AutoCAD is a commercial computer-aided design (CAD) and drafting software application. Developed and marketed by Autodesk, AutoCAD was first released in December 1982 as a desktop app running on microcomputers with internal graphics controllers.Before AutoCAD was introduced, most commercial CAD programs ran on mainframe computers or minicomputers, with each CAD operator (user) working at a separate graphics terminal. Since 2010, AutoCAD was released as a mobile- and web app as well, marketed as AutoCAD 360….
AutoCAD is used in the industry, by architects, project managers, engineers, graphic designers, city planners and other professionals. It was supported by 750 training centres worldwide in 1994.
Autodesk has also developed a few vertical programs for discipline-specific enhancements such as:
- AutoCAD Advance Steel
- AutoCAD Architecture
- AutoCAD CIVIL 3D
- AutoCAD Electrical
- AutoCAD ecscad
- AutoCAD Map 3D
- AutoCAD Mech
- AutoCAD MEP
- AutoCAD Structural Detailing
- AutoCAD Utility Design
- AutoCAD P&ID
- AutoCAD Plant 3D
Since AutoCAD 2019 several verticals are included with AutoCAD subscription as Industry-Specific Toolset.
For example, AutoCAD Architecture (formerly Architectural Desktop) permits architectural designers to draw 3D objects, such as walls, doors, and windows, with more intelligent data associated with them rather than simple objects, such as lines and circles. The data can be programmed to represent specific architectural products sold in the construction industry, or extracted into a data file for pricing, materials estimation, and other values related to the objects represented.
Additional tools generate standard 2D drawings, such as elevations and sections, from a 3D architectural model. Similarly, Civil Design, Civil Design 3D, and Civil Design Professional support data-specific objects facilitating easy standard civil engineering calculations and representations.
AutoCAD LT is the lower cost version of AutoCAD, with reduced capabilities, first released in November 1993. Autodesk developed AutoCAD LT to have an entry-level CAD package to compete in the lower price level. Priced at $495, it became the first AutoCAD product priced below $1000.
It was sold directly by Autodesk and in computer stores unlike the full version of AutoCAD, which must be purchased from official Autodesk dealers. AutoCAD LT 2015 introduced Desktop Subscription from $360 per year; as of 2018, three subscription plans were available, from $50 a month to a 3-year, $1170 license.
While there are hundreds of small differences between the full AutoCAD package and AutoCAD LT, there are a few recognized major differences in the software’s features:
- 3D Capabilities: AutoCAD LT lacks the ability to create, visualize and render 3D models as well as 3D printing.
- Network Licensing: AutoCAD LT cannot be used on multiple machines over a network.
- Customization: AutoCAD LT does not support customization with LISP, ARX, .NET and VBA.
- Management and automation capabilities with Sheet Set Manager and Action Recorder.
- CAD standards management tools.
Formerly marketed as AutoCAD WS, AutoCAD 360 is an account-based mobile and web application enabling registered users to view, edit, and share AutoCAD files via mobile device and web using a limited AutoCAD feature set — and using cloud-stored drawing files.
The program, which is an evolution and combination of previous products, uses a freemium business model with a free plan and two paid levels — marketed as Pro ($4.99 monthly or $49.99 yearly) and Pro Plus ($99.99 yearly) — including various amounts of storage, tools, and online access to drawings.
360 includes new features such as a “Smart Pen” mode and linking to third-party cloud-based storage such as Dropbox. Having evolved from Flash-based software, AutoCAD 360 uses HTML5 browser technology available in newer browsers including Firefox and Google Chrome.
AutoCAD WS began with a version for the iPhone and subsequently expanded to include versions for the iPod Touch, iPad, Android phones, and Android tablets. Autodesk released the iOS version in September 2010, following with the Android version on April 20, 2011. The program is available via download at no cost from the App Store (iOS), Google Play (Android) and Amazon Appstore (Android).
In its initial iOS version, AutoCAD WS supported drawing of lines, circles, and other shapes; creation of text and comment boxes; and management of color, layer, and measurements — in both landscape and portrait modes. Version 1.3, released August 17, 2011, added support for unit typing, layer visibility, area measurement and file management.
The Android variant includes the iOS feature set along with such unique features as the ability to insert text or captions by voice command as well as manually. Both Android and iOS versions allow the user to save files on-line — or off-line in the absence of an Internet connection.
In 2011, Autodesk announced plans to migrate the majority of its software to “the cloud”, starting with the AutoCAD WS mobile application.
According to a 2013 interview with Ilai Rotbaein, an AutoCAD WS Product Manager for Autodesk, the name AutoCAD WS had no definitive meaning, and was interpreted variously as Autodesk Web Service, White Sheet or Work Space.
AutoCAD is licensed, for free, to students, educators, and educational institutions, with a 36-month renewable license available. The student version of AutoCAD is functionally identical to the full commercial version, with one exception: DWG files created or edited by a student version have an internal bit-flag set (the “educational flag”).
When such a DWG file is printed by any version of AutoCAD (commercial or student) older than AutoCAD 2014 SP1 or AutoCAD 2019 and newer, the output includes a plot stamp/banner on all four sides. Objects created in the Student Version cannot be used for commercial use. Student Version objects “infect” a commercial version DWG file if they are imported in versions older than AutoCAD 2015 or newer than AutoCAD 2018.