assumed that Autodesk had chosen participants based on an opt-in group of its users who had agreed to participate in such surveys, because I am aware that Autodesk had used such opt-in lists for similar surveys in the past. But in fact the invitation to participate in the survey was sent to some 18,000 architects from an independent list of names compiled by an outside marketing agency, and it included non-Autodesk users. This adds credence to the survey, probably making it a better representation of the profession has a whole than I had thought.

But it raises another interesting question: How much are green building techniques being used by the profession as a whole? The Autodesk Green Building Index was based on only 84 survey responses, out of 18,000 sent. This is a very small percentage (about 0.5%) and could indicate that there is not currently as much interest in green building techniques as one might hope.

However, we do know that recognition of green building techniques is increasing, and likewise, use of the techniques is more common now than in the past. We can only hope that in the future, when Autodesk compiles the next Green Building Index, more architects will choose to participate in the survey and will have even more progress to report.