Why AutoCAD for Mac is a bad idea

Why AutoCAD for Mac is a bad idea

There has been a fair bit of open discussion from Autodesk lately on the subject of a possible future OS X AutoCAD version. The more I think about this, the more I am inclined to believe that this would be a bad idea. A very bad idea.

It pains me to write this, because I’m very much a user advocate and I’m arguing here against something that some users have been requesting for a long time. If you’re one of those users, I’m sorry, but I think this is one of those cases when giving you what you want would be bad for everybody, and bad for you in particular.

Now, this sort of platform discussion often degenerates into a quasi-religious debate, so let’s see if I can head it off at the pass. If you’re a Mac fan who wants to tell me the benefits of your chosen computer family and how inferior Windows is, save it. I’ll concede right here and now that you are probably right. My experience of Apple products has generally been very positive. They look good, they’re well made, they work well, the Mac OS has been shamelessly copied by Microsoft for decades, and so on, ad nauseam. Yup. Not disputed. Also, not relevant to the point I’m about to make.

Ever since the last multi-platform AutoCAD (Release 13), Autodesk has dedicated its primary product solely to Windows. Since then, the code base has been spreading its mass of roots deeper and deeper into the Windows soil. Any Windows-specific advantage the developers can take has been taken. Reversing or working around that process is a very substantial undertaking. If it were done, I think it would have the following outcomes:

AutoCAD for Mac would suck

The performance is likely to be poor, because all the Windows-specific stuff will have to be redirected, recreated or emulated. The stability is likely to be awful, because this will be new ground for almost all of the developers involved. Developers with AutoCAD experience are going to have little or no Mac experience and vice-versa. They would be trying to make significant changes to the code base at the same time that that code base is being modified for the next release. The bug level is likely to be abysmal, both for the above reasons and also because the number of pre-release testers available to Autodesk on this platform is likely to be relatively tiny. The user interface is likely to be an uncomfortable square-peg-in-round-hole effort, which will work badly and be derided by OS X users.

AutoCAD for Mac would be half-baked

Not just half-baked in the usual let’s-put-this-out-as-is-and-maybe-we-can-fix-it-later way, but half-baked by design. The Autodesk survey implies that serious consideration is being put into a version of AutoCAD that is missing some of the things that make AutoCAD what it is. Things like paper/model space functionality, the command line, 3D, LISP, the ability to use third-party apps… AutoCAD for Mac LT Lite, anyone? If the APIs are not all there, that means no OS X version of any of the AutoCAD-based vertical products, either.

AutoCAD for Mac would be bad for Mac users

Last time this was attempted, it was a failure. The early 90s attempt at AutoCAD for Mac lasted for two three releases: 10 to 12. Autodesk had little option but to pull the pin on a non-viable product, but the orphaned users weren’t happy. Fortunately, there weren’t that many of them.

Would this happen again? Yes, I think it probably would. Any Mac user with any sense wouldn’t touch the first new Mac release with a bargepole. That, of course, makes it much less likely that there would be a second or third release. Autodesk’s corporate culture (espoused very strongly by Carol Bartz, but dating back to John Walker) encourages brave attempts that may lead to failure. This policy has unfortunately left large numbers of orphans in its wake over the years. In the event of poor sales, Mac for AutoCAD users would just be another set of unfortunates to add to a long list.

AutoCAD for Mac would be bad for Windows users

The very substantial effort required to produce any kind of AutoCAD for Mac at all would be a major drain on very limited (and shrinking) development resources. That means Windows users of AutoCAD would look forward to a release (or more likely several releases) with fewer new features, less completion of existing undercooked features, and longer waits until bugs and other problems get fixed. This, in exchange for no benefit whatsoever to those users. In fact, the decoupling of Windows-specific calls and the likely introduction of extra bugs would probably make AutoCAD for Windows work less well than it otherwise would.

AutoCAD for Mac would be bad for Autodesk

Autodesk is currently trying to save money by closing down offices, dropping products, cutting down on expenses and sacking employees (some of whom were long-termers; irreplaceable sources of information about use of the product and why certain things were done the way they were). In such an environment, does it make sense to start up a new project with high resource requirements and limited potential benefits? Especially when it is just a repetition of a previous project that was a complete failure?

So, in addition to costing Autodesk a lot of money and harming the quality of its core product, a failed AutoCAD for Mac would leave behind more Autodesk haters and be rather embarrassing.

I must admit that a lot of this is based on guesswork, but it’s educated guesswork. I’ve been educated by history, if nothing else. Autodesk’s corporate consciousness has an occasional habit of ignoring the lessons of history and repeating old mistakes. I hope AutoCAD for Mac – The Sequel isn’t one of those occasions.


  1. I understand why MAC users who use AutoCAD would want it on a MAC. That’s obvious. If I owned a MAC I would probably want it to. I’m not a MAC user so maybe I’m biased. I don’t buy MAC’s because everything I do is in Windows. I would agree with Steve in saying that AutoCAD for MAC would be a bad idea. Autodesk made more cuts last week, so that means less people to work on AutoCAD. People working on AutoCAD for MAC would mean less people working on AutoCAD. No need to repeat Steve’s post on his own blog, but he’s right.

  2. How about Revit? It’s very mac-like already, would be a perfect match.

    Frankly, I’d rather see AutoCad reprogrammed to run on Linux exclusively. There it could run rocket-fast without getting bogged down by all the DRM stuff that Microsoft programmed into the Vista and 7 kernel.

  3. Chris Cowgill

    AutoCAD on Linux is the only thing holding me back from switching. But I would rather be stuck with Windows and its poor handling of system resources, than to have AutoCAD suffer because resources are being used to port it to other systems.

