Thursday, March 29, 2012

SKP import and other AppStore gems in AutoCAD 2013

One of the new features in the Autodesk 2013 product family is the enhanced "Autodesk Exchange Apps" store. This online "AppStore" is integrated into AutoCAD 2013 (and most industry versions of AutoCAD), Inventor 2013, Alias 2013, Inventor Publisher 2013, Revit 2013, Simulation 2013, Vault 2013 and Autodesk PLM 360.

Exchange Apps contains hundreds of free- and shareware add-on applications and block libraries by third-party vendors (Autodesk developers) and also by Autodesk. All applications were tested by Autodesk and are very easy to install - expect similar user experience as in Apple AppStore or Google Market (Play).

One of the interesting AutoCAD plug-ins available in this Apps store is the "SketchUp Import" (developed by Autodesk). This easy to use tool converts SKP files from Google SketchUp into 3D models in AutoCAD. Model geometry is composed from block references containing 3D meshes. An example of a converted 3D model (battery):

Exchange Apps for AutoCAD, Inventor and Revit contains also several applications by CAD Studio.

Plugins developed directly by Autodesk bring a new aspect into the structure of the respective CAD product. E.g. AutoCAD now contains 3 levels of functions and modules. These 3 levels differ in the terms of license, quality assurance, support and author's responsibility: internal core functions (with full support and reliability), Express Tools (unsupported legacy add-on tools) and now Autodesk's apps in the AppStore. Autodesk here acts more like an independent vendor, despite adding new functions to its own software product.

In any case - try yourself the Exchange Apps and discover interesting add-on tools - from games, over productivity tools, to full-featured professional applications.

New Autodesk software versions 2013

Most Autodesk products were (or will be in next couple of days) released in new versions "2013". These new applications emphasise integration, communication and web cloud services, now called "Autodesk 360".

Many existing CAD users consider online functions as something unnecessary, disturbing and alien to the CAD world, but latest trends in IT clearly define a path to web cloud technologies. Even conservative CAD users are using cloud technologies daily (without realizing that Facebook, GMail or YouTube is a "cloud"). The cloud advantages are "infinite" (easily scalable) computing power, simple UI and access to advanced functions even on low-performance devices - typically mobile devices. Probably not necessarily mobile phones but rather tablets, with higher resolutions and bigger screens more suitable for CAD work. Autodesk is deservedly perceived as a leader on this market.

Success of cloud CAD technologies is proven by rapidly increasing numbers of online users. While the existing about 12 mil. users of classic desktop application were "collected" by Autodesk for 20 years, only a single year brought already 7 mil. users of the cloud application AutoCAD WS. A similar growth occurs also on other popular cloud and mobile applications by Autodesk - e.g. Sketchbook Mobile, Pixlr, Cloud render, HomeStyler.

"Autodesk 360" services share a common message "find, connect, crunch" - cloud is strong in these areas: finding information, connecting data and people, and crunching large volumes of information. Today, Autodesk 360 services cover storing and sharing documents, analysis, simulations, optimizations, rendering. A special case of advanced cloud application is the new, cloud-based PLM system "Autodesk PLM 360".

Part of Autodesk 360 functions is available for free for anybody, some more advanced functions are bound to Subscription (no other costs). For most users, Subscription is now primarly a way to get new versions of CAD software. In the future, the primarly advantage of Subscription will be the ongoing access to cloud services.

An important factor of the 2013-versions is emphasis on Design Suites and product integration. Composition of Suites was enhanced in the 2013 versions - they now include more tools and so they are even more attractive to customers. An interesting example of very tight integration and live sharing of design data between two standalone applications (Autodesk Maya + MotionBuilder, members of the Entertainment Creation Suite) is illustrated on a video:

Another common feature of many "2013" applications is the "Exchange Apps" store (online AppStore containing add-on applications, plugins). So you can easily add pretested plugin applications (freeware or shareware) directly from AutoCAD, Inventor, Revit, 3ds Max and other software. Exchange Apps already contains many applications by CAD Studio.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

AutoCAD 2013 - What's new

This year, due to an information leak on the Autodesk Japan web site, news about the new AutoCAD version are spreading earlier than the usual mid-end of March. So what can we expect from the new AutoCAD 2013?

Here are some of the new features, full disclosure will be available only at the release date of AutoCAD 2013:

  • New drawing file format DWG2013 with better thumbnails and faster 3D
  • An interactive command line (transparent, mouse-controlled)
  • Extraction of isolines from 3D surfaces
  • Enhanced arrays
  • Enhanced hatch editing
  • In-canvas preview when editing properties
  • Enhanced point clouds (clipping, xref, intensity, context ribbon)
  • Enhanced PressPull
  • Strike-through text
  • Import of Inventor IPT files
  • Enhanced Autodesk Exchange Apps - application marketplace
  • Automated synchronization of drawings with Autodesk Cloud
  • Cloud-synchronization of user settings for multiple AutoCAD installations
  • Enhanced documentation of 3D models - details, sections, associative dimensions...
  • Enhanced API
More information about the history of AutoCAD (in Czech) at our AutoCAD page.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Top five reasons to use AutoCAD WS

The new version of the free mobile AutoCAD - AutoCAD WS Mobile 1.4 - brings 3 major enhancements: 3D, GPS support and plotting/ePrint (see the release announcement).

AutoCAD WS Mobile can be used on any mobile phone or tablet with the operating systems Google Android or Apple iOS. This mobile version of AutoCAD uses web cloud technology to enhance the desktop version of AutoCAD 2012. You can use AutoCAD WS to synchronize, view, measure, markup and edit DWG drawings anywhere you are.

Autodesk mentions 5 top reasons to use AutoCAD WS:
  • Provides access to DWG files to all your team members - on site and on the road
  • Connects securely to your enterprise data (e.g. to your company SharePoint server), with security comparable to online banking
  • You can edit DWG files both online and offline (offline mode not supported in the browser version of AutoCAD WS)
  • Seamlessly integrates with AutoCAD and LT - synchronization, timeline/audit changes
  • It is FREE, and available for multiple platforms

You can download the latest version of AutoCAD WS from your "Market" (Android or Apple).