March 9, 2004
Issue #376

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T H E   B U S I N E S S   O F   C A D

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This AutoCAD Upgrade Makes Sense
Guest Editorial

Readers Debate Updates

Dassault 4Q03
- Conference Call

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Below the Radar
- And other regular columns.

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the Editor

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This AutoCAD Upgrade Makes Sense

Guest Editorial
by Darren J. Young

After reading comments regarding AutoCAD 2005, I come to the conclusion that most have lost their sense of objectivity. I've done my fair share of Autodesk bashing, but some of the reader's comments seem out of place -- considering the product isn't on the dealers' shelves, and there's very few who have even seen it.

While it may seem like Autodesk thinks we have all the time in the world to learn new things, this doesn't mean they should stop development, or be geared toward writing functions for which there are already a wealth of free AutoLISP routines to take care of. Would anyone in their right mind pay $300 for an update that allows you to glue a couple lines back together?

As far as Autodesk ignoring basic drafting needs with AutoCAD 2005, I think people are missing the significance of this release. You want to revise a detail number? Or add a sheet in the middle of a set, and have all references update automatically? It's in there. From what I've gathered, sheet sets are not the easiest to set up, but AutoCAD'll do it, and do it automatically once configured properly.

Built-in table objects? Seems like a basic drafting need to me.

I can't think of any release since I started back on R10 that has the potential to significantly impact the productivity of such a wide range of users -- if people would only take the time to learn of it.

It seems to me as if nobody is happy unless the product is easy and tailored to them -- at the expense of everyone else. Until such time that Autodesk adds a mind-reading module, there's no way AutoCAD will EVER offer the flexibility everyone demands, and make it so simple that it just happens the way you want it.

I, for one, welcome the shift Autodesk seems to be making: from minor, token, little, polished enhancements that touch the lives of a small handful of users, to a more big-picture approach that includes some real vision into the future. Autodesk shouldn't focus on helping people do tasks better, like drawing lines and arcs; they should focus on helping users do their jobs better. AutoCAD 2005 is the first time in a long time, if not ever, that I've seen Autodesk move in what I think is the right direction.

If someone wants the polish, they should look into buying third- party add-ons, like Terry Dotson's ToolPac <> or Owen Wengerd's QuikPik <>. Both add a lot of polish and day-to-day productivity enhancements for a lot less than the price of an AutoCAD upgrade. There's a wealth of talented good third-party developers out there for specific needs.

For once, Autodesk has stopped listening to the naysayers who think AutoCAD is a mature product, and that there's really nothing left for Autodesk to do with it. That lack of imagination is what's left users reluctant to upgrade -- not the absence of a routine that heals a couple broken lines.

If AutoCAD 2005 sales do poorly, it'll be a result of people being complacent about accepting what's handed to them, and not demanding real insight and imagination.

(Darren J. Young is a CAD/CAM systems developer in Minnesota, USA.)

Readers Debate Updates

"I decided to actually check out Autodesk's Web site, as you suggested. I guess I was too cynical after my experiences with other software. Autodesk clearly recognizes that you can use the software as long as you like. The new activation system appears to be very very similar to the existing, which works well: easy/fast Internet activation, and if the Internet's not working, you can all ways can fallback on the 30-day trial. So locking the activation to the hardware doesn't look like it will be a problem to paying customers.

"From the FAQ: The Autodesk Software License Agreement grants the user of an Autodesk product the right to use it in perpetuity. In the unlikely event of the company shutting down, Autodesk will enable automatic approval of all activation requests or provide other technical means for users to continue using our products."
  - Dean Bacus

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"What a strange time in which we live, where users upgrade, not because of new functions or improved productivity, but because of artificial pressures of being out-of-sync in file formats, OS [operating system] support, and software-retirement policies based on the need to satisfy stockholders, rather than customers.

"I wonder how different things would be if Autodesk management understood how to use their own product? John Walker admitted that he had no idea what was really needed in drafting, and was heavily dependent on user feedback. Oddly, almost complete reliance on customer feedback actually worked -- there were huge improvements in productivity when they added AutoLISP and kept enhancing the drafting tools.  

"I wonder what would happen if they simply added existing tools (like parametrics) to their drafting? Might work if they made it easy enough, rather then their traditional programmer-centric thinking. Remember when nobody used paper space, because it was so hard to use? I recall the blank stares of students as I tried to explain what 'Tilemode' meant.

"I'm still amazed that vendors still insist their customers are clueless for not jumping on the 3D bandwagon. I guess vendors don't realize that they have little creditability on the subject, because they have been beating that drum long before their products could live up to their claims. It's a shame that they feel the need to raise our expectations beyond what their products can deliver. Once burned, twice shy.

"There's a lot of darn good reasons why so many manufacturers continue to use 2D, and vendors seem completely blind to them. Too bad the vendors think they are smarter than the people who actually perform the work. Remember when DEC thought PCs would never amount to much?

"I wonder what would happen to the CAD industry if Microsoft included an updated version of IntelliCAD in every copy of Office?"
 - Ken Elliott

The editor replies: "I recall a two-page ad in an engineering magazine back in the mid-80s. A CAD vendor boasted how a Vancouver engineering firm used its 3D capabilities. Some years later, I learned the graphics had been faked -- the product couldn't actually do 3D design.

"As for bundling IntelliCAD with Office, Intergraph tried that. A copy of their SmartSketch was included with a Windows Resource CD. Intergraph was very excited, but it made little difference."

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"Autodesk does NOT release new versions based on the needs of the users, or calls from industry. No one should be mystified by their changes in schedule for extensions or subscriptions or releases -- they release whatever they need to meet their share earnings prediction.

