AutoCAD Blogger Council Event 2014

The AutoCAD Blogger Council was welcomed to the Autodesk offices in San Francisco this week to participate in several forums. Some members took advantage of the trip to arrive early and/or stay late, but many participants arrived on Sunday afternoon. We were booked into the Lodge at Tiburon, a short and scenic ferry ride across the bay to the town of Tiburon.


Sunday evening we were treated to dinner at the iconic Sam's Anchor Cafe by Lynn Allen, where many of us finally met in person for the first time. After some minor travel delays, Shaan Hurley, one of the Bloggers long time and strongest supporters also joined us for dinner.

Monday morning we all borded the ferry and headed back across the bay to the Autodesk offices. Shaan insisted that we stop in the SF ferry building at Blue Bottle Coffee where we picked up our favorite beverage and a waffle. Since we arrived a bit early, we got a quick tour of the Autodesk Gallery and dropped in on Autodesk Labs program manager Scott Sheppard. From there it was a journey through the neon portal over to the adjacent building to get the day started.

Autodesk Market One office building in the morning sun.

Our Council organizer and hostess Angela Simoes was there to meet us and get us settled in. Vice president of AutoCAD products Amy Bunszel welcomed us, followed by User Experience Director JoAnna Cook. Did you know that there is some form of AutoCAD in almost every Product Suite? Did you know that there are an estimated ten million AutoCAD and AutoCAD LT users out in the world? The AutoCAD product team is very much aware of us users and is genuinly interested in the product's success. They listened to our stories, complaints, and praises and we had some real discussion on the past, present, and future of AutoCAD. JoAnna's User Experience team visited 14 real world production sites using AutoCAD in March 2014 to witness first hand the challenges and successes users out their are having.

JoAnna Cook discussing some of the milestones achieved during the AutoCAD 2015 development process.

Sr. Product Line Manager Rob Maguire was up next and informed us of some of the big picture changes in AutoCAD 2015. The development team spent a lot of time working with the graphics substructure to make it much faster and make the display appear crisper on the screen. Much if not all of this speed will be generated using your GPU, not the main CPU. The density of the drawing and the zoom level will affect what algorithm is used to perform the anti-aliasing; it actually sounds quite complex. The Geolocation tool was updated to provide Microsoft Bing aerial imagery that you can store perpetually in your drawings. Command preview has been expanded. It was pointed out to us that UNDO is the most used command in AutoCAD. Command preview allows you to see the result of a command before actually completing it. A lot of fine-tuning was done to the Mtext editor to make things like superscript, subscript, and bullets and numbering easier for the user. Model space viewports can now be re-sized graphically on screen. The commands and tools to work with point clouds continue to be expanded. What you will probably notice right off the bat is the dark theme with redesigned palettes, designed to ease eye strain (of course if you prefer the lighter theme, it's still available). The help system was also enhanced to help users find commands in the ribbon.

AutoCAD 360 continues to grow with 12 million downloads and over 50 million drawing files uploaded. AutoCAD 360 is available for iOS, Android, and web (browser) based. There is a new iOS based application available now that performs raster to vector conversions. It's called Vectorize It and it's currently available for the iPad only. We tested converting a few photographs and the results are not that bad for a free application.

Screen shot from Autodesk Vectorize It on an iPad.

Next up was a detailed live demonstration of AutoCAD 2015 by Heidi Hewett. You can find a more details most of the new additions and changes in a previous post here.

Heidi Hewett giving us a demonstration on AutoCAD 2015.

Autodesk reseller Bob Palioca from Ideare gave us some insight on current trends from a VAR point of view. For example 99% of their revenue is AutoCAD based and 16% of that comes from plain vanilla AutoCAD. He sees the increased productivity in his customers each time a new version is released. Autodesk customer Chris Chandler has been using AutoCAD 2015 pre-release versions in production for six months and was there to tell us his story. He says AutoCAD 2015 is much faster to open, close, and save drawings. He also praised many of the small enhancements that are actually big time savers for him such as the new Lasso selection option.

Bob Palioca and Chris Chandler

Senior Marketing Manager Gary Sulentic was there to inform us about Desktop Subscription (formerly known as rental plans). Desktop Subscription allows you to access AutoCAD, AutoCAD LT, or a number of other products on a pay-as-you-go basis for a monthly, quarterly, or annual time period. You do not have to be tethered to the Internet all the time for licensing purposes. Periodic "check-ins" mean you can travel with your AutoCAD license and work on the go. Moreover, a Desktop Subscription license purchased in the U.S. can be used virtually anywhere in the world. Currently you can get started with an AutoCAD LT Desktop Subscription for as low as $360 per year. Resellers are offering the annual and quarterly plans while the monthly plans are available through the Autodesk Store.

Gary Sulentic going over Desktop Subscription

What a day so far. All that information was hard to digest in a few hours but we made it. Next up, we were treated to a guided tour of the Autodesk Pier 9 fabrication facility where all sorts of cool stuff is happening. Autodesk Pier 9 is a short walk from the Autodesk Market One offices and we were met there by Autodesk PR director Clay Helm for the tour of this awesome multi-purpose shop. There are shops for woodworking, metalworking, laser cutting, and electronics. There is an industrial test kitchen and sewing center also. Everything there is on the LARGE, Industrial, Commercial scale!

The view looking east on the walk down to Pier 9.

Robin Capper examining the giant SawStop table saw at Pier 9.

Huge jointer/planer at Pier 9.

3D printers all over the place at Pier 9

A portion of the metalworking shop at Pier 9

No one wanted to leave the Pier 9 tour, I think everyone wanted to stay and build, print, cook, sew, or otherwise make something!

Lynn Allen interviewing Robin Capper. Photo courtesy of Przemysław Marczyński

After leaving Pier 9 we took another short walk down to the Pier 23 cafe where we were treated to another great dinner.. In a strange twist, the Blogger Council was released from our NDA at 6PM but we were all enjoying the food, drink and company way to much to worry about updating blogs at that hour. It was a short but intense visit and I am sure I can speak for the entire group when I say thank you to Autodesk. I trust that both sides will benefit from this gathering and look forward to working with my peers again in the future.

Members of the AutoCAD Blogger Council, along with Lynn Allen, Heidi Hewett, Shaan Hurley and Chris Chandler at Pier 23. Photo courtesy of Przemysław Marczyński

In addition to the author, the AutoCAD Blogger Council includes (in no particular order):
Robin Capper
Luciana Klein
Curt Moreno
Melanie Perry
John Evans
Vladimír Michl
Robert Green
Todd Shackelford
Przemyslaw Marczynski
Paul Munford

Our Autodesk hosts included:
Angela Simoes
Lynn Allen
Shaan Hurley

Note: Autodesk covered many of our expenses including airfare, lodging, and meals.


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