Thursday, March 28, 2013

Autodesk AutoCAD 2014 - first impressions

Today, Autodesk has released the new version of its flagship product - "Autodesk AutoCAD 2014" (note the newly extended name), together with other new products of the large "2014" family. The product graphics reflects the new Autodesk visual identity, with the new blue-green ribbon logo and a series of appealing 3D "daydream structures". Please note also a substantial change of the website.

You can easily install the new AutoCAD 2014 either as a part of your Subscription fulfilment or as a free Trial version. Multiple European and Asian language localizations of AutoCAD 2014 are available immediately at the FCS date. Here are some steps from the ACAD2014 installation wizard:

You can install AutoCAD 2014 (32-bit or 64-bit) on Windows 7, old Windows XP or on new Windows 8, including touch-screen devices. You may notice that there is no Inventor Fusion installed as in version 2013 but there is a new additional tool - Autodesk ReCap (see below). Many users will probably get and use their AutoCAD 2014 as a part of an "Autodesk Design Suite". The most general Design Suite - AutoCAD Design Suite - adds raster functionaliy (AutoCAD Raster Design), SketchBook Designer, Autodesk Showcase, Mudbox and optionally also Autodesk 3ds Max.

What are the main new functions in AutoCAD 2014? There is the new Design Feed palette, where you can share online comments, posts and images for your drawing (the same collaboration as in AutoCAD WS). The comments feed is stored in the cloud. You will also notice the new File tabs with quick access to all opened drawings (can be switched off to preserve screen space). Even a plain AutoCAD now includes geolocation functions and coordinate systems (the same as in Map/Civil3D). You can easily georeference your project to a given place or address selected in the Live Map dialog (uses Microsoft Bing and Nokia maps) and insert the map (streets and/or aerials) to your drawing. You can even use your location-aware computer to display your location in the map.

The AutoCAD commandline was extended - you can recklessly type command names as AutoCAD now contains AutoCorrect (it will understand your CRCLE or TABEL input). The enhanced AutoComplete understands mid-string search; it is also possible to call commands by synonyms. You can also access symbols (hatches, layers, styles, blocks) directly from the commandline. So you can e.g. insert a block just by typing its name (imagine a "DOOR" or "APPLETREE" command). There are new security related commands protecting autloading and execution of add-on programs (some variables from AutoCAD 2013 SP1 were renamed). Layers are now sorted in a natural numerical order. Autodesk Exchange Apps (the "AppStore") can offer different/more applications for subscription users.

In terms of API, AutoCAD 2014 now supports also JavaScript and the VBA support was reincarnated with the VBA version 7.1 (includes native 64-bit VBA).

All new commands and variables introduced in AutoCAD version 2014 are listed in the CADforum database on

An interesting new tool included in AutoCAD 2014 is Autodesk ReCap (an acquisition from Alice Labs). ReCap Studio is a desktop tool for management and processing of very large point clouds captured by 3D laser scanning (offers up to millimeter precision). This powerful application sports a modern Win8-like user interface and allows to import, combine and index point clouds from multiple data formats. The resulting compressed RCP/RCS files can be then imported into AutoCAD (adds to/replaces the former PCG point cloud format). Autodesk also plans a cloud service ReCap Photo (April) which will create high-resolution textured 3D models from photos (similar to 123D Catch but in full resolution).

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

World polygon maps - countries and continents

The Humanitarian Information Unit (HIU) of the U.S. Department of State publishes and updates vector data of international boundaries, coastlines and islands, including their sovereignty. This data is called "Large Scale International Boundaries" (LSIB).

The latest March 2013 update contains datasets of simplified world polygons (countries and continents worldwide) plus detailed boundaries by individual continents. These datasets contain also metadata with names of the countries, country codes by ISO 3166-1 and assigned internet domains. Data is published in the "Shape" (SHP) format and in the WGS84 coordinate system - so it can be directly read into AutoCAD Map, Civil 3D and other mapping and GIS applications.

You can publish this large scale data from AutoCAD Map to the DWF format. This format maintains both the georeference information and the attached metadata - you can make use of this efficient publishing format to view maps in the free viewer Autodesk Design Review, in your internet browser, or on a mobile device. For comparison - the simplified worldwide boundaries map is 131 MB in the "shape" format, the processed DWG file exported from Map, World.dwg is 58 MB, the published DWFx file - World-LSIB is a mere 4 MB.

You can use Autodesk Design Review to view and print maps, when you click on an object (country), it displays the attached metadata. If you run Design Review on a notebook or tablet equipped with GPS, you can display your current position on the map.

The DWFx output files of the individual continents processed in AutoCAD Map from the LSIB sources can be found in the Block library on - see

via Disruptive Geo

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Autodesk Project Pinocchio - wood carver in the cloud

Demanding, power hungry 3D applications can easily move to mobile devices and plain PCs today, thanks to web cloud. The proof is also in the newest multimedia application by Autodesk - Project Pinocchio. On the web site you can use your internet browser for detailed configuration and generation of fully rigged 3D characters of women, men and fantasy creatures. These can be then used in 3D computer games, visualizations and CAD scenes.

Characters can be created by crossbreeding from pre-defined body types, you can combine and adjust their body and facial proportions, hair-cut, skin and eye color, clothing, shoes, etc.

After you set and fine-tune all parameters you can publish the resulting model under a new name and download it including its textures in a given precision to a file in the .MB or .FBX format. The models contain also a skeleton and neccessary constraints for inverse kinematics (IK), so you can easily animate their realistic movements. You can directly read these models into the applications Autodesk Maya, 3ds Max, Motionbuilder and to other 3D software.

Using the Pinocchio-generated character in Autodesk Maya:

An example of 3D model loaded via FBX into AutoCAD and saved to DWG - ZoeCS.dwg

The technology preview version of the Project Pinocchio expires September 30th 2013. You can find more information on Autodesk Labs Project Pinocchio.