All About AutoCAD LT - An Interview with Kate Morrical

You’ll have to look hard to find a more dedicated champion for an Autodesk product than Kate Morrical of Autodesk. Her passion is AutoCAD LT and she’s happy to share her knowledge on her blog, Facebook, Twitter... and here in HotNews. AUGI interviewed her earlier this month about the newest release of AutoCAD LT since our 200,000th member uses AutoCAD and his firm uses LT.  

AUGI: What is your title and, basically, what does it entail?

Morrical: I’m Technical Marketing Manager. I like to think of the job as translating software into English, making sure that our users understand what the new features are and how they can incorporate them into daily tasks.

AUGI: What does your typical day look like?

Morrical: The great thing about this job is that there is no typical day! My projects change all the time depending on what time of year it is, although a common theme is web-based content. I create or edit comparison matrices, feature descriptions, assets for sales campaigns, that sort of thing. I make a lot of videos. In fact, I'm working on a new webcast today. I do a lot with AutoCAD LT social media, helping to manage our communities on Facebook and Twitter. Of course I write for my blog, LT Unlimited, and I try to keep up with the Autodesk and AUGI forums, to see what kinds of conversations and issues are coming up. I spend a lot of time on the phone, too. I'm on the east coast, and most of my colleagues are in San Francisco, so conference calls are a good way to stay in touch. Answering questions is another part of the routine. I'm Autodesk's in-house AutoCAD LT expert, so I help out when one of our sales or industry people has a customer with an AutoCAD LT-related issue.

AUGI: What gets you excited in the morning about going to work?

Morrical: Honestly? The chance to learn something new about AutoCAD or AutoCAD LT-and then to tell people about it. I love learning new things! And knowing that the things I learn and share can help people work better and smarter is just really cool.

AUGI: Well, then, let's talk about AutoCAD LT 2011.

Morrical: 2011 was a great release for AutoCAD LT. There were a bunch of new features that help improve day-to-day productivity. Even better, they were all really easy to use. The multifunctional grips for hatches and polylines reduce the time it takes to edit them. Hatches also got a new contextual ribbon tab, so you can see the effects of changing a property right away, instead of opening and closing a dialog. You can make objects and layers transparent, and you can hide and isolate objects without turning an entire layer on and off.

The inspiration for those last two features was actually the AUGI Wish List! Autodesk takes those lists very seriously, and we do our best to implement the most popular suggestions. PDF Underlay, introduced in AutoCAD LT 2010, was another of those wishes.

AUGI: What are the major differences between AutoCAD LT and AutoCAD?

Morrical: Basically, AutoCAD is intended for firms who need 3D modeling, visualization or advanced programming, or like network licensing.

AutoCAD LT can view drawings with 3D objects – solids, surfaces, and meshes – and it can do basic manipulations like move, copy, scale, and rotate. But it doesn't have the ViewCube, and it doesn't support visual styles. Same goes for parametric constraints. AutoCAD LT can't create them, but it can use them in drawings or dynamic blocks once they've been created in AutoCAD. You can do basic customization of the CUI in AutoCAD LT, including creating command macros to put on ribbon panels or toolbars, but it doesn't have the Action Recorder and doesn't support external languages like LISP and .NET. And if you need data extraction from objects to tables, or Express Tools, you'll need to buy AutoCAD; those features aren't supported in AutoCAD LT.

AUGI: What features are included in LT that AutoCAD users typically are surprised to find in there?

Morrical: Over the last few releases, a lot of features that used to be AutoCAD-only have made their way into AutoCAD LT as well. This includes fields, clipping xrefs, all the former layer Express Tools, and of course the Align command.

We try to make the new features easy to find and use, but if you're not paying attention — if you just use your new software the exact same way you used your old software – you might miss something. A lot of people are also surprised to hear that AutoCAD LT does have a 3D coordinate system. You can specify points with X, Y, and Z coordinates if you want to, and give thickness to objects to create a 3D effect, even though you can't create a true 3D object like a solid or a surface.

AUGI: Who is the target user for LT?

Morrical: AutoCAD LT is intended for design professionals who need to create accurate, precise technical drawings. It's ideal for small-to-medium sized businesses, which need professional software at a great price. Because AutoCAD LT is intended for general drafting and documentation, it can be used by people in any industry, from architecture to engineering to transportation and beyond.

AUGI: Autodesk just announced AutoCAD LT 2012 on March 22. What’s new?

Morrical: Our theme with this release is “incremental improvements add up to bigger productivity gains.” A lot of the new and improved features are easy to understand and easy to implement, but that doesn’t make them any less effective.

The command line and dynamic input fields now support auto-complete, so as you type AutoCAD LT generates a list of commands, command aliases, and system variables that match the letters you’ve entered. Auto-complete has received a lot of positive feedback because it doesn’t get in your way if you’re a fast typer, but it shows up quickly when you need it.

Multifunctional grips have been added to more objects, including lines, arcs, and dimensions, as well as for polylines and hatches. I’m a big fan of this kind of heads-up display—you don’t have to worry about where a command is located on the graphical interface; just hover over a grip and see what’s available. The old familiar Group command has been given its own panel on the Home tab of the ribbon, making it easier to create new groups, or add and remove objects from existing ones.

Another feature I’m really excited about is associative array. You’ve probably been arraying objects for years, but in AutoCAD LT 2012 the relationships between arrayed objects are maintained, so it’s easy to add columns and rows or change the spacing between objects. You can even remove individual objects from an array without disrupting the associativity, or replace some objects with others. You can also array objects along a path, providing even more flexibility when laying out objects.

Two former Express Tools are now included in AutoCAD LT 2012—Delete Duplicate Objects (a.k.a. OVERKILL) and Nested Copy (a.k.a. NCOPY). And AutoCAD LT 2012 also supports the Sheet Set Manager, providing plotting and organizational tools for AutoCAD LT users as well as improved interoperability in mixed-product environments.

These are just a few of the added and improved features—for a more comprehensive overview, check out the demo videos on Autodesk’s YouTube channel (search for AutoCAD LT 2012).

Editors Note:  Read more about the newest releases from Autodesk in our upcoming issue of AUGIWorld magazine in April.

AUGI: Do you have any interesting stories about how people are using LT?

Our Customer Showcase is full of people and companies using AutoCAD LT in creative and innovative ways. AutoCAD LT is part of the design process for things you might expect, like buildings, facilities management, and telecom, but also for things you might not expect – bicycles, roller coasters, yo-yos. I've even met people using AutoCAD LT for textile design.

AUGI: Is there a separate development team for LT and AutoCAD?  How does that work?  How do you interact with them?

Morrical: On the development side, the same team works on both AutoCAD and AutoCAD LT. It really makes sense that way, since there aren't any features that are just in AutoCAD LT. We split things up when it comes to product management and marketing, because in those areas AutoCAD LT has different requirements from other products in the AutoCAD family. I work with the development team the most during the beta cycles, when I'm learning about the new features and starting to decide how to explain them in our marketing and training materials.

AUGI: How has working with AUGI impacted your team?  What does AUGI do for you?

Morrical: AUGI has been a great partner of Autodesk's for a long time. The Wish List is incredibly valuable to our development teams. It's the best way to find out what you think would be a valuable new feature. Autodesk University wouldn't be the same without AUGI, either. The Beer Bust and Top DAUG contests are two of the most famous (and popular) events each year. Personally, I've been a member for several years (long before I joined Autodesk), and is one of my top go-to sites when a question comes up that stumps even me. It's a fantastic community resource, and I look forward to many more years of working together.

AUGI:Thanks Kate - we look forward to working with you and your team also.

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