AutoCAD is a commercial software application for 2D and 3D computer-aided design (CAD) and drafting — available since 1982 as a desktop application and since 2010 as a mobile web- and cloud-based app marketed as AutoCAD 360.
Developed and marketed by Autodesk, Inc., AutoCAD was first released in December 1982, running on microcomputers with internal graphics controllers. Prior to the introduction of AutoCAD, most commercial CAD programs ran on mainframe computers or minicomputers, with each CAD operator (user) working at a separate graphics terminal.
AutoCAD is used across a wide range of industries, by architects, project managers, engineers, designers, and other professionals. It is supported by 750 training centers worldwide as of 1994.
As Autodesk’s flagship product, by March 1986 AutoCAD had become the most ubiquitous CAD program worldwide. As of 2014, AutoCAD is in its twenty-ninth generation, and collectively with all its variants, continues to be the most widely used CAD program throughout most of the world.
AutoCAD was derived from a program begun in 1977 and released in 1979 called Interact CAD, also referred to in early Autodesk documents as MicroCAD, which was written prior to Autodesk’s (then Marinchip Software Partners) formation by Autodesk cofounder Mike Riddle.
The first version by the AutoDesk company was demonstrated at the 1982 Comdex and released that December. The 2015 release marked the 29th major release for the AutoCAD for Windows. The 2014 release marked the fourth consecutive year for AutoCAD for Mac.
File formats and versions
The native file format of AutoCAD is .dwg. This and, to a lesser extent, its interchange file format DXF, have become de facto, if proprietary, standards for CAD data interoperability. AutoCAD has included support for .dwg, a format developed and promoted by Autodesk, for publishing CAD data.
Compatibility with other software:
ESRI ArcMap 10 permits export as AutoCAD drawing files. Civil 3D permits export as AutoCAD objects and as LandXML. Third-party file converters exist for specific formats such as Bentley MX GENIO Extension, PISTE Extension (France), ISYBAU (Germany), OKSTRA and Microdrainage (UK).
AutoCAD 2014 and AutoCAD LT 2014 are available for English, German, French, Italian, Spanish, Japanese, Korean, Chinese Simplified, Chinese Traditional and Brazilian Portuguese. Russian, Czech, Polish, Hungarian will be available later on. The extent of localization varies from full translation of the product to documentation only. The AutoCAD command set is localized as a part of the software localization.
AutoCAD supports a number of APIs for customization and automation. These include AutoLISP, Visual LISP, VBA, .NET and ObjectARX. ObjectARX is a C++ class library, which was also the base for: (a) products extending AutoCAD functionality to specific fields; (b) creating products such as AutoCAD Architecture, AutoCAD Electrical, AutoCAD Civil 3D; or (c) third-party AutoCAD-based application. There are a large number of AutoCAD plugins (add-on applications) available on the application store Autodesk Exchange Apps .
Autodesk has also developed a few vertical programs (AutoCAD Architecture, AutoCAD Civil 3D, AutoCAD Electrical, AutoCAD ecscad, AutoCAD Map 3D, AutoCAD Mechanical, AutoCAD MEP, AutoCAD Structural Detailing, AutoCAD Utility Design, AutoCAD P&ID and AutoCAD Plant 3D) for discipline-specific enhancements. For example, AutoCAD Architecture (formerly Architectural Desktop) permits architectural designers to draw 3D objects, such as walls, doors and windows, with more intelligent data associated with them rather than simple objects, such as lines and circles. The data can be programmed to represent specific architectural products sold in the construction industry, or extracted into a data file for pricing, materials estimation, and other values related to the objects represented. Additional tools generate standard 2D drawings, such as elevations and sections, from a 3D architectural model. Similarly, Civil Design, Civil Design 3D, and Civil Design Professional support data-specific objects, facilitating easy standard civil engineering calculations and representations. Civil 3D was originally developed as an AutoCAD add-on by a company in New Hampshire called Softdesk (originally DCA). Softdesk was acquired by Autodesk, and Civil 3D was further evolved.
AutoCAD LT is the lower cost version of AutoCAD, with reduced capabilities, first released in November 1993. Autodesk developed AutoCAD LT to have an entry-level CAD package to compete in the lower price level. AutoCAD LT, priced at $495, became the first AutoCAD product priced below $1000. It is sold directly by Autodesk and can also be purchased at computer stores (unlike the full version of AutoCAD, which must be purchased from official Autodesk dealers).
As of the 2011 release the AutoCAD LT MSRP has risen to $1200. While there are hundreds of small differences between the full AutoCAD package and AutoCAD LT, there are a few recognized major differences in the software’s features:
- 3D Capabilities: AutoCAD LT lacks the ability to create, visualize and render 3D models as well as 3D printing.
- Network Licensing: AutoCAD LT cannot be used on multiple machines over a network.
- Customization: AutoCAD LT does not support customization with LISP, ARX, and VBA.
- Management and automation capabilities with Sheet Set Manager and Action Recorder.
- CAD standards management tools.
AutoCAD LT 2015 introduced Desktop Subscription from $360 per year.