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Just An Emoji Gimmick?—CAD Developers Weigh In On Apple’s Touch Bar

Is the new Touch Bar on the MacBook Pro really a “pro” level feature or simply something consumers want to play around with? CAD developers have their say.


The new AutoCAD 2017 for Mac doesn’t feature support for Apple’s new Touch Bar, in the new MacBook Pro. With their releases being so close together—but not too close—the absence of Touch Bar support in the new AutoCAD may cause one to wonder how CAD developers really feel about Apple’s latest hardware innovation.

So we decided we’d ask some of them, including Autodesk.

Is Touch Bar Useful for Pro CAD Apps?

Andrea Suraci, co-founder of ILEXSOFT, the makers of the award-winning HighDesign CAD program, was enthusiastic. “The new Touch Bar is an interesting innovation,” says Suraci, whose Mac-only CAD software is now headed to Windows as well, “and we are already exploring ways in which it could be supported in HighDesign.”

Suraci told Architosh that in a CAD application every inch of screen space is valuable. CAD applications are the Boeing 747 cockpits of software interfaces. You can literally have hundreds of buttons and controls in the app. “…having an extra, context-sensitive toolbar could prove very useful and would fit well in HighDesign’s UI,” added Suraci.

01 - Apple's new Touch Bar in the new MacBook Pro has many CAD developers excited. They see it as clearly a Pro feature that gives users workflow advantages.

01 – Apple’s new Touch Bar in the new MacBook Pro has many CAD developers excited. They see it as clearly a Pro feature that gives users workflow advantages.

ViaCAD and Shark developer, Tim Olson, one of the CAD industry’s most respected veterans, was also enthusiastic. “I think anytime you allow a designer to customize is a potential productivity opportunity.” Olson didn’t say if any of this company’s CAD products would utilize the Touch Bar anytime soon, but Olson is a hardcore supporter of Apple’s platforms so it wouldn’t be surprising. “I still do all my development, testing, videos and books, et cetera, on Mac,” he adds.

Not All About Touch Bar—There’s Surface and Dial Too

Global BIM and design leader Vectorworks, Inc., had much to say about Apple’s new Touch Bar. “The introduction of Apple’s new Touch Bar and Microsoft’s Surface Dial is extremely exciting for the software development team,” says Bryan Geiger, software engineer at Vectorworks, “…these cutting-edge devices will allow designers to customize their workflows even further as we strive to offer every possible shortcut in our software.”

MORE: Product Review: Vectorworks Architect 2017

Steve Johnson, vice president of product development at Vectorworks commented: “Apple’s Touch Bar and Microsoft’s Surface Dial provide very appealing interactions, and we are actively exploring ways to make these available to our customers.”

These developers seem quite enthusiastic about these new touch-based interfaces and hardware innovations.  What we hear is that developers are excited and are “exploring” the many ways their end users can further streamline workflows using touch—on a MacBook Pro or the Surface Studio with Dial.

Check out TechCrunch’s video that shows functions in apps around the new Touch Bar functionality. 

While not being as committal or as positive as the developers above, Autodesk’s Marcus O’Brien, senior product line manager, Autodesk, simply said this when we asked if Autodesk has considered Touch Bar integration. “No specific plans at this time, but as you know Autodesk is always considering the latest technology and design based on user wants and needs as we did with AutoCAD 2017 for Mac.

Just an emoji gimmick?

Is Apple’s Touch Bar just a gimmicky new trick that flies in the face of real innovation pro users actually want or need? Well…it may be too early to tell, and it is a very different—almost unexpected—type of innovation. Yet, what we hear from some of the leading CAD developers is Touch Bar is far from being just for emojis.


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