  4. I think we may be looking at this all wrong: If AutoCAD for MAC was made and it did fail (which it probably would) perhaps that would help hasten ACAD’s overall demise!!! (Sorry CAD Users) Then we could rejoice: the AutoCAD is dead long live the BIM. 🙂

    Yes, I know there will be CAD drafting in AEC for a while longer, just like there are still hand-drafters but those niches and people are (mostly?) going to retire soon and in a generation or two most AEC people will only know of ACAD as a historical figure.

  5. I was going to say something about Linux in my first reply, but I didn’t! How long does AutoCAD have anyway? As I understand it, Autodesk is planning on keeping AutoCAD for a while, but that could change. Why redevelop AutoCAD so it can run on a MAC only to shelve it in a few years, or in 10 years even?

  6. daveea

    i don’t know, Steve. if the Mac version didn’t have the incredibly unproductive ribbon technology in it, hundreds of thousands of users might be inclined to migrate to the Mac version of AutoCAD for that reason alone.

  7. Matt Stachoni

    As I mentioned on Shaan’s initial post in April, I think it’s a bad idea as well. Scratch that – AutoCAD on a Mac would be a complete disaster.

    In the final analysis, it simply would never generate the additional licenses required to pay for its development.

    While I would love to have an OS choice in what I would like to run AutoCAD on, Windows simply doesn’t suck as bad as some would believe. Windows 7 is absolutely going to be a huge success compared to Vista, and will nail the coffin shut on XP.

    And, if I was a person who felt that the OS always comes first, the fact is that I could get by on a Mac by using Parallels or other VM solution to “dumb down” the machine to run AutoCAD.

    Then, factor in the hardware side of things. Mac runs only on Apple hardware, which are hardly considered bargains. You can install upgrades, but Apple’s high-end machine lineup is sorely lacking in the high-end stuff required to run AutoCAD and 3D apps well – particularly on laptops (the most popular form factor out there). And even though much of the core hardware is the same, if you do configure a high-end Mac workstation specifically for AutoCAD, you will be paying many more dollars compared to what you can get in a similar Windows box. However, it will look a lot sexier.

    And in these tough economic times, I think it’s lunacy for Autodesk to think about dumping huge development dollars into the rabbit hole. Those dollars have to come from somewhere, and it would have to come from the budgets of other development teams and/or higher product prices.

  8. >AutoCAD for Mac would suck

    Not exactly, you would have a point if you believed that Microsoft API ‘s are the most efficient way to do things. However, Microsoft’s API’s appear to be bloated and not very efficient. I agree with one point, Autodesk is entrenched in Microsoft and it will take a lot of work to get out from under it and return to platform independent code. They should have remained independent. It would be interesting to see what lead to the decision to change. I’m not so sure it was a market-share driven decision rather than an alliance with Microsoft decision. In the end we, the customer, were left with no choice of OS to run their products on.

    Returning to platform independence will require Autodesk to develop their own libraries rather than using Microsoft libraries that are not specific to their needs. This could translate into better code and innovation across all of their products. Have you considered that they could use code from platform independent products they already have like Maya, that runs on Windows, OS X and Linux?

    What appears to be happing, judging by the questions and news I have seen, Autodesk appears to be creating AutoCAD for OS X as a different product all together. This is not a good idea at all. They will be left with two sets of code to deal with. They should move to platform independence.

    >AutoCAD for Mac would be bad for Windows users
    Do you believe that Autodesk’s business model is to generate a new release of Autocad every 12 months that includes features to entice you to upgrade? Are you a subscription customer? Then you will upgrade no matter what they produce even if it is not on the AUGI Top Ten List. Or do you think that Autodesk’s business model is to include bells and whistles (ie: the Ribbon) to compete with others in the market and generate new customers and keep them on subscription? It is apparent with their new pricing structure that they intend to move people to subscription and generate new customers. If you plan to buy Autocad and stay off subscription so that you can skip releases then you will paying the same price as buying Autocad when you upgrade.

    >AutoCAD for Mac would be bad for Autodesk
    No, AutoCAD on Mac would be bad for Microsoft. Our company would certainly leave Microsoft and NEVER return. Basically, due to the amount of man-hours and money we have wasted dealing with Microsoft problems. You can’t quantify the total cost of ownership. The jokes about a Microsoft car are funny because it’s true; take a minute to think, if any of you produced a project with the same track record as Windows would you still have a job or clients?

  9. Steve, I think your perspective is clouded by your assumption that the motivation for a Mac port is driven by the needs of end users. A garbage Mac version of AutoCAD might be perfectly suitable for fulfilling a business need (from a marketing perspective) to stave off potential losses to native Mac versions of AutoCAD clones.

  10. I can’t imagine Mac customers falling for the idea that there’s anything inherently unCADworthy about their machines. I’m sure Autodesk could manage to make a convincing demonstration that AutoCAD doesn’t work on Macs, though… 😀

  11. Matt Stachoni

    Maybe it’s worth playing the lunatic-conspiracy theorist for a second. Let’s suppose Autodesk successfully ports AutoCAD over to the Mac.

    And it KILLS. I mean it absolutely blows away AutoCAD’s performance on the Wintel platform in every area – launching speed, 3D modeling and rendering, memory usage, and so on.

    Furthermore, user testing reveals certain ancillary OS-specific things that make OS X a more robust, easier to use platform for AutoCAD than Windows.

    All of this would directly point to Windows being the root cause of poor AutoCAD performance. I don’t think that would go over too well with Microsoft…

  12. David Ivey

    As a long time Mac user, and Autodesk customer, I was sad when development of appliations for the Mac ceased, and have always wished (especially since the advent of OS X) that Autodesk would come back to the Mac. But many of the comments in the post are likely correct… and irrelevant!

