AutoCAD Online – First Steps Forward

Towards the end of April this year, Kean Walmsley wrote a post on his Through the Interface blog that caught our attention.  In his post, Kean talks about a new preview version of a new AutoCAD web viewer that Autodesk’s AutoCAD team has been working on.

Granted the post was made just about five months ago, we wanted to wait and see how things would develop and where they were attempting to go. Today we have decided to take an in-depth look at the viewer, the potential and the problems that we can foresee.

In this post, Kean talks about a taste of things to come with AutoCAD, which many have been hinting at over the years. In doing so, he introduces us to a new “technology preview” that Autodesk recently pushed out for people to try.

The new preview is for what is currently titled Autodesk AutoCAD Beta, and we invite you to take a look using the latest version of Chrome and see for yourself what Autodesk is working on.

As of the initial post that we mentioned, it seems as though very little has changed or added with the technology preview over the last few months, but nonetheless, lets take a dive and see what is in store for us all.

To begin, once a user has logged in, they are taken to the file manager.  Here you are presented with drawings that are either hosted with A360 or that have been uploaded using the file manager.

File viewer entry page.

To view a drawing, all you need to do is click on the preview thumbnail, and the file will open. Currently, the preview files that are available are extremely simple files, so the speed at which the files load is extremely reasonable, with almost no delay.

Upon opening a drawing, a few items that are present will feel somewhat at home for any AutoCAD user. Here is a look at what it currently features.

Inside of the “interface” of an open drawing.

Breaking down the interface, we can see a few items that we are already familiar with in regards to any AutoCAD program. We have a model “tab”, layout “tab”, layer properties “palette”, and even a UCS icon.

We can turn layers on/off, and even set the current layer if we so desire, even pan around, but besides that, there is not much else in regards to real functionality being implemented at this time.

We did notice that files that were synchronized with A360 already seemed to be tremendously slower, if not unusable entirely, but some of it may be due to Civil 3D objects, dynamic blocks, and other items that have just yet to be implemented. In fact, one drawing that we were planning on testing, just never loaded, and it was a simple drawing with hatches,  blocks and a few other basic, vanilla AutoCAD entities.

Again, this is a new preview, so items are bound to be broken, functions will fail, but all in all, as the site states, this is a “first step towards creating a new AutoCAD in your browser“.

Just a first step.

So, as of where things sit today, the viewer’s capabilities are limited, but growing. This is all in lines with Autodesk taking products to new places by extending their reach using multiple platforms just as Kean describes. We look forward to seeing how the project grows and affects other products, but for now, we just need to wait and see where this goes ultimately.