April 14, 2008
Evolutionary Enhancements in AutoCAD 2009
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Susan Smith - Managing Editor

by Susan Smith - Managing Editor
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ViewCube and SteeringWheels

click to enlarge The ViewCube allows intuitive navigation of 3D models.

As aforementioned, 2009 includes some tools that have been developed for other Autodesk products to give the products a commonality. Developed for 3ds Max is ViewCube, which has also been used for six to nine months in Design Review.

Solid and surface models require many rapid changes in orientation as they are created and reviewed. The common AutoCAD software commands to perform this operation are the Orbit and Named View commands. Located in separate menus, these commands can be difficult to find.

ViewCube is basically a cube that floats in the upper right hand corner of your viewport and allows a much more intuitive way of moving around a model. By clicking on one side of the cube, it orients the model that way, by clicking on a corner it orients the model that way. Click on the home icon and it takes you back to your standard view. Click and hold can rotate the whole model.

click to enlarge SteeringWheels puts panning, zooming and walkthough tools at your fingertips.

You can also control ViewCube’s location, transparency, size and viewpoint. If you want to set a certain view that you return to frequently such as an entrance to a building, you can right click and choose “set current view as home.” No matter where you are you can click on the little house icon and it takes you back to that home view.

The SteeringWheels tool is another part of the user interface that is consistent in other Autodesk products, and was developed originally for 3ds Max. If you right click with the settings option you can control features such as size, opacity and location with the SteeringWheels tool.

You can click on the walk tool to walk through a building. One really nice feature of SteeringWheels is that if your mouse or cursor slips you can rewind, click on it and it will take you through your various takes so you can see where you want to return to.

Menu Browser

click to enlarge The new menu browser allows browsing by thumbnail image.

Currently in AutoCAD, the File Open and File Close commands have limited functionality, making it difficult to review what files are being opened before actually opening them. Working with multiple files can subsequently be a time-consuming process. The new Menu Browser interface in 2009 makes it possible for users to browse through files and view thumbnail images. Just placing the cursor over a file name offers detailed information on file creator and file size. Organization of files by name, data or title plus an ability to “pin” specific files so they don’t move off the list when additional files are opened are two of the key features of this new browser.

Action Recorder

click to enlarge The new action recorder saves time by automating repetitive tasks.

Beyond the user interface changes, productivity drafting changes are high on the list of user requests. Users have requested a “macro recorder,” or rather, a way to quickly and simply create a standardized way of doing a repetitive task inside of AutoCAD. “We’ve had LISP and VBA or years, but essentially those are programming tools,” said Miller. Also those tools required that you create, maintain and port them.

The new Action Recorder is visually oriented inside AutoCAD itself. By pressing the record button, you can record actual actions you are taking inside AutoCAD.

Autodesk Impression

Autodesk Impression is a drawing tool that allows users to take a CAD drawing and give it a hand-sketched look. In particular, when architects and landscape designers are presenting design concepts to principals and planners, they want to show something that looks like they created a drawing from scratch. They start from CAD data, with layer and block information maintaining its intelligence, but they don’t want to give them all that information. The customer can give input, the designer can make changes in the CAD data and then present them with the hand drawn rendering.

Although AutoCAD has had photorealistic rendering tools inside the product for awhile, this is a time consuming process that requires you specify all materials, lighting, sun angle, etc. to get a nice image. When completed, the rendering looks like a photo, and doesn’t invite conversations with the client or other architects because it looks like it’s already complete.

By including Impression in the subscription package, Autodesk expands the market for Impression to introduce it to millions of customers worldwide.

AutoCAD 2009 and AutoCAD LT 2009 are now certified for Windows Vista. AutoCAD is current with the latest Microsoft and Intel AMD technology. With the 2009 release of both AutoCAD and LT, 64-bit operating system support has been introduced.

AutoCAD LT 2009

AutoCAD LT 2009 is a high level 2D drafting product that embodies much of the functionality of AutoCAD 2009. To describe it, probably it’s best to list what’s
not in LT:

• New Ribbon and other user interface changes

• Autodesk Impression

• Action Recorder

• 3D tools such as ViewCube


For some users, AutoCAD has been the entry point to 3D. How has that transition from 2D to 3D gone since Autodesk introduced 3D capability inside AutoCAD?

“We definitely have early adopters who have enthusiastically embraced 3D inside AutoCAD,” said Miller. Much of the company’s data on this is gathered from communication center surveys through the product itself. Depending upon what country they are in, 10-20% people say they use 3D on a regular basis in these surveys.

Miller also reported success with AutoCAD customers transitioning to vertical 3D oriented products which has created a shift in the way they’re working with the products – they make a 3D model, then get the 2D drawings from it. Some use AutoCAD in conjunction with Design Review and are looking at Revit and BIM now. “AutoCAD has allowed them to take that next step inside AutoCAD, which is their familiar environment.”

On the other end of the spectrum, Miller noted, “We have customers back three or four releases that haven’t even looked at 3D capabilities. There are lots of customers who are still just doing 2D drawings inside AutoCAD.”

Because of the nature of AutoCAD and its ability to be many things to many people, that will likely always be the case.

Top News of the Week

Vela Systems, a developer of mobile field software for the AECO (architecture, engineering, contractor and owner) industry, and
Tekla Corporation, a building information modeling (BIM) solutions provider for the building and construction industry, announced a joint software solution that brings dramatic new management capabilities to construction projects. The solution marries Vela's patent-pending field administration software with Tekla's construction management solutions. When enabled with field software and radio frequency identification (RFID), stakeholders in a construction project can manage critical-path building components and visualize the supply chain through a real-time, 4D simulation in which the fourth dimension is time. The joint Field BIM solution
enables the AECO industry to feed into BIM the constantly changing status of the supply chain in the field.

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-- Susan Smith, AECCafe.com Managing Editor.


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