Autodesk has released the latest version of its flagship design program AutoCAD® 2014. AutoCAD 2014 is the 28th release of AutoCAD and is noted as being version 19.1. It continues with the AutoCAD 2013.dwg file type and format and is supported on Windows XP, Windows 7, and Windows 8 operating systems. No official support from Autodesk will be given for Windows Vista. AutoCAD 2014 continues Autodesk’s reach for the clouds with its integration of Autodesk 360, new geographic location tool, reality capture, design feed, and increased control and management exchange apps. Autodesk also makes an attempt to protect us from malicious files with the Secure Load tools, but they are tricky to use and will potentially be a sore spot with CAD and IT managers. Now let’s take a look at these new features.
The User Interface
Autodesk recently adopted a new logo and branding. Figure 1 shows the new Application Menu Icon for AutoCAD 2014 along with the new file tabs.
Figure 1: The Application Menu is updated to reflect Autodesk's new branding. File Tabs can assist in file navigation and creation.
The File Tabs are a carryover from a third party add-on that are now part of AutoCAD. Click on a tab to access that file, right-click on a tab to open, save, or close a file or files. The Plus Sign on the right will start a new file or open one. Clicking on a tab while it is active will give you a preview of the file’s model and paper space tabs providing quick access. Click the File tabs button in the ribbon on the View Panel to toggle these tabs on or off.
The Command Line
The Command has been enhanced with several “auto complete” features. There is a new Autocorrect that will help you spell commands properly. Auto complete will provide a list of commands with your typed text no matter where that text is in the word. The program formerly only displayed commands that started with your typed text. Typing SETTING will display many more commands that it used to in previous versions.
The command line now has Adaptive Suggestions. AutoCAD will learn which commands you use most often and display them first in the auto complete feature. You can also take advantage of Synonym Suggestions. These are alternate strings of text that can be typed in place of the command. Type ROUND to start the fillet command. This list can be edited using the Edit Aliases tool in the Manage tab in the ribbon. When AutoCAD provides you a suggestion for a command you are typing, there is an icon that you can click to open either Help or to perform an Internet Search for the command.
The Command Line also has access to layers, blocks, hatch patterns, text styles, dimension styles, and visual styles. If you type BOLT and there is a block in the file named BOLT, the Insert command will start with the BOLT block ready to go. Expandable categories are available in the command line to make it easier for users to navigate. You can customize the behavior of the command line’s suggestions by using the controls in the Input Settings menu. Right-click in the command line to gain access to this menu.
There are a few small things that have been added that many users will like. The number of layers displayed on the ribbon has been increased, and layers are now displayed in a natural order, meaning that layers numbered 1, 6, 32, 16, 3, and 225 will be sorted 1, 3, 6, 16, 32, and 225. Before, they would be sorted 1, 16, 3, 32, 6, and 225. The new Merge Layer option in the Layer Manager allows you to merge all objects on multiple layers to one layer while purging the other layers.
Figure 2: The Command Line has many new auto complete options available.
Xref linetypes are no longer displayed in the linetype list or in the Properties palette. Before they were displayed in these lists but you could not assign them to the object. They just got in the way. Xref attachment type is easily toggled between Attach and Overlay by double-clicking the type in the xref manager and selecting the style you want to use, even after it has been set. You can also switch between Absolute and Relative path. You can also remove the path completely—the -XREF command has a new PATHWAY option available to facilitate these changes easily through scripting.
Several new features in AutoCAD 2014 get their power from the cloud. You will have to be logged into your Autodesk 360 account to use many of these new tools. One feature is to sync your settings. Save your settings to your account and download them to any machine on which you are logged into your account. This also enables command line Internet search, Autodesk Live Maps (we will look at those later), Design Feed (the best feature in this update), and exchange apps.
The Online ribbon tab has been renamed to Autodesk 360 to better match the branding of Autodesk’s cloud features. This ribbon tab includes the new Open Folder tool that allows easy access to your Autodesk 360 folder on your workstation. It also provides easy access to the new Design Feed tool. The Autodesk 360 ribbon tab also includes tools uploading images for a drawing that you can share online through Design Feed.
In my opinion, this is the best new feature added to AutoCAD 2014. Design Feed, introduced to us in AutoCAD WS, enables users to communicate through a drawing by adding notes and images for discussions. You must be logged into your Autodesk 360 account to use this feature. When in use, it will display a palette where you can share messages and images with colleagues, clients, or consultants through Autodesk 360. Posts appear with related drawings on a desktop, on the Internet, and on mobile devices. These messages and images can be associated with a location in the drawing or just generally relate to the file. There are tools that allow users to tag colleagues, clients, or consultants in order to notify them of the post. These notifications will be delivered via email and will also appear within AutoCAD. Once the post is completed and saved to Autodesk 360, authorized users can view the drawing and associated posts. The people who have been tagged can post replies. When a question in a post, along with its replies, are no longer active, users can resolve the thread to hide it in the Design feed palette.
Figure 3: Design Feed provides a means for communicating with others about a specific file.
Another new feature are the Geographic Location tools. These tools allow you to find the location of your project and project a map into your drawing. This can help design your site-based project according to its geographic surroundings. These maps will not print and are for aiding in design only. For some, this will make the new feature useless or at least not good enough to bother with. But others may find it can help to quickly verify geographic features for their project. You must be logged in to your Autodesk 360 account to take advantage of this new cloud-based tool. You set your location using the Set Location tool in the Insert ribbon tab. You can set it using the new Autodesk Maps Service or you can opt to set it using a KML or KMZ file. When using Autodesk Maps to determine your location, you can search for an address, latitude/longitude, or zoom and pan across the map.
