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AUTHOR: Joseph Freund

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What are the Benefits of AutoCAD?

There are a lot of benefits to using AutoCAD.  How will you take advantage of them?

Since the initial release of AutoCAD in 1982, Autodesk has been a leader in Computer-Aided Design (CAD) software. Prior, the design process for architecture, engineering, or part design was done by manual drawing. Following the industrial revolution and into the 20th century, hand drafting necessarily became a more common profession, and by the 1980s manual drafting on trace paper was the standard production method for architects and engineers. Recognizing the potential offered by computation, AutoCAD was originally developed as digitization of hand drafting tools.

However, over the course of almost 40 years and the release of 35 versions, Autodesk AutoCAD has transformed the way that designs are conceptualized, developed, and ultimately documented in 2D drawings and 3D drawings. This article will discuss the benefits of using AutoCAD as one of the premier drafting and design tools.


If we consider Version 1.0 of AutoCAD released in 1982 as a ‘sketch’, it is safe to say that Version 35 (AutoCAD 2021) is now a very detailed, documented, and refined design. As it has developed over almost 40 years as one of the oldest cad systems, improvements have come from a few places:

  • Advancements in desktop computing (Microsoft, Intel, AMD, Nvidia)
  • Software innovations developed at Autodesk
  • Ideas submitted by users and echoed by the greater AutoCAD community

AutoCAD started as a simple idea: Computer-Aided Drafting. It has since expanded to facilitate workflows across programs, projects, and trades. AutoCAD is the result of countless hours of collaboration between designers and software engineers and has played a major role in facilitating the profitable delivery of countless design projects. As a dynamic engineering model, AutoCAD is a great software application, but the many end products it has facilitated are testaments to its success and effectiveness.


As AutoCAD has been adopted by designers over the years, Autodesk has provided resources for networks of user groups, strengthening the broad user community. The Autodesk Group Network, the AutoCAD Forums, the Autodesk Knowledge Network, Autodesk University, along with many others, consist of the various ways that Autodesk supports and retains feedback from its user base. These feedback loops inform software development at Autodesk and have provided a unique opportunity for community-driven enhancements, fixes, and features. AutoCAD is available with 14 different language packs, expanding the ease of access across the world and growing the community.

Over time, this resonance between software developers and drafters has put AutoCAD in a superposition as the powerful, user-friendly, and adaptable end product that designers said they needed. Those that use AutoCAD, whether new or experienced, can engage with this vast knowledge network to advance their own expertise of the software, or contribute back to the community.

Industry Specialized Toolsets

In addition to ‘vanilla’ AutoCAD, there are various Specialized Toolsets that have functionality certain trades or disciplines will find invaluable for annotating, dimensioning, working with component drawings, and production drafting in general. These include automated workflows and large collections of intelligent parts, symbols, and building objects. The toolsets are built atop the core AutoCAD installation and productivity studies have found that users can save 60% of their time drafting when using AutoCAD Architecture versus regular AutoCAD.

CAD drawings can remain in the DWG format, but each design team member can choose a specialized tool as they develop their part of the design.

Below are the different products available with a subscription to AutoCAD including Specialized Toolsets:

  • AutoCAD (Windows & Mac)
  • AutoCAD Architecture
    • Create floor plans, sections, elevations
    • Walls, doors, windows
    • 8000+ intelligent architectural objects and styles
  • AutoCAD Electrical
    • Panel layouts, schematic diagrams
    • Project-based organizational structure
    • 65,000+ intelligent symbols
  • AutoCAD Map 3D
    • Create, maintain, and communicate mapping and GIS information
    • Manage GIS data, aggregate with design data
  • AutoCAD Mechanical
    • Automation tasks for mechanical systems, generate machine components, create a bill of materials.
    • Create parts, assemblies, and other drawings for product design
    • 70,000+ intelligent objects
  • AutoCAD MEP
    • Task-based tools to create MEP drawings for building systems
    • 10,500+ intelligent MEP objects
  • AutoCAD Plant 3D
    • Generate isometrics, orthographic, and materials reports
    • Schematic diagrams, plant layouts
    • 400+ intelligent plant objects
  • AutoCAD Raster Design
    • Despeckle, bias, mirror, and touch up images
    • Create lines and polylines from raster images, convert raster files to vector drawings

A more comprehensive list of features can be found here.

