What Is AutoCAD?

Georgi Karaivanov
Georgi Karaivanov

Updated · May 10, 2022

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Computer-aided design is the general term for using computers or workstations to create maps, designs, or models. Shortened to CAD, this software sees widespread use in countless professional spheres.

One particular CAD program stands out amongst the rest - AutoCAD.

So what is AutoCAD, and why does this application lead the field in drafting for engineering, architecture, and other professional purposes? 

Let’s dig in.

What Is AutoCAD?

AutoCAD is a computer-aided design program developed and published by Autodesk. It has been around for nearly four decades.

First released in 1982, AutoCAD software is not only popular among architects but also civil engineers, surveyors, and designers. Furthermore, it is often part of many schools’ curricula. 

But why?

In addition to being one of the oldest CAD applications, it allows you to design, draft, and make sketches in two and three dimensions

Its benefits are clear:

It is much quicker to draft designs via a computer than by hand. It allows for less room for human errors and is highly versatile. The primary file type associated with AutoCAD is .dwg.

It is available for Windows and macOS, but it also has mobile applications for Android and iOS devices.

AutoCAD Use Cases

Being a highly flexible application, AutoCAD has many uses.

Here are some examples of how you can use the program.

  • Interior design - Architects and design enthusiasts use it for floor plan drafting. You can easily add doors, windows, and staircases with its practical features.
  • Exterior design - AutoCAD software can model building exteriors in 2D and 3D. You can even start with a 2D draft and convert it to 3D. Such functionality makes for better visualization and saves time. AutoCAD helped design many famous buildings like the Burj Khalifa and One World Trade Center.
  • Civil engineering - Designing roads, bridges, and structural components is also an AutoCAD capability. You can specify component materials, such as steel or concrete. And, of course, you can visualize everything three-dimensionally.
  • Construction management - General contractors often use AutoCAD to examine and revise architectural plans comprehensively. The program helps verify project objectives and quality control.
  • Graphic design - Despite being most often used for architecture and construction, you can also use AutoCAD for drawing and graphic design. As it is much more technical than many other alternatives, it is not an ideal solution. But it is still suitable for creating 2D vector designs and text.

How Does it Work?

Let’s look at some of AutoCAD’s hallmark features and what makes it popular among professionals.

First of all, the program isn’t overly challenging to learn.

Upon starting the application, you will see a blank canvas and a menu with numerous icons at the top. This layout should instantly feel familiar if you’ve used any Microsoft Office programs before. Newer AutoCAD versions are more intuitive and easy to get the hang of.

From here, you can start drawing right away, either in 2D or 3D.

2D Drawing and Drafting

Using tools is easy, simply navigate the top ribbon area and select what you want to place on the canvas.

You can easily draw lines, curves, and circles - and all elements can be manipulated and combined. Placing text boxes is also an option. To draw, all you have to do is click and drag.

AutoCAD 2D Drawing and Drafting

This mode is excellent for drafting floor plans or even more abstract graphic design.

You can carefully edit all aspects of every object, whether it’s smoothing out corners or creating new shapes on the canvas. What’s more, you can create tables and import spreadsheets from Microsoft Excel.

creating tables and importing spreadsheets

And this is just the AutoCAD basics.

3D Modelling

If you want to visualize your projects better, AutoCAD can depict your plans in 3D.

Modeling in 3D works similarly to 2D drawing but with an added dimension. You can manipulate the canvas in any way, allowing you to see your model from every possible perspective.

AutoCAD 3D Modelling

Then there is rendering.

This brings your AutoCAD designs to life by applying lighting and material effects to your model. It makes the finished construction result look true to life.

Rendering is a fairly resource-intensive process.

But if you are short on disk space or processing power, you can use the application’s cloud rendering.

Mobile Application

Breaking away from the world of computers for a bit, AutoCAD also has mobile apps for iOS and Android. It’s not as capable as the PC and Mac versions, but still lets you access your plans on your phone to make simple adjustments.

System Requirements

AutoCAD’s 3D modeling and rendering processes require a computer with sufficient capabilities. 

AutoCAD runs on Windows and macOS and has varying requirements.  

Windows Requirements

You will need a 64-bit version of Windows, 8.1 or above. Windows 7 is not supported.

In terms of processor, a 2.5 GHz CPU is necessary. However, Autodesk recommends 3 GHz for an optimal experience.

AutoCAD also needs at least 8 GB of RAM.

Your graphics card needs at least 1 GB of memory, with 4 GB and above preferable. You will also need 7 GB of free disk space for installation and .NET Framework version 4.8 or better.

Mac Requirements

AutoCAD requirements for Mac need the following models:

  • Apple Mac Pro 4.1
  • MacBook Pro 5.1
  • iMac 8.1
  • Mac mini 3.1
  • MacBook Air
  • MacBook 5.1

A 64-bit Intel CPU with an Intel Core i7 or better is best.

Autodesk requires at least 4 GB of memory, but you will need 8 GB or more for 3D modeling. As for the install size, 3 GB of free disk space should suffice.

Mobile Requirements

The AutoCAD Mobile app is a separate application you can download for your phone or tablet. Through it, you can load and view your desktop files. It is not a replacement for the main version but is suitable for quick adjustments and on-site plan reviews.

What devices support AutoCAD Mobile?

The app runs on iOS 11.0 or later in conjunction with iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch. As for Android, the official website makes no mention of specific demands. But the Google Play store page lists Android 7.0 and up.

Wrap Up

AutoCAD is a comprehensive tool capable of drafting, drawing, or modeling floor plans, 3D renders of exteriors, roads, plumbing, wiring, etc. This intuitive program is popular among architects, engineers, and construction managers.

Drawing lines, circles, and curves in 2D is straightforward, while its 3D modeling is a pleasure to work with.

And even though it looks intimidating upon initial startup, it’s easier to learn than you think!

FAQ.


Is AutoCAD difficult to learn?

There is a bit of a learning curve. But the AutoCAD basics are easy to pick up on, and there are plenty of online tutorials. Once you know where everything is, using the application is straightforward.

What are the benefits of AutoCAD?

Designing floor plans and exteriors is way quicker and easier than by hand. Furthermore, you can get a much clearer picture of how the finished project will look by using 3D rendering.

What is AutoCAD, in simple words?

It’s a program best used for designing buildings and civil engineering plans, both in 2D and 3D. It is a type of computer aided design application.

What is AutoCAD used for?

Architects and engineers primarily use AutoCAD to design buildings, floor plans, electrical plans, and more. For more detailed examples, check out the What is AutoCAD? section of this article.

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Georgi Karaivanov

Georgi Karaivanov

My fascination with technology began from quite an early age thanks to computers and video games. Nowadays, I love anything related to music production and astronomy. Coincidentally (or is it?), both of those have a great deal to do with tech. Honestly, most of the stuff that can be accomplished with modern electronics kind of seems like magic to me. This is why I feel this strong need to constantly learn more about it and talk about it, almost to the detriment of others.

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