AutoCAD goes back to Mac

Autodesk's decision to launch for a Mac platform opens up a number of possibilities, as Paul Fanning discovers.

The news that Autodesk has released AutoCAD for a number of Apple platforms is not perhaps as earth-shattering as the company would have liked. Rumours of such a release have been around for several months now. However, the final release is still seen as a significant statement by the company that these platforms represent a growing market for engineering design.
"We were really just responding to customer demand," says Miikka Arala, Autodesk's Head of platform solutions, EMEA. "We had extensive feedback that the Mac platform was increasingly popular amongst designers and so we felt we had to follow that route ourselves.
Of course, this is not the first time that AutoCAD has been available on the Mac platform. The last version was launched in 1992, however. In that time, claims Arala, the platform has moved on considerably. "The Mac has moved from a consumer and student focus to a business platform and we had to follow that trend." Equally, Macs' popularity with students has had a bearing on this decision, as a generation of Mac-literate students has moved into the workplace, the demand to be able to work using Macs has increased considerably.
"Increasingly," says Arala, "we're seeing that hardware is more and more a personal choice in offices rather than an IT standard choice. That's a shift we had to follow."
From a technical point of view, Apple's move to Intel's CPUs is what made it feasible for Autodesk to consider returning to the Mac ecosystem, not least because many of the optimisations that Autodesk had undertaken over the years on the Windows platform involved not just optimising for Windows, but for Intel hardware."
Perhaps the single most significant factor in determining this move is revealed, however, by the fact that, at the same time as it released AutoCAD for Macs, Autodesk also unveiled AutoCAD WS, a free mobile version for Apple iOS devices, which will allow viewing and editing of AutoCAD designs on the iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch.
This is a trend Arala notes, saying: "We are seeing more and more of our customers using their iPhones and iPads as a business tool – either as a means to display existing designs to customers or partners or to produce initial sketches. We see this as a really exciting development for the future."
The user interface of AutoCAD for Mac soft¬ware has been purposely designed with a familiar Mac look and feel, and takes advantage of the Mac OS® X features. Pan and zoom intuitively with Multi-Touch operation, and find designs quickly using Cover Flow navigation to flip through graphical previews of your files.
Some features from the existing Windows version did not come over to the Mac version, however. make the transition to the Mac version. The two most notable features that are not be in AutoCAD for Mac are network-based licensing, which allows licenses to float from one machine to another, and Visual Basic support. Instead, the company worked on features that Mac users consider part of the core experience, such as Cover Flow views and Spotlight search, as well as compatibility with Apple's multitouch devices such as the Magic Mouse and Magic Trackpad.
With support for native creation and editing files in the DWG file format, AutoCAD for Mac also offers easy collaboration with suppliers, customers, clients and partners regardless of platform. Files created in previous versions of AutoCAD will open seamlessly in AutoCAD for Mac, boosting productivity by reducing time-consuming file translation and cleanup of converted data. The value of AutoCAD for Mac is further extended with an extensive API (application programming interface) and flexible customisation options that allow for tailor-built workflows, simple application development and adaption, custom configurations for settings and screen real estate options to suit individual workflows and project demands.

Author
Paul Fanning

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