Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Revolutionary change in the AutoCAD 2011 user interface


(Prague, April 1st) Autodesk has released a revolutionary simplified user interface in the new AutoCAD 2011. This is an unprecedented deed in the software industry, but other software vendors have already expressed their intentions to follow the same way. What is the matter?

The costs of software localization to multiple languages and the time delays between the release of a new version and its localizations were coming into sharp conflict with the economic requirements for cost reduction in the period of global recession, and with the frequency of launching new versions of AutoCAD. At the same time, the number of AutoCAD users in China and other Asian countries is increasing rapidly. The estimated Y/Y growth is 21% in these regions - and in the year 2035 (the year when Himalayan glaciers should have melted), the users in that part of the world will already make 86.3% of the AutoCAD user base. According to the research study of the Springfield University, the knowledge level of AutoCAD users in the US and in Europe has grown so much that 89.8% percent of them follow only the icons and do not need to read the function names and command prompts. Plus, parts of the Autodesk software development team comes from China. As a logical conclusion from all these effects, Autodesk has decided to develop and deliver only the Chinese version of AutoCAD, with the Chinese user interface.

While all the icons and functions remain unchanged, any average user will be able to quickly navigate in the new AutoCAD. First-time users can make use of a paper template delivered with AutoCAD - by simple attaching this template to the screen they can quickly identify the individual functions in menus and ribbons. Moreover, the new web-based online help in AutoCAD 2011 can employ the Google Translate web tool to automatically translate the documentation to virtually any language - the Chinese version of AutoCAD can so easily get into new language areas where no localized versions of AutoCAD existed yet (e.g. Swahili or Galician). Printed manuals pose no problem as there are no printed manuals.

The initial reactions of users and journalists to this innovation depend on the region. The computer supplement of the Chinese government newspaper Ming Pao calls this Autodesk's decision a "step in the right direction". On the other hand, a reputable French blogger Patrick Merde chooses rather dismissive words in its heavily commented blog post. The reaction of financial markets is rather positive, the Autodesk shares (ADSK) rose after the announcement of about 2.8%. Therefore, we can probably look forward to similar solutions also in other programs.

Have a good April Fools' Day.

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