CAD Manager's Newsletter (#380)

21 Mar, 2017 By: Robert Green

A Peek at the Future of AutoCAD

Autodesk's technology preview event provides clues about whether the long-lived application will continue, and if so, how it will develop.

Last week, I attended an Autodesk technology day to learn about the future path of AutoCAD software. The AutoCAD Influencer's Day was attended by a variety of bloggers and technical experts from North and South America.

I had no preconceived notions of what we would cover, other than knowing we would look at AutoCAD 2018, due to be released this week. And while the new version of AutoCAD was somewhat limited in new features (more on this later), there were several pieces of information relevant to CAD managers, which we'll look at in this edition of the CAD Manager's Newsletter. Here goes.

AutoCAD's Viability in the Cloud Era

After a tour of the facilities, we settled into a conference room where Rob Maguire, AutoCAD product line director, gave an overview of AutoCAD's development status. The principal topics of conversation were the new release (more on that in the next section) and the increasing attention being paid to making new version migrations less painful by employing better automated upgrade tools. Clearly, Autodesk hears CAD managers' continuing requests for better version management. Only time (and experience with newer AutoCAD versions) will tell whether the new tools are useful, but at least the company is making an effort to improve on existing tools.

A recurring theme in Mr. Maguire's slides was the interoperability and cross-platform communication between various DWG-based tools. From sharing secure views, to web-based tools, to support for a variety of Windows, Apple, and Android devices, it's clear that Autodesk envisions pushing geometry created by AutoCAD to everyone, no matter what type of device they carry.

There was also a session called "AutoCAD Futures," in which specific details were divulged that I'm not at liberty to disclose yet. Without violating non-disclosure rules, I can say that AutoCAD is not going away and will, in fact, be undergoing substantial development. When asked directly whether there would be any movement away from the traditional desktop AutoCAD versions, Mr. Maguire stated, "The desktop version isn't going anywhere." So, contrary to some speculation I've read, the presence of AutoCAD 360, A360, and AutoCAD Mobile do not indicate the death of conventional AutoCAD.

AutoCAD 2018

After Mr. Maguire's presentation, we were given a demo of AutoCAD 2018 by Heidi Hewett, AutoCAD's technical marketing manager. I would categorize 2018 as a "spit, polish, and patch" release that enhances existing functions and graphics performance, rather than introducing many new features. (To see a complete list of the new feature set, check out Ms. Hewett's AutoCAD 2018 Preview Guide.)

There are a few enhancements that are of interest to CAD managers, which I'll briefly cover. These include:

DWG file format update. After five years of stability, AutoCAD's DWG format has finally been updated. The upside is that DWG files become slightly more compact, save and load more quickly, and use a new AutoSave format that saves incrementally for fewer noticeable interruptions of workflows. The downside is that after all these years of not worrying about it, CAD managers must now remember to keep track of DWG file versions!

4K user interface update. If you've tried running an older version of AutoCAD on 4K resolution monitors, you've probably encountered the unreadably tiny toolbar and ribbon elements that come up by default. Even when switching to the large button display mode, the older version's user interface elements can still seem illegible, particularly on laptop displays or small desktop monitors. AutoCAD 2018 — and the 2017.1 patch — have this problem solved, as you can see here:

User interface elements now scale correctly on 4K displays.
User interface elements now scale correctly on 4K displays.

Read more »

Tools and Resources

Free DWG-Compatible Software Guide Available from Cadalyst
Have you been exploring your options in 2D CAD software applications, only to be overwhelmed by the number of products available? Register to download a Cadalyst Labs Report by longtime CAD journalist Randall Newton and read about some of the most popular, well-established titles in the market. Learn about the history and importance of the DWG format, software that's available by perpetual purchase as well as by subscription, and more. From the editors of Cadalyst.Download now.

What's New at

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AutoCAD Video Tips: Teach AutoCAD to Recognize Your Spelling Mistakes
Thanks to AutoCorrect, AutoCAD is pretty good at deciphering misspelled commands. But every once in a while, we flub a command that AutoCAD just can't figure out. Join Lynn Allen as she shows you how to train AutoCAD to identify your misspellings — and as a bonus, learn a great trick to play on your coworkers! Watch the video »

About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green

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