What is the price of AutoCAD 2011?

Rather, Autodesk has programmed this version for the Mac from the ground up with a conscious effort to take advantage of the Mac OS X interface. Instead of offering the ribbon-based interface of the Windows version, Autodesk has has chosen to place more AutoCAD functions in the pulldown menus. Floating tool palettes also include most of the same tools as the menus, while the interface will look familiar to users of other Mac CAD applications.

Cover Flow navigation lets you easily flip through your designs. The Toolsets button lets you switch between three different tool palette modes: Drafting, Annotation, and Modeling. The View Cube is my favorite interface element. It makes the viewing your 3D model from different angles easy and intuitive.

To be fair, you'd want to use a high resolution monitor with a CAD program anyway, given the quantity and level of graphic detail you're typically working with. But, you are less likely to be disappointed with AutoCAD's performance if you bought your Mac in the last couple of years.

When you first launch AutoCAD , you will be presented with the drawing canvas or Modelspace, the window where you will build your drawing or model. The menus are extensive, and the tool and information palettes are arranged to the left and right of the canvas. One of the first things you will notice is that the default background in AutoCAD is black or slate-colored with the lines and objects you draw in white or bright colors.

This differs from most Mac CAD or graphic design applications, which typically have a white background with black and color drawing elements on top. You can change the background color in the preferences and, in fact, much of the interface can be altered to suit your own tastes, including which tools show up in the palettes and where the palettes are located on screen.

One interface element Autodesk brought over from the Windows version is the ViewCube, a very useful graphical navigation element for controlling 3D views. It allows you to rotate your drawing and model, or jump to standard 3D views and orientations with a single click. The ViewCube rotates as you click on it, giving you a visual representation of your drawing at various angles.

Moving around a 3D model can be disorienting, and the ViewCube does a good job of letting you know whether you are looking from above, below, or at some oblique angle. This has been an AutoCAD mainstay for decades. Interestingly, it can operate both ways: While overall that method of operation is not very Mac-like, if you have been using the Windows version of AutoCAD for a long time, this feature will be welcome.

From the Mac perspective, though, my biggest complaint about the interface is that the process of drawing objects often includes more clicks than necessary, and can require the use of the keyboard. The extensive Materials Browser lets you assign textures to objects in your model for rendering. For instance, drawing a simple line is not as easy as choosing the line tool and then clicking and dragging to create the line.

Otherwise, you will keep adding more lines. Then, if you want to draw another line elsewhere, you have to select the line tool again. Ubiquitous file format One of the reasons many architecture firms use AutoCAD is the popularity of its file format. The DWG format—native to AutoCAD—is commonly used for collaborative work across a broad range of professions such as consultants, architects, and engineers.

However, I did run into a small number of drawings that required components not available for the Mac, such as some but not all ObjectARX components my civil engineer uses. Some of these components, made by third-party vendors, are widely used and customize and extend AutoCAD. I hope that the developers of such components update them for use on the Mac. One thing that makes AutoCAD for Windows such a dominant product are all of the third-party extensions available.

In the Windows version, there are add-ons and extensions available for just about any profession or specialty, and there are thousands of tools and scripts that you can add to AutoCAD that provide even more capabilities than are included in the basic application. Some of the add-ons are already available for the Mac, but today, most are not. For example, I ran into some missing extensions while trying to import AutoCAD files from a civil engineer I work with.

Autodesk says it is working on having more extensions available for subsequent releases of the Mac program, and will be making the development of add-ons possible on the Mac. Like PDF, there are dozens of features in the Windows version that are not included in the Mac version. A view of AutoCAD drafting tools and a white drawing background.

I don't have a conceptual problem with that approach. It seems sane for such a huge program to implement the most important parts first and then fill in. You can even do some light editing of the files right on your iPhone or iPad, including drawing new objects, moving, rotating, and annotating. Unfortunately, it comes up short in features and steep in price, both of which detract from my assessment. For a generic 2D and 3D drafting application that does not include any architectural or other vertical market-specific tools such as walls, floors, or roofs, the price is too high—about twice as much as comparable alternative packages available for the Mac.

If you are a longtime user of AutoCAD for Windows, you might want to wait for the next version AutoCAD is due before the end of the year , which will no doubt fill in some of the missing features and provide a better value. If you are new to AutoCAD, unconcerned about the price, and crave the native DWG file format and peace of mind using AutoCAD provides, then this version will work fine—and you can look forward to an upgrade soon.

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