    I already run all Autodesk’s products on my Mac using virtualization (VM-Ware, Parellels, etc…). With enough resources (Cores, RAM, Graphics Card), it’s viurtualy (no pun intended) the same as running the product on a PC. It’s the best of both worlds for a modest additional investment (a copy of Windows and some virtualization software).

    Perhaps Autodesk should be spending hard-won treasure on making their products run in these virtual environs more effectively.

  13. Bill Schmid

    As much as I’d like to see AutoCAD on the Mac, I have to agree that it would be a bad idea. Autodesk has baked in so many Windows hooks that they could never recreate it on the Mac and achieve parity. It would be bad for everyone.

  14. Matt, I’m not entirely sure what point your lunatic conspiracy theorist is trying to make.

    Here’s another conspiracy theory, an Evil Autodesk one this time:

    “Autodesk has no intention of putting AutoCAD on the Mac. All the AutoCAD Mac talk is just a spoiler campaign. It is aimed not at encouraging potential customers but discouraging potential competitors.”

    How loony is that one?

  15. As a PC & Mac user (currently very happy with my Macbook Pro), I still teach AutoCAD. I started to use it less and less. Frankly, I don’t see it happening. If they really wanted it, it would have been here (again) for quite some time.

    That said, I would volunteer for beta-testing, as AutoCAD could use a new-generation makeover (not purely cosmetic). They would not do bad following the approach of McNeel: release many pre-release versions for existing users (or even free) and only release it when it’s done.

    If AutoCAD for Mac would not be on the same level as AutoCAD on Windows (which seems likely from the survey), I don’t think they have a chance. Maye they are better off buying TurboCAD for Mac or something similar. Frankly, without 3D, scripting and programming and the potential of the verticals, they should better not do it. I could live without the command line (maybe) if they revise their workflow. ArchiCAD works nice without command line yet still has good control over accuracy.

    Do not release a half-baked product.

  16. Matt Stachoni

    Steve, your point is a lot less loony than mine and probably valid. But I’m still banking that mine is true as well.

    Basically, I was thinking that Autodesk possibly already HAS a Mac compatible version of AutoCAD in development, and that it totally rocks.

    A hugely successful port could have a lot of people scared and upset quite a few apple carts (pun quite unintended but kinda funny nonetheless).

    A successful Mac port would not only tell Autodesk’s suffering customers that they don’t have to stick it out with Windows. Worse, it would tell other developers that their Windows-only products could be ported over to OS X and performance would improve. Developers might see this as reason enough to make the costly investment.

    Such a game-changing situation could potentially endanger Autodesk’s long-standing close relationship with Microsoft.

    This could also have longer-reaching consequences for hardware companies like Dell and HP, who make a lot of their profit in upselling workstation class hardware to design firms.

    Crazy? Hmm….

  17. I think creating a mac version is a good thing. I doubt that there will that much performance boost. It is all intel hardware. Mental Ray (rendering engine) is already cross platform. I am not aware that there is that much difference between the maya versions.

    Addressing the resources to port autocad, if I remember right John Walker (autodesk’s founder) claims he ported autocad’s core in two days to Mac (Motorola).

    Seriously, the Mac people on here haven’t started a Mac verses PC war, but it does appear that the opposition to porting autocad are being less than honest and are really MIcrosoft fanboys. There are plenty of products that exist on both platforms and do not suffer from it. Namely Adobe products, Vectorworks, Maya, Archicad, etc.

  18. Note: I really do not want to sound like I am Mac only. I actually consider myself platform agnostic. We will use whatever gives our customers the best product and experience. Whether it be Windows, Mac, Linux, AutoCAD, Vectorworks, Revit or Microstation we use what our client uses. We originally purchased a Mac due to a client that used Vectorworks. We slowly started using the Mac more and more for production. For all the reasons you heard (that shall be left unnamed here) we found OS X a better platform. For the purpose of this post, OS X is built on BSD UNIX.

    You can be sure that porting AutoCAD is not insurmountable because AutoCAD is working on it.

    Also, this question is somewhat of a trick question. Outside of CAD, I can’t name very many ‘Windows-only’ products with the complexity of CAD that have been developed ONLY on Windows for over a decade. Windows was useless as a platform until Windows 3.11 came out in almost 1994. AutoCAD r13 came out in late 1994, who used the Windows version until r14 running under Windows 95? The whole thing was dog and we used the DOS version until r14/Win95 (barely over a decade). To Autodesk’s credit, it was a revolutionary time. It made me nostalgic for the ’80’s and CADDS4x or Intergraph. We didn’t need a $25k SUN or Intergraph workstation to do what we did back then.

    Those Windows-only products are AutoCAD, Microstation, Catia, 3DSMAX… Cross platform complex products Maya, Photoshop, Mental Ray, Renderman…

    I can tell you that it has been done the opposite way, take Maya instance. Maya is far more complex. It was originally three separate software packages that have histories into the 80’s combined into one package to run on SGI (IRIX UNIX). It was then successfully ported to the Linux, Windows and Mac. Catia UNIX to Windows. Microstation CLIX (UNIX) to DOS/Windows. Unigraphics now runs on UNIX, Linux and Windows.

    I’m just curious what the reaction would be if Autodesk announced that they were planning to release an AutoCAD LT like product for Windows Mobile 6.5.

  19. rlaci

    bad idea….. okay!
    i hope windows disappears or it will be extremely unstable in the future and at that time you should think OS independent thinks are the way to go.
    win still steals from linux and mac os x sooo dont talk about huge differences it is more likely about something else. about business and monopoly what is really good for this world!
    they need to find an easy way to do it and not reasons why not to do at all! this is the destructive thinking!!!

