AECCafe Special News Report... Driving AutoCAD 2004

AECCafé Special Report
Driving AutoCAD 2004
By Susan Smith

According to Eric Stover, AutoCAD product manager and Jim Quanci, senior manager, Autodesk Developers Network Worldwide, AutoCAD 2004 has shaped up to be one of Autodesk’s most successful releases. One of the product’s selling features is the simultaneous release of most of the integrated products so there is no lapse in productivity when migrating over to the product. "We have spent the last 18 months bringing this product to market with the help of our partners," said Stover, and included "400 customers who helped define what this product is where we are going to go with AutoCAD in the future. In addition we’ve had a large number of third party developers including COADE also help define the direction of the product, especially for their niche markets."

Much has been written about AutoCAD 2004 since it was shipped in March of this year, but this article serves as an introduction to two more articles about applications that are enhanced by the new 2004 release.

The company has zeroed in on three focus points of customer demand. One is making life easier for customers who deal with larger and larger datasets and need to be able to create with speed. The solution has been to use compression technology with the new DWG file format so that file size — especially files that contain 3D objects -- are substantially smaller than they’ve ever been before. "We’ve seen file size shrink by 50%, 60% and more compared to previous releases," said Quanci, "This has made a big difference especially to customers using other types of applications like COADE, as there is a big difference in file open times, file save times."

Customers who work on network systems with large datasets notice a huge difference when they find they’re pulling half the amount of data across the network.

Autodesk has included in the release many tools that customers have asked for and have given AutoCAD a facelift towards more of a user friendly type of environment.

AutoCAD 2004 has a modern user interface with Tool Palettes, transparent Command Line, and a new Design Center which rolls up when not in use.

"We’ve introduced tool palettes — intended to give customers a little bit more ease of use with fewer actions. Developers have put many of their tools on this palette so their customers don’t have to hunt and peck for the right things, it’s all there in front of them, ordered in a logical manner."

There is also a need for presentation quality graphics in several industries --architecture, GIS and mapping and plant and process. "AutoCAD 2004 provides customers gradient fills so they can dress up a 2D image, giving it the look and feel of something that’s 3D" explained Stover.

Secondly, now that the customers have created all this data, how can they share it, and what can a software company do to make it much easier? This is where the creation of the DWF file comes in. (See Autodesk University coverage ) Most architects believe that paper will be around forever, but there are certain times when customers need to get feedback right away on a design. All the AutoCAD 2004 products allow users to create an electronic version of their plan sets or blueprints to email to a third party for review.

Thirdly, teams of engineers work on these large projects, and because of this, x-ref notification has been added to 2004 to facilitate the coordination of teams of people working together.

Working together: AutoCAD 2004 notifies you in real time when other members of the design team make changes to your drawing set.

"Someone working on a DWG file over here makes a change and someone else is using it as an external reference over there, and they get a notification that one of your drawings has changed, it makes it easier to coordinate teams of people working together on large designs," explained Quanci.

One of the biggest frustrations for the customer is that while getting ready to send the documents out to the plotter, they must make sure everyone in the team is up to date on the version of the documents before they print it. "You’re alerted in the product to the fact that you have the most recent copy of all the data that everybody’s working on so you can print it out," said Stover.

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