[Transcript] Discussing New Features in AutoCAD 2018 with KaDe King and David Cohn

The following is a transcript of the video, Discussing New Features in AutoCAD 2018. We encourage you to watch the video, which includes closed captions. However, feel free to read the transcript below to find key words or topics you may be interested in.

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Video Transcript

David Cohn:
Okay, well this is David Cohn with 4D Technologies. I want to welcome you to this webcast. I’m here with KaDe King. KaDe King works with US CAD. She’s based in Utah, and I work with 3D technologies. As I said, I’m actually based in Bellingham, Washington. I’ve been using AutoCAD since version 1.4. the first version I actually saw was version 1.2. I’ve seen a lot of changes in AutoCAD over the years. We’re here to talk to you today about the updates in AutoCAD 2018, and I’ll stop talking for a second so KaDe can say hello and introduce herself.

KaDe King:
Hi, this is KaDe King. I’m with US CAD. This is actually my thirtieth anniversary of using AutoCAD this year. I started in AutoCAD 2.5, so it’s a big anniversary for me. 2018, it all kind of goes together.

David Cohn:
Okay, well, we want to get to the point here, and that is what’s new in AutoCAD 2018, and we’ve kind of divided the topics up. I’m going to start by talking about some of the technology and performance updates in this release. As you know, a lot of machines lately have been supporting 4K monitors and 4K displayers were definitely problematic. Some dialog boxes looked fine, some dialog boxes were absolutely useless if you were working at 4K. My machines do 4K. I’m not a big fan of 4K simply because one of the things I do at CAD Learning 4D Technologies is record our courses, and I actually have to step my monitors back down to 1920 by 1080 in order to get the recordings done properly, but for those of you who do want to use those high resolution displays, the good news is AutoCAD 2018 finally gets all of those other dialog boxes and tool bars and the CUI editor and the layer manager, everything works properly at 4K. Really welcome news for all the folks that are using high resolution displays.

The overall performance of AutoCAD 2018 has been improved across the board. I’ve had the opportunity to work with some of the beta releases and I can tell you that save performance is much better, navigating in 3D is better. Working it with 2D which is really where most of us live all the time has greatly improved, and one of the things that’s happened, and this is something you’re going to want to take a look at. If you’ve ever gone into the graphics performance dialog, you may remember that there was one setting for high quality geometry. In AutoCAD 2018, you’ll notice that it’s broken out. You’ve got a setting for high quality geometry and for smooth line display.

What is smooth line display? Well, if you think about what’s going on on the screen, every line you draw is actually made up of individual pixels, and to make that line look smooth, AutoCAD performs what’s called anti-aliasing. The program has to analyze that line and fill in around the line with other dots that are slightly different colored to make that line appear smooth. Well, now that we support 4K displays, the line that you display on a 4K display by its very nature is going to appear smoother than that same line at a 1K or 2K display. You can perform AutoCAD’s performance by turning off the smooth line display in graphics performance if you’re running on a 4K monitor, basically tell AutoCAD not to perform the anti-aliasing because your screen is going to give you a nice smooth line just because it’s got so many more pixels to work with.

Other than that, just like I said, a bunch of performance improvements throughout the program simply by virtue of a lot of the code in this release of AutoCAD being totally new code, so they’ve been able to smooth things out. I’m going to turn this over to KaDe who’s going to talk a little bit now about the UI.

KaDe King:
Well, one of my favorite things in the UI is the open dialog box. I know in the past with the open dialog box, one of the things people like to do is go in there and sort your files by date or by file type or whatever, but in the past, AutoCAD has never saved that. You could switch it, but then you’d open it and be back the way you left it in the previous and back the way that it was before you changed it, excuse me. Now what it does is if you, let’s say you sort by date, it’ll always keep the most recently modified files at the top of your open dialog box. That’s a really big deal for a lot of people. Small thing, but big deal.

Another one that I like is the layer option that has been added the the quick access toolbar. In the past, what I’ve had to do is show people how to add the layer toolbar in there just because it’s so nice to have it there. Why is it nice to have it there? Because if you have to switch tabs every time you want to change your layers, it gets kind of annoying. That was actually a lot of people’s complaints about the ribbon is that they had to keep switching just to get to the layered fly out. It’s so easy to add that in. Now all you have to do is just go to the quick access toolbar drop down, and you’ll see the layer toolbar right there. You can just check it on and you’ll be ready to go, so that’s a really nice potion.

