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AutoCAD Web App Review: Can It Replace AutoCAD Desktop?

AutoCAD icon

We’ve talked about AutoCAD in quite a few articles here on Scan2CAD, and for good reason. It’s the top most-used CAD program in the global market and is one of the best choices for producing technical drawings and diagrams. Autodesk has quite a few other nifty programs Revit, Maya, and Inventor as well as over 100 other software suites geared for designers, engineers, and manufacturers.

Today though, let’s not stray too far from the base drafting software. We’ll take a look at AutoCAD’s convenient online, browser-based version, the AutoCAD web app. As the name suggests, it’s an online-based CAD application that users can access by simply connecting to their internet and opening up the app on their browser. We’ll be browsing through the AutoCAD web app’s specific specs and see how it stacks up to its desktop app version as well as other browser-based CAD and modeling programs.

What is a web app?

 

desktop and mobile AutoCAD apps
Web apps Source

First off, let’s go into detail about what a web app actually is. We’ve established that a web app – short for web application – is a piece of software that runs on standard internet browsers and uses internet technology to conduct tasks and processes over the internet. Compared to desktop applications that need to be downloaded, installed, and then run by your computer, web apps actually use cloud technology to “outsource” a program’s processes so that there is no need to go through downloading and installing a program.

Imagine the difference between opening up a video file on your desktop’s multimedia player and watching a video stream on the internet. Here’s what a typical web application flow looks like:

1. The user makes a request to the web app’s server over the internet, either through their internet browser or, like in the case of the AutoCAD web app, through the application’s user interface.

2. The web application server performs the task that was requested.

3. The web application server sends the results back to the user and displays that on the browser or web app’s user interface.

Let’s take, for example, a common task on AutoCAD – opening a DWG file: The user looks through the files to find the one they want to work on and click on the file therefor “requesting” it from the server. The web app server looks through its cloud data to find the file requested. After finding it, it sends over the file and displays it on the AutoCAD web app’s user interface for the user to work on.

Some details about the AutoCAD web app

 

AutoCAD web app user interface
AutoCAD’s web app user interface Source

The convenience of the web app lies in the user being able to use the power and precision of the AutoCAD program on any web browser. Although it doesn’t have all of the desktop app’s tools, it has all the key elements needed for quick or minor drafting such as:

1. AutoCAD graphics and functionality – The web app boasts a streamlined UI, polar tracking, object snaps, and snap overrides.

2. Cloud storage support – AutoCAD has its own cloud storage available that is linked to the user’s Autodesk account. It is also possible to link standard storage providers such as Box, Dropbox, and OneDrive. Additionally, X-refs in the same folder as the parent file will resolve within the drawing file.

3. Core AutoCAD commands – Standard annotation commands are available like REVCLOUD, MLEADER, and DIM. And of course, all the commonly-used 2D drafting commands are also usable such as PLINE, MOVE, OFFSET, MIRROR, and ROTATE.

4. Blocks – It is possible to insert existing blocks in the file from the blocks tab. You can also choose to create new blocks or edit old blocks with the command line.

5. Command Line – Similar to the desktop app, the web app gives you the freedom to choose between choosing commands in the side panel or entering commands through the command line.

AutoCAD has a few nifty guides to help guide new users in utilizing the web app.

AutoCAD web app vs. AutoCAD desktop app

 

desktop apps and web apps
Desktop apps and web apps Source

To compare the AutoCAD web app and the AutoCAD desktop app, we’ll be looking at three factors for judgment – functionality, price, and convenience.

Functionality

Autodesk markets the AutoCAD web app as a lightweight, convenient way to access your AutoCAD cloud files if you need to do a last-minute check or minor edit. It has all of the key workflows of AutoCAD’s desktop app such as PLINE,OFFSET, TRIM, MTEXT, and DIM. As detailed previously, it has all the major functionality of the desktop app but is mainly to be used for quick, lightweight tasks.

Price

A subscription to the AutoCAD web app is automatically included in any AutoCAD or AutoCAD LT subscription, so the web app doesn’t technically have an independent price. All you need to do is access the AutoCAD web app website and sign in with your Autodesk account. There is a free-to-use version available for those without an Autodesk subscription or account, but it can only handle opening and viewing DWG files, not editing or reformatting it.

Convenience

Autodesk regularly mentions the caveat that the majority of your drafting’s heavy lifting will be done on the desktop app. However, the web app is useful for those “forgetting if you left the oven on” moments when you need to check on AutoCAD files without a machine that has the program installed. Being able to check, download, and even edit your files from the ease and comfort of your home computer’s internet browser beats having to lug your workstation from the office to your home.

Other similar CAD web apps

It certainly seems that online CAD and modeling software is the direction the market is going with a bunch of other CAD and modeling programs with a similar web-based application model. Here are a bunch of notable ones:

1. SketchUp Free – Another Scan2CAD blog staple, SketchUp is one of the best apps when it comes to intuitive UI’s, easy workflows, and flexible functionalities. SketchUp Free is a free-to-use version that is entirely web-based.

2. Fusion 360 – Fusion 360 is another Autodesk product that focuses on product design and development. It also handles 3D modeling just a little bit better than AutoCAD. Like AutoCAD, it also has a web that serves as an extension of the desktop app.

3. OnShape – OnShape is unique in this list as solely web-based. It’s a CAD system that relies on the software as a services model or SAAS. This just basically means that its a subscription-based software utilizes cloud computing on internet-based servers and can be accessed via mobile and browser apps.

When to use the AutoCAD web app

AutoCAD actually has an article written on when they think users should use the AutoCAD web app. They’ve developed the app with these users in mind:

– those who have their main work machine in the office but need to do some quick, final edits on their home computer,

– professional who need to set up an onsite office with access to their AutoCAD files and drawings but don’t want to bring their workstation,

– users who use mobile workstations to bring to technical meetings.

In short, it’s not a total replacement for the AutoCAD desktop app – most of your major drafting and editing will be done on the main program. But if you’re looking for a lightweight, convenient solution, the AutoCAD web app is a perfect tool to have handy.

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