TIPniques: Easy Access to Add-ons


Need a little bit of help in AutoCAD 2012?  Do you find it lacking just a bit?  Need to get out of your daily “routine?”  Maybe you need a new routine, change things up a bit, add some spice to your daily AutoCAD life?  There’s an app for that!  Actually, there’s a new app store for that! 

In June 2011, Autodesk released the Autodesk Exchange AutoCAD Apps tab available to all AutoCAD 2012 users.  The Autodesk Apps tab is an online marketplace where users can purchase, sell, and rate apps from within AutoCAD 2012.  These “apps” are companion products for AutoCAD that have been created to provide additional functionality to AutoCAD.  At its launch, the Autodesk App tab had approximately 150 different apps, varying in price with several apps being free.

The AutoCAD Apps tab in AutoCAD 2012.

The Autodesk App Tab is an effort by Autodesk to centralize the distribution of AutoCAD add-on applications.  It is also an attempt to provide a safe means of distribution for these apps.  It is also an opportunity for users to share and or sell the applications they have created.

The Search feature in AutoCAD Apps tab.

How does it work?  It is only accessible through AutoCAD 2012.  There is no other access point at this time.  Autodesk has said that that may change, but for now, they want to slowly introduce the App Tab and make sure it works properly.  The Apps Tab can be found on the AutoCAD Exchange landing page that launches when AutoCAD 2012 is first opened.  (Regret turning that thing off now?)  If you don’t have the landing page, open AutoCAD 2012 (no other version of AutoCAD has the Apps Tab – yet) and click on the X icon in the upper-right corner of the AutoCAD window.  Users will have to log onto their AutoCAD Exchange account to have full access.  Once in, users can browse the apps that are available for purchase and download.

Typical App to download in the Apps tab.

There are many types of apps that are (and will be) available in the Apps tab.  They could be simple script files, LISP routines, .NET- or ObjectArx-based products.  Other content available can be blocks, linetypes, hatch patterns, or several other learning tools such as books in PDF form.  Anyone can submit products to the app store—well, anyone who is a member and has written a LISP routine or script file or any other type of content that is available in the App tab.  Have a great set of custom made dynamic blocks?  Share them (maybe even sell them!).

App Publishers Submittal page.

When you download an app (or apps) it is yours regardless of the computer to which you download it. That means if you download it once, you keep it.  If your machine fails and you get a new one, just log back into the Apps tab and download it again.  This is nice.  Payment is done through PayPal, so you will need to get a PayPal account if you don’t have one already.  Autodesk does not charge any fees to use this service, nor does Autodesk get any royalties or percentages from the apps purchases.

That doesn’t mean that in the future the system will work the exact same way, but for now, Autodesk is providing a service of app exchange—that’s all.  Because Autodesk does not receive payment for the apps, they don’t provide technical support either.  Each app creator will provide technical support on their own.  Contact information for tech support will be available for each app.

Once downloaded, try out the app.  Then go back and rate it in the Apps tab.  It’s a simple rating system composed of one to five stars with one star being the worst rating possible and five stars being the best.

So what does this mean?  It means that users have easy access to add-on applications for AutoCAD.  It also means that anyone who has ever created a great routine or set of blocks has a place to share them (and maybe make some money.)  CAD managers will need to keep an eye on this as they have little control over what the user downloads and installs.  The App Tab can be turned off at install so if you are a manager creating a deployment, you do have some options. 

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