AutoCad & Apple: This. Is. Huge.

Posted: September 1, 2010 in apps, iPad, iphone, iPod, Mac OSX, software
Tags: , , , , ,

The timing may not be great since Apple is doing its own event today and the news, twitter, digg and other social media will be all abuzz about that, but for those in the architectural design business ( by that I mean, architectural, civil, structural, mechanical and electrical ) the announcement that AutoCad was coming to Mac (click here for more info) was pretty big, but IMHO topping that was the announcement that it was also coming to iPhones, iPads and iPod Touchs (see here).

A little back story.  When I heard about it in early 2009 during a customer survey from Autodesk I was pretty excited, but AutoCad on a Mac rumours have been around for years, so I didn’t hold my breath.  So when over the past couple of days I saw tweets and stories about it actually coming soon, it seemed more real and was pretty exciting.  Having been an AutoCad user now for over 20 years and having to jump thru hoops at times to get it working on my Macs, it is extremely cool to know it will again soon be native to the Mac platform.  Don’t get me wrong, Parallels does a great job at letting me use my windows only programs, and BootCamp has allowed me to run them on my Mac in a true windows environment, but i don’t like rebooting to do it, and also, as fast as Parallels is, it’s still a program running an OS running a program and no where near as fast as running the program natively.  And as many have said over the years “speed is king”.  Especially when project deadlines are getting more and more ridiculous.

Which bring me back to the announcements.  For me and our business this could change everything.

Instead of replacing aging Windows PCs and dealing with all the virus/malware/adware etc issues that come along with them, we could just place an iMac on a desk and run AutoCad at full speed, which is what we spend 80% of our days doing.  The change in the user interface from an Acad perspective would probably not be that great, but getting some of the guys in the office to embrace the Mac lifestyle and usage may be too much.  I hesitate to use the term “dinosaurs”, so lets go with “seasoned windows users” instead.  Being set in your ways is not really something that you can afford to do when you work with software and computers all day long.  You have to change or get left behind, and sometimes if you don’t keep up you become incompatible.  Of course i’m talking about the software and equipment, not the people, … although…

Since autodesk is constantly changing their software and releasing a new version every year anyway, we may be able to justify changing to a Mac-based environment, or at least partially.  That’s the beauty of most of the current Mac programs, they are a lot more cross-platform compatible (Microsoft Office is a great example of that) so having half our office on Windows and the other half on Macs is not an issue.  In fact it’s really not that much different from the way it is now, since we have WinXP, Vista & Win7 computers in the office currently running AutoCad and a few Macs for admin purposes etc.

The other part of the big announcement from Autodesk was the App versions of the software.  Being able to carry around drawing files (dwgs) and have minor manipulation and editing features available on an iPhone/iPod Touch or better yet, an iPad, has the potential to completely change the way we work in the field.

Instead of carrying around a roll of over-sized paper drawings and marking them up, thumbing through them for the one you are looking for, or trying to find a place to unroll the drawings on a job-site (anyone using full sized 36″x48″ prints on site knows exactly what I mean), we could be just opening up the electronic copy of the most current dwg file and zooming and panning around within them.  Taking that and adding the ability to print directly to certain printers means we can markup dwg files and print them out on site for instant use by the contractors without having to wait until we are back in front of our desktop computers.

The size of the idevice may be a bit limiting which is why I for one am more excited about the fact it will be able to work on an iPad than the iPhone (even though I don’t currently have an iPad – keyword: currently).  An iPad would be large enough to show half of a standard 8.5″x11″ sheet which is normally plenty big enough to read, and approximates the size of the half size prints we normally carry around on site with us. Even so, i’ve already signed up to be notified as soon as the iPhone app is available.

My head has been reeling all day long at the potential this latest change brings, and I’ve only just touched on the ways it can make our business move easily along with the ever changing world of architecture and engineering. Every once in a while something comes along that really gets you jazzed up and gets your geek on and this for me is one of those things.

Another thing that is not specifically AutoCad for Mac related, but does enable great cross platform colaboration is Autodesk’s Project butterfly.  If you are at all curious about using acad on the web, check it out. From my brief use of it, I am impressed.  Being able to share a dwg file with someone who doesn’t have autocad was always something we were forced to deal with by creating more common non-proprietary filse such as PDFs or JPG or TIFFs, and as good as those formats are, once you create them you really can’t interact with them in any way other than marking up on top or red-lining as its often referred to.

Project Butterfly is changing all that, and i’m keen to see if it gets adopted in the workplace as a tool to collaborate and review designs with those who do not have access to autocad to open the files in.  Unfortunately it requires Flash Player and we all know how Steve-o feels about that on his precious idevices so it will not work on my iPhone. As such i’ll be waiting anxiously for the release of the AutoCad WS App to help make my out-of-the-office work that much easier.


(images taken from the Autodesk website)


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