It's now much easier to modify objects in AutoCAD with a simple right-click. For example, when you select a polyline, new grips appear on the vertices and polyline segments. You can then hover over a grip and move a vertex, add a vertex, or delete a vertex. You can also convert straight-line polyline segments into curved segments, or curved segments into straight-line segments.
Several tools that were available in subscription packs for AutoCAD 2010 are now part of the core functionality of AutoCAD 2011. For example, you can select an object and then right-click and choose to select similar objects, or create a simialr object.
There is also a new set of tools to hide or isolate objects separate from layer control. You can select objects and then isolate those objects by hiding everything that was not selected or hide the selected objects, leaving unselected objects visible. You can do this repeatedly until just the desired objects remain visible. A new button on the Status bar indicated when objects have been hidden/isolated. You can then easily restore object visibility when you're done working. By default, object visibility does not persist between drawing sessions, but there is a new system variable that enables you to retain the visibility between drawing sessions.
AutoCAD also now supports transparency on both an object and layer basis. You can also include transparency as part of a hatch object. The one thing to watch out for is transparency when plotting. If you want to plot with transparency, you must turn on a specific setting within the Plot dialog. This causes the resulting plot to be rasterized. This setting is off by default because it adds time to the plotting process. But as pointed out during our session, rasterization can cause problems when creating a DWF file. DWF files are typically vector files. If you bring a DWF file into an AutoCAD drawing as an underlay, you can snap to geometry in the DWF file. But if you rasterize when creating a DWF file, you won't be able to snap to geometry in the resulting DWF file.
It's worth noting that the hatch, polyline, and transparency features are all now available in AutoCAD LT. In addition, AutoCAD LT now has gradient fills, just like AutoCAD.
One other new function that I really like are inferred constraints. In AutoCAD 2010, you had to create all constraints manually, although you could use the AutoConstrain tool to apply a bunch of constraints in one step. But now, in AutoCAD 2011, there's a button on the Status bar that turns on Inferred Constraints. When inferred constraints are enabled, appropriate geometric constraints are created automatically as you work. So if you were to draw a rectangle, for example, parallel constraints would automatically be applied to opposite sides and a perpendicular constraint to one corner, so that the rectangle would remain a rectangle when grip editing (rather than just a closed polyline).
I'll continue to report on today's events. Over the next few days, I'll start posting short videos illustrating many of these features. You will certainly find similar videos posted by others, including Heidi Hewett (on her AutoCAD Insider blog).