Autodesk for Mac – the hole story

Autodesk for Mac – the hole story

You may remember my pre-release speculation about what was likely to be missing from the Mac version of AutoCAD 2011. It turns out that my list was pretty accurate as far as it went, but very incomplete.

In a move that I can only applaud, Autodesk has now published its own list of missing Mac features. It includes this statement:

Although AutoCAD 2011 for Mac is based on AutoCAD 2011, it was written to be a native Mac application. As such, it is a new and separate product and not simply a port from the Windows version. In the first release of this new product, there are some features and functionality that exist in AutoCAD 2011 that are not yet available in AutoCAD 2011 for Mac, including (but not limited to):

This is followed by a list of over 80 holes in the product. Many of them are minor, but the number of absent but important features is quite an eye-opener. I really can’t imagine anyone who is used to the Windows-based product being content with AutoCAD for Mac 2011 if forced to switch by a Apple-centric boss. Hardware, great. OS, fine. App, not so much. I expect future releases will gradually fill many of those holes, but Autodesk isn’t promising that. For now, I can state that at least one of my dire predictions was spot-on. AutoCAD for Mac is indeed half-baked.

Autodesk has stated that the Mac version is the same price as the Windows version, despite being incomplete, because Mac users (particularly architects) won’t notice the missing stuff. That may be true (if somewhat insulting to architects and fanboys) or not, but it definitely doesn’t apply to the rest of us.

Existing AutoCAD users, have a look at the list. What in there would be a dealbreaker for you? From my own CAD manager point of view, I can see about a dozen killer omissions, with the API holes at the top of the pile. No DCL support, for example? Wow.


  1. There are some glaring omissions – such as DGN support, or WMF import/export. Those alone could break anyone getting files in DGN format to work on. Picture this: “uh, we don’t support DGN, can you please export to DWG and resend it?”. Not pretty.

    Other bad ones: No PDF underlay, no plotting to file and PC3 files may not even work, in-place editing of blocks/xrefs, DWGPROPS?!?

    What Autodesk simply CANNOT do is dismiss features as “least used” and think that the product will work for the majority of users. OK so it will for those just doing simple 2D drawings, but serious users will think twice. The big problem here is that Autodesk knows Mac users can, if all else fails, go to the Windows version in BootCamp or VMWare – not exactly a motivating factor to release something half-decent on the Mac. I give it a year before they shut it down again.

  2. There is another way to look at this. By far the most popular posts on my blog are ones about speeding up AutoCAD, and this almost always involves disabling stuff. So, if fewer features means better performance, then the Mac version might be a better value OOTB than the Windows version precisely because of the missing functionality. Read the last paragraph here to see what I mean:

  3. I don’t think Autodesk left out stuff to make AutoCAD for Mac go faster. It left out stuff because it was too hard to do the necessary development within the time frame it had set itself.

    Express Tools, for example. That’s easy to test, because AutoCAD for Windows can be installed with and without Express Tools. How much of a performance gain do you get by leaving that off the install? I’d be surprised if it was even machine-measurable, let alone detectable by the user.

    It will be interesting to see how the performance compares, but even if AutoCAD for Mac is faster, that is unlikely to be because Autodesk left out a bunch of simple but productive layer commands, or didn’t get around to coding the DCL engine.

    Your blog posts about disabling stuff are deservedly popular because Autodesk has the unfortunate habit of implementing new features in a way that is intrusive, irritating and/or just plain dumb. Performance glitches are part of that, but not the whole story.

  4. Oh, and while that last paragraph is interesting, it’s also very fuzzy, and should be read in context (i.e. part of a self-serving puff piece). I’d need to know the full details and run my own tests or have them run by a trustworthy party, before I could attach any credibility to it.

  5. I hate to come over to the ‘dark side’ about AutoCAD for Mac, but this release is a COMPLETE failure. The main issue, it doesn’t support hardware that is barely over a year old. It is the ONLY Mac software that I have come across not to be supported on this machine.

