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As you can see from image 01 above, the interface for Project Butterfly is quite simple. On the left there is a panel for Home, Drawings and Editor. Clicking on a drawing in Files Manager (Drawings — see image 02) opens the drawing in the Editor. There is a menu bar across the top with choices like Draw, Edit, View, Share and so forth. Standard tools allow you to manipulate drawings and create drawn content. You can scale, move, rotate, mirror, trim, alter vertices, et cetera. You can create using lines, rectangles, polylines, circles and more. You can annotate with clouds and text. And you can measure, change colors, line weights and layers. (see image 01)
Weiss said the interface is intuitive to non-AutoCAD users. So even clients and consultants using other CAD or BIM programs can jump right into Butterfly easily. To share drawings you send out an email with a link just like Google Docs. Each shared item with another user allows you to set particular settings and permissions (eg: the ability to edit or not edit, mark-up or not mark-up, etc.).
Invited users may not be able to download the file, for instance, thus preventing them from passing it around once they obtain possession of the file. This solves one of the dilemmas in the CAD world: the liabilities associated with electronic file exchange. When multiple parties can access, collaborate and share the influence of just one CAD file problems associated with sharing, exporting and passing around data largely get solved. “You are providing a single point of truth in terms of that file online,” said Tal Weiss, “there are no worries about file format version for AutoCAD, for instance.”
When it comes to editing AutoCAD files with Butterfly there is pretty much nothing you cannot do that you can do in regular AutoCAD. Manipulate geometry, edit blocks, upload blocks, draw lines, arcs, polys and insert complex annotation, leaders and measurements. You can alter layers, add and delete layers, move items to different layers and draw in various layers, just like in AutoCAD. What you cannot do however is create AutoCAD files for scratch.
Some special or advanced features in Project Butterfly include the ability to upload image files and work directly over them. You can also include Google Maps data as in the image above (image 03).
Autodesk Project Butterfly is currently a free, open beta project. Anyone can use it and the company wants varied use across platforms. You can upload AutoCAD files to Butterfly going all the way back to version 2000 and 2004. While you cannot create a file from scratch in Butterfly you can always upload basically a blank DWG file and work from there.
At some point Project Butterfly will cease to be an open beta. Autodesk told Architosh that they are constantly looking at different business models to see what will make sense with Butterfly’s customers. Weiss said that the company wants it to be something that is very affordable.