Thursday, November 15, 2007


AutoCAD was released in 1982. Now AutoDesk is everywhere. Frankly, I'm glad. I have been using CAD software and AutoCAD in some form or fashion for ever 14 years. It has allowed me to provide for myself and my family. It is a great tool. After 25 years of mainstream use, I am still amazed that I can find people that hate it so much. I understand their arguments and complaints, as most of them are true. When I argue against manual drafting and the improvements CAD has allowed, their complaints become mute.
I was working for an engineering consultant firm a few years ago. It was a small firm, about five employees. We had an individual their that was an "old time" board drafter. He fought against CAD every chance he could. One day we lost power. The entire area was blackened. People were stepping outside for some light. This guy (the CAD hater) made a comment, "You know, if we drawing on the board we could still work without power." I replied, "Sure, but we couldn't see what we were drawing." Because of this man's drafting experience and his "bleeding" on my drawings at this early stage in my career, I became a drafter. A CAD Drafter, but a drafter none the less.

AutoCAD has become the industry standard in CAD. Why? Well, know companies buy it because it is the standard and they want computability. Plus there are more workers that know AutoCAD than most any other CAD program (this is a personal estimate, I have no real data to confirm nor deny theses statements.) AutoDesk made AutoCAD available to any one, meaning your operating system didn't matter. It ran on many different platforms, DOS, windows, etc. Then with release 14 it was only available for Windows. This finally streamlined the software. AutoDesk didn't have to spend time making it work for several different platforms they could concentrate more on the software. This being said, I see more and more users clamoring for AutoCAD to be available on a MAC and/or Linux.

The changes per release are often to go back to take a look at. For new users of AutoCAD, the software can be daunting and overwhelming. I started using AutoCAD with release 10, but many others have been there since the beginning.

Version 1.0 was released in November 1982 (I was 8 years old.) Version 1.2, or release 2 was given in April 1983. it's enhancement was a dimensioning facility. WHAT??? You could dimension? You mean if you wanted a dimension you had to draw each line, each arrow, each leader, each value?? And I complain when users don't use associated dimensioning!! Release 3 gave us right justified text and a large plotter addition. Release 4 gave us the ability to fillet two lines. It also gave us the HATCH command. Imagine, drawing a hatch pattern by hand!! We could also zoom previous or zoom extents now. We were also given the array command and could use the control keys to turn on/off grid, ortho, etc.

Release 5, or version 2.0, gave us dot/dash line types. Layers could now have names assigned to them and there were no limits to how many we made in a file. We could now format our digitizer tablets and use multiple buttons on the pointing devise. How many of you have used CAD with a digitizer and tablet? I have. Sometimes I miss it. We could now UNDO the line command. I can't live without undo. Attributed text for blocks is now available. Some new notable commands were: isoplane, mirror, view. They also added "osnaps". This meant that your lines could now actually start/stop at the end of other lines. I worked at a place were a drafter was fired for not using osnaps. Maybe he was used to working on a pre-release 5 versions!! (We were working on release 10) Another great command added to release 5 was the SAVE command. Before you had to exit the drawing to save the file. Did it save when the program crashed?

Release 6 added 3D!! The additions to AutoCAD keep enhancing this software making it more and more efficient. Released in May 1985, release 6 added more plotter functionality, limits, more units control (angular units). The ability to freeze and thaw layers was added. Other new commands added were BLIPMODE (I can't stand it myself) and chamfer. Release 6 mostly made the older commands and functions better. The biggest contribution in this release though was one that makes AutoCAD stand out. It is also one of the reasons that it has become the mainstay and industry standard. In release 6 AutoLisp was added. It was limited, but in January 1986 an update was available that integrated it fully. Release 6 was known as Version 2.1.

Version 2.5 (release 7) made many enhancements on commands and functions. Crossing and previous selection options were provided. The CHANGE PROPERTIES command was added, as well as the SELECT command. Plotting to a file, not a plotter, was added. The COPY command could now make multiple copies. Angles could be made and displayed in surveyor's units. Mirror can now be done at any angle. Tangent and Perpendicular osnaps were added. The CIRCLE command was added. Evidently they didn't need to draw a circle, just arcs, until June of 1986. Some notable command additions are: Divide, Ellipse, Explode, Extend, measure, offset, polygon, rotate, scale, stretch, and trim. These very basic (by today's standard) commands are part of what makes CAD so much more efficient than board drafting. I can't imagine working without them.

