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In a CAD market becoming increasingly 3D orientated, what's new for 2D users? Autodesk have released 2004 versions of both LT and full AutoCAD including the Mechanical specific variant.
The overt focus on web based tools of earlier versions has been replaced by more everyday collaboration tools including an enhanced multisheet DWF Design Web Format and digital signatures, plus general improvements such as an updated user interface, tools for presentation graphics and flexible network licensing.
In order to deliver presentation graphics, drawing security and speed enhancements there is a new DWG format, improving file open time by a claimed 30% and save 66% for network data.
Although it is not fully compatible with earlier versions, AutoCAD 2004 is fully compatible with LT 2004.
Files from all previous versions of AutoCAD software can be read but only saved back to releases 2002/2000i/2000 and not beyond, in which case only the Release 12 DXF format can be used.
Tools are available at www.autodesk.com/migrationtools to batch convert files into the latest format.
In a similar way, existing third-party applications may or may not be compatible with AutoCAD 2004.
New presentation functionality includes gradient fill effects and the use of true colour 24 bit colour palettes and Pantone colour books, although representative rendering relies on use of a calibrated monitor.
Autodesk place significant emphasis on the enhanced multi-line mtext command that now offers tabs and indents, carefully avoiding the fact that this is pretty basic text handling that could have been included years ago and still requires a floating text edit box rather than editing in place in the drawing.
Collaboration using XREFS is improved with real time notification and an icon alert in the status bar when an external reference has been changed by another user.