Software Review - All about AutoCAD

AutoCAD (the software by Autodesk) is so synonymous with CAD (Computer Aided Drafting, in general), that many newcomers to the world of Computer Aided Drafting, simply don’t consider that there is any other option. Of course, AutoCAD is simply one of many CAD programs, but we cannot ignore its dominance, and how it has shaped the current landscape.


In fact, up until recently, with the rise of SketchUp, most design & engineering students started by learning AutoCAD. In this way, AutoCAD functionality & language has shaped and guided much of the way we work.

In order to cater for the many industry specialisations that AutoCAD serves, Autodesk now has a wide variety of software variations. As Archi-Ed id devoted to architecture, this article focuses on ‘AutoCAD’ (for the purposes of architecture) and ‘AutoCAD Architecture’, previously known as ‘AutoCAD Architectural Desktop’ from 1998-2001, then ‘Architectural Desktop’ until version 2007.

What is the difference between AutoCAD, AutoCAD Architecture, and Revit, and why does AutoDesk continue to develop and sell them all? Simply put, AutoCAD is for CAD of all sorts, Revit is for BIM in architecture, and AutoCAD Architecture is 3D CAD (BIM’ish) sitting somewhat awkwardly in between the other two. AutoCAD has been able to produce 3D models for many years, and AutoCAD Architecture allows us to generate 3D models which produce 2D CAD drawings, specifically for architecture. However, the way AutoCAD Architecture works is still quite different to Revit. They are developed (and function) in very different ways, largely because different people developed them. Autodesk bought Revit (relatively recently). Autodesk didn’t build Revit (from scratch). For this reason both are developed along their own trajectories, building upon their original premise.


It is possible that AutoCAD or AutoCAD Architecture could potential be used as a design tool, however it is highly unlikely that it would be the preferred software solution when compared to the myriad of other tools available. AutoCAD’s interface is simply too removed from the creative process to allow for the playful interactivity that most designers require during a conceptual phase.

With that said, when I first transitioned from AutoCAD to ArchiCAD (back in 2002) I was astounded that ArchiCAD did not allow me to model and rotate 3D elements around the X & Y axises. Although this could process could be scripted into a library object’s function, it was not possible for any other ArchiCAD tool until the release of the Shell & Morph in 2012. Now, I understand that BIM elements like Slabs and Walls would lose their identity if rotated the way I desired, by if AutoCAD allowed it, what couldn’t figure out a solution for 10 more years!


AutoCAD excels at 2D documentation, and its experienced users can become lightning fast with the use of keyboard shortcuts, but of course this is the same for any CAD program. Many engineers and architectural drafters alike still prefer the control AutoCAD offers when producing 2D projected orthographic drawings over the (often uncontrolled) automated projections produced in a 3D CAD or BIM workflow.


Like the common conception that AutoCAD = CAD, AutoCAD’s native file extensive DWG is so commonly and widely accepted and integrated into other programs’ exchange formats, that collaboration on files is very practical. Similarly, due to its basic 2D nature, there is less information that can be lost in translation when compared to an IFC transfer in a BIM environment.


The in-house visualisation capability of AutoCAD is quite poor with a limited representation of true materiality while working in the model, and poor performing photo-rendering results. For higher quality rendering you can export to ‘Render Online’, a cloud based rendering service. However, this is not a free service, and requires payment in Cloud Credits that require a software subscription.

Alternatively, AutoCAD users can export the 3D model into dedicated rendering software like 3D studio Max, VRay, Enscape, Lumion or Twinmotion in order to produce photo-quality rendering results, without needing to pay for the service per render (if they also own these additional software licences).



Developer: Autodesk

Current Edition: AutoCAD 2020

OS: Windows 10 64bit  OR  MacOS 10.13 (10.15 requires Update 2020.1)

Hardware Requirements:


PC = 2.2 GHz (3+GHz i7 or higher recommended)

Mac = Dual core 2+GHz i7 or higher recommended


PC = 8GB (16GB or more recommended)

Mac = 4GB (8GB or more recommended)


PC = 1GB (29GB/s) DirectX 11 compliant (4GB (106GB/s) recommended)

Mac = 128 MB VRAM or higher

Monitor / Screen: 

PC = 1920 x 1080 (3840 x 2160 recommended)

Mac = 1280 x 800 (2880 x 1800 or higher recommended)


PC = 6GB Free space (1TB or higher recommended)

Mac = 6GB Free space (1TB or higher recommended)


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The information contained in the article and website are general in nature and are the opinions of the author, through his professional experience and study. Click here for more details of our content.