Autodesk have finally released AutoCAD LT for Mac in the UK. We asked Jigsaw24 CAD consultant Richard John to put the software through its paces and see if it lost (or gained) any key features on its way across the pond. Here’s what he had to say…
First, the facts: AutoCAD LT for Mac 2013 is now in stock, and you can buy it outright or crossgrade from your current PC version. The native Mac OS X version comes as a 612Mb .DMG file download – not a major strain as long as you have a decent broadband connection – or on disc. The software provides full compatibility with the PC version, but users on 2012 or earlier should bear in mind that, in line with past policies, Autodesk have changed the .DWG file format for the 2013 release.
Before we start, let’s get the specs out of the way: I run Autodesk LT for Mac 2013 on a Macbook Pro 6.2 with a 2.5GHz Intel Core i5 processor, 4GB RAM, 250GB disk and Mac OS X v10.6.8. Got that? Then let’s crack on…
Finding your way around
It’s been quite a while since I took on a big project in AutoCAD LT, and until you really get into the software, you just don’t realise how much work Autodesk have put into its development over the last few years. LT 2013 for Mac is a dedicated Mac OS X development – if feels like Mac software, and there’s no tell-tale PC ribbon (as one of those people who just can’t get into ribbon menus, I’m quietly glad about that). But my old favourites are still there, including the command line, which is floating and can be placed anywhere on my screen. The command line lets me key in those drawing commands that I still remember, and I believe it speeds up the drawing process – especially as Autocomplete suggests command options as I type, which helps me when I forget the actual command I want.
Autodesk do a great job of keeping their YouTube channel up to date with ‘how to’ videos and feature showcases (a good starting point for 2013 is here). These helped me find out what new features are in LT 2013, but I also had a lot of fun just exploring the menu and toolbar options available. Like most users, I never get update training and tend to miss out on some of the lesser-known updated features in the new releases. If that sounds familiar, I recommend you follow Lynn Allen’s Tips and Tricks blog for advice on some of the more under the radar updates.
What’s changed in AutoCAD LT for Mac…
Looking for Grips? Now called Multifunction Grips, these now offer extended command options when you pick on a grip point – I just love the options available when we select Grips on dimensions, they really speed up drafting and annotation. Select an object, right click and you get ‘add selected’ and ‘select similar’ – really powerful tools to help you work through the drawing process.
Don’t you hate it when your screen gets cluttered with icons and menus? You can now use the Clean Screen option to clear everything apart from your drawing area. Drafting seems so much easier. You just need to remember Cmd+0 to get back to your menus and toolbars.
A feature called Multitouch Gestures will be familiar to all Mac users. You can use the trackpad to pan and zoom around the drawing area. This is really easy to use, unique to the Mac version and really helps sell the Mac feel of the software.
What’s new for 2013…
You can use Project to organise and manage layouts from different drawing files in the new Project Manager palette. Launch layouts in the Project to open them for editing, or to publish all layouts in the Project.
We have been able to work with raster images for a while in LT, but now we can attach PDF files in the drawing as an underlay and add vector objects over them, as well as snapping to points.
In fact, LT now offers so much functionality that I don’t see the point of investing in its big brother AutoCAD, unless you do need that 3D modelling functionality. LT offers so much for the professional 2D drafter, and the entry level price point makes it very affordable and appealing to Mac users.
Hot-swapping Mac and Windows versions
I know a few Mac users using LT via Parallels or Bootcamp, and a few who avoid it because they’re worried about the possible performance penalty. Well, Autodesk will allow you to swap out your Windows version of LT 2013 for the Mac version for free. In fact, if you buy a standalone licence you can activate it on Windows or Mac – the same serial number will work for both, with a maximum of two activations.
LT for Mac and the cloud
I do use a lot of cloud services these days, I find it really useful to be able to move data between my Mac and Windows setups, access it from my iPad, share it with colleagues and back it up securely – all of which are made easier by cloud services. In LT 2013, I can upload my drawing directly to AutoCAD WS (the mobile arm of AutoCAD), but was disappointed not to find the online tab that exists in the PC version, which links your desktop software to the Autodesk 360 cloud services site.
So what’s the verdict?
Two thumbs up. This is an excellent release for anyone who doesn’t need 3D capabilities and doesn’t rely on the cloud. Autodesk have finally delivered a professional, .DWG compatible drafting solution for Mac users at the right price point.
Want to know more? Pick up AutoCAD LT for Mac at our website, call our team on 03332 409 306 or email CAD@Jigsaw24.com. For all the latest news, follow @WeAreJigsaw24 on Twitter or ‘Like’ us on Facebook.