Editor's Window

31 Dec, 2005 By: Sara Ferris

Challenges, changes and conjecture enliven Autodesk University.

User conferences provide many valuable opportunities to find out what's on the minds of end users and developers alike. Last month's Autodesk University was such an occasion, and I'd like to thank all you readers who stopped by the Cadalyst booth and the various third-party developers who demonstrated their new products. I also appreciated the willingness of the folks at Avatech, one of Autodesk's largest resellers, to discuss what they're seeing in the markets they serve. We cover the official news from Autodesk University elsewhere in this issue. What follows are some of the issues and opinions that surfaced this year.

 Sara Ferris
Sara Ferris

Civil engineering was the surprise star of the event. Autodesk's Civil 3D model-based product is attracting lots of interest. It's easier to learn than Land Desktop, but still has a few holes that need filling. Many civil firms seem to be scrambling to find qualified candidates to fill open positions. For those wondering where all the CAD jobs went, look here.

Data management is emerging as a key concern, especially among those manufacturing companies that have made the move to 3D. Issues such as file control and design reuse have sparked interest in Autodesk's Vault product, included free with its Inventor Series. A third-party developer noted that Autodesk's emphasis on data management brings carryover benefits to his company by raising the level of interest in the topic. Regardless, some developers in this field are seeking new channels for their wares—for example, by offering AEC-oriented versions for facility management. They aren't the only ones feeling the effect of Autodesk's ever-expanding footprint. The conceptual modeling tools planned for a future version of AutoCAD will tromp on the turf carved out by @Last Software (SketchUp) and McNeel & Associates (Rhino).

SolidWorks and Inventor are battling it out in the mechanical midrange market. Both tools do what most customers need to do, so the feature war is over. Instead, service is becoming a bigger differentiator, and customers are placing more emphasis on business justifications for their software purchases.

Speaking of the move to 3D, though I sympathize with those of you dealing with tight hardware budgets (see December's Editor's Window,, you really shouldn't be trying to run Inventor or SolidWorks or Civil 3D or for that matter AutoCAD on the same type of system that the office secretary uses to type up Word documents. I'll have more to say on this topic in a future issue.

Though Autodesk caused a bit of a stir by banning Open Design Alliance head Evan Yares from the event, calling him a competitor, direct support for other formats appears to be a key ingredient in future versions of AutoCAD, which will support MicroStation DGN and other yet-to-be-identified formats. Rudimentary PDF export may also be on the horizon.

Autodesk declined to comment on whether the DWG format will change in the next release of AutoCAD, but speculation is that such a change is indeed forthcoming. The effect on third-party add-ons may be mitigated somewhat by Autodesk's new RealDWG program, but end-user customization may need to be recompiled to work.

Sara Ferris

About the Author: Sara Ferris

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