AutoCAD is utilized in the mechanical, telecom, civil, and architectural engineering fields. It is a specialized piece of software and requires time to learn.
AutoCAD is used to increase overall productivity, to improve the quality of the design, to create a database for manufacturing, and to improve communication through documentation.
The fact that AutoCAD can be easily accessed from one portable computer to another makes it easier for all members of the design team to review or fix any potential issues before the manufacturing and assembling process.
Before this software came into existence, engineers used drafters and sheets to draw designs of a product which was very time consuming, and to make matters worse, if the drawer or designer messed up and drafted a blueprint that was unsatisfactory to the client, they had to start again from scratch.
The Evolution of AutoCAD
AutoCAD, developed by Autodesk, is essentially a commercial 2D and 3D computer-aided design (CAD) software. The desktop application has been available since 1982, while a mobile version was released back in 2010.
AutoCAD is considered by many as the grandfather of CAD software.
The AutoCAD software is highly versatile, with an abundance of features and tools. Users are able to draft up 2D and 3D models with solids, surfaces, and mesh objects. Moreover, there are also add-on apps and APIs on offer that help to make it completely customizable.
Where to Find AutoCAD
If you are shuddering at the thought of shelling out thousands for this truly advanced software, do not despair! Luckily, Autodesk offers fully-functional AutoCAD free trial versions for those who would like to test the waters before committing to buy the annual subscription.
The good news for students and teachers is that you can possibly gain full access to AutoCAD and other Autodesk software programs for free. There is also the option to download and install a more affordable version of AutoCAD 2020, namely, the AutoCAD LT.
AutoCAD for Free (Trial Version)
To install the 30-day free trial from Autodesk’s website, follow these simple steps:
- Click DOWNLOAD AUTOCAD FOR FREE.
- Select your operating system. Then, click NEXT.
- Read the system requirements notice. Click NEXT.
- Choose “Business User” from the drop-down menu. Choose your language. And click NEXT.
- Enter your personal information to create an Autodesk account. Alternatively, sign in to your existing Autodesk account.
- Enter your business information. And click NEXT.
- Read the Trial Notice and click BEGIN DOWNLOAD.
- Install, and start using the free trial.
The free trial version offers the following features, which are more than enough to get you started on the right track.
- AutoCAD WIN/MAC
- Architecture toolset WIN
- Electrical toolset WIN
- Map 3D toolset WIN
- Mechanical toolset WIN
- MEP toolset WIN
- Plant 3D toolset WIN
- Raster Design toolset WIN
- AutoCAD mobile app
- AutoCAD web app
For students and teachers, Autodesk offers a free educational version. It can be simultaneously run on up to two personal devices for 3 years. Follow these steps to access this version:
- Go to the Autodesk Education Community.
- Choose AutoCAD from the list of software.
- Create an Autodesk account. Alternatively, sign in to your existing Autodesk account. If prompted, set up your Education profile.
- Click DOWNLOAD NOW.
- Select the desired version, your operating system, and your preferred language.
- The displayed serial number and product key are sent to your email address. And click BROWSER DOWNLOAD.
- Next, install the free version.
- When installing the CAD software, enter the serial number and product key to unlock it.
- When you start the program the first time, activate the license.
The annual subscription for the full AutoCAD 2020 version is $1,600. Yes, it is a little steep. So, what do you do once your 30-day free trial is over and you are just beginning to get into the groove with the software?
Autodesk seems to have really put a lot of thought into their marketing and customer relations. They are offering a slimmed-down version, AutoCAD LT, that “only” costs $380 per year, albeit sans the advanced features that are available in the regular AutoCAD version. AutoCAD LT does not support 3D modeling and visualization.
AutoCAD 360 App: For Users on the Go
For the busybodies out there who prefer to use their tablets or smartphones to conduct their designing on the go, AutoCAD 360 was designed just for you. It is a free version of AutoCAD that is surprisingly versatile for a phone app.
