Autodesk Unveils 2009 Lineup, Part 1

26 Feb, 2008 By: Robert Green

CAD managers will appreciate AutoCAD's customizable ribbon interface, action recorder, and other new features.

Well, spring is around the corner, and what would spring be without a massive new product launch from Autodesk? Earlier this month, at Autodesk World Press Days, I spoke with various Autodesk product gurus to get a feel for the new features we can expect to see. In this issue I will share a few of my impressions from a CAD manager's viewpoint. Here goes.

The Ribbon
If you've worked with Microsoft Office 2007, you've seen the new Ribbon interface, which replaces traditional menus and toolbars with groups of related functions organized under tabs. Following suit, AutoCAD 2009 sports a ribbon in the top left corner that can contain any number of interface elements.

The new ribbon component in AutoCAD 2009 consolidates commands, similar to AutoCAD 2008's dashboards, but with the same horizontal feel as the new Microsoft Office components.

AutoCAD's ribbon will be customizable like any other interface element. CAD managers will be able to set up ribbons as they like using the CUI (custom user interface) editor. Ribbons are divided into tabs (which are like super toolbars) and rows (which allow you to stack up ribbons with any number of tabs). If you've used the CUI editor before, you'll find ribbons to be a lot like dashboards.

Ribbon construction and editing is part of the CUI command.

Action (Macro) Recorder
The new Action Recorder in Autodesk 2009 is garnering a lot of interest. It allows you to record commonly repeated sequences of AutoCAD commands (actions) easily, then play them back in any drawing any time, saving time on redundant tasks. The feature automatically stacks your actions in a file that you can edit to add prompts and messages. You can then deploy the results to other operators using OPTIONS controls (more on that in a moment).

The Action Recorder allows you to capture commands in native AutoCAD format, then replay the recorded macros later. The Record and Play buttons are designed to look like those on a DVD player.

CAD managers will need to support users as they try to figure out how to edit the macros they record, and we'll have to control those macros we want to make globally available. To achieve this control, AutoCAD 2009 introduces some new variable settings in the Options command.

You can control where your recorded macros are stored. Use a read-only network drive to deploy macros to all your users.

Any recorded macros placed in the Additional Actions Reading File Locations will be automatically available for playback by any user. You'll notice I've set up my machine to record my own macros to my local C drive, I but have a network drive available to deploy standard macros to all users.

Once our users get past the learning curve for the Action Recorder, I think we'll find it to be the most significant addition to the AutoCAD 2009 product family. So take the time to check out the new functionality and set up your network to take advantage of the macros you'll use as part of your standards.

Lots More AutoCAD
There's a lot more to the new AutoCAD 2009 product line than plain vanilla AutoCAD. Although Autodesk wanted to stress its Revit, Inventor, and Maya products, I couldn't help noticing how much AutoCAD-based technology was being released in a palette of products that provide great functionality for the price. And while several of these products have been around for a few releases, my experience is that they’ve not been widely adopted and thus merit a look. Here are some I thought were noteworthy:

  • AutoCAD Architecture 2009. Tools for architectural users based on the familiar AutoCAD platform. Think 2D productivity out of the box for AEC environments.
  • AutoCAD Mechanical 2009. Tools for mechanical designers with standards-based symbols libraries and engineering calculators. Again, 2D productivity out of the box.
  • AutoCAD Civil 3D 2009. It doesn't seem fair to call Civil 3D an AutoCAD product because it does so much, but it is based on core AutoCAD technology.
  • AutoCAD Electrical 2009. Electrical schematics really are 2D by default, so why not do the work with a 2D CAD tool you already know? Think extensive libraries of components and smart productivity tools for creating industry-standard electrical diagrams for controls engineers.
  • AutoCAD Map 3D 2009. The AutoCAD-based GIS (geographic information systems) solution continues to link the AutoCAD graphical interface to external data without all the hassle you encounter in vanilla AutoCAD.
  • AutoCAD MEP 2009. The AutoCAD productivity toolbox for mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) businesses that want to continue using the 2D tools they already know rather than moving to Revit MEP.
  • AutoCAD P&ID 2009. An ingenious product that allows process engineers, controls engineers, and AutoCAD drafters to create and edit multisheet process and instrumentation diagrams (P&IDs) using AutoCAD and Microsoft Excel rather than IT-intensive client server systems. This is the most interesting new AutoCAD tool I've seen.

Wrapping Up
In the next CAD Manager's Newsletter, I'll talk about a few more new product innovations from Autodesk and give you some more CAD management tips for managing these new tools. Until then.

About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green

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