CAD Manager's Newsletter #104 (April 8, 2004)

7 Apr, 2004 By: Robert Green

In the last two issues of the CAD Manager’s Newsletter, I started a summary of noteworthy new features in AutoCAD 2005. Here I wrap up my AutoCAD 2005 investigation with a few more items CAD managers should be aware of. In no particular order, here goes.

Tool Palettes
Tool palettes have undergone substantial revision in AutoCAD 2005. The biggest change is the ability to drag and drop content from the drawing environment, File Explorer, Design Center, and even standard AutoCAD menus onto user-customized tool palettes. As an example, to integrate an AutoLISP file into your tool palettes, you need only drag the LSP file from File Explorer onto the tool palette and release.

Once you set up tool palette items, edit them by right-clicking to alter intelligent properties that are context sensitive to the type of tool being used. Right-clicking on a block insertion exposes scaling properties, for example. Playing with the new features in tool palettes will open your eyes to how easy it is now for users to customize their own palettes without having to understand how to work with menu files, thus saving the CAD manager a substantial amount of headaches.

The venerable Layer command dialog box has undergone a makeover in AutoCAD 2005. The main new feature is the ease of creating layering filters and groups to customize the layer browsing experience to a user’s or group’s needs. Though users will want to manipulate their own layer filters and groups, the CAD manager should consider building standard filter/group sets for deployment in template files to achieve greater standardization of layer management.

Background plotting
If you take advantage of the sheet set motif for file plotting, you’ll notice that a background plotting process has been added to AutoCAD 2005. AutoCAD’s system tray now shows a small plotter to indicate plotting progress. A popup notification, similar to standards and xref notification, signals the completion of batch processes. The ability to plot in bulk and in the background may make you move toward sheet set usage even if you don’t want to really configure or exploit all the sheet set features.

Markup Manager
The new Markup Manager essentially integrates markup (redline) features with a new multisheet DWF format to establish a Sheet Set Manager–compliant version of markups. The new approach uses the Autodesk Composer module in place of Volo View to author markups and save them in a native DWF file format that AutoCAD 2005 can open. If the DWF file was created from a sheet set, you can synchronize the markups to the parent DWG file and sheet set for simple markup management.

CAD managers who preside over collaborative markup processes with vendors or outside consultants should definitely explore Markup Manager technology. Also, be forewarned that Autodesk’s DWF file format has added enough substantial functionality in this release to leapfrog past working with PDF files.

Installation and activation
With AutoCAD 2005 and related products, Autodesk has made product activation the only way to register its software products. Everyone outside North America has been using Autodesk’s activation scheme for years now, so there’s really no technical argument against it. Autodesk’s purpose for the switch from registration to activation is to protect its intellectual property, and the shift in policy does not seem to be negotiable.

The Web site for all activation questions is, where you’ll find a detailed white paper with all the questions regarding activation technology you’d probably ever want to ask.

I’ve distilled the changes down to bare bones in terms of how most CAD managers will be affected.

Point 1: A given AutoCAD serial number is now tied to a certain activation code AND the machine the software is installed to.

Point 2: Each AutoCAD license can be installed to two machines — the license agreement stipulates that you may install your software to a work machine and a home machine. Once you attempt to install a given copy of AutoCAD on a third machine, the activation scheme forces you to contact Autodesk to resolve the situation. There simply isn’t going to be a way to reinstall and activate software on any number of machines anymore!

Point 3: If you normally buy multiple boxes of AutoCAD but then install a single copy to many machines, you can see how the new activation scheme will cause problems. The fix is to purchase AutoCAD in what is now referred to as multiseat standalone mode, which allows installation of a single serial number version of AutoCAD with multiple activation codes included.

Point 4: Network licensing of AutoCAD is not affected by the new activation scheme.

It will be interesting to see if Autodesk experiences the same sort of negative customer feedback that Microsoft and Intuit have encountered. I pledge to keep a close watch on the new activation scheme and encourage you to share any of your experiences, pro or con, with me as you install any new Autodesk tools.

Annual Releases
Aside from technical features, AutoCAD 2005 is notable because it signals a clear move toward annual releases of AutoCAD instead of the 18 to 24 months we’ve come to expect. An annual release makes sense given Autodesk’s desire to get all its customers on an annual software subscription plan, but will people finally buy into the concept? This is a key issue I’ll pay attention to in the coming months.

Wrapping Up
The remainder of this calendar year should be very interesting from a plain AutoCAD standpoint no matter what else Autodesk releases for the architectural and mechanical industries. I’ll be keeping a close eye on how the new version of AutoCAD is received by working CAD managers. I encourage you to send me your feedback.

In the next couple of issues I’ll examine how the mainstream PC CAD companies are doing financially and how that might affect your company’s software plans in the near future. Until then.