Available Now: DWG Files to Go

29 Sep, 2010 By: Nancy Spurling Johnson

The new — and free — AutoCAD WS extends AutoCAD to the cloud, allowing drawings to be shared and modified via the web and mobile devices.

The cloud-based experimental technology dubbed Project Butterfly that's been available from Autodesk Labs is making its commercial debut today as AutoCAD WS  — and it's free. Now, anyone who has a web browser or an iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch can view, edit, and share AutoCAD DWG files. AutoCAD WS was announced in late August when Autodesk made public its plans to launch a native version of AutoCAD for Mac, but it wasn't available until now.

Not to be confused with Autodesk Labs' Project Twitch experimental technology — wherein full-functioning versions of AutoCAD and other solutions reside on the web rather than the desktop — AutoCAD WS is a web-based workspace where anyone can upload and access desktop-generated AutoCAD files to share, manage, review, and modify. Set up an account at the portal, and you're off and running.

The new AutoCAD WS mobile application for iOS, also free, provides access to AutoCAD WS for iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch users and is available now for download from the Apple iTunes App Store.

In addition, a free plugin is available today that allows AutoCAD users to upload files to AutoCAD WS with one click. Compatible with the 2010 and 2011 versions of AutoCAD, AutoCAD LT, and all other AutoCAD-based products (English versions only for the time being), the plugin is obtainable via download or as part of the Subscription Advantage Pack for AutoCAD 2011. This capability will also be integrated into AutoCAD for Mac when it arrives, Autodesk reports.

AutoCAD WS enables AutoCAD users to conduct virtual design reviews with stakeholders anywhere, helping to avoid version control and accuracy concerns associated with design teams sharing files via e-mail or relying on paper documentation in the field. Using an integrated service from Google Maps, AutoCAD WS also helps users to better demonstrate designs in their built environments by underlaying maps in CAD drawings.

How does Autodesk monetize this collection of all-free all-the-time tools? "AutoCAD WS expands the ecosystem of AutoCAD," says Guri Stark, vice-president, AutoCAD and Platform Products Business Unit — in theory opening new market channels for the decades-old CAD software. "We make money on AutoCAD WS by expanding AutoCAD and making it accessible to new users."

AutoCAD WS also is a natural and practical extension of AutoCAD's desktop functionality, allowing users to do things with the software that were not previously possible. Noah Cole, who leads AutoCAD public relations for Autodesk, says, "We view the cloud as expanding what users do on the desktop, not replacing it."

AutoCAD WS can handle even the most complex DWG files, the company reports, including those with full xrefs. Additional AutoCAD WS functions include the following:

  • Web and mobile DWG viewer provides access to AutoCAD drawings from anywhere, by way of a web browser or a mobile device.
  • Online DWG editor supports more than 100 familiar AutoCAD drawing and editing tools that are intuitive for CAD and non-CAD professionals alike.
  • Built-in sharing provides the ability to generate a unique URL and invite stakeholders to view DWG files online, as well as set permission controls for how others can view, edit, or download drawings and folders.
  • Online storage organizes DWG and DXF files, image files, and other related documentation in project folders, with support for multiple file types, including DOC, JPEG, PNG, and PDF.
  • Real-time collaboration enables multiple people to work on the same DWG file simultaneously and to see changes reflected in the file as they are made.
  • Design timeline captures and tracks all changes made to drawings for version control and auditing.

Regarding the native AutoCAD for Mac, Stark says it's in the final stages of development: "We're just a minute away from releasing it."

About the Author: Nancy Spurling Johnson

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