  20. Jimbo

    Thanks to OOP Multi OS applications just aren’t that difficult to create today.

    Let’s look at just one other complex graphics application…

    Adobe InDesign

    It runs nicely on both Windows and Mac OS X.

    Don’t fall prey to the FUD.

    Having AutoCAD, SolidWorks, etc available on two OS platforms is a good thing for everyone. It keeps Microsoft AND Apple honest. Let’s be frank here…

    Microsoft hasn’t been exactly maintaining the Windows OS with any level of competence. On the other hand, Mac OS X could be provide a breath of fresh air for many users. Apple’s hardware is becoming increasingly more affordable as well.

  21. Jimbo

    Oh… One more thing.

    NX 6 for the Mac has just been released. And while it’s not a “port” per se (it doesn’t use the Mac OS X UI – it uses a X windows variant) it shows that Mac platform is finally being taken seriously.

  22. ADG

    I don’t understand where the point is. Rhino for instance has been developped very well for Windows, and now it is being developped for macos, and all the developping versions i’ve been using on my mac are running well. There are no major issues that aren’t fixed from one build to the followind one.

    So essentially, i don’t see where the limits are.

    In fact we should consider the problem from another point of view.

    What i’ve read, in simple words is “autocad cannot be adapted from windows to macos”.

    > Well of course, it would require to rethink the architecture of the software. So better say “autocad can be redevelopped for macos”. It would be another software, with another structure, responding to the same goals and processes for the user.

    You say : autocad’s developpement pushed till the limits of windows capabilities. Well let’s say what is possible with a new platform.

    Il all way its a mistake considering that a software can be adapted from one world to another. Just because the rules are different …

  23. ADG

    another input … just installed windows thanks to bootcamp and apple is able to develop .exe apps, so i really don’t understand the problem in developping applications on different platforms …

  24. It really has nothing to do with ‘is Autodesk capable’, ‘can Mac OS handle it’ or ‘will there be enough user base’. It has more to do with people not wanting change. They feel that way things are done now is the ‘correct way’ and have contempt for all other ways of doing things. People get comfortable and upsetting the current order will make their work difficult. Let’s face it, in the AEC industry nearly everyone uses AutoCAD or Revit. Finding work is relatively easy if you have these skills.

    I personally would like to see companies other than Autodesk and Microsoft gain market share. It will insure that they will produce a better product and keep them in check. We just paid our subscription fees; I don’t relish paying it. What are we suppose to do, the cost will be more if we don’t keep the subscriptions. (On the same token, we just purchased the Windows 7 upgrade at a fair price.) But we are trapped in client/vendor/user relationships where all sides are pushing upgrades to the newest Autodesk product each year. Leaving Autodesk calling the shots (ie: platform and price).

    I do not like monopolistic behavior and it is troubling to see people that can’t get past their love of a company or product to recognize it.

  25. Neal

    First and foremost I have been both a PC and Mac user. Primarily PC, but recently gone to Mac in the past few years. Secondly, WOW. After reading the article and all these comments I’m quite shocked at how little people know! I don’t mean that as an insult either, I really am shocked. It seems to me that the article and all the people who have commented here are poorly misinformed about Apple’s development. Let me enlighten you!

    1) “The performance is likely to be poor, because all the Windows-specific stuff will have to be redirected, recreated or emulated.” You also go on to say that the developer have little or no experience with Mac coding. While that may be true, in recent years Apple has develops methods for seamless code integration, of any kind really, to a Mac platform. It’s called Xcode, http://developer.apple.com/tools/. Additionally, this software also comes with debuggers, so that the software can be tested and tweaked before finalized. How much does this software cost? Oh, how about NOTHING. It cost’s nothing because this benefits Apple directly as well as software companies alike. Software companies love it because they don’t have to hire or train current developers to learn Mac OS coding and since it’s free they can expand their software to reach new users on the Mac platform. Since Xcode is free, and not to mention easy to use, the company can only profit from sales they make from Mac users purchases. Apple loves it because they can generate a greater software base (something that has plagued them for years, and been a huge deterrent in people switching over from PC) in a shorter amount of time. Why do you think the iPhone is so popular compared to all the other touch screen phones? It’s because of the App Store. Developers from Maxis, AOL, and even Nintendo and Sega offer applications on Mac now!

    2) Software simply runs better on a Mac. Yes, it’s true. You can call me bias because I’m on a Mac, but remember I used to be a PC user! Just to show I’m not bias there are things that irritate me about Apple as well. For instance they’re half a** attempt at releasing new products. In one instance, the iPhone. It doesn’t even have MMS yet and they pawn it off as the best media phone ever! But back to my point. It was my experience with better software reliability that I went out and purchased a Mac instead of another PC. Prior to my PC dying after only owning it 3 years, I purchased Adobe CS3 and like most software’s on my PC it crashed often. Obviously, switching to a Mac I had to repurchase my CS3 collection. Guess what? No crashing, ever. Even my Microsoft Office 2008 works better on my Mac that when I had it on a Windows computer. That’s pretty sad for Microsoft. I’ll explain why this is in the next point.