- Open and view DWG files.
- Make accurate measurements and view coordinates.
- Zoom and pan around drawings.
- Store them in the cloud.
- Share designs with colleagues and collaborators.
For $5 a month, you can even get the Pro version, which offers a greater level of functionality, allowing you to draw, edit, move, and scale objects.
Expert Tips for a Smooth Download and Installation
System Requirements (Windows)
|OPERATING SYSTEM||64-bit OS that follows Autodesk's Product Support Lifecycle policy.|
|PROCESSOR||Basic: 2.5–2.9 GHz processor |
Recommended: 3+ GHz processor
Multiple processors: Supported by the application
|MEMORY||Basic: 8 GB |
Recommended: 16 GB
|DISPLAY RESOLUTION||Conventional Displays: |
1920 x 1080 with True ColorHigh Resolution & 4K Displays:
Resolutions up to 3840 x 2160 supported on Windows 10, 64-bit systems (with capable display card)
|DISPLAY CARD||Basic: 1 GB GPU with 29 GB/s Bandwidth and DirectX 11 compliant |
Recommended: 4 GB GPU with 106 GB/s Bandwidth and DirectX 11 compliant
|DISK SPACE||7.0 GB|
|NETWORK||Deployment via Deployment Wizard. |
The license server and all workstations that will run applications dependent on network licensing must run TCP/IP protocol.
Either Microsoft® or Novell TCP/IP protocol stacks are acceptable. Primary login on workstations may be Netware or Windows.
In addition to operating systems supported for the application, the license server will run on Windows® Server 2012 R2, Windows Server 2016, and Windows Server 2019 editions.
|POINTING DEVICE||MS-Mouse compliant|
|.NET FRAMEWORK||.NET Framework version 4.8 or later|
System Requirements (Mac)
|OPERATING SYSTEM||Apple® macOS® Catalina v10.15 |
Apple macOS Mojave v10.14
Apple macOS High Sierra v10.13
|MODEL||Basic: Apple Mac Pro® 4.1, MacBook Pro® 5.1, iMac® 8.1, Mac mini® 3.1, MacBook Air®, MacBook® 5.1 |
Recommended: Apple Mac® models supporting Metal Graphics Engine
|CPU TYPE||64-bit Intel CPU |
Recommended: Intel Core i7 or higher
|MEMORY||Basic: 4GB |
Recommended: 8GB or higher
|DISPLAY RESOLUTION||Basic: 1280 x 800 display |
High Resolution: 2880 x 1800 with Retina Display
|DISK SPACE||3 GB free disk space for download and installation|
|POINTING DEVICE||Apple-compliant Mouse, Apple-compliant Trackpad, Microsoft-compliant mouse|
|DISPLAY CARD||Recommended: Mac native installed graphics cards|
|DISK FORMAT||APFS, APFS (Encrypted), Mac OS Extended (Journaled), Mac OS Extended (Journaled, Encrypted)|
The latest version, AutoCAD 2020, comes with a whole range of new features and improvements which include:
- Improved workflow integration across desktop, mobile, and web
- Cloud storage connectivity
- New Blocks palette feature, which allows users to insert blocks from a most recently used list with visual galleries
- Quick measure
- Dark theme for user interface
- Performance improvements to increase save times and install times
The biggest advantage of using AutoCAD is that the software includes industry-specific features and libraries. For example, architects can create floor plans, sections, design drawings for buildings, while electrical engineers can design schematic diagrams, panel layouts, and so on.
Alternative CAD Software
On a parting note, we would leave you with some food for thought. AutoCAD may be the leader when it comes to digital CAD software. However, it is not the only CAD software out there!
There is a wide range of CAD design solutions available for creating, drafting, editing, and viewing CAD drawings. What is most important to note is that most of these alternatives are completely free. If you are not too obsessed with the specialized features, typical to AutoCAD, try some of these alternatives for standard design work.