    Autodesk is truly inept…

  6. My comment about leaving out functionality to gain performance was tongue in cheek. I just thought it was humorous to connect the dearth of functionality to the glowing review of improved performance.

    Having said that, I know from experience that performance gains such as those described in the puff piece are entirely possible simply by removing functionality. Everything that loads takes time, and that time multiplies quickly when batch processing, so even something as simple as uninstalling the Express Tools (never mind turning off the ribbon) improves throughput.

  7. Oops, irony detection failure on my part, sorry.

    The batch processing multiple-load thing could be true or not, depending on what’s being loaded, how it’s loaded and how the batch processing is performed. It may or may not be detectable or significant, depending on a raft of other factors. The people in the puff piece apparently sit there watching the batches take place, in order to gain days of staff time from the improved performance. That’s creative.

  8. Did you notice the puff piece has a second page? A sidebar on the right of that page includes this:

    “The company has also made extensive use of customised tool palettes to present users with the content they need in a well-ordered fashion. In addition, as users drag that content into drawings, AutoCAD makes sure standards are adhered to, automatically setting layers and different style elements like line colours. … All these features will be available to Styles & Wood in AutoCAD for Mac.”

    The Autodesk list of missing features includes this:

    “…not yet available in AutoCAD 2011 for Mac…

    – Batch Standards Checker and the ability to use cad standards
    – Tool palettes”


  9. Chris Wade

    To me, the important one that they left out is Sheet Set Manager, the rest I can work around.

    As for what it’s use is, well, there are many people here who have Macs at home, I just wish they would let the Windows network license work with the Mac version, then they could VPN in and checkout a license and work at home on a native version of AutoCAD. (The need has come up numerous times, but I cannot justify us getting separate licenses for this purpose).

  10. Matt Stachoni

    I fully expected AutoCAD for the MAC Round 1 would be half baked, but this is simply astounding. However, it still remains to be seen if ultimately the Mac effort will make any sense.

    On the good side, some of these “ommissions” I would call “features,” such as leaving out digitally signed drawings and that dopey notification that no one cares about. To Autodesk I would say “Hey, don’t bother.”

    But no DWF support? No PDF underlay? No in-place block / xref editing? No plot style configurations? No Dynamic block authoring? Yow! The list of deficiencies just kills it for most folks, including me.

    You cannot in good conscience call this an appropriate release for public consumption.

    Given the severe beta nature of its status, Autodesk should have just made it available as an immense beta, like Microsoft did with Windows 7. You could use it as you wish, even for production, and report your findings with the Customer Error Reporting tool (assuming that made it into the release).

    This would also provide a smoother glidepath towards the Mac platform, and allowed Autodesk to concentrate on getting the rest of the features in, banged on and fully vetted.

    No one HAS to have AutoCAD on the Mac, so no one outside Autodesk would really care if it took another year to get right. Being a complete code rewrite, there’s no way this release was going to pay for the development costs anyway.

  11. I didn’t even finish the hole list before deciding that it’s not in our best interest to change. We’ve got too much invested in DCL-based apps (VERY happy that we didn’t go the VBA route). We would lose all of our customization tools in addition to losing some of the more useful ARX tools – this is a total non-starter. No DWF is a killer for interaction with Buzzsaw. Wonder how the failure report manager will work on a Mac if the user didn’t install IE on it… Does that mean that the subscription center will now have to support other browsers?

  12. Darren Young

    I really wonder why MAC and not Linux? Seems the Linux chatter has all but gone away (or I’m less connected than before).

    I think if they want to make a real go of a MAC version, they need to do what they did in r12 which was give the DOS users WIN for free. In they allowed all Win user’s to use a MAC license, that would go a long way to building a user base.

  13. Mike D

    Man Thats a long list. Why release something so incomplete? I myself wouldnt use alot of those features, But I certainly would use the layers filters, drawing recovery manager (which saved my ass on a few occaisions) and a few others. Different people use different features of the program, so with all these missing features Im sure it would affect a great many users. Hopefully the next go around will be better.

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