Diminutive name change, major upgrade
AutoCAD 2000i from Autodesk
Despite the addition of a diminutive i into the title of the latest AutoCAD release Autodesk are at pains to describe it as a major upgrade.
In addition to the major theme of internet tools with a stylised local and web browser appearing at start-up, there are also numerous claimed enhancements to productivity, collaborative working, visual learning assistance and plotting facilities.
The new functionality can be realised without a further data upgrade as the DWG file format is unchanged as are the scripting languages so that ARX and LISP routines remain compatible.
AutoCAD 2000i offers new users the opportunity to buy into the AutoCAD world combined with the opportunity to expand into the industry specific ‘flavoured’ 2D versions such as AutoCAD Mechanical 2000i and 3D Mechanical Desktop.
AutoCAD Mechanical 2000i adds a dedicated interface for 2D mechanical design while the Power Pack add-on offers a library of 600,000 standard parts, tools for creating representations of machinery components and calculation tools including basic Finite Element Analysis.
The flagship product Mechanical Desktop Release 5 adds 3D parametric functionality to the full range of Mechanical and Power Pack 2D functionality.
There is also a Mechanical Desktop Power Pack version offering 1.2million standard 2D and 3D parts and features, structural steel profiles and intelligent part placement and 3D static FEA.
A significant advance for the UK and a number of other territories is the elimination of hardware locks (dongles) in favour of the more reliable and flexible software lock technology from C’Dilla.
Although there is 3D functionality in AutoCAD 2000i, it is primarily implemented in its base version as a 2D tool.
Performance improvement claims are impressive with the AutoCAD User Group International indicating 6-38% speed increases although this potentially highlights shortcomings of the 2000 release.
More significantly multi-processors are supported with a dual-processor set-up offering up to 30% speed increase, particularly noticeable for graphics operations.
Apparent performance gains result from the ability to switch between drawing layout tabs without forcing a regen.
A number of enhancements introduced in AutoCAD LT but missing from the flagship product have now been integrated, better justifying the premium price and aiding cross product users.
These include the useful ability to drag and drop a hatch pattern already existing in a drawing into a new hatch area and the purge all command that avoids the need for multiple purge operations to remove different types of unused elements.
Layer handling is improved with the flexibility to name and manipulate groups of layers and even export layer settings for use in other drawings.
Fundamental tools such as trim and extend are improved by being available from the same command by toggling between them using the shift key.
Objects within blocks can also be used as cutting edges.
The plotting process is aided by listing the available paper sizes in the Plot dialog box.
Plots can also be stamped with information such as drawing, layout, device or Login name, plot scale, paper size, date or time.
Plots can also be tracked by writing the stamp information to a log file.
In recognition of the shift from pen plotters to inkjet devices, plotted objects can be assigned any RGB colour.
The usefulness of exported windows metafiles is finally realised with the ability to set the background colour of WMF exports to suit the environments in which they will be inserted.
The file selector dialogs are revamped to be styled like Microsoft Outlook with a Places List of shortcuts down the left although it was not clear how this list could be customised to personal preferences.
The help system has been updated to the latest Windows browser style supplemented by Active Assistance.
By default this pops up context sensitive help during commands although its behaviour can be modified using the system tray settings menu to appear for new and enhanced commands or only on demand.
eTransmit is a useful tool to pack the current or selected drawings and all associated files, such as bitmaps and xrefs, into a ZIP or self-extracting executables file although this relies on the recipient having a seat of AutoCAD as it does not include a file viewer.
A TXT report is automatically included in the file listing the attached files and significantly instructions for their use such as the locations that resources such as attached SHX fonts should be placed to be found by the recipients AutoCAD installation.
A wizard is also available to publish data directly to a web site using predefined DWF and JPEG templates.