Version 2.6 (Release 8) was released in April 1987. This release basically enhanced existing functions, what more could possibly be added? Well, associative dimensioning, transparent uses of the zoom, pan, view, and redraw commands, X/Y/Z filtering, a fractional mode for units, and AutoLISP enhancements, like user input functions.

Release 9 (called AutoCAD Release 9) came out in September 1987. This was the first version that required a math coprocessor on intel based microprocessors. All files made in release 9 were compatible with all release 9 files that were made in different operating platforms (windows, Unix, DOS, etc.) The multiple command modifier was added. The user interface was more advanced. It added a menu bar, pull down menus, icon menus, and dialog boxes. Splines were added, crossing selection boxes were now dotted lines to differentiate between inclusion boxes.

Release 10 came in October 1988. This is the version I started with. The linetype load was updated, purge was enhanced as well as the zoom previous. VIEWPORTS command was added. REDRAWALL and REGENALL operated on all active viewports. A new CHPROP command streamlined object manipulations. Dimension variables were added to enhance placement and visualization. Several 3D enhancements were made that allowed the line command to draw in 3 dimensions, visibility commands for hidden lines, surfaces and mesh commands, and fast zoom mode for 3D. The PEDIT command was updated.

In October 1990, release 11 was provided. There were several "behind the scenes" enhancements made, especially to users that worked on a network. A file locking system made sure that only one person was working on a file at any one time. Multiple copies of AutoCAD could be placed on a server now and a new setting allowed for plot spooling. Many enhancements to the dimension functions were made. Users could now have different colors for text, ordinate dimensions, text could now be moved, the gap between lines and text can be edited, non linear dimensions can be created, a dimscale of "0" can be set to allow for paper space scaling to happen, angular dims can be acquired with 3 points now, and more. The AUDIT command is added. Xref files are now dynamically linked. Before it was basically a "copy-paste" that wasn't editable. The user had to re-reference the file if it changed. Aliases for commands can now be defined in the .pgp file. Any combination of TOP/MIDDLE/BASELINE/BOTTOM and LEFT/CENTER/RIGHT is now supported. Fractional input is now accepted. Trim and extend can now be undone. OSNAPS now work on circles, arcs, and polylines. Wild Card input and patterns are now accepted.
Perhaps the biggest enhancement to release 11 was the system variable TILEMODE. Thus we entered the age of PAPER SPACE! It is amazing that has been in existence since 1990 and many users still struggle with it. Tilemode created a working area to present your drawing. Model space was no longer a drawing area, but a place to create a model. Paper space was to be the area for the actual drawing. This allows multiple views of a model at multiple scales to be drawn.
Multiple views of the model can be plotted in a single plot operation, complete with additional production drafting graphics, such as sheet outlines, title blocks, annotation text, etc.

Release 12 became the industry standard for many agencies and firms. It was released in June 1992, the year I graduated from high school. It had some minor interface changes that were mostly behind the scenes. Files saved in 12 were compatible with release 11 files. The OPEN command now changed DWG files to the new R12 format automatically. Older release had to do this manually. Enhancements to the dialog boxes were made that allowed users to more easily view and change information. The new BHATCH command made it possible to hatch objects that intersected each other (this is my fondest memory of switching from r10 to r12). Commands with a DD prefix now open dialog boxes.
GRIPS are now here!! This made quick modification to objects very easy. The AUTOSAVE (timesave is the actual command) feature was added, saving the butts of many users from that day forth!! Tiff and Gif files can be imported. Some other new commands that were added: NEW, OPEN, QSAVE, SAVEAS CONFIG, ALIGN, TIFFIN.

Release 13 in November, 1994, flouted Windows based enhancements to the user interface. Floating toolbars, flyouts, etc. made it more of the graphical interface we know and love today. But they still had other OS options available, DOS, etc. This interface change made available many different opportunities for OLE files and the like. Other enhancements were the ability to explode a non-uniformly scaled block, multiline text (thank you), spell checker (again, thank you), dimension styles (how did we work without them), leaders were now separate objects, properties dialog box, associative hatching, new osnaps (ext. intersection, apparent int., and relative point), Object Grouping, true ellipse, splines (defined by nurbs), multi-parallel lines, xline, xray, boolean operations, 3D rendering enhancements, boundary, box, extrude, leader, lengthen, region, and tooltips were added.

