AutoCAD — 7 Things You Need to Know

Updated Jun 30, 2019
AutoCAD: 7 Things You Need to Know

Following the release of AutoCAD 2018, it’s time to refresh our knowledge of one of the most widely used CAD programs in the world. Here are 7 things you really need to know about the program that is often nicknamed the ‘grandad’ of CAD software.

1. Don’t be put off by cost

CAD software offers massive value for the user, therefore the cost can be higher when compared to software in other industries—AutoCAD is no exception to this rule. Perpetual licenses used to be available, which would Autodesk Educationsave users in the long term. However, since their discontinuation earlier this year, monthly or yearly subscriptions have become the only available option. If you’re part of a big design firm, this may not prove to be an issue, but for smaller teams, freelancers and students, the high prices can be a stumbling block to progression.

The good news is that, at least while you’re learning, there’s no need to splash out on an expensive subscription. As with all of Autodesk’s products, AutoCAD is available for students, educators and educational institutions for free. So long as you’re able to provide a valid academic email address, you’ll be awarded an AutoCAD license for the subsequent 3 years. If you remain in education after this period, the license is renewable; there’s no upper limit on how many renewals you are allowed.

Not only can students enjoy the benefits of learning the software in their departments, but they can also play around with it away from campus. Since time is a key factor to increasing CAD skills, this is a valuable asset—especially when fees of at least $1,400/year are waived.

And, as well as permitting use, the educational license also qualifies you for upgrades upon renewal. This helps teachers, professors and students keep on top of new developments and be fully prepared for life outside of an educational institution.

Not a student? There are other ways to get AutoCAD and other CAD software for free.

2. There’s plenty of opportunity for self-improvement

Hands on a laptop keyboard

It might not be easy to learn, but at least there is plenty of help available when it comes to improving your AutoCAD skills. The sheer volume of material available for free online is one advantage to using this software over alternatives—if it suits your needs, of course.

In addition to offering free software for students, many of whom will be learning the program from scratch, Autodesk also provides support, troubleshooting and numerous tutorials from which to develop knowledge. Move from tentative beginner to fully fledged AutoCAD geek with the Autodesk University program. It progresses users through online classes and is another source of inspiration for the aspiring designer.

The company also offer various opportunities for CV enhancement. There are a wide variety of competitions aimed at giving young CAD users a chance to showcase their work. Entering some of these helps you gain practical experience and versatility; it also demonstrates to future employers that you are keen and proactive.

The Student Expert Network offers the chance to gain certification and complete activities to achieve ‘Expert’ or ‘Ambassador’ status. By doing so, you will benefit from access to networking and job opportunities as well—handy when considering a career in CAD.

In addition to seeking help directly from Autodesk, the AutoCAD community offers plenty of insight into the workings of the software. This official forum provides space for questions, exploration and contribution.

At Scan2CAD, we, too, like to help you improve your design know-how. That’s why we have a post dedicated to helping you learn the basics in one hour—as well as more advanced guidance on our sister site, CAD Answers.

3. There are jobs out there for those with good AutoCAD skills

Architects working together

Using these resources to grasp the intricacies of AutoCAD helps to open up a whole world of opportunities. There is the potential to become a drafter—where you would be responsible for producing technical drawings—an engineer, architect or some other form of designer.

In addition to considering your preferred industry, you may wish to weigh up the pros and cons of freelance work. In such an environment, it is helpful to have good working knowledge of a range of CAD programs (including AutoCAD), in order to cater to a diverse client base.

Even if the company you end up working for uses a different piece of software, chances are that you’ll come into contact with the program at some point in your CAD career.

4. Codenames

Autodesk have got into the habit of code naming versions of the AutoCAD software prior to each release. This wasn’t always the case, though; releases 1-8 were not given any form of alias.

Perhaps the most famous codename was that which referred to AutoCAD R, released in 1989. White Album got its name from the Beatles’ album, which had a song entitled Revolution 9. Save for a couple of releases shortly afterwards, all of the subsequent versions of AutoCAD have been christened with codenames. The most recent of these have been Maestro, Nautilus and Omega, which was the pseudonym for AutoCAD 2018, released in April.