Design Data

Data is an important part of the design, and the Express Tools in AutoCAD make it easier to manage. With blocks and intelligent objects, it is much easier to import and export design data. This may include schedules, quantities, areas, volumes, etc. and can be entered manually, or automatically generated. Data can be copied from spreadsheets into tables, or Excel Spreadsheets can be linked to the drawing via Data Links.

Point clouds can be attached to a DWG to generate precise geometry based on scans of existing conditions. These scans, sampled with hardware such as GeoSLAM, can accelerate the documentation of existing conditions, and reduce the number of site visits significantly.

Additionally, Fields were introduced in 2005 which allows for the project and drawing data to automatically be inserted into any Field object, such as MText, title blocks, schedules, etc. Working with data in AutoCAD can take a little time to set up and understand, but once managing Fields gets integrated into the daily workflow, users will enjoy tremendous time-saving benefits throughout an entire project.

These tools to collect, organize, and manage design data are some of the most powerful AutoCAD features for automating the documentation process.

New Features

The new version of AutoCAD has powerful new features and enhancements that many will find very useful for automating workflows in AutoCAD:

  • DWG Compare
    • Compare two DWGs side by side and easily view their differences, and merge them if necessary
  • Drawing History
    • For drawings saved to Box, Dropbox, or OneDrive, the current version of the drawing can be compared to previous versions. As an extension of the DWG Compare tool, differences can be easily viewed and geometry can be merged into the current drawing.
  • XREF Compare
    • Compare different versions of an XREF at any time, or when prompted to Reload
  • Blocks Palette
    • Organize blocks into libraries for quick and easy insertion into drawings
  • Quick Measure
    • Real-time measurements displayed based on

Check out Microsol Resources’ Youtube Channel for our webinar on What’s New in AutoCAD 2021 in addition to past webinars covering AutoCAD.

AutoCAD Anywhere

Included in new subscriptions, AutoCAD is also available as an App for mobile devices (Android, iOS) as well as AutoCAD Web, which is a limited flavor of AutoCAD that brings Computer-Aided Design to the browser. New subscriptions to AutoCAD software include these mobile versions, allowing users access to AutoCAD from anywhere with an internet connection.

While each of these flavors of AutoCAD has limitations, the ability to open and access DWGs from anywhere can help to resolve issues in a more timely manner, which is increasingly necessary and helpful in a mobile, post-pandemic world.

Cloud Storage

Integrated with the mobile versions of AutoCAD are a select set of cloud storage options:



These allow for easy access to project files from any machine. With Box, Dropbox, and OneDrive, users can take advantage of versioning, which is a technology that preserves each version that has been saved to the cloud. Losing work due to overwriting is now a thing of the past with these new integrations with cloud services.

Autodesk Desktop App

Along with the installation of most Autodesk software, an application called the Autodesk Desktop App will be installed. Some users think this is bloatware and have uninstalled it, but it is highly recommended to ensure the optimal performance of all products. The app will automatically detect all Autodesk software installed on a computer and offer relevant updates.

Updates can be set so that the user can manually select which updates to install, or if desired that any available updates are automatically installed. In addition to managing updates, the Desktop App can help control licensing for all products, which can be very useful for Named Users that are on Subscription. Users simply need to login to the Autodesk Desktop App, and all software that has the licensing mode set to USER will be automatically activated once opened. The Autodesk Desktop App is a great tool that will save a lot of time and ensure that the Autodesk software is running optimally and securely.

Autosave and Drawing Recovery

On occasion, the software may unexpectedly crash due to factors beyond the product’s control. For instance, it is common that Microsoft Windows 10 Updates are automatically installed on a computer, necessitating the update and installation of any hardware or software that is dependent on those updates. Sometimes a Windows Update will require a Service Pack or Hotfix for AutoCAD, and if not installed, the program may crash. Most of the time, the issue can be resolved by updating through the Autodesk Desktop App, but if the crash has already occurred, there is a chance for data loss.

