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Where Does the Mac Fit in Autodesk’s new One AutoCAD Strategy

The Mac today plays a part in the One AutoCAD strategy that is unique from the mobile and Web variants—a desktop version which apparently has unique users as a group but where diverse devices and settings require different degrees of parity.


Autodesk this past week introduced the new One AutoCAD strategy as it unveiled its latest AutoCAD 2019 release for the coming year, with numerous adjustments to licensing, new industry toolsets, plus all new mobile and web versions of their most famous software.

One AutoCAD to Rule Them All

With this latest news, gone are the days when you purchased distinct AutoCAD programs, like AutoCAD Architecture or AutoCAD Mechanical. With the One AutoCAD mantra and new licensing structure, your single subscription license gains you access to specific industry toolsets that harness the features and functionality of the distinct AutoCAD programs of the past.

Your new subscription license also gives you the ability to use both the Windows and Mac versions of AutoCAD. However—and this is important—there is no 2019 update to Mac version of AutoCAD yet. Alyson Moses, AutoCAD Public Relations, Autodesk, confirmed that one’s subscription gains you access to AutoCAD for Mac 2018 as part of all the One AutoCAD offerings.

01 – AutoCAD Web is a new offering as part of the One AutoCAD strategy behind the new 2019 subscription licensing for AutoCAD. (image: Autodesk / Architosh. All rights reserved.)

Autodesk has already stated in the past that the Mac version of AutoCAD is timed around Apple and its development cycle. The reason partly being that Autodesk progressively adopts Apple’s latest OS advances.

No Industry Tools for Mac Version

There are no industry tools for the Mac version, and at this time Autodesk doesn’t have plans for creating them. Instead, the company is suggesting that Mac users can access the industry toolsets by using a virtual machine or Boot Camp on macOS to run AutoCAD 2019 on Windows.

In some ways, this makes AutoCAD for the Mac a bit like the new web-based version of AutoCAD. In a communication to Architosh Autodesk wrote, “Features for the web and mobile apps are purpose-built for what we believe users need while on the go.”

In the past, Autodesk has clarified that “AutoCAD for Mac” users are mostly quite different in their needs than traditional AutoCAD users. Therefore, the development focus on the Mac version of AutoCAD has followed its own path. That path does not include the comprehensive development of the industry toolsets.

Some might argue with that strategy saying that in some industries—maybe mechanical CAD—there is little demand for a macOS version of the Mechanical Toolset but that there is solid demand for say the Architectural Toolset. Certainly, AutoCAD’s chief competitors will have much to argue about this limation. Having just visited the offices of Onshape a week ago and hearing and seeing the use of Macs by many of their key customers, particularly Mac mobiles in field settings (e.g.: fab or factory floors, workshops, client settings, and exterior product settings, etc.) one might think the opposite is true.

Two Types of ACAD Users—Shared Mobile and Web

Autodesk’s Mac user base for AutoCAD is a domain of folks that seem connected to traditional AutoCAD users, while this new license will enable the “traditional AutoCAD user” to explore their favorite CAD tool on other platforms—macOS, iOS, Android, web.

A key new development in the Autodesk One AutoCAD strategy is the new web version. We were told that the web version doesn’t have a command line (“yet”). And it is just a 2D version today. It deliberately pairs back features and functionality of AutoCAD on the desktop to focus on what Autodesk feels its users will want when using AutoCAD through the web via a browser interface. Which, by the way, can’t be Apple’s Safari. The new AutoCAD for the web app requires Google Chrome. We see this web version advancing to the point where it has near feature parity with the desktop version. It will take years, of course.

The mobile version of AutoCAD is also purpose-built as a subset of AutoCAD functionality. Running on optimized devices, ideally—which are iPhone X, iPad Pro, and Windows Surface—AutoCAD Mobile is designed ideally around the needs of users in the field or away from their desk.

Both the web and mobile versions enable the traditional AutoCAD user to explore design and drafting on different device types and operating systems, pluralizing the AutoCAD experience. This pluralization should only benefit the macOS version down the road so long as Apple delivers compelling Mac hardware that fits the needs of the CAD user.

Architosh Analysis and Commentary

Architosh readers are now getting familiar with the way in which we color-code the analysis segments of our stories. When we get into the world of DWG-based CAD programs, it is typically important to talk broadly about what many still feel is a de-facto industry standard. 

Autodesk’s chief competitors with AutoCAD are the rising star in Bricsys in Belgium and the already industrially distributed group of folks and programs in Germany’s Graebert. Both of these companies have seized on Autodesk’s weaker support of the Mac and its weaker flexibility with licensing. On that latter part, the One AutoCAD strategy is a massive improvement. 

The real benefits of the One AutoCAD strategy appear to be further down the road and are currently things happening under the hood of AutoCAD development. Kean Walmsley, who works for Autodesk in Switzerland, wrote a blog post, “The Future of AutoCAD,” that is a recommended read. He discusses the multi-year effort code-named “Fabric” which is a project to take the core of AutoCAD cross-platform. 

Fabric was preceded by the Big Split, work done when the company decided to make AutoCAD for the Mac, natively. Walmsley emphasizes the importance of Fabric with respect to taking AutoCAD to the web and all future diverse platforms. Today’s new AutoCAD Web runs the same core code base inside both AutoCAD 2019 on Windows and AutoCAD 2018 on Mac. With more emphasis on a common core engine for AutoCAD and projects like Fabric, it means Autodesk will eventually have the option for parity not just between Windows and Mac but between other platforms as well. 

Reader Comments

  1. I know Im going to get the Apple gods rolling but in my opinion as an instructor, I was never a fan of the Mac version of AutoCAD and I had a feeling they would eventually start to pull back from it.

  2. What good is a Mac version of AutoCAD when someone sends you a file with toolkit objects – mechanical or otherwise – and the Mac version cannot even see the object (other than a boundary box). Pretty much useless.

  3. Larry,
    I’m curious to learn more about your opinion on this, as an AutoCAD instructor, why you do not like the Mac version. The Mac version had UI innovations that eventually worked over to the Windows version. The Mac version has been steadily climbing towards a reasonable parity with the Windows version, sans the Microsoft-specific tools that aren’t reasonable to bring over.

    In terms of the last comment, I’m not sure we can characterize Autodesk pulling back from a lack of the Industry Tools for macOS or the timing of having the macOS version on a different release cycle. The release cycle difference is actually, in my view, a reflection of Autodesk caring about the Mac and thus timing, optimally, to capture new macOS features and get them employed for Apple’s customers.

    I would read that Future of AutoCAD article in the analysis section (linked). It gives more info and clarity about Autodesk’s ability to target more platforms more easily with common core code. That should make commitment to the Mac easier.

  4. Posted by:
    March 26, 2018 02:04 pm EDT

    Without some basic functions (VisualLisp, DCL, CUI customization….3d party apps) AutoCad for Mac is just drawing board (real expensive one). They treat us like simple drafters. UI and touchpad are not the most importing thing.

Comments are closed.


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