Since AutoCAD instated annual releases compatible with Mac operating systems back in 2010, these have also been given nicknames. Similar at first to the code names referring to Windows versions (SledgeHammer, rather than Hammer; Iron Maiden as opposed to Iron Man; Jaws and well, Jaws) they have sounded distinct in recent years. The relationship between the 2 remain, however. AutoCAD 18 for Mac was called Naboo, after the fictional world in Star Wars; Granta Omega is a character in the same series.

Using codenames peaks interest, maintains secrecy and definitely helps each version sound a bit cooler. You can see all of them in this comprehensive documentation of AutoCAD release history.

5. There are plenty of brand new, exciting features

Speaking of the latest release, we couldn’t skip over the new and improved features available in AutoCAD 2018. From improvements to PDF integration to support for high resolution monitors, there’s plenty of aspects to get excited about.AutoCAD 2018 — Off-screen selection

One particularly useful feature is that selected objects now stay as such, even when you move off-screen. This enables users to select multiple objects from different areas of the design, whilst panning between them.

Collaboration just got even easier, with options to view your design online with the AutoCAD A360 viewer. Colleagues can download and edit drawings. Real-time synchronization allows multiple players to alter designs at the same time, and all that is needed is an internet connection. There’s no need to worry about protecting your projects either: you can control the access, set permission restrictions and erase all trace of the design when you’re done.

Likewise, the app is free and comes as standard with AutoCAD 2018. Working on the go, or taking designs to site has never been easier. There are options to view and measure CAD drawings, aimed at reducing the use of paper. Upgrade for a cost for more sophisticated tools.

For a more in-depth look at all things new in AutoCAD 2018, take a look here.

6. Riddle’s involvement in AutoCAD ended in a pay-off

AutoCAD combined the technical brain of Mike Riddle with the business savvy of John Walker. Other software engineers were recruited, and the team formed the basis for the company that would become Autodesk.

But legal disputes plagued the endeavour. In the beginning, Walker had been unwilling to buy Riddle’s programming, which he’d first used under the name Interact CAD, for the asking price. $15,000 was nearly double what Walker offered, and instead the pair came to the agreement that Riddle would earn 10% of programs devised from his code.

Riddle’s contribution to the programming of AutoCAD—reportedly less than 1,200 of the total 12,000 lines of code—earned him nearly $12m in 1992. He dropped a lawsuit against Autodesk, opting to sell his royalty rights back to the company instead.

But even this huge sum did not match up to the 10% he’d originally negotiated; by the late 1980s, the company had made over $100,000,000 in sales—a figure that continued to grow. It is a matter of opinion whether Riddle was paid adequately for his involvement.  But when it is considered that his original programming had been evolved almost beyond recognition, it was probably a fair deal.

7. Even the great creators of AutoCAD had wish lists


Within half a year of software distribution, it was clear that the AutoCAD community was going to be vocal. The founders began compiling regular lists of improvements that focused on developing the software according to customer needs and requests. This approach not only demonstrated a reliance on the AutoCAD community, but further encouraged their interaction.

Items in the wish lists were prioritized, according to factors such as the potential to reduce the burden of support, or whether the absence of each feature was thought to be negatively affecting sales. Those that scored highest did not always directly correlate to a timeline, though: if low priority features were quick and easy to implement, they were likely to jump the queue.

User input is mutually beneficial—and therefore extremely valuable. One of the reasons AutoCAD is able to improve year on year is through the feedback of the average CAD designer. That’s why compilations of user wish lists by the founders initiated a tradition that still remains today.

The suggestions of users now tend to go through Autodesk User Group International. AUGI relies on its community to submit ideas—and rank those of others—to determine which proposals hold the greatest universal appeal. Each year, the top 10 in each software wish list are forwarded straight to the product development team at Autodesk.

AutoCAD was revolutionary when it was first released, and has shaped much of the CAD world as we see it today. Sometimes criticized as not moving with the times, their latest updates show that—whatever the future of CAD brings—there is still more for the software to give.

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