AutoCAD is the software that turns dreams into reality and now you can learn how to use it

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As an ex mechanical drafter we hired people who knew how to use the software but had no idea of how nuts & bolts work, nor did they know how to make a drawing readable. So don’t expect a simple course that tells you how to use the commands to help you get a job, or at least keep a job. If you want to use the software to do your own projects, go for it.


Ugh! I hate these spam ads posing as “stories”


So, it’s just a spam ad. No validity!?

Forget it, Jake - it's the boingboingshop


AutoCAD for “own projects”? Really? I’d recommend pen and paper if no one else needs to understand your designs. AutoCAD makes sense if you want to share object libs or templates within a company but IMHO is overkill for home use. Basically it’s the kind of software to use if you have many drawings and want to save working hours (say: costs). That’s why it also used to be pretty expensive.


Autocad is like 30+ years old. There are many better ways to work than AutoCAD.


AutoCAD is the software that turns dreams into reality

/sprays coffee at screen

I’ve heard that in the nineties, people thought highly of AutoCAD. You don’t hear much of that any more.

In fairness, from my limited experience, it is a bit less foul than most of Autodesk’s other grifts, perhaps because it’s the one piece of software they actually created, rather than acquiring and ruining in their soulless way.

But even if you were going to enter their world of nickel-and-diming bullshit on purpose, most of the current buzz is around Fusion 360 (a kind of SolidWorks Lite), not AutoCAD.

In case anyone’s wondering, IMO the far, far better option for maker types who want to move beyond Sketchup is Rhinoceros, which I use every day and love find consistently pleasing in almost every respect. It’s as close as you will ever get to CAD software that is pleasant to use.

Unfortunately, no good software exists that’s just for old-school 2D technical drawing. But if that’s what you’re looking for, the freeish AutoCAD clone DraftSight is OK, and not all crufted up with Autodesk nonsense.


I rarely hear about AutoCAD anymore as SolidWorks pretty much won the CAD wars and has a price to reflect that victory. For the casual user that can’t afford SolidWorks, Fusion360 is a pretty good alternative. I’ve always been impressed with the number of features that are included and they don’t nickel and dime you for every option. Unfortunately it doesn’t run on Linux though (very few CAD programs do).

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My uncle gets the s**ts with those wunderkinds turning out pretty drawings that were variously nightmares to build or nightmares to inhabit.

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But I don’t want my dreams to become reality. Nobody wants that happening.


I thought they switched to a paid model. Unfortunately for me, I’ve put in a lot of work into parameterized dxf. I switched to SVG (really, not a terribly difficult port), but miss the debugging potential of being able to slap a crapload of DIMENSIONs all over my models.


Yes there is - PowerCadd is the best 2d drafting package available, it literally is the ANTI-AutoCad. (only available on Mac).


You say that like it’s a good thing… :thinking:


Welb, I haven’t tried it. But I have been made to use VectorWorks in the past (which is another old-school Mac application), and while I get the idea, it’s painfully creaky from trying to ride both those horses at once; and PowerCADD hasn’t been updated for 10 (ten) Earth years, so I can’t see myself investing in that.

(I use Rhino for 2D drawing anyway, since it’s serviceable for that, but I also very often end up working on those drawings in Illustrator, so I remain open to the idea of something that bridges the two, but only if it was truly frictionless).

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Have been intending to get into Rhino for a bit, it definitely looks like a compelling environment - cool to hear that it’s also good for 2D. Interesting to hear that you use it in tandem with Illustrator, that’s where I spend a lot of time these days, and have been pleasantly surprised at how usable it’s proven to be it at producing laser cutter designs.

General question (since this is a random BBShop CAD oriented comments tangent that might attract specifically knowledgeable eyeballs, (and this is a apparently a totally un-googleable question!)) - does anyone know what the underlying unit that CAD uses is called? It’s the datatype that harmonizes and facilitates switching back and forth between imperial and metric units. I may have actually heard of it in BB comments, but I’ll be damned if I can recall or successfully search it now.

AutoCAD was shit when I learned it at uni and afaik it hasn’t improved.

For pure 3D/creating .stl’s to go to a 3D printer things like 3dsmax/rhino/blender are much better.

For real parametric stuff, stuff designed for subtractive manufacturing many others are better, but through a friend who did an internship there I found IronCAD, which has a great 2D construction drawing component (good annotations/part lib/but especially the snapping/parametric tools). 3D is a bit … touchy … but the paramtrics and subtractive workflows make for a good milling/lathe workflow. Parasolid and ACIS, btw.

I dunno, I just really like the 2D workflow it has.

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That’s an interesting question – I have not heard of such a thing. There isn’t a single standard for all CAD systems; unbelievably, it’s common to this day that CAD files do not specify units at all, so you’ll open a model and find it’s (say) 25.4 times bigger than it should be. That’s common with .OBJ files, and to some extent with .DWG, in both cases because asshole companies tried to keep their file formats secret, forcing their competitors to make semi-incompatible implementations. I probably don’t need to add that both companies are now Autodesk.

But anyway… it’s certainly possible to store units of distance such that you don’t get rounding errors from metric / imperial conversion, since an inch is by definition exactly 25,400µm. But the converse is that a millimeter is exactly 5/127", so although metric values can be represented exactly in inches, that representation won’t necessarily be concise; or if you make it concise, it won’t be exact.

The way current CAD systems actually work (at least this is true of Rhino, and of the “universal” STEP and IGES file formats) is that they store all coordinates as double-precision floating point numbers – which are accurate to at least 15 significant digits – and each document must specify what real-world unit these numbers refer to. So, technically, a document in mm has 25 times more precision than one specified in inches, but can only be 1/25 as big at a given level of accuracy. And when you copy between the two, your drawing is scaled, introducing (tiny) rounding errors. But since either document can store a drawing miles wide with sub-micron precision, for all practical purposes you don’t lose anything converting between them. (Though if the units are light years or Ångstroms, which they can be, this can become an issue).

In other words, the strategy for dealing with scale issues in CAD is just to use an absurd excess of decimal places for everything.

For comparison, PostScript (and therefore PDF and Illustrator) uses units of 1/72" by default, and uses single-precision floating point numbers, so if you wanted precision of (say) 1/1000", you’re limited to an 11-foot drawing size.


I suspect Fusion 360 is going to trounce SolidWorks over the next decade … driven by strong adoption in universities, colleges and even high schools. I’ve been using parametric (data flow) visualization and modelling tools since the mid 1990s (AVS, IBM DX Explorer, Sidefx Houdini). It’s a really powerful paradigm… and Fusion is designed this way from the ground up.

(No, I’m not paid to say the above. I’m just a very satisfied commercial end-user. )