"Become a shareholder, watch their stock, read their reports, listen to their forecasts, and see what is really going on. Their marketing decisions are 51% based on shareholder desires, and the majority rules."
       - Peter Lawton

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"Autodesk never mentions anything about VIZ. Any new news?"
        - Randy Sanders

The editor replies: "They did, last fall, in a difficult-to-understand press release that indicated VIZ would finally be up-to-date with AutoCAD 2004 some time after AutoCAD 2005 ships."

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"My ADT [architectural desktop] R2 is dead. Frankly, I don't give a care. ArchiCAD, your book 'ArchiCAD for AutoCAD Users' (and a few others), and about one month to switch, and I'm happy as a peach. Best of all, what seemed endless is over. I search no more. I can rid my shelves of many boxes.

"Thanks for all you do. upFront delivers."
    - Herb Fuhrer
        Structural Design

Dassault 4Q03
Conference Call

"We are navigating through a prolonged weak business environment." Dassault Systemes was pleased that their revenues were up 8% over the previous quarter, and up 5% over the previous year. Q4 revenues were e227.8 million, nearly US$300 million.

The improvements were scattered: up 32% in Asia, but down 6% in Europe. CATIA, their high-end CAD system, gained 32,163 seats last year, while SolidWorks gained 25,361. There was no mention of Spatial.

The company expects growth of 6-7% next year. One difference between competitors: Autodesk is laying off employees to increase margins; Dassault is hiring employees, because of increased margins.


Below the Radar

A summary of CAD industry news you may not have read elsewhere, or that we find interesting.

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Sundreams Software has a trio of software program at US$49.95 each: Cadd-2-SQL is a new CAD program that saves its data in SQL format. DXF-2-SQL converts DXF files to SQL database format. Cadd-2-Reports extracts components/ blocks and areas, and then generates reports. Download demo versions from

Delcam upgrades its CopyCAD reverse engineering software with more accurate alignment of multiple scans, and more.

IntegrityWare releases its new modeling kernel, SOLIDS++ -- an Object-Oriented Non-Manifold Modeling Kernel that does solids, surface, curve, polygonal, and non-manifold modeling. [It sounds impressive; I think you'll find the image impressive at  ]

GEOMATE's ToleranceCalc 3.0 (US$395) wizard works inside Inventor and Mechanical to ensure that products can be manufactured as designed.

If you're not into mapping, you might not know Autodesk has software for planning and handling emergencies. Pre-Plan turns architectural drawings into tactical and fire attack "preplans" using decluttering and cleanup tools. (Pre-Plan is built on AutoCAD 2004 OEM.) Pre-Plan Command runs on Autodesk's Map 2004 software, and tracks potential and known victims during incidents, and updates the database information in realtime.  [In the press release, Autodesk calls architectural drawings "complex" -- oops!]

Alias releases Direct Connect (US$7,000) for importing (and exporting) CATIA drawings to and from Alias StudioTools.

Dassault and IBM are working at integrating IBM's WebSphere and Lotus Instant Messaging and Web Conferencing with the Dassault's CATIA, DELMIA, ENOVIA and SMARTEAM software. The idea is to make it easier for non-engineers to access CAD data, but integration won't happen right away: "integration will be phased in gradually, beginning with V5R13."

And, drcauto offers AutoCAD LT 2000/i/2 some 50 new commands with SuperTools (US$100): Curved Text, Text Explode, Super Rev Cloud, Super Bubble, and more. Two-day demo from

Seminars and Conferences

Bentley's annual (and renamed) BE Conference 2004 is May 23-27 in Orlando FL USA.  [Bentley calls MicroStation V8 2004 Edition "the universal advanced modeling system for the design, construction, and operation of the world's infrastructure.']

The 2004 Construction Computing Event takes place Nov 3-4 at The Barbican Centre in London, England.

People/Companies on the Move

AVEVA Group opens its Canadian office in Calgary, Alberta to serve the plant engineering IT needs of Canada's on- and off-shore oil and gas, petrochemical, power, and pulp and paper industries. [People forget that Canada has more oil reserves than Saudi Arabia, the problem being that much of it is stored in oily sand.]

MachineWorks (simulation and verification software) of England and CIMsystem (CAD/CAM software for mold making) of Italy are forming a partnership.

CFA plans to sell components of its Autodesk software business to MicroCAD, Microdesk, and Hagerman & Company. CFA will instead focus on its staffing and training services.

Letters to the Editor

"I enjoy you newsletter, but I do not find many comments regarding AutoCAD working in conjunction with other design programs.

"We use MX design software (Bentley), and I always run both cad programs together (MX/AutoCAD). I am always working on shortcuts between my drawing requirements to archive automatic compatibility / presentation -- it would be interested to see if any one else is into this."
  - Jean Gooden

Notable Quotable

"The Net's promise is diversity, rather than the corporate sameness that now afflicts much of America's media (and probably soon the rest of the world's). We don't need 5,000 more places to download Britney Spears."
     - Wendy M. Grossman

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Entire contents copyright 2004 by upFront.eZine Publishing, Ltd. All rights reserved worldwide. Article reprint fee $500. All trademarks belong to their respective holders. "upFront.eZine," "Talking About CAD," and "On your desktop every Tuesday morning" are trademarks of upFront.eZinePublishing, Ltd. Letters to the editor may be reproduced in an edited form for clarity and brevity. Opinions expressed in letters are not necessarily shared by upFront.eZine Publishing, Ltd.

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