New Web file format makes CAD sharing easier

AutoDesk has introduced a new file format with the latest version of its AutoCAD drafting products to make drawing modifications easier.

A major headache in the drafting and design industry is the toing and froing of documents from clients to customers. Typically, paper designs are delivered by hand to customers, who then mark up the designs and courier the documents back for changes to be made.

If the documents are sent electronically, the AutoCAD .DWG file format is converted to .PDF file so they can be viewed on the receivers' end.

However, this method has been problematic. According to John Sanders, VP of AutoDesk's platform technology division, PDF is more of a text based format and not geared for vector-based images that are common in design files. As a result, designs lose much of the richness in their content.

"Customers have been trying to use PDF for a while now and have been finding it difficult," Sanders said.

AutoDesk's solution is the Design Web Format (DWF), which comes with the company's latest CAD release, AutoCAD 2005.

Customers can compress DWG files from any of AutoCAD's latest offerings and send them as DWF files to customers. The requirement on the customer end is that they download the free AutoDesk DF Composer from the AutoDesk Web site.

With the Composer, customers are able to view the original design and to mark up the file electronically and send those changes to the author. While they are able to modify, they do not have the rights to edit the original design, Sanders said. That is only permitted by the author.

AutoCAD 2005 is set to ship on 22 March. Pricing for the product varies. The full version, AutoCAD 2005, sells for $6000 plus tax. The cut down version, AutoCAD LT, sells for $1950 ex tax. An upgrade from AutoCAD 2004 to AutoCAD 2005 costs $700.

Other improvements to the product are in the drawing set coordination, drawing annotation and table setting.

"I'm ashamed to say it's 2004 and our customers have had to create those [tables] manually," said Sanders. With AutoCAD 2005, tables, along with the addition of rows and columns, can be created automatically by dragging and dropping.

"This is the number one feature that catches the customers eye," he said.

AutoCAD 2005 runs on Windows 2000 and all flavours of Windows XP.

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