Getting up to speed
AutoCAD LT features a mature, fully automated setup procedure. Once the program is on your machine, though, you'll need time to become expert at using its huge feature set. To Autodesk's credit, the package ships with a well-written, fully indexed, 342-page manual; a CD filled with tutorials; and a comprehensive fold-out Quick Reference card. For veteran CAD users, AutoCAD LT displays a DOS-like command-line interface, which automatically lists the DOS equivalents of each command, in one window. But it also provides an intuitive Microsoft-standard interface loaded with aids, including ToolTips, context-sensitive help, and pop-up Active Assistance windows.
New for 2002
As with previous releases, Autodesk manages to maintain parity between the LT and full-blown versions of AutoCAD by simultaneously adding similar features to both programs. For example, associative dimensioning, one of the latest enhancements, lets you add dimensions to an object, then create a permanent link between the two. Thus, if you move, scale, reshape, or reorient an object, the dimensions will update themselves automatically, whether you're working in the Model Space mode or the Paper Space mode. You use the Model Space mode to create an object, such as the blueprint of a house, and the Paper Space mode, a WYSIWYG print preview, to define what your printed document will look like.
There are a few more useful enhancements, as well: AutoCAD LT's improved text-scaling, justification, and spell-check features offer much more flexibility when customizing text in your design. A Publish To Web wizard makes it easy to export your drawings in JPEG or PNG format to an intranet or a Web page. A handy AutoCAD LT Today browser helps you organize libraries of drawings, symbols, and templates. The program includes an eTransmit feature, which automatically compresses all of the components that make up a drawing into a self-executing, password-protected file, which you can e-mail or post to the Internet.
Help when you need it
Should you run into trouble with this mass of tools, Autodesk provides a superior set of support options. These include 30 days of free access to the company's tech-support line (at a toll number, Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET) and a Web site filled with FAQs, downloadable updates, online discussion groups, a user bulletin board service, and an extensive knowledge base. After the initial 30 days, Autodesk offers a choice of a $249-per-year blanket service contract or pay-as-you-go, $2.95-per-minute telephone support.
Can't beat the price
For a surprisingly affordable price, this elegantly designed package matches the majority of AutoCAD's most popular features point for point, and it boasts 100 percent file compatibility with its big sister app. Like most professionally oriented CAD applications, LT requires a major time investment, but if you're looking for a cost-effective way to produce sophisticated 2D technical illustrations, AutoCAD LT is tough to beat.