    3) Matt! Of course Windows 7 looks awesome. Like previous Window’s versions it’s a blatant rip off of a Mac! But I’m glad you brought that up because you mention, “Then, factor in the hardware side of things. Mac runs only on Apple hardware, which are hardly considered bargains. You can install upgrades, but Apple’s high-end machine lineup is sorely lacking in the high-end stuff required to run AutoCAD and 3D apps well.” Not true. I have a MacBook Pro. Even pimped out to have the fastest hardware, it’s still a laptop. When I used to run Windows Bootcamp so that I could still use AutoCAD it ran at impressively decent speeds for my hardware being the bare essentials. Why? Consider this. When Visa was released it copied the glassy look from Mac. (Yes I did try Visa, it’s horrible.) Unfortunately, because of how Microsoft developed Visa this glassy look was a major drain on memory and processor speed, among other feature Vista came with. Which brings me to my point. Apple develops its OS to be as minimally demanding, and as greatly efficient as it can be on the hardware. So what may be standard hardware requirement for a PC, actually are above standard for a Mac. This is why they have the price tag they do, not because they look pretty. Now with their laptop 5-8 hour battery life span, they’re becoming even more indispensable to workaholics.

    4) “It has more to do with people not wanting change.” Sean, is this your opinion or a fact? Most college students own MacBooks or MacBook Pros. I can easily state that having been to two universities and seeing Apple Logo’s galore on just about any campus I’ve been to. I recently went with a friend to tour the University of Michigan. The tour included the computer lab, which has all brand new iMacs, at least 75 of them. With a corner of 4 PC’s.

    5) I noticed everyone here is talking about how there aren’t many other CAD programs or that people remain tethered to Windows because of AutoCAD. Yeah, again, a load of crap. Sorry, but I’ve pretty much dumped AutoCAD since I got my Mac. I use Vectorworks now, and most schools are making that transition to. What you need to realize, Matt, is that AutoDesk will file for those licensees, and they will come to a Mac OS. If they don’t, Universities, like UofM, are not going to purchase individual licenses for Windows after they just bought iMacs to run bootcamp for AutoCAD. AutoCAD needs to recognize that consumers are not only looking for quality, but a bargain as well. Forcing their consumers to purchase ANOTHER OS for bootcamp is costly. The consumers, like myself, will seek less costly alternatives. This is currently a list of all the universities that use Vectorworks. http://www.nemetschek.net/training/schools.php.

    Times are changing. I won’t say that Macs are more popular than PC but I would definitely say they’re equally as popular now. If AutoCAD doesn’t step up to the plate, they’re going to be phased out.

  26. Neal:

    “Sean, is this your opinion or a fact?” This is my opinion of many of those who have commented here and my opinion of many who have been in the AEC industry in general. The FACT is most of the comments here, regardless of what they claim, are based on the fear of change; because their claims make no sense. I even posted on ’20’ that they were being ‘less than honest and and really Microsoft fanboys.’

    I’m glad to hear that colleges and universities will ultimately bring change to this. (its been sometime sense I have been to school.)

    I’m only replying to your comment because you seem to lump me in with the rest of those who don’t want Autocad on Mac OS. If this is the case then you should read my comments more carefully…

  27. Neal

    Sean, my apologies. I was reading so many of the other negative comments by the time I got to yours I was on “skimming mode” and (obviously) miss read it. I thought you were saying fear was fear keeping people FROM Macs. Again, my apologies. But you are correct. It is fear. Why else accuse those who are Mac users of being bias, if those attacking are not bias on being completely for windows? What’s wrong with having the same product on MORE operating systems. It almost as though there’s this FEAR of AutoDesk realizing things do work better on a Mac. 🙂 (Remember readers, I use both Mac and PC. All my programs DO work better on my Mac.)

  28. Speaking as an IT tech for an Architecture School who runs dual booting Macs and knows a thing or two about programming for the Mac let me put in these few thoughts.

    The Mac OS has equal (yet) different API’s to Microsoft’s. Getting an application to do what it does on Windows on the Mac is not impossible.

    Learning to write in Cocoa (Objective-C) isn’t as hard as you would think. The people writing the programs are trained in computer languages, probably more tha you are trained in CAD. Learning a new one that is based off of the C programming language wouldn’t be that hard. I recently went to a week long training for Cocoa and understood it fine after.

    Having multiple platforms opens more doors for developers and users. Having people only use one platform is fine, but as you said, AutoDesk is up to their neck in the Windows API. Having a new set of API’s to play with might make AutoDesk redesign their Windows versions, because they found a better way of doing when they were developing for the Mac side.

    The number of clients to buy it might not be enough to sustain a Mac version, time will tell (if they do release a Mac version for it). But with more and more people and CEO’s going to the Mac, more and more applications will need to be written for them. If AutoDesk wants to stay ahead of the curve they will need to make a Mac version, or someone else may.

    Just my thoughts on this. I’m hoping they do make a Mac version. Options, good. Monopolies, bad.

    As an example, look at Mathematica. A massive program that is far more complicated than AutoCAD, yet runs nicely on Mac and Windows.

  29. John, neither you nor I have any idea what is going to still be around in the long term. AutoCAD, Revit, Windows, OSX, Autodesk, Microsoft, Apple, Intel? Each of those could be alive or dead in 10-20 years, and while any of us can take a guess at those most likely to survive, it’s just a shot in the dark.

  30. Mbenzi

    I’ve been on Mac since 1984. I have used a lot of PC:s but prefer Mac. I needed to buy PC:s because the kids were heavy gamers. Now I am an AutoCad/Inventor user as well, so I got myself a very capable HP laptop for the purpose. But I don’t even bother to start it up, because my MacBook Pro handles AutoCad very well through Parallels.
    One advantage is that I can run Windows much faster on the Mac without any virus protection. Saving all documents in the Mac platform allows me to just scrap a corrupted Windows and replace it with a backup.

  31. Chris

    It is inevitablely a Mac version for AutoCAD because of the great sale of Intel Mac.
    I do not think there will be great issue or difficulties on designing the AutoCAD for Mac because Mac is now in an Unix shell.
    I bought a Macbook Pro for my sister a month ago, and after I tried the Mac, I found it is a totally more advance system than Windows 7, and iWork 09, too.
    It is just too handy and easy to learn how to use a Mac and iWork.
    Try it before you make a judgement on Mac and Windows, and be open-minded.
    You won’t get pay of defending a brand unless you are its shareholder.