Figure 4: Geographic Location uses Autodesk Maps Service with maps provided by Microsoft Maps.
When a map is displayed in your file it will always be set below your drawing geometry. You won’t have to keep messing with draw order to keep it underneath anything. If you are working on a GPS-enabled workstation or laptop, use the Locate Me tool to determine your current location. This is a great feature when working on the job site.
AutoCAD 2014 has direct access to Autodesk Exchange Apps. Get there by going to the Featured Apps ribbon. This ribbon tab also includes a selection of featured apps that are available for download. The Plug-Ins ribbon tab gives access to the Exchange App Manager and the Import SKP file tools. The Exchange App Manager makes it easy to view and update installed apps. Double-click on an app to choose the Help option (from a right-click menu) to learn more about it. You can also uninstall or rate the app here as well. Keep in mind that any apps you purchase are associated to your Autodesk Exchange account.
More Point Cloud Support
AutoCAD 2014 comes with a new tool, Reality Capture, which runs outside of AutoCAD similar to Reference Manager. This tool takes raw 3D laser scan data of any object or project and processes it into point-cloud data that is more easily read by AutoCAD. This enables users to take a large amount of point cloud data and put it in a more manageable format. Autodesk ReCap will convert the data into RCP files that reference RCS files. Recap supports many popular formats including Faro, Leica, and Lidar.
Improved Point Cloud Support
AutoCAD can now support RCP, RCS files in addition to the previously supported PCG and ISD formats. Once a point cloud is attached, the Contextual tab displayed has more features than were previously available. Stylization controls (colors) are now available, making the displayed data match the scanned colors of the actual object. This will assist in visualizing the scanned object. There are also settings for displaying the colors of the objects to a Normal setting (colors based on the normal direction of point) and a setting for Intensity (sets the reflectivity value of points). If normal or intensity data was not captured, these options will be “grayed out” and unavailable. There are also more clipping tools in the ribbon similar to the clipping tools in an xref drawing. This reduces strain on computer systems in that there will be less data to have to deal with. Auto update is turned OFF by default, making panning and rotating of the views smoother—the computer will not try to render the screen every time the view changes.
AutoCAD 2014 has Windows 8 touch screen support. If you are using a Windows 8 touch screen device, you can benefit from smoother zoom and pan performance. There is a new control feature on the System tab of the Options dialog box that displays a touch ribbon panel when a touch screen device is detected. This ribbon panel lets users cancel the current command and returns them to the Select/Command prompt. I tried this out on my touch screen running Windows 8 and I rarely needed it as the transition between panning and selecting was rather intuitive and smooth. But from time to time it was needed and it was very useful.
AutoCAD 2014 provides a new feature meant to help keep you and your users more secure, called Secure Load. It is intended to help prevent the loading and running of unauthorized or malicious AutoLISP and VBA applications. Go to the Files tab on the Options dialog box and find the Trusted File Search Path. You can also access these controls by using the TRUSTEDPATHS and TRUSTEDDOMAINS system variables. A Security control area of the System tab in the Options dialog box provides access to the new Executable File Settings. Here you can allow executable file to be loaded from all search paths or only from locations specified by the Files tab. You can also choose to display warnings before loading executable files outside the trusted locations. These options are applied to the new SECURELOAD system variable. When creating a network deployment, these options can be set ahead of time in your deployment.
Figure 5: Secure Load can prompt users when executable files are being loaded.
The Little Things
A new AutoCAD means that there are several “little” enhancements that have taken place. These are small changes to make existing tools better. You can now draw arcs in either direction by pressing the CTRL key to switch directions. The AUGI Wish List request for the ability to fillet a polyline on itself has been granted. Why wasn’t this in there to begin with? When you create a new sheet using the sheet set manager the CreateDate field stored in the associated template file (.DWT) displays the creation date of the new sheet now instead of the creation date of the .DWT file. The CONVERTPSTLYES command lets users convert the current drawing to either a named or color dependent plot style. It now supports spaces in style names. This is a very small thing, but one that might help when naming styles. The default behavior for inserting blocks with attributes displays the dialog box. ATTDIA is set to 1. Single line text is changed to maintain the last justification setting until it is changed. The new DIMCONTINUEMODE system variable gives you more control when making continued and baseline dimensions. When DIMCONTINUE is set to 0, the DOMCONTINUE and DIMBASELINE commands make dimensions based on the current dimension style. When set to 1, they apply the style used in the selected dimension being continued. The Ribbon Hatch tool will maintain the previously used method of selecting a hatch, either Pick Internal Point or Select Objects. The undo option has been added to the command line.
In this article we were able to take a closer look at the new features than we normally do because this release had a shorter list of improvements than in past updates. What do you think of this release’s features? Was it enough? Should more have been added? It was nice to see AUGI Wish List items marked off. Is this release worth an update? Should you wait for the “bugs” to be fixed? I’m excited to start using the Design Feed tool and I can’t wait to see how others use it. I’m worried the Secure Load features will get in the way (I also predict many rants on the Internet about it). Regardless, you will always be able to come to the AUGI Forums for help and for discussion on these new features and tools from Autodesk.