What's New in AutoCAD 2007

28 Feb, 2006

Autodesk's latest upgrades to its flagship product include DWG format changes, visualization tools and a 2D PDF tool

Autodesk today unwrapped the latest versions of a multitude of products. Here we'll focus on new features planned for AutoCAD 2007, the flagship CAD product and the engine behind the various Desktop vertical products. Coming soon, we'll review products geared specifically for the AEC, manufacturing and civil design markets.

Autodesk announced these products today, but they won't start shipping until around March 23.

New DWG Format
As expected, the DWG format does change in this new release, so 2007 files will have to be backsaved to previous versions of AutoCAD (and those versions won't be able to open 2007 files). Autodesk says its TrueConvert tool will be updated when it ships AutoCAD 2007 to support batch translations among versions. Also new is what Autodesk is calling "Trusted DWG" -- basically a warning that appears when you use AutoCAD 2007 to open a DWG file created by a nonAutodesk product.

To facilitate conceptual design, AutoCAD 2007 inherits some of the visualization tools found in other Autodesk products. A Dashboard presents the standard AutoCAD 3D solid and surfacing tools as well as rendering options such as materials, lighting and cameras. A Dynamic UCS eliminates confusion when working in 3D by letting users simply pick a face and start drawing. Navigating a 3D model is made easier with transparent pan and zoom in perspective mode, as well as the ability to edit the model when the Orbit command is active.

AutoCAD 2007 includes the new Dashboard conceptual design user interface.

For design presentations, visual styles let users apply effects such as shadows, overhanging lines, silhouette edges and transparency to create a hand-drawn look. The Walk and Path tools can be used to generate animation files. AutoCAD 2007 includes the mental ray rendering engine found in 3ds max, but gives it a new interface designed for ease of use. More than 400 materials from Autodesk VIZ are also provided. Sun studies are supported.

New Visual Styles tools in AutoCAD 2007 enable you to pick the appropriate style, no matter what stage your design is in.

After the conceptual model is created, it can be used to drive documentation using AutoCAD 2007's new 3D-to-2D tools for sectioning and flattening.

Responding to Customers
Autodesk also reports that this version grants a number of customer requests. The layer tools and Chspace from the Express Tools are now integrated into AutoCAD 2007, and tool palettes can be anchored. When you enter an invalid value in a tooltip, the value highlights automatically so you can reenter it.

AutoCAD 2007 will publish to PDF (2D only). Subscription customers will receive a free copy of Vault, the data-management tool currently provided only to mechanical design software customers.

One good thing about the CUI (custom user interface) introduced in AutoCAD 2006 is that migrating custom settings to 2007 should be easy. Autodesk says it's fixed all the not-so-good things that cropped up in 2006 (as chronicled in our Bug Watch column). AutoCAD 2007 users can also customize the double-click behavior of objects.

It won't be ready for 2007, but support for MicroStation V8's DGN format (2D geometry and annotations only) is in the works. Autodesk expects to embark on a public beta program in the summer.

A major push this development cycle is data sharing among the various Autodesk products. This task is made easier by the fact that the products now share the Autodesk Shape Manager modeling kernel (an Autodesk-developed version of the ACIS modeler). AutoCAD 2007 conceptual models can be transferred to Revit or Inventor for further development.

On the lighter side, AutoCAD LT 2007 gains the ability to create dynamic blocks, dynamic input and the Layer Express Tools. Autodesk positions LT as a basic 2D drafting tool, so leaves out the tools for conceptual design, CAD management, design presentation and customization. No DGN support, either.

Editor's note: This article first appeared in Cadalyst Daily e-newsletter. Every work day, Cadalyst Daily delivers delivers the latest CAD news and product announcements, plus original features including AutoCAD updates and exclusive tips; AEC, Manufacturing and GIS updates; success stories; exclusive interviews with CAD experts and innovators; and much more. Subscribe today!