Another one is that they pretty much finished out adding all of the dialog box so they’re re-sizable. Anything that wasn’t re-sizable has pretty much been added unless it’s something really obscure. Then last but not least in our UI updates is that Autodesk has added the ability to do what we call off screen selection. That means if you start a crossing or a window and as you’re going across the screen, you can pan, and it will allow you to keep doing the crossing or the window, and in the past you could do it, but I would ignore your selection that went out the window. You’d do that crossing window and then you’d pan, and then you’d click and anything that was outside the window at that point would get ignored. Now they’ve kind of resolved that so that you have that selection working. We’ll hand it over to Dave for PDF import now.

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David Cohn:
Okay, thanks, KaDe. You know, a few years ago, Autodesk was really promoting the GWI file format, and for a number of years, I think they were hoping it would become a standard for exchange. That didn’t happen. PDF is just too entrenched in the market. Autodesk in the last release added the ability to import a PDF file. You used to be able to simply bring a PDF in as an underlay. Now you could in 2017, you could bring that PDF file in and actually import it and it would convert the geometry in the PDF file into actual AutoCAD geometry.

In addition, any text that was in the PDF that had been created using TrueType fonts would convert back in the PDF into MTEXT. Unfortunately, PDF did not recognize any text in the drawing that was created using an SHX text font, the original AutoCAD shape based fonts. If you think about what people do with PDF files, if you need to import a PDF file, you’re probably working on a project that exists that was created many years ago, and now you’re doing a rehab, a renovation or a remodel, and you don’t have access to the original CAD file, but it was created in AutoCAD, probably with an old version of AutoCAD.

The good news is that there is now a HSX text recognition tool so after you finish importing your PDF geometry, you’ll end up with MTEXT and you’ll end up with objects in the drawing that look like text, but when you start moving your cursor over them, they’re really just polylines. Now with the SHX text recognition tool, you can select those polylines and tell AutoCAD see if you can convert these into text objects. It does require some work. You want to select them one at a time. I would select one or two lines of text where the text was obviously created using the same font. Don’t select things that involve multiple fonts, but you can now with a fairly high degree of reliability convert all of those geometry that was in the drawing that should’ve been text back into text. I think that pretty much coverts that. By the way, that would be my pick as the number one, my favorite feature in the new release of AutoCAD.

Some of that, the SHX text recognition tool was actually in AutoCAD 2017.1, but there are improvements now, particularly a checkbox that enables you to have AutoCAD select the closing matching font rather than just kind of guessing at which font it might be. Back to you, KaDe.

KaDe King:
All right, thanks, Dave. I would have to agree with you that I think PDF import’s probably one of the biggest features lately. I have tons of customers who really appreciate the ability to grab a PDF and bring it into their file. Most of them calculate they’re saving 75% to 85% of the time that they would’ve taken to redraw it, so it’s a really big deal.

David Cohn:
Yep.

KaDe King:
All right, so moving forward, the next thing that I wanted to talk about is text to MTEXT. Now, all of you AutoCAD users out there are probably familiar with the text to MTEXT conversion tool that’s been in the AutoCAD express tools for years, but one of the things that those of you who are using AutoCAD LT don’t have access to those express tools. What Autodesk is doing in this release is they’re bringing that text to MTEXT tool into the insert dialog box in a new command called, they’re calling it combined text. It’s still the text to MTEXT command, but they’re putting it in a button called combine text on the insert dialog box.

They’ve also added some great new features for just regular uses of this tool that aren’t necessarily there in the older version. You can now select both text and MTEXT objects to combine together. What you’d have to do in the last version is you’d have to convert the text to MTEXT and then manually put them together. There was no way to select an MTEXT and a text at the same time. Another one is that they fixed character code translating, so if you merge a single line text in old text that has a percent code, some kind of character code, it’ll go over to MTEXT correctly. That’s a big deal.

Another one that I actually love is the ability to infer the justification. Let’s say you have text objects that are center justified just physically on the screen. When you converted them to the MTEXT before, it would make everything less justified, and the first thing you’d have to do is go back through and clean it up. Now what it does is it automatically infers justification based on the positioning of the objects. Another one that’s done is that it does an infer of numbering and lettering based on the format of the text, so that’s kind of cool.

Then the top down sorting order is now relative to the current USCC, and sorting is left to right when text objects are colinear. There’s also a bunch of other new settings in there. I think it’s going to make it a real powerhouse tool for people having to clean up their files. Go ahead, Dave, on the next thing you have.

David Cohn:
Totally agree with you on that one. The next one is external references. This is probably the biggest single item in there. I don’t pick it as my top new feature simple because I don’t work as much with external reference files. The big change is first of all, the default path type now is set to relative path instead of full path. If relative path isn’t your preferred path type, you can use a ref path type system variable to change that, but now by default AutoCAD’s always going to create external references using relative paths. That makes it much easier when you need to send your drawings to someone else and the path is not hard coded in there or if you need to move things around, as long as you move your relative folders in relation to the drawing file, you won’t break all of those X-refs.

