What Happened in the Design Software World in 2012

It is now the last day of 2012 and I am looking back over the past year and considering what has happened in my world of design software.  Working so closely with the software, it is sometimes easy to forget how much has changed or occurred in the past year.  Technology and software continually changes so it is never boring keeping up with it.  Since I am an architect in the United States who deals with Autodesk software, that will be the focus of the article.

There were a couple of major conferences this year that dealt with design software that are worth mentioning.

  • Autodesk University 2012 was held the end of November at the Mandalay Bay Resort in Las Vegas, Nevada.  With approximately 8500 attendees from around the world attending the 20th year ofthe conference, it was considered highly successful.  The conference is geared toward all of the various Autodesk products, so many disciplines and interests are covered.  In 2013, this conference will be held at The Venetian resort the first week of December.  http://au.autodesk.com
  • The 2nd annual Revit Technology Conference North America was held at Evergreen Marriott Conference Resort outside Atlanta,  Georgia in June.  This is a conference held specifically for users of the Autodesk Revit products.  While there were only approximately 400 users in attendance, it is rapidly becoming one of the must-attend conferences for hard-core Revit users and I anticipate attendance growing over the years.  The 3rd annual Revit Technology Conference will be held in July 2013 in Vancouver, Canada.  http://www.revitconference.com/index.php

In the spring, Autodesk came out with its 2013 versions of their various software packages.

The 2013 AutoCAD-based software packages saw minimal product enhancements due largely do the maturity of the product, but the following were some of the significant enhancements:

  • The new path arrays of Associative Arrays were a hit.
  • Drawing Documentation tools were enhanced from the 2012 features by allowing you to create something in 3D and then create 2D section cuts, elevations, and details to your drawing.
  • The command line received new visual display capabilities.
  • Autodesk still allows usage of toolbars, but the ribbon system is encouraged and where the new features are placed.
  • AutoCAD Architecture saw few enhancements other than those included in basic AutoCAD.  Autodesk seems to be in maintenance mode for this software and not really looking to enhance it much.  It will be interesting to see how many more years Autodesk will be offering upgrades to this software.

Point clouds are being incorporated more into the various Autodesk products.  Point clouds don’t seem to be very commonly utilized by companies yet, but for those that do need them, it is now much easier to work with them in the Autodesk products.

The “cloud” is the big topic within the Autodesk products as it becomes more integrated into all of their products.  Cloud technology is being stressed by everyone involved in technology, so it isn’t just Autodesk.  However, Autodesk is encouraging users to utilize their various cloud solutions which include:

  • Autodesk 360 (http://360.autodesk.com) as the central access point
  • AutoCAD WS, which allows you to share AutoCAD files on both iOS and Android devices.
  • BIM 360 Glue, which has add-ins for Revit, AutoCAD, and AutoCAD Civil 3D.
  • BIM 360 Field, which allows you to view files in the field on your iPad.
  • 25 Gb of free storage per each Autodesk license on the Autodesk subscription program
  • Look for many new changes (and software dependence) to occur in cloud-based technology in the next few years.  Mobile computing is taking the industry by storm and usage of mobile devices (likely primarily the iPad®) for design and real-time review in the field will become more commonplace. (It is possible now.)

Autodesk has had a few interesting changes to Revit this year.  The introduction of Revit LT is probably the biggest news due to its low price point of $1,195 ($1,495 when purchased as package with AutoCAD LT 2013).  Revit LT has been met with mixed reviews due to its limitations; however, it will most likely become much more viable for more people as Autodesk refines features in future releases.  Its inability to utilize worksets in a worksharing environment limits its usage to projects where only one person works on the project at a time.  Other important limitations include:

  • No 3rd-party add-ins
  • No rendering
  • No massing
  • No in-place modeling
  • No view filters
  • No design options
  • Stair by Sketch option is not available

Revit 2013 became an all-in-one box product when Autodesk incorporated Architecture, Structure, and MEP in the same product installation when purchased as part of their building suite.  That made it easier to manage installations as only one installation or image needed to be made for companies that used multiple versions of Revit.  Separate network licenses also are not required for each discipline, which works out well for multi-disciplined firms.

The one box concept was advanced further when Autodesk announced late in the year that anyone with one of the following packages would automatically be upgraded to the Autodesk Building Design Suite Premium.

  • AutoCAD Revit Architecture Suite (which includes AutoCAD, AutoCAD Architecture, and Revit Architecture)
  • AutoCAD Revit Structure Suite
  • AutocAD Revit MEP Suite

The Autodesk Building Design Suite Premium contains the following softwares:

  • Revit 2013 (containing Architecture, Structure, and MEP)
  • AutoCAD 2013
  • AutoCAD Architecture 2013
  • AutoCAD MEP 2013
  • AutoCAD Structural Detailing 2013
  • Autodesk Navisworks® Simulate 2013
  • Autodesk Showcase® 2013
  • Autodesk Sketchbook® Designer 2013
  • Autodesk 3ds Max® Design 2013

This free upgrade has been met with complaints due to its increased yearly subscription cost.  Many users do not want all of the software packages included in this suite and do not want to be required to pay for them on subscription.  Typical yearly costs are increasing from the current $720 per license fee to $975 per license fee.  (Check with your Autodesk reseller for your fees which may vary from those listed here.)

Autodesk has also introduced their FormIt software (http://autodeskformit.com) to perform conceptual design on an iPad.  It is designed to compete with SketchUp and is currently free.  Files are saved in a Revit file format on the Autodesk 360 cloud, so they can be downloaded and brought directly into Revit.  This software has a lot of potential and should be considered for usage by designers.  This is an example of Autodesk’s increased usage of cloud technology and mobile devices.

While this article has only addressed a few items, they are ones that I felt worth mentioning and I hope that you found it of some interest.

May you have a great 2013.


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