Friday, November 1, 2013

The Fate of Autodesk Design Review Revealed

When Autodesk released AutoCAD 2014 it did not come with Design Review.  None of the 2014 line of products came with Design Review in it did in the past.  That left many of us asking why?  Then when we found out that Autodesk was not updating Design Review 2013 we became fearful that this was the last version we would ever see.  Autodesk 360 was getting pushed hard and many of us that use Design Review feared the worst.  Then one day in a user asked the Autodesk Discussion groups if Design Review was dead.  Here is the link to the discussion that is now nine pages long.

Many users discussed it, the evidence (as mentioned above) and speculated on what might be happening to this great tool.  Then somewhere on page four an Autodesk Program Manager made this statement, “Thank you for the question. I am not here to delude anyone. If you want an electronic review process, given the current state of Autodesk 360, Autodesk Design Review is still the way to go. But the original question was is Design Review being discontinued, and the answer is yes, it will eventually be replaced by Autodesk 360. Until that time, the 2013 version is available for download from the Autodesk site and works with the 2014 product line since the DWF format did not change.”

Needless to say many of us responded in an excited manner and the discussion continued.



Today I was able to discuss this topic with Noah Kennedy, an Autodesk Product Line Manager in the Cloud Platforms group.  One of his responsibilities at Autodesk is to oversee a set of services that include cloud visualization services which includes Design Review.  He said, “Don't take the fact that we are not enhancing design review to mean we are getting rid of it.”  He added, “Autodesk is investing strongly in Autodesk 360 but Design Review is staying.

We discussed the use cases of Design Review and Autodesk 360, and AutoCAD 360.  We agreed that there is some overlap in the goals that these tools are trying to provide solutions for such as collaboration.  I was assured that the tools provided to us by Design Review will not go away.

I sent Noah a set of questions before our meeting which allowed Mr. Kennedy to talk about some of them with the AutoCAD team.  They told him that MarkUp Manager, the tool within AutoCAD and its verticals that imports DWF markups into DWG files, basically has two sets of users; those that never touch it and those that fully embrace it.  Of course there are those in-between but the majority of users fall into one of those two categories.  That is what I expected to hear.  Because there are those that passionately use redlined DWF files this way the MarkUp Manager is not going away any time soon.  Since that won’t work without a tool to red-line DWF files with, right now Design Review is here to stay.  Also add into the mix the fact that Vault uses DWF files in certain instances.

Noah did not have some of the definite details that I was looking for but he did assure me that the tools provided by Design Review will continue on in some manner.  Autodesk understands how important they are to the user base.  Design Review as a standalone program that is free is ideal for many use cases.  The users retain full control of the program and the files they review with it.  Switching to the cloud based AutoCAD 360 or Autodesk 360 is different.  The workflow means that the files have to be copied to the Autodesk 360 servers which means they are now on an individual’s account and not on the companies server.  If it’s copied there then which file is the correct one?  These are the types of issues that Noah said Autodesk is looking at answering.  Noah also expressed that Autodesk understands that maintaining control of your files on your own server is an important workflow for many of its users and is considering that with regards to Design Review.

For now, the plan is to keep Design Review 2013 available as a free download.  They will only update it when necessary.  It works very well right now and sense it is a free product Autodesk doesn’t recoup their investment of resources on it.

I was very happy that Autodesk would discuss this topic with me and I appreciate their time.  As a person that uses Design Review in a weekly if not daily workflow I am very concerned about the tool set it provides.  I came away from the conversation feeling confident that Autodesk understands the value this tool gives its users and that they do not plan on removing those tools.  The way we access them may change in the future.

Design Review did have a mobile app at one time but it was nothing like the desktop version.  It could only view and share files.  It was renamed and retooled into what is now Autodesk 360.

Noah expressed that Autodesk right now doesn't have any definite plans for Design Review’s form.  The tools will either remain as a standalone download, it could morph into a mobile or web based app, or the tools could simply be added into an already existing cloud based product.  Even though the future for Design Review is undetermined at this time, the tool set it provides is definitely staying, in one way or another.

If you want to download Autodesk Design Review, click the link for the site.

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