AutoCAD Set for a Civil Transition

25 Jun, 2008 By: Kenneth Wong

As Land Desktop exits, AutoCAD Civil enters.

No one should be surprised that AutoCAD Land Desktop (LDT), Autodesk's workhorse for civil engineers and surveyors, is on the way out. The telltale signs are in Autodesk's evolving marketing literature for its potential successor, AutoCAD Civil 3D.

In a 2003 Autodesk white paper, "Using the Autodesk Civil 3D Dynamic, Relationship-Based Environment," author Clay Abajian, an Autodesk-endorsed consultant and instructor, wrote, "Does Autodesk Civil 3D mark the end of [LDT]? No, it does not. Autodesk Civil 3D is 'preview' software released as part of the subscription fulfillment to LDT and Autodesk Civil Design (or Autodesk Civil Series) subscription members."

But eventually, on Autodesk's Civil 3D support page, the company began offering step-by-step guides and case studies to encourage customers to migrate. "The 'Moving from Land Desktop to Civil 3D' guide is intended to help you transition from using [LDT] to using AutoCAD Civil 3D as your primary engineering design application," Autodesk wrote.

This month, Autodesk announced, "As technology has advanced and the challenges facing engineering organizations have become increasingly complex, we have decided it is time to look beyond [LDT] to technology that better addresses the demands of today's engineering organizations. As a result, [LDT] 2009 will be the last release. ..."

Transitional Companion
It's no coincidence that a new product, AutoCAD Civil ($5,995 suggested retail), debuts in the same month that LDT's pending retirement becomes public. Adam Strafaci, Autodesk's senior product marketing manager for the Civil portfolio, clarified that AutoCAD Civil is not a resurrection of what used to be called Autodesk Civil Design, an LDT add-on that's no longer available. In short, the new AutoCAD Civil is a subset of its more comprehensive -- and older -- cousin, AutoCAD Civil 3D ($7,495 suggested retail).

Whereas Civil 3D targets civil engineers and designers, Civil aims squarely at civil technicians, drafters, and surveyors. In Autodesk's product sheets, Civil 2009 is shown to include:

  • surveying and coordinate systems;
  • design and drafting;
  • construction documentation; and
  • data management and team coordination.

By contrast, Civil 3D 2009 is listed with all the components above and

  • stormwater analysis;
  • geospatial analysis and mapping; and
  • Land Desktop Companion (made available as a download to Civil 3D subscribers only).

Click for larger image
As Autodesk gets ready to retire AutoCAD Land Desktop (LDT), it ushers LDT users toward LDT's successors, AutoCAD Civil and AutoCAD Civil 3D. (Click image for a larger version)

As Autodesk gets ready to retire AutoCAD Land Desktop (LDT), it ushers LDT users toward LDT's successors, AutoCAD Civil and AutoCAD Civil 3D.

Strafaci explained, "What we are doing for LDT customers migrating to AutoCAD Civil [which does not come with the LDT Companion] is to let them continue to use LDT for production work for 18 months, which is much longer than the traditional [60-day] grace period for Autodesk customers."

While clarifying the product lineup in Autodesk's civil portfolio in a blog post, Dominick Gallegos, Autodesk's technical marketing manager for Civil 3D, once wrote, "We wanted to package [LDT] with Civil 3D to make the transition for customers easier, allowing them to make the switch at their own pace, without having to manage LDT licenses and Civil 3D licenses separately" -- hence, the introduction of what he calls, "a 'special' version of LDT that is included in the box with Civil 3D, and will use the Civil 3D serial number and license for authorization."

Now that LDT's days are numbered, making the switch at your own pace might no longer be an option. For those who have been holding out because they feel Civil 3D is too heavy-handed for the straightforward design and documentation work they do, AutoCAD Civil may be an appealing alternative.

Doug Benoit, a professional engineer who maintains a blog at IMAGINiT Technologies' site, noted, "[Civil] has half the fat and a third less calories as regular Civil 3D."

Editor's note: Look for additional reporting on the twilight of LDT in "CAD Central" in the July issue of Cadalyst magazine and on