  32. Steve

    I don’t think AutoCad for mac would be a Stretch. With all the newly purchased companies such as 3d studio max and Maya i think they would be able to assimilate the programming from the Maya company which DOES sell its program for mac. For all who don’t know Maya is an 3d design program similar to 3d studio max however its offered for both Mac and PC. Now that Autodesk has ahold of this program i think writing AutoCad for a Mac platform would be much easier. Simple just use the programers for Maya to transcribe it!!

  33. Eric Matthews

    Apple is starting to sell an uncomfortable number of computers (primarily laptops) in the US. This trend will likely continue for at least the next five years. There is also the possibility that Apple could sell an OEM or RETAIL Mac OS X product for the PC!

    At any rate, the desktop operating system landscape may not be as stable as Microsoft would like people to believe. Autodesk must be prepared for the unthinkable…that someday Windows will not be the predominate desktop operating system in use.

    Other companies are already targeting the growing Mac user base with design software. If one of these companies were to establish a beachhead, coupled with a desktop operating system upheaval, then Autodesk would find itself in a losing situation.

    I sure many will laugh at my post, but stranger things have happened.
    Never say never.

  34. Daniel

    Adobe Premiere Pro is a very complex professional video editing program and one of the standards in the industry.

    It used to be Mac and Windows but became Windows-only after 2002.

    In the last two version it became Mac and Windows again.

    Apple computers are selling very well these days and so many software projects have released a Mac version in the last few years.

    Also programming tools are not how they used to be. Programmers are assisted by great tools these days so some things are not as difficult as you would think.

  35. David

    The Mac operating system is much more stable and easier to program than Windows. It’s base feature set and menu system is also much compatible for a progrom such as AutoCAD. I think think you make a large assumption thinking they would simply port a windows version over and not rebuilt it to take advantage of what OSX has to offer.

    You mention that Autodesk does not have experience writing in OSX software, yet some of thier most complext stuff is on Mac already. How do you support that argument?

  36. Read it again. “Developers with AutoCAD experience are going to have little or no Mac experience and vice-versa…” The people who know their way around the AutoCAD codebase and understand the uses to which it is put are not the same people who have been developing the Autodesk Mac apps.

    Autodesk is not going to start from scratch to write a Mac version of AutoCAD. It’s going to keep as much common code as it possibly can, for obvious reasons. Any new Mac version is going to have to be generated at the same time that the Windows code is being developed into the next release, so it’s going to be a moving target. The core AutoCAD code will be done in Windows and OS X will be an offshoot, and it will likely remain that way for at least as long as Windows remains the dominant OS. Yes, I made an assumption, but it’s really the only reasonable one that can be made.

  37. I believe that all of AutoDesk’s Mac applications were ACQUISITIONS. They did not develop them in-house.

    The best solution for users of every other CAD application on the planet would be if AutoDesk played good citizen and made their COMPLETE file format specifications available so other CAD apps could seamlessly import and export to AutoCAD. I’m sure AutoDesk has no interest in supporting a mass exodus from their flagship application, which I have little doubt would occur.

    As a 20 year MiniCAD/Vectorworks user and trainer, AutoCAD translations have improved tremendously over the years, especially since Nemetschek acquired Diehl Graphsoft (the original MiniCAD/Vectorworks developer), but more could be done.

  38. Maxi

    I’m another recent Mac convert. I happened upon this blog while looking for an AutoCAD version for Mac!

    Microsoft really shot themselves in the foot with Vista, and I think their stupid decision to keep flogging that dead horse for so long will have long-lasting consequences for them. With Vista having left a real bad taste in many peoples mouths, it’s inevitable that Apple will gain more market share.

    I don’t know enough about programming to opine about whether it will be easy, difficult or disastrous to make a Mac version of AutoCAD, but I do know that Autodesk would be stupid not to seriously consider a Mac version at this stage. If they don’t, they run a large risk of losing considerable market-share.

    Ask any company man or shareholder whether they’d prefer to lose market share or get some bad rep about a less than perfect product. I think 99% would rather have large market share and a little bit of bad publicity any day.

    One final comment for all the Windows die-hards out there: Yes, it was irritating learning a new operating system having been a Win user for so long, but it’s really been worth it. Macs just work better.

  39. Steve

    I work for one of the world’s largest corporations, in the NYC office.

    As with most corporations, I presume, we are about 7 to 1, PCs to Macs. The Macs are used by the Creative Services department and in Store Design.

    When I saw that there were rumblings about AutoCAD for the Mac, I asked a couple of the store designers, who have used both AutoCAD and now VectorWorks, if they were excited about AutoCAD coming to the department’s computer of choice.

    They were pointedly unimpressed and uninterested.

  40. theLedger

    Sounds like it’s been written in Cocoa for 64 bit performance which means from-the-ground up programming. But with Cocoa, they can leverage a lot of the Macs built-in functionality and with fewer hardware variations (unlike Windows), keep their codebase cleaner.

    I think it’s going to be a big deal, more than anyone so far has indicated on this forum. It probably won’t be feature complete like the Windows version out-of-the-gate.

    If I were a developer, I would leave out the esoteric features used by only a narrow slice of users and focus on the majority, particularly if they aimed the first release at a market segment. That allows them to deliver a product with high satisfaction and success and then add other features that matter to other markets.

  41. Jimbo

    Well AutoCAD for the Mac is a done deal and I think it’s a great idea.

    I’m particularly impressed and intrigued by the iPad/iPhone apps.