Fortunately, AutoCAD has convenient Autosave and Recovery functionality that is customizable. Autosave files will be saved to a specified location (Default: TEMP) and can be saved at user-defined intervals. Additionally, backup files (.BAK) are saved within the same folder as the current drawing and can be converted to DWGs if the original file is lost. These recovery options ensure that data loss is mitigated, which will save time and help keep projects profitable.


The DWG file extension has been around for almost 40 years, and due to the prevalence of AutoCAD, most other design software that was developed afterward allowed for the import or conversion of DWG files. As a result, the DWG file is one of the most dynamic formats and offers the highest chance of compatibility with CAD software used by outside consultants.

AutoCAD can be used as a precision design tool for 2D drawings as well as 3D models. By default, Workspaces can be toggled from 2D Drafting and Annotation to 3D Modeling so that the appropriate tools and palettes are readily available for producing 3D designs. With a subscription to AutoCAD, the 3D printing tool Print Studio is available, so 3D models can print optimally depending on the 3D printer manufacturer and model.


As a recap, here are all the features and supplemental services that users can take advantage of when using AutoCAD:

  1. Experience
  2. Community
  3. Industry Specialized Toolsets
  4. Design Data
  5. New Features
  6. AutoCAD Anywhere
  7. Cloud Storage Integration
  8. Autodesk Desktop App
  9. Autosave and File Recovery
  10. Flexibility

The advantages of AutoCAD are many and continue to grow as the supporting tools, services, and community becomes more robust. Over the course of its evolution, it has proven to be a refined tool with time-tested features that designers have asked for.

Customers of Microsol Resources enjoy the added benefit of free Technical Support for AutoCAD, in addition to many other CAD programs. If you would like to purchase seats of AutoCAD, feel free to visit our eStore or send an email to Microsol Resources Sales Team to request pricing.

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How to do software reporting for Autodesk Network Licenses

Whether it’s in preparation of Autodesk Named User transition or in consideration of upgrading from point products such as AutoCAD to an Industry Collection; for administrators interested in gaining insights into utilization of their Autodesk “multi-user” (Network) licenses, there are a few options available for reporting or interpreting the data from the Network License Manager (LMTOOLS).

JTB Flex Report provides the most advanced set of reporting tools to understand how the different products are being used within an organization, at a specific instant or over time. A video demonstration of the reporting capabilities is below:

To purchase a copy of JTB Flex Report, please email our Sales Team indicating interest and the number of Network Licenses that are managed.

JTB Flex Report LT contains a subset of the functionality and  is free, but only provides a report for the current usage of a product.

Alternatively, if you don’t want to install additional software, you can ‘Perform a Status Enquiry’ within the ‘Server Status’ tab of LMTOOLS, which will generate a text report of the licenses that are currently checked-out.

To understand the text report, it is helpful to have the FLEXnet feature codes for the Autodesk products handy for reference. Since most subscriptions come with multiple versions of a single product, or various products within a Suite or Collection, it is helpful to understand how all of these licenses will appear in the report generated by ‘Perform Status Enquiry.’

Consider AutoCAD 2020 (87224ACD_2020_0F). This product can be part of a subscription to:

  1. AutoCAD 2020
  2. AutoCAD 2021
  3. AutoCAD Including Specialized Toolsets
  4. Architecture Engineering & Construction Collection
  5. Building Design Suite
  6. etc.

As an example, let’s say Company Vandalay Industries has:

-6 subscriptions of the AEC Collection

-10 subscriptions of AutoCAD

If no users have pulled licenses when clicking ‘Perform Status Enquiry’, then the report will show something like:

Feature usage info:
Users of 86815AECCOL_T_F:  (Total of 6 licenses issued;  Total of 0 licenses in use)
Users of 64300ACD_T_F:  (Total of 10 licenses issued;  Total of 0 licenses in use)

Users of 87224ACD_2020_0F:  (Total of 16 licenses issued;  Total of 0 licenses in use)

Since the AEC Collection includes AutoCAD, the total number of AutoCAD 2020 licenses is:

6 (from AEC) + 10 (from ACD) = 16 licenses

When users open AutoCAD 2020, each and every license used will be noted under Feature Code 87224ACD_2020_0F, and will be consumed from subscription products in the following order:

  1. Individual Product (subscription license)
  2. Individual Product (perpetual license)
  3. Industry Collection
  4. Suite (subscription license)
  5. Suite (perpetual license)

Therefore if 13 users from Vanadlay Industries open AutoCAD 2020 on the office network, the report will then show:

Feature usage info:
Users of 86815AECCOL_T_F:  (Total of 6 licenses issued;  Total of 3 licenses in use)
Users of 64300ACD_T_F:  (Total of 10 licenses issued;  Total of 10 licenses in use)

Users of 87224ACD_2020_0F:  (Total of 16 licenses issued;  Total of 13 licenses in use)

For companies that subscribe to software through Microsol Resources, our Technical Support staff can help to interpret the Status Enquiry report if generated and saved to a text document, per the GIF above.

