Thursday, February 15, 2007

Autodesk Tells All - Day Two

The second day of Autodesk's "World Press Day" delivered on the promise to unveil the latest features of the next releases of the company's software. Some of those announcements have undoubtedly already found their way onto the web. I'm a bit late reporting in due to a tight travel schedule and a solid schedule of appointments upon my return (a good indication that there are lots more announcements pending from other companies in the weeks to come).

Autodesk personnel spent much of the day going over the new features of the company's vertical market products, leaving the discussion of core AutoCAD 2008 enhancements until the final hour. I'll cover the basics here across the entire product line and then delve into the AutoCAD 2008 specifics separately.

One welcome piece of information is Autodesk's renaming of several of its products. For example, in the Building Solutions Division—oops, that division's name has also changed, to AEC—there has been considerable confusion over the version numbering of the various Revit products. Revit Building is currently up to version 9.1, while Revit Structure is at version 4 and Revit Systems is currently at version 2. At least, I think that's right (and I'm paid to keep up with this). And then there are the AutoCAD-based vertical applications, Architectural Desktop and Autodesk Building Systems.

So I'm quite happy with the fact that the next release will standardize both version numbering and product names. On the AutoCAD-based side of the house, Autodesk has standardized on using the AutoCAD name as part of the product name. So the next release or Autodesk Architectural Desktop (ADT) will become AutoCAD Architecture 2008 and the next release of Autodesk Building Systems will become AutoCAD MEP 2008 (mechanical, electrical, and plumbing). Both products are being more carefully aimed at helping customers streamline their current job flow focused on 2D construction documentation, whereas the Revit products are focused on three-dimensional building information modeling.

Speaking of which, on the Revit side of the house, the name and product version numbering changes are even more striking. Instead of Revit Building, the next release of the architectural flavor of Revit will be called Revit Architecture 2008. Revit Structure retains its name, but changes the version numbering scheme so it will be known as Revit Structure 2008. And Revit Systems gets both a name and version numbering change: Revit MEP 2008. The table below summaries these changes:

Current nameNew name
AutoCAD 2007AutoCAD 2008
Architectural Desktop 2007AutoCAD Architecture 2008
Building Systems 2007AutoCAD MEP 2008
Revit Building 9.1Revit Architecture 2008
Revit Structure 4Revit Structure 2008
Revit Systems 2Revit MEP 2008

I'll look at the features in Autodesk's AEC products in more detail in a separate posting.

Other news of the day included:

  • A more official roll-out of AutoCAD P&ID 2007 (the software was actually announced on January 9, 2007, but no one seemed to notice). There will of course be a new version—AutoCAD P&ID 2008—and Autodesk is also working on a 3D product to be called AutoCAD 3D Plant.

  • Autodesk Design Review, the company's software for online collaborating through the viewing and marking up of DWF files is no longer $199 but rather is available free as a download from the Autodesk website. Now that it's free, I wonder if I should continue to include it in my AUGI CAD Camp repertoire.

  • Autodesk Impression, a new product for producing illustrations that has been previewed at many recent AUGI CAD Camp events was formally released. I've been very impressed by its capabilities, but with a MSRP of $495, I think it may be priced too high to be widely adopted by the architects that would otherwise be its most likely users. Only time will tell.

Of course, I still watch the MCAD side of Autodesk's business, and had a one-on-one meeting with Andrew Anagnost on Tuesday afternoon to discuss the next release of Autodesk Inventor. Inventor 12 has more than 400 new features and functions, which Autodesk says are in direct response to user requests. The most notable enhancements are:

Andrew Anagnost talk about new features in Inventor 12.
  • Enhanced interoperability with DWG TrueConnect enabling DWG exchange with Inventor, faster and more robust IGES translation, DirectConnect for JT, and enhanced interoperability with Autodesk's recently acquired Alias Studio software

  • Improved simulation and analysis thanks to automatic translation of assembly constraints into joints, multiple time step analysis, and thin wall stress analysis.

  • Improvements in cable and harness design with support for ribbon cables, automatic connector placement on nailboards, and connector authoring with configurable pin patterns.

  • Improved drawing productivity with dimension and cross hatching for isometric views, cross hatch rendering by material type, and improved standards and compliance (particularly for China and Russia)

  • Lots of sheet metal enhancements

Yes, I do feel like I was drinking out of a firehose. And as many of you know, I don't just rely on information disseminated via meetings and press releases. I do hands-on hardware and software reviews. So expect to see me loading all of this software and trying it out first-hand as quickly as Autodesk can ship it to me.

Stay tuned.

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