    Hopefully other CAD vendors will sit up and take notice.

    SolidWorks? Pro/E?

    And I’d really like to see a iPad version of eDrawings.

  42. Daniel Maldonado

    I’ve been Beta Testing AutoCAD for Mac (Codenamed Sledgehalmmer) on a 2009 Mac Powerbook w/ Mac OS X Snow Leopard operating system for the past three months. For all of you naysayers that think this is a bad idea, think again! It runs remarkably well, imports huge DWG & DXF files, maintains my XRefs and Plot Style settings. In fact, I find it running just as fast, if not faster on my laptop than on my PC which is equipped with an ATI RADEON 4100 graphics card. This is a full operating copy of AutoCAD 2011 and it measures only 648MB in size! This is proof positive that the Windows version is loaded with bloatware, malware & spyware.

    Macs computers are virus free & require minimal maintenance. What this means is good-bye to “mystical” Windows tech support and IT services.

    AutoCAD for Mac is a lean mean drafting machine!

    Daniel Maldonado AIA

  43. Daniel Maldonado

    Also be on the lookout for AutoDesk AutoCAD apps for the iPhone and iPAd which allow users to read .DXF/ .DWG drawings on their phone and iPads, this is great for the Project Managers that are tired of carrying full sets of drawings!

    Digital Convergence is here, don’t fight the change . . . embrace it and use it for the good of mankind!

  44. It is traditional for Autodesk Service Packs/Updates to fix only bugs and occasionally fix performance problems. Providing missing features is not usually on the agenda; R13c4 was the last update to provide new features.

    Autodesk has consistently maintained that the reason for this is that government accounting regulations forbid the provision of new features in free updates. Autodesk has also consistently ignored my requests for more information about these allegedly restrictive regulations. So if AutoCAD for Mac 2011 Update 1 really will include new features, that would be “interesting”.

    In any case, if you are aware of the contents of Update 1, you’re probably not supposed to discuss it in public…

  45. R. Paul Waddington

    “that government accounting regulations forbid the provision of new features in free updates.” I nearly died laughing reading this comment Steve. As many a person younger than me would say – “as if”

  46. Excellent post full of sound thinking which disagrees with my emotions — but logic says is probably correct. The fact that I don’t want to hear someone say “AutoCAD on Linux/Max is a bad idea” doesn’t mean that they are not right.

    Interestingly, though, this does predict the evolution of a non Autodesk alternative which is superior for Mac and Linux, as those platforms are commercially viable for a company with relevant development experience. Following this idea, if Mac and Linux ever do begin to ursurp the general engineering market (which is not as far fetched as the idea of them ursurping the gaming platform/home PC market in the short term) then the Linux/Mac AutoCAD alternatives would have a major leg-up and mind&market share over an Autodesk company effort which would be playing catch up — both technically and in the market.

    So… if Mac and Linux ever do show signs of creeping into the engineering field more heavily (depending on the sort of design, actually, Linux is already dominant — but only on government funded deep engineering projects such as advanced missile guidance and whatnot) then Autodesk would suddenly not be able to afford to not cultivate Linux expertise. Weird quandry.

  47. You are so right, this was such an insightful post.

    I’ve used Autodesk products for years on PC and they’ve never been that great in the stability stakes, anyone use Mechanical Desktop Release 3? That crashed three of four times a day in our office and there were only three of us.

    I’ve since moved to Mac and I only very occasionally need to use AutoCAD. I’ve tried the Mac version and even when its patched its terrible. It doesn’t feel right and it crashes as soon as you look at it.

    In fact I can’t even get it to run anymore I just get the crash report dialogue.

    Total waste of time. I’m currently installing a version for Windows.

    This is like a BETA release, Autodesk shouldn’t even be selling it IMO.

  48. carl

    Following all the comments has been interesting (if somewhat confusing), thank you all.
    As a non-technical person, I now need to invest in a computer drafting programme.
    I am a very happy Mac user and am trying desperately not to re-visit Windows (a giant leap backwards for man-kind I believe).
    A friend is a Mac user and Cad instructor and said I should go parallels (or boot camp) for Windows Cad (very displeasing!).
    Is this still the case? Or have we moved along and Cad Mac is now stable? Or is there a Mac alternative to Cad which works similar and does it interface well?

  49. Julian

    Been loving the MAC version of AutoCad – I’m getting my work done faster these days since moving from Windows. It took a while to get used to the Mac but so far (fingers cross) there has been no spamware reaching my Mac. I still love Windows though.. sentimental.

  50. Ben

    Well, ya called this one wrong didn’t you. I have both Windows & Mac systems with AutoCAD, as well as on my laptops. If it was a hopeless port then i would agree they shouldn’t bother, however they have excellently built this as a very very clean product and it makes the Windows version seem like it was the afterthought. I much prefer working with the Mac version, and they have taken full advantage of the UNIX operating system in aspects of the software performance wise and with error handling (not to mention aspects of the OS that allow application interaction and automation without the need for third party plugins). As it would happen, the Mac version has some very handy shortcuts and workflows that the Windows one doesn’t have, and requires so much less hardware overhead that often I don’t even realise it’s still open with 14 dwg’s open in who knows how many viewports.

    None the less – I respect the Windows version (and for two of my projects actually require it for OLE data-linking to a clients back end) and often refer to it when reading documentation that is much more heavily geared towards the Windows version.

    Performance wise on mac it is barely noticeable when a raster image is imported, and completely un-noticeable if you set the raster resolution to low which doesn’t affect the plot anyway. Hi-Res PDF’s go without any performance penalty and snapping to PDF objects is an absolute treat. Transparency effects, anything to do with graphics, and configuration portability win hands down. As for data integrity, well i haven’t managed to crash it yet, and the one time i caused a kernel panic by an accidental terminal command, the system restarted and popped up the drawings as if they were never even closed.