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Getting Started with Dynamo

Revit users out there have likely been exposed to Dynamo from blog posts, webinars, colleagues, or within Revit itself. As more designers have adopted Dynamo into their workflow to accomplish tasks that would otherwise be impossible or very difficult, the possibilities expanded. With some of the new features available in Revit 2021, such as Generative Design, there has never been a better time to learn how it works!

What is Dynamo?

Dynamo is a Visual Programming Interface that comes packaged within recent versions of Revit (2020, 2021), but versions of Dynamo are also available for Civil 3D, FormIt, Advance Steel, and Alias Design.

With Dynamo, designers can build algorithms in a more intuitive way. Algorithms may seem like the tool of computer scientists and coders, but anyone familiar with Macros, Actions, or even the assembly instructions for a piece of IKEA furniture, will have a general understanding of what an algorithm is.

The interface for Dynamo is easy to navigate once its core components are understood:

NODES – process to perform a specific task to a set of define elements

WIRES – Connect nodes

Nodes have some number of INPUTS and OUTPUTS. The WIRES connect from one Node’s OUTPUT, to another node’s INPUT, allowing for data or elements to flow across the canvas, to ultimately produce a design.

Algorithm as an Analogy

There are a variety of analogies that can help to explain how this works in the design context – consider a manufacturing plant that produces nuts and bolts. The manufacturing plant has different facilities that play roles in producing the final products:

  1. Foundry – melts the raw material and creates metal castings
  2. Machine shop – precisely subtracts material from the metal castings, creating threads and smooth surfaces.
  3. Assembly line – assembles the nuts and bolts for packaging, and to confirm quality and smooth rotation.

At a macro level, the manufacturing plant brings in a set of INPUTS = [raw material (metal)] and ultimately produces a set of OUTPUTS = [nuts, bolts]. At each facility, there are a series of processes that manipulate the INPUT and prepare them for OUTPUT and transfer to the subsequent facility.

Above is an aggregated representation of this concept, using Dynamo nodes, in a simplified form. Over time, the design engineers may find ways to refine the process so that the final manufactured product is cheaper to produce, or more effective.

Introduction to the Interface

Within Revit 2020/2021, you can open Dynamo by going to the Manage Tab and looking all the way to the right under Visual Programming.

When using Dynamo for Revit, the interface is fairly straightforward.


-The canvas looks like a familiar ‘model space’, where the Dynamo script will built.

-Pre-loaded nodes can be added from browsing on the left-hand pane, or right-clicking and searching directly from the canvas.

-Wires can be drawn by by selecting an OUTPUT from one node and the INPUT of another (or vice versa).

Dynamo Resources

From here, the sky is the limit! DynamoBIM.org is the best One-Stop-Shop for learning Dynamo, and along the way it can be very helpful to learn about the nuts and bolts of Revit from the Revit API Docs. As with all other software tools, there is a fantastic community of designers and developers at the Dynamo Forums which can be invaluable when trying to overcome specific issues in a Dynamo Script.

Generative Design

With the new Generative Design features that are available in Revit 2021 when subscribed to the AEC Collection, designers can explore a variety of solutions that satisfy design criteria.  This provides greater value to the designer and client by eliminating much of the back-and-forth that could previously become cost-prohibitive and time-consuming. Now, designers can utilize the power of computation to quickly produce some of the best possible configurations up-front. The pairing of this technology, with designers behind the wheel (or mouse and keyboard), we are all excited to see how Architects and Engineers push the limits and take design to the next level!

If you have any questions about Dynamo, contact our Technical Team by emailing support@microsolresources.com or call 888-768-7568.


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