Thursday, March 26, 2009

Autodesk's AutoCAD 2010 Review

San Rafael, California-based Autodesk recently announced the next version of its landmark AutoCAD application, this time called AutoCAD 2010. The Test Center spent some time looking at the Release Candidate beta, which launched Tuesday.
Installation isn't any different from most applications, with the typical defaults being fine for most users. The program can be installed on most versions of Windows XP with Service Pack 2 or 3 and Windows Vista with Service Pack 1. An application called AutoCAD VBA Enabler must also be installed afterward.

The first thing that jumps out at you when AutoCAD 2010 opens up is the large ribbon interface at the top of the screen. Introduced in the 2009 version, 2010's ribbon is chock-full of options that make it easy to find just about every tool or setting necessary. As reviewers were new to the AutoCAD world, the updated ribbon menus made experimenting with the program a little less daunting.

Since this was a downloaded beta release, there weren't any manuals (print or electronic) to help guide us, so the explanatory menus were helpful in navigating around.

After experiencing the tutorials in Autodesk's newest iteration of its Inventor Suite, we were disappointed not to find any built into this application. The help file did contain a link to tutorials on the company's Web site, but those hadn't been updated to the latest version yet. We suspect this will change when the program goes live.

Without any background using it, AutoCAD was a bit overwhelming for us. Still, we quickly figured out how to create basic three-dimensional objects and change their textures. As with Inventor, intuitive tools allow the user to manipulate the design in a 3-D environment and view it from any position or angle. Unfortunately, we didn't have enough time to learn how to experience all of the capabilities of this powerhouse.

Many of the new features are improvements of existing elements and include free-form design tools, constraint-based parametric drawing tools and enhanced PDF support. In addition, the program now supports 3-D printing.

Autodesk Design Review 2010 is also available as a free download, and allows for an all-digital design review process between team members.

Overall, in our short time learning to use AutoCAD 2010, it is clear that Autodesk is continuing to give its users what they want (or need). It is a mature, robust application that, although not for the layman, is designed to serve the needs of those who have a use for it. At the time of this writing, price and availability had not been announced.

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