Cloud benefits – collaboration

Cloud benefits – collaboration

The “other” C word – collaboration – was super-trendy in a mildly amusing way a couple of years ago, so I hesitate to use it here. But it seems to me that it represents a real potential benefit of CAD on the Cloud. Not just potential, because it’s already here, free for anyone, thanks to AutoCAD WS. The optional ability to put your designs where they can be worked on by those who are contributing to the design, regardless of their location, has to be a good thing, surely?

Let’s find out how it’s going in the real world. I’d like to hear from people who have used AutoCAD WS, or tried to use it, in order to collaborate with others. What are the benefits and problems? Does the workflow match your needs, or do issues such as contractual and legal responsibility prevent you from working in this way? Are there practical difficulties in areas such as performance and CAD management? Is AutoCAD WS a good enough CAD tool for this job, or does it have a way to go yet?


  1. Matt Stachoni

    I know the topic of your post was on collaboration and the Cloud, but I just used the AutoCAD WS mobile app extensively on my iPad to complete some site surveys last week. Basically reviewing existing conditions and noting personnel changes for the FM group. It was the first chance to really kick the tires, so to speak, and here are my thoughts.

    The Cloud thing IS important for any number of reasons, but most of all for sheer convenience. It was stupidly easy to post them to the WS service and get them on the iPad. After editing my drawings, it was just as painless to share them with my client.

    Regarding the mobile app, I’ve done the carrying-around-20-11x17s-and-forever-flipping-back-and-forth thing a million times, and it sucks. It was great to have the whole set of plans on one device, and be able to pan around, finger-pinch zoom, and page through the documents. The display of drawings on the iPad is fantastic and clear – the large screen makes things easy to read. Speed is acceptably good. Uploading and accessing files is easy, and local access is a must for those of us without 3G. This is the Buck Rogers in the 21st Century type stuff I’ve wanted for just about forever.

    But overall, it has LOTS of weaknesses which need to be addressed for any sort of remote editing on the tablet platform to be worthwhile. As with everything else Autodesk does, it all comes down to implementation, which is sorely lacking here:

    1. Selecting things is kind of a pain. You cannot de-select one thing in a selection set (i.e., if you tap on a selected object, you would think it should deselect it, but no). You always have to start over. There is a deselect tool, but it deselects everything (you can also pick in the middle of nowhere to deselect – again – everything). Window selection is an option that you have to explicitly enable, and it turns off all of the time for some reason.

    2. Zero functionality that would make layers actually useful. You cannot create or modify layers, except to turn them on or off. All the stuff you draw is on an “_AutoCAD WS” layer using whatever color you want. Don’t try to adhere to any sort of CAD Standards on WS.

    3. The way you access common command/tools is tiring and irritating. Tools for drawing and editing are always hidden away… You have to hit the Draw button before you see a tray bar of drawing tools limp into view. Same for editing – you have to pick something before you can get to the editing tools. In contrast to Sketchbook Pro, which puts all of the tool icons right there. Autodesk, simply mimic that interface and you would have a WINNER.

    4. No MText creation OR EDITING. Seriously?!? Tap on some existing MText in a drawing and you can only make simple copy/move edits. You can only create single-line Text. And you cannot specify text height – it’s a function of your Zoom level, believe it or not. Which basically means you cannot make extensive notes on your drawings. Geeeeeeeeze.

    5. You have a total of 9 tools you can use to actually draw something, but two of them are for the same Text tool and another two are for drawing a rectangle. So you really only have 7 things you can draw – line, rectangle, circle, polyline, text, cloud, and some weird “brush” thing that just makes a splined polyline. You can’t make or insert blocks, ellipses, polygons(!), etc. The revision cloud command is decent, but has a tendency to draw the first arc in the current color then the rest in a different color. No width or calligraphic styles.

    6. No leaders, annotative symbols, or dimensions. NO attribute editing. No fields, obviously.

    7. No BYLAYER color. No linetype options.

    8. The copy command is just plain weird. I had a tendency to make 3 or 4 copies of something over top of itself.

    9. Entering numerical values for things is oddly handled.

    10. It doesn’t remember your preferences for viewing the drawing in color or grayscale between sessions.

    11. There is a TON of room for additional tools and features, but lots of open, wasted space in the interface.

    12. No properties of what you have selected.

    13. In very weird contrast to AutoCAD, there are almost zero application settings or options to work with. Which for a mobile app is really, really dopey.

    14. Being able to to upload the drawings easily from AutoCAD or the WS web site is nice. But Design Review doesn’t do this – it uses Autodesk Cloud. It seems odd to have to use two completely separate access points for this very similar kind of design data.

    I know it’s a 1.0 product (whoops, make that 1.1 – just d’loaded an update) but it has a ways to go before its explosive potential on the platform – which is probably the closest thing to a sure bet as you will EVER see – can be tapped.

    1. Thanks, Matt. I spent a little time with AutoCAD WS yesterday, on a desktop. I noted a similarly long list of implementation issues, most of them immediately obvious as soon as you start trying to use it for anything resembling real work. I think I might have to do a proper review, and it’s unlikely to be a pleasant read.

  2. Steve,

    JFYI- I had a chance talking to Tal Weiss (R&D manager of AutoCAD WS) last month and the numbers he disclosed are a bit different:

    2.5 million users, 3.2 million downloads on iOS and Android platforms, 5 million files downloaded, 1.6 million unique users

    Best, Oleg

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