    When the developers decided to make this from scratch, you really shouldn’t have ever tried to compare something as generic as Windows in all of it’s varieties and hardware configurations, to something that developers could really tune to work with any Mac… that was predictable, and now fulfilled, and hence why I love working with it. If it makes you feel better.. Outlook for Windows wins (just)

  51. Ben

    Hi Steve, just also read what you wrote about the developers not being as familiar with Mac. That’s a valid point today, however this industry much changes in a few years. In 2009 remember that a lot of developers that were on their way out of the industry were intimately familiar with C, and coding projects in an Objective C like Cocoa would be efficient to manage. Nowadays with people graduating university with little more than a conceptual understanding of these things and a focus on .NET and visual IDE’s, you would be correct in saying they would be much more suited to working on the Windows versions, which unfortunately, to no real fault of Autodesk, is only feasible as continuous band-aids since the long running product has been maintained amongst Microsoft pushing technologies and offering things like the MFC classes, then some updates were doing using additional .NET classes and even worse, WPF, which might produce a stunning web application, but a terrible CAD renderer.

    If i may be as daring as you who had your reasons for your post in the first place, i would suggest that if for some strange reason, every AutoCAD user boycotted Windows, and all AutoDesk needed to work on in future was a Mac version, i think they’d be very very happy….

  52. OMG i am planning to buy an mac for my office but after reading your post i think i would not buy it as i have too many work to do on autocad. Thanks to cadnauseam..You just saved me from big trouble.

  53. Here is the current list of features present in AutoCAD for Windows but missing from AutoCAD for Mac:

    Layer state manager
    New layer notification
    Navigation bar
    File tabs
    Steering wheel
    Feature finder for help
    Smart centrelines/centre marks
    Model documentation tools
    Table style editing
    Hatch creation preview
    Multi-line style creation
    Digitiser integration
    Geographic location
    Mtext superscript and subscript tools
    Optimised PDF output
    Hyperlink support in exported PDFs
    Sheet set links in exported multi-sheet PDFs
    Simplified, powerful rendering
    Override xref layer properties
    New feature highlighting
    Material creation, editing and mapping
    Advanced rendering settings
    Camera creation
    Point cloud
    Walkthroughs, flybys and animations
    Improved 3D graphics (stability, fidelity, performance)
    DWF™ underlays
    DGN underlays
    Data extraction
    Mark-up set manager
    dbConnect manager
    WMF import and export
    FBX import and export
    Design feed
    Import SketchUp files (SKP)
    Design share
    3D print studio
    Reference Navisworks models
    Co-ordination model object snap
    Import PDFs
    Right-click menus, keyboard shortcuts and double-click customisation
    DCL dialogues
    Action recorder and action macros
    Reference manager (standalone application)
    Custom dictionaries
    Password-protected drawings
    Digital signatures
    User profiles
    Autodesk desktop app
    Migration tool enhancements
    CAD standards tools
    CUI import and export
    BIM 360 add-in
    Performance Reporting
    Sysvar monitor

    Some of these are minor, some of them are actually pretty poor features and you’re not missing much. However, some of them are HUGE for anyone used to full AutoCAD, or who needs certain LISP routines for their work, or who needs to deal with drawings from people with full AutoCAD who use some of the features in the above list.

    If you’re happy with a half-baked product because it lets you use the hardware you prefer, fine. But you’d probably be better off with BricsCAD for Mac, which has a lot less missing than Autodesk’s effort.

  54. William Polhemus

    This is an old post, and the last comment is a year and a half old, but herewith my $0.02.

    You are correct about the list of features that ACAD for Mac does not share with the Windows version. But I would point out that most of them are what I call “fringe features,” which is likely why they haven’t (yet) made it into the Mac version.

    A segue.

    My own view regarding CAD software is that you do about 95% of your work with about 5% of the available commands. Yeah, not scientific but my opinion anyway.

    There are always users – and applications – that require “fringe features” in their daily work. If one of the “missing” features is vital to what YOU do, then obviously you either find a workaround or DON’T use ACAD4Mac.

    But I can say, as someone who uses “generic” Autocad, a lot, that I much prefer the Mac version because it simply looks and feels more elegant than the Windows product. My “generic” comment stems from the fact that I came of age as an engineer when “Cad operators” – coming out of the era when “cad stations” were very expensive, took a lot of training and operators thereof were “specialists.” Most old-timer engineering managers did NOT want Engineers “wasting their time and the company’s money” using CAD.

    So I had to sneak around a lot, borrowing a PC to use Autocad (in the DOS days, yet), to be able to learn the software, and I have thus been using it for nearly 30 years now, not only to produce drawings but as a design tool – the ability to make sketches in a simulated Euclidean space where you can draw in real dimensions and take measurements with a high degree of accuracy has always been compelling for me.

    But this meant that I didn’t have the luxury to develop, steal or otherwise make use of customizations like menus, scripts, etc. I had to use the machine and the software set up as I found them.

    And in fact, this has made my Autocad experience easy to “port’ from DOS to Windows to eventually the Mac.

    As it comes out of the box, Autocad for Mac is very well set-up for someone like me. And most of the customizations I’ve come to rely on are also in the Mac environment.

    I have run into one or two situations with sold-modeling where missing features were a problem, and necessitated a workaround. I have let Autodesk know that those features would be welcome on the Mac.

    I’m using Autocad for Mac 2018 now – have been for six months. I can’t really think of a feature I’ve needed that was missing in that time.

    Thanks for the opportunity to comment.

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