Autodesk redraws drafting software

The software maker emphasizes collaboration and organization in an update to its AutoCAD applications for architectural drafting.

David Becker Staff Writer, CNET News.com
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David Becker
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Software maker Autodesk announced new versions on Tuesday of its main architectural drafting applications, adding collaboration and organization features.

The release of AutoCAD 2005 products next month will mark another step in the software's evolution from simply mimicking pen-and-paper drafting processes, said Mark Strassman, the senior director of product marketing for Autodesk.

Some of the most significant changes come in the way AutoCAD deals with architectural plans that encompass multiple drawings. Currently, it entails an often tedious process of combining multiple computer files in just the right order and creating intricate folder structures to organize documents.

"All CAD (computer-assisted drafting) products have typically done things one page at a time," Strassman said. "When you're delivering a set of drawings that's thousands of pages, which is pretty common, that can be pretty cumbersome. It's like if you're writing a book and every page is a new .doc file."

AutoCAD 2005 will allow architects to combine multiple pages in a single file, ordering them according to custom or industry-standard templates and automatically generating a corresponding table of contents. Architects can also combine multiple drawings from existing files into a single organized file.

The updated software will also include enhanced support for remote use of the Design Web Format (DWF) files that the application produces. Autodesk already offers DWF Viewer, a free application that allows builders, designers and other nondrafters to read DWF files. The San Rafael, Calif.-based company began a broad campaign last year to promote DWF as a more capable format for conveying complex visual information than Adobe Systems' portable document format (PDF).

The new version of AutoCAD will be accompanied by the launch of DWF Composer, a $99 application that will allow nonarchitects to not only view DWF files but also add comments and marks to drawings. Such changes can then easily be incorporated into the electronic drawings, without the time-consuming translation between paper and PC that typically slows down the architectural review process, Strassman said.

"Lots of people who are part of the design lifecycle don't do drafting," he said. "This way they can actually work with the DWF file, mark up the drawings there, save all of the markups and send it back to AutoCAD."

AutoCAD 2005 will be released in 11 different versions targeting various industries and occupational specialties. Most will be available next month from retailers and through Autodesk's subscription program.