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What are the Differences Between AutoCAD and AutoCAD LT?

By Anna Liza Montenegro | CAD

AutoCAD and AutoCAD LT are similar but not identical. There are some distinct differences between AutoCAD LT and the full version, AutoCAD. With this article, we have noted the top differences between both.

This article will also include the top features to consider when evaluating the AutoCAD and AutoCAD LT software or check out this comparison chart here.  This list of differences applies to both the Windows and Mac versions.

AutoCAD LT is the more economical version of AutoCAD, and therefore just has all the basic features, like tool palettes, external referencing, and printing/plotting in 2D. It works with layers, and you can create and edit blocks, use PDF’s as underlays, and upload documents to AutoCAD WS for mobile viewing. The block creation and editing is only available on the Windows version of AutoCAD, and is not available for Macs. Another feature that is only available for Windows is the DWG converter, allowing drawings done in other AutoCAD-based applications to be translated to AutoCAD.

3D Modeling
The 3D modeling and visualization features may be the most significant difference for some users. If you want to model in 3D, you have to use the full version of AutoCAD. In AutoCAD LT, you can open and view 3D models created in the full version of AutoCAD, though you can’t create new ones or edit them, other than to move, copy, or delete them.

AutoCAD LT is a 2D drafting program, it doesn’t have much visualization or presentation capabilities.  Whereas you can create and edit 3D models with solids, surfaces, and mesh objects on the full version of AutoCAD but not on LT.  You can use 3D navigation (orbit, Viewcube, wheel), display 3D models in several built-in visual styles ranging from a simple wireframe mode to full, photorealistic rendering complete with shadows, reflections with a version of AutoCAD which you cannot do on LT.

When you move to AutoCAD, you add a whole new dimension. Literally. AutoCAD has 3D drawing capabilities, enabling camera views, walkthrough navigation, and model documentation. One of the cool 3D capabilities is free-form design, where you can use robust, mesh, and solid modeling tools to investigate and refine your ideas. There is also a context-sensitive press/pull tool, where you can extrude and offset curves, creating surfaces and solids, and select multiple objects within a single PressPull operation. With the Surface Curve Extraction tool, you can extract isoline curves through a specified point on a surface or face of a solid to determine the contour lines of any shape. There are so many things you can do when you add the 3D capabilities of AutoCAD. When you need to, you can flatten your 3D geometry to 2D for easier documentation.

Some of the additional features you get with the standard AutoCAD are pretty important, and AutoCAD users will agree that they use them frequently and make their lives much easier. These tools include AutoLISP and Express Tools, and are big time-savers. Access to CAD standards tools is also pretty cool. It is also very important to note that LT is a standalone product, and cannot be deployed on a network like the standard AutoCAD can.

Now let’s talk about rendering. Most people don’t think that AutoCAD is capable of creating presentation-worthy images because Autodesk makes products specifically for visualization. If you are using AutoCAD LT, you can’t do any sort of presentation-worthy images except line drawings. However, in your 3D AutoCAD model, you can add lights, make objects transparent, or add materials and real-time shadows to make your model look realistic. If you do have more advanced visualization products like 3D Studio Max, the great thing about a 3D AutoCAD model is that you can import it directly into Max and add lights and materials to create a photorealistic rendering.

Network Licensing
With regular AutoCAD, you can get a network license that makes things easy to administer. For example, you can have a 10-seat license that lets AutoCAD run on any 10 of the 20 machines in your office, as long as no more than 10 are run at one time. If you’re an LT user and you have 20 machines in your office, you’ll need 20 licenses, one per machine, even if no more than 10 copies of AutoCAD are ever running at one time.

If you have a subscription, you have even more options with the addition of Autodesk 360 benefits, including file sharing storage, and rendering. NOTE: file sharing and storage are available for AutoCAD LT on subscription as well through Autodesk Vault, but the rendering capabilities are only available with the standard version of AutoCAD. For more info, check out our “how to set up an Autodesk 360 account” post.

This was just a general overview, if you have more questions feel free to give us a call!

*Click here to take a look at Autodesk’s comparison matrix for the two products.


About the Author

Marketing Director in New York via San Francisco and Manila. Anna Liza is a trained architect and inspired by technology. A fan of traveling, slow food movement, and summers in Maine with her kids. She has been with Microsol since 2004.