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The other thing was in previous version of AutoCAD, you couldn’t assign a relative path to a reference if the host drawing hadn’t been saved yet. That became a real issue. You’re working on a drawing and you’ve got all these external references in. You couldn’t create that until you first save the host drawing. Now, AutoCAD 2018 will let you assign a relative path for a file, even when the host drawing hasn’t been saved, and you’ll notice that it will show up in the external reference pallet with an asterisk in front of it, and that will indicate that the change will take place and that relative path will be saved once you finally save the host drawing, so that’s a big change right there.

If you then save the current drawing that has relative references and you save it to a different location on your computer, AutoCAD is now smart enough to bring up a dialog box and ask you if you want to update the relative paths. When you make the change you’re not suddenly going to create a bunch of orphaned or broken external references. AutoCAD’s going to clean all of those up for you. There’s also several new selections when you’re working in the external references pallet. You can right click on a reference file that’s not found, and now there’s two new tools. There’s a select new path tool, so for example, let’s say AutoCAD has a broken reference. You select it, you right click, you say, “Select new path,” you go find the file that got orphaned away, and then AutoCAD’s going to come back and say, “Would you like to apply that same path to the other missing external references?”

Because most of the time, if you have one broken link, it’s probably got other broken links, and they’re all in the same folder. AutoCAD will then fix all of them that it can for you with just a single click. There’s also a search and replace tool now for those broken references. It will let you enter the place where the path had been saved, and then you can go locate the new one and enter that information in the replace field and then replace all of the broken references that use that path. Two really useful tools to go ahead and fix any of the broken links.

KaDe King:
Well, I think that should fix all the issues that people have with the IT groups moving their files around, Dave.

David Cohn:
Yep, yep. There are a bunch of other tools that are in the external reference pallet. You can rename external references. AutoCAD will do a pretty good job fixing those. If you open up a drawing that has a broken link when you first open it, AutoCAD will prompt you, “Do you want to open the external references pallet?” Then if you say yes, it’ll open up that pallet, and then you can immediately use those tools, so before you do any more work on the drawing, you can go ahead and fix all those broken links. Back to you, KaDe.

KaDe King:
Awesome, well thanks, Dave. Our last topic of conversation for AutoCAD 2018 is the file format change. Now, this is just one of those important things that everybody is going to have to handle as they move into 2018. In the past, I think the last time we had the file format change was actually in 2012. Autodesk used to go every three years, but we had this nice long four or five year stretch or whatever it’s been with all the same file format. There’ll be a new save as file format. It’ll be a new 2018 file format.

The thing to remember is it’s fairly easy to work around this. If you’re using an older version of AutoCAD, you can always ask for your, the consultant you’re working with or the person you’re working with to give you an older file. Of course, you can always use one of the online options. AutoCAD 360 or one of those to save the file backwards for you. There’s quite a few online options to save files back and other types of utilities. Of course, for AutoCAD as you move a file forward, they’re just automatically going to save in the new format. The most important thing to note is why does Autodesk change file formats? They change file formats to help you with problems, and the biggest thing is that there has been huge amounts of save performance like Dave mentioned.

In order to get those performances in there, they have to update the file format in order to do that. With this new file format, the files will open quicker. We’ll see huge performance increases across the board because of that new file format. I also know that with some of other, there’s another product some of you might use called Civil 3D. In that one, there was a specific file that Autodesk updated, and people have been applying a fix for that, but they’re going to roll that into the 2018 format as well. That’s also a performance fix, so that’ll fix some problems for some of our 2018 Civil 3D users that of course Civil 3D is built on AutoCAD. I think that’s a pretty good hit list of what’s coming up and-

David Cohn:
Yep, and also, worth pointing out, the other reason Autodesk updates the file format is of course, Autodesk isn’t working on just one release. There are plans in lace for the next several releases. We can’t predict what’s on Autodesk’s roadmap for the changes they’re going to make to AutoCAD, but obviously they needed to change the file format not just for the features that they’ve added to 2018, but for the features that are planned for the big releases that are going to come in 2019 and 2020 as well, so this lays a foundation for the future as well as solving issues that simply couldn’t be solved any other way for versions in the past.

KaDe King:
All right, lots to look forward to.

David Cohn:
Yep.

KaDe King:
All right.

David Cohn:
I think that’s about it. I want to thank you all for joining us, and of course, if you’ve got any questions, you can always feel free to email us.

KaDe King:
All right, thanks, Dave.

David Cohn:
Thank you, KaDe.

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