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Some tech notes on AutoCAD for Mac

In this article we cover some additional notes on AutoCAD for Mac after today’s official product release.

First off, Welcome back Autodesk! What took you so long?

Some Notes

Actually in the press introduction to Autodesk’s announcement of AutoCAD for Mac that very question got answered by Autodesk Senior Vice President Amar Hanspal. The answer?

According to Hanspal, Autodesk’s own customers have kept chiming in on wanting AutoCAD for Mac at an increasing rate over the past few years. Clearly such a statement by Hanspal is a testament to Apple’s popularity and growing strength in business markets. In fact, Hanspal remarks that its customers are increasingly using Mac hardware more and more in enterprise and business. The result is a company that ultimately is directly responding to its own customers.

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The AutoCAD universe is a big place. Hanspal said in an interview presentation there are over 4,000 AutoCAD third-party developers and these developers can now support the Mac version because the native C++ API for AutoCAD on Windows is the same for the Mac version.

The DWG file engine in AutoCAD for the Mac is identical, literally the same as that in its Windows version. There is full, bi-directional file format fidelity so mixed PC/Mac offices can open and work on the same files.

In a product video on the AutoCAD for Mac webpage Autodesk does actually compare its product directly to a competitor. In this case, in discussing AutoCAD layers, it compares itself to Vectorworks (by Nemetschek Vectorworks) when talking about verticality in regards to layers (ie: AutoCAD does not have verticality with layers) saying Vectorworks classes are more like AutoCAD layers. The comparison seemed aimed at having Vectorworks users understand something key about the product, rather than taking a swipe at Vectorworks itself. The latter would have seemed nonsensical anyway as in many ways Vectorworks’s dual class and layer system is arguably more flexible.

Some Tech Notes

Let’s get into some technical notes here on today’s news about AutoCAD for Mac. First off, you will need a 64-bit Intel processor based Mac. Most of Apple’s machines released on or after January 1, 2009 will work. To give you a sense of what we have been running it on in the Architosh studio, we have it on an early 2009, MacBook. It features an Intel Core 2 Duo. We have not tested it hard so we cannot remark about hardware to performance issues. If you are considering AutoCAD for Mac you should visit the specification page for the product on Autodesk’s website.

A product demonstration video does mention one rival Mac CAD product, Mac industry leader Nemetschek Vectorworks.

AutoCAD for Mac is a native 64-bit application. It is also built on an Apple Cocoa foundation with a UI (user-interface) that fits the Mac’s GUI Chrome implementation. Interestingly, the UI has a two-toned approach and gives the user the option to try a dark or light interface. This doesn’t affect the Mac UI element(s) of the palettes, windows and other panels. One comment here: we think the dark interface looks pretty darn good!

This only runs on Leopard (10.5.8) or Snow Leopard version 10.6.4 or later). If you are running an older OS you need to update your system.

AutoCAD for Mac is fully compatible with AutoCAD for Windows. Drawings containing objects created in AutoCAD Architecture (Windows only) can be easily opened in AutoCAD for Mac.

For Command Line users AutoCAD for Mac has a near identical Command Line interface and nearly all commands are available for the Mac version. Autodesk makes a note that the Ribbon Bar of the latest versions of AutoCAD for Windows are not supported on the Mac version, but instead Mac users get the familiar Tool bars and properties palettes (on the right) that are common UI design features of the Mac. That is a good thing for Mac users. Users should note that Microsoft’s Ribbon UI was slammed when it came out on Revit by its users.

What is Not Working

While this version of AutoCAD for Mac is nearly identical to that found in the Windows version there are some differences and items of non-support. They include:

  • Network licensing and CAD manager are not included
  • No support for DCL in AutoLISP
  • No access to custom AutoCAD user UI controls in ObjectARX
  • Microsoft VBasic Applications and OLE objects are not be supported as they are Windows specific
  • Layer Filters and Groups and States are not supported yet but will be in a future release
  • Sheet Manager is not in this release either
  • There is also no PDF, DGN and DWF “underlay” support but will be in a future release
  • minor other items not yet supported in this release

Autodesk recommends that larger companies with enterprise use of AutoCAD may want to hold off on a Mac version adoption until their specific enterprise needs are fully confirmed to be met. Autodesk recommends that smaller and mid-size companies are more suited to AutoCAD for Mac adoption or conversion.

Finally, the version of AutoCAD for Mac can both import and export ACIS (.sat) files. Here at Architosh we like to talk about modeling and rendering kernels and engines and this is interesting to us because we have been under the assumption that Autodesk has written its own modeling kernel for AutoCAD based on Spatial’s ACIS.