Autodesk 360 Moves AutoCAD 2013 to the Cloud

10 Apr, 2012 By: Robert Green

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.

Now that the hype around the AutoCAD 2013 release has subsided a bit, it is time to dig into a new feature that could foretell a big change in how we use and manage our AutoCAD-based products. That feature is Autodesk 360, formerly code-named Autodesk Cloud.

In this edition of the CAD Manager's Newsletter, I'll give you an overview of Autodesk 360 so you can start deciding whether you will utilize it in your company — and how to go about it. Here goes.

Is This Just More Cloud Hype?

I can hear the skeptical questions already:

  • Why is cloud-enabled AutoCAD such a big deal?
  • How is this different from any other cloud-style application?
  • Is this just an overhyped marketing effort to sell upgrades?

While everyone will have their own initial impressions, I think once you understand the basics behind Autodesk 360 you will have to admit — even if grudgingly — that it will be a game-changer in how AutoCAD is used. And although the change may take years to come to complete fruition, AutoCAD 2013 has let the Autodesk 360 genie out of the bottle.

What Does It Have to Offer?

Autodesk 360 extends AutoCAD's capabilities in a number of ways, enabling you to:

  • Store your design (DWG) files and AutoCAD profile settings in the cloud. (Each Autodesk 360 user gets at least 3 GB of cloud space [subscribers get more] to store their files, which should be more than enough for most projects.)
  • Share your design files with tablets and other mobile devices.
  • Mark up and edit design files for non-AutoCAD users.
  • Access rendering tools (for a fee).

Put simply, you can access your drawings and AutoCAD configuration via any AutoCAD 2013 machine connected to the Internet. Do you need to visit a branch office for a few days? Simply jump on one of the machines there, log in to your Autodesk 360 account, and it will be just like your AutoCAD environment followed you there.

Let's Get Started

To begin, navigate to the Autodesk 360 prompt in the upper-right corner of your screen, and establish an account (using your e-mail as your user name). Once you sign in you'll see your e-mail address (or part of it) along the top of the screen, indicating that you are, in fact, connected to the cloud. A quick look at the pull-down menu shows that your AutoCAD settings will be synced to your cloud storage by default.

Autodesk 360 will sync your AutoCAD settings to your cloud storage by default.


Selecting Online Options from that same menu exposes a new Online tab in the AutoCAD Options dialog box. In this screen you can enable your cloud storage, select how drawings are stored (either by manual selection or automatically as you save), and choose which settings you wish to sync between your AutoCAD session and the cloud.

The Options dialog box has been updated with an Online tab.

Clicking the Choose Which Settings Are Synced button in the Online tab allows you to fine-tune your settings choices. The default behavior is to store all the option settings, customization (CUI files and any MNL/LSP files they load), printer, hatch, palette, template, font, and linetype files.

You can decide which settings sync to the cloud.

At this point, AutoCAD will start to upload all the information you've told it to upload, according on your choices in the above steps. After the file transport (which could take quite a while) is complete, you are ready to operate your AutoCAD in conjunction with the cloud.

Taking It Further

Next, if you explore the Autodesk 360 link from the pull-down menu, a browser session will open that features the Get Started Now tab shown below, as well as a number of tutorials and help for navigating Autodesk 360.

Autodesk 360's browser-based interface provides access to tutorials and help resources.

Even if you don't think you'll use Autodesk 360, I'd still recommend taking an hour to get acquainted with the possibilities — in particular, learn how AutoCAD WS can be used to edit cloud-based drawings from tablet devices (note the Edit DWGs Online option at left side of the screenshot above).

As you explore, remember that your users can get into Autodesk 360 just like you can, and they'll start exploring — even if you don't. As with all things CAD, you want to be getting out in front of the trend so you can manage Autodesk 360 in a consistent manner, not ignoring it while your users create anarchy.

Put Cloud Power to Work

Once users and companies begin trusting Autodesk 360's cloud storage concept, they may be willing to take things even further by using cloud-based tools such as Autodesk 360 Rendering.

Autodesk 360 enables you to render in the cloud — for a fee.

The logic behind Autodesk 360 Rendering is that it will be easier, faster, and cheaper to execute high-end rendering tasks in the cloud than it would be to buy rendering hardware and software for your office. You have to admit that if you could get fast rendering turnaround from the cloud and never worry about graphics drivers, workstation configuration, software updates, or operating system constraints, rendering would be easier.

Renderings are measured in "units," 75 of which are offered to all trial users (at least 100 are offered to subscribers). As of press time, the cost model for purchasing additional units is still up in the air. So the question is, how much will users be willing to pay to render in the cloud? It will be very interesting to watch as users acclimate to a cloud-based service and Autodesk 360 Rendering pricing stablizes.

Summing Up

I realize I've just scratched the surface of Autodesk 360, but my hope is that this overview will motivate you to start looking at the possibilities this new tool brings. I expect that cloud-based CAD tools will pose a big challenge for CAD managers who use AutoCAD in their company workflows, so start planning for the changes now: Get your hands on a demo or subscription copy of AutoCAD 2013 and dig in!


About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green

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