February 1997 brought us Release 14. In it we received a new graphics pipeline. We went from ADI graphics to HEIDI graphics. Plot drivers were never the same!! Paper space regen time was reduced, polylines and hatching were stored as single entities, reducing the file size. AutoSnap was given. This feature indicates with a symbol what snap point on an object was being selected. The user could cycle through the available snap points by hovering over an object and pressing the TAB key. The OSNAP toggle was given to let us turn it on and off. In the plot preview we actually get to see the drawing, and not just an over all shape of a rectangle. Tracking was added, real time pan and zoom, match properties, start up wizard, template drawings (what did we do before?), solid fill hatch, draw order, image references, bind, DWFOUT (yes, the earliest version of the DWF file was available in R14), xclip, and more. The biggest change in R14 was that it was now only available in a Windows OS.

March of 1999 gave us AutoCAD 2000, a.k.a. Release 15. 2000 gave us the "Heads-up Design Environment." This allowed users to work with multiple drawings in a single CAD session, copy, move and paste objects between files. We were introduced to the Design Center, which was a sign of things to come!!! Other new things were the QDIM functions, new osnaps (parallel and extension), AutoTracking (use polar and osnap tracking to draw objects at specific angles or relative to object snaps), partial open/load xrefs, real time 3D rotation, viewports and views can have different user coordinate systems, UCS manager, view, reference editing, Office like Toolbars, intellimouse panning and zooming (you know, the scroll wheel), right click short cut menus, hyperlinks in a drawing, non-rectangular viewports, VBA applications and custom code can now be used, camera, close, find, options, whohas, and more.

AutoCAD 2000i (R16 was released July 2000) was deemed the "Internet edition" of AutoCAD. Many new features were: freeze layer by viewport, double click edit of objects, trim to objects within blocks, multiple fillet and chamfer, plot merged lines, eTransmit, and more. Much of the new features worked on the theory that companies would be transmitting their files via the internet.

R17, or AutoCAD 2002 came out in June 2001. It gave us the block attribute manager, edit attribute dialog, enhanced attribute editor and extractor, standards manager, xml output, advanced license management, and more.

AutoCAD 2004 gave us tool pallets and a new dwg format for faster working files! The publisher made batch plotting and Multi sheet DWF files easy and possible. Digital signatures and password protection can now secure files. Floating network license makes it easier to get CAD to infrequent users. The new "true color" color wheel is here!! Plus gradient hatch. 2004 was also the beginning of a yearly release of the latest AutoCAD version every March. 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2008 were all release in March, one year after the next. that's a lot of upgrades!!

AutoCAD 2005 is where AutoCAD really starts to get advanced. DWG files are now 52% smaller. The introduction of tables and the Sheet Set Manger was given to us. This new enhancement changed the way we managed projects and their files. It links files together and makes sharing the information in the easier. It can collate sheets into logical sets and subsets and assemble sheet sets.

AutoCAD 2006 (released in March 2005) gave us the CUI (Customizable User Interface). This addition made migrating customized toolbars, menus, etc. into a new release much easier (in theory.) We were also given Dynamic Input (input at the cursor, not just the command line) and dynamic blocks. The power of blocks is greatly increased now that they can be manipulated with changing the block. 2006 also provided many tools in our 2D drafting and annotation.

AutoCAD 2007 gave us Vault, PDF write abilities, DWF underlays, animation, enhanced rendering, extremely easy 3D drawing, the DASHBOARD, and more. The big ticket item in 2007 was the major overhaul of the 3D capabilities. You don't have to spend time studying the 3D tools and methods any more. editing 3D objects is as easy as grip editing 2D lines!!!

The latest release, AutoCAD 2008, gave us many drafting and annotation enhancements. We can now over ride layer properties per view port. The dashboard is now customizable, tables can now function more like a spread sheet, annotated scaling (text and dimensions automatically scale according to the scale of the drawing), multi leaders, WYSIWYG mtext editor enhancements, and much more.

The current release of AutoCAD is so much different than what it was in release 1.0

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