Back on the Mac!
From CAD User AEC Magazine Vol 23 No 11 - NOV/DECEMBER 2010
AutoCAD is returning to Apple's Mac - a sensible decision, says David Chadwick, now that the Apple brand is the computing or mobile device of choice for many, students and young professionals in particular
It was about time, really, that some recognition was made within the CAD community of the fact that Apple and its Macs refuse to go away, and that mainstream design software, like AutoCAD, is making its reappearance on the platform.
The first CAD programme I remember on the Apple II was PinkCAD, followed by Robo-CAD and CADapple, and early Apple Macintosh computers used MacDraw. AutoCAD appears to have started life on early IBM PC's. I remember it all well, as I wrote and edited Windfall - the first magazine dedicated to the Apple II in the UK. Anyone remember that?
Actually, I am delighted that the brand is making a comeback in this sector of the market. The graphics industry has been quite smug about their continued use of Apple computers and its superior Operating System, ease of use and technical capabilities - whilst everyone else played around with Windows based machines. The last few years, though, has seen a remarkable change in the public's recognition of the brand, largely on the back of its iPod, iPhone and iPad successes.
The computers and laptops that Apple sell tended to be quite expensive though, and therefore beyond the reach of many users, and so the brand became associated with a couple of rarified and specialist sectors of the market, including a number of architects and visualization specialists. But all that is now changing, as more affordable mobile devices are becoming popular.
The problem, however, was that the mainstream applications that most people wanted were written for Windows machines in the first instance, and rarely found their way across to Macs. Now, we have the amusing situation whereby the advanced screen handling techniques, and all the fancy gizmos that make using phones, iPads and tablet computers so much fun to use, and that people are now clamouring for, were pioneered largely by Apple.
I spoke to Mikka Arala of Autodesk about the trend, and he confirmed that the company was merely following the market. They have had a considerable demand from customers to move onto Mac computers, and not just from engineers, nor from those who want both Mac and PC operating systems on their machines. The demand is driven by market dynamics. Apple has just had its best quarter ever for selling Mac based computers, and is now the computer platform of choice for many employees - not just IT departments.
Even more striking is the growth of Mac computing in the education sector, with both teenagers and young professionals opting for the brand. Universities are pushing the computers, and they are now the leading products for higher education users, where Autodesk also has a significant presence.
From the ground up!
Autodesk didn't compromise and take the simple route out when it came to transporting AutoCAD across to the Mac. The solution was rebuilt from the ground up to take advantage of the Mac platform and features specific to that environment. Not such a daunting task when you consider that the software is largely rebuilt every five years or so even when it stays on its current platform. The port has resulted in some features being faster on the Mac than on Windows, and some slower - some search algorithms have also been dropped in favour of those more suited to Macs.
Another interesting fact is that Autodesk started the AutoCAD for Mac project a while ago, before the success of the iPad, and has been agreeably surprised to see another market opportunity open up. Since its release they have worked on a very light version of AutoCAD for the iPad, which will include review and annotation software, and which will function mainly through cloud computing. This ties in well with the Apple philosophy of providing mobile devices for everyone. They are certainly driving a fundamental change in the market.
Using AutoCAD for Mac
AutoCAD for Mac has an intuitive interface that will feel familiar to Mac users and which takes full advantage of Mac OS X, including graphical browsing of design files with Cover Flow and use of Multi-Touch gestures for pan and zoom on Mac notebooks, Magic Mouse and Magic Trackpad.
As users will be able to create and edit files in native DWG file format, AutoCAD for Mac will enable Mac users to collaborate with suppliers, customers, clients and partners regardless of platform. AutoCAD for Mac is also integrated with AutoCAD WS, so users can also upload and manage designs in their online workspace directly from their desktop and easily edit and share those designs on Apple iOS devices using the free AutoCAD WS mobile application.
Styles&Wood, the UK's leading provider of property services to retailers, banks and commercial organisations, is one of the more than 5,000 participants who were part of the AutoCAD for Mac beta program. "We have been waiting a long time for AutoCAD to come back to the Mac," said Andrew Handley, CAD development manager. "Our experience has been that AutoCAD for Mac is similar enough to the PC version that the transition is easy. We've found it to be a very powerful and reliable product that has all the functionality we need."
Autodesk is making a free 30-day trial of AutoCAD for Mac available for download and will offer free educational licenses to students and educators, with more than 25 Autodesk software products available for download to inspire learning and help prepare students for successful careers. Recognizing the popularity of the Mac platform among students, it will enable them to build skills by having access to the same software that design professionals use every day.
For details, purchase options or to download the free 30-day trial, visit:
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