Autodesk offices are still abuzz with the excitement of having released AutoCAD for Mac 2014 last week - and we haven't yet caught up on lost sleep while working days and nights to ship the product! There has been lots of great feedback, press mentions, and conversations from users about the release, and we are thrilled to see the favorable response the release has generated.
And while 2014 is now live, you may have noticed that AutoCAD for Mac since its beginning is a little different than its Windows cousin, and perhaps wondered why. We thought we'd take a moment to give some background and explanation.
Why are we different?
There is 30+ years' worth of development and learning equity on the Windows product, and Mac in comparison is still very new. But along with the challenges of starting anew, this product development effort also provided us certain advantages to be bold with our choices.
We set out on this journey with a mission to create a specifically Mac experience for CAD users working on that platform, while preserving the unique AutoCAD toolset and environment. There were many challenges inherent to getting a deeply Windows-centric app to work on Mac, not least of which was a completely different approach to user interaction. Hence, it would not be a straight 1-1 porting from Windows to Mac. Also, some components were heavily and deeply reliant upon the Windows operating system, so those could not be ported. Instead, we decided to re-write much of the product from the ground up, resulting in an experience that is familiar to users of other Mac software. It was an extraordinary endeavor lasting many years and we are still not done.
Why and how do we decide on Mac features?
Our commitment to writing a true native Mac application also means that not all AutoCAD features are applicable to Mac OS X (think .NET or the ribbon, for example). But there are some "missing" features we think are important but just haven't made it into the product yet due to technical complexity (think Dynamic Block editing and creation). We had to prioritize features based on what we knew most people used most of the time because we knew we wouldn't be able to do "everything" right away - the stuff with the widest adoption (or that affected the most people) was what we focused on first. With the basics now firmly in place, we're able to give more thought to the remainder of the feature set to be implemented on Mac.
We're continuing to add to the product as we learn more about Mac users' needs (for example, Context Sensitive Presspull, Project Manager, and Package Drawing - aka ETRANSMIT - for this release), but at the same time we want to carefully evaluate where we put our time and not just blindly port every single Windows feature without regard for its value to users. We also view this as a great opportunity to re-think some of the tools created over the last 30 years, and how they fit (or don't) in a modern, Mac context. We're constantly talking to our users, getting data from user feedback, and paying close attention to usage patterns.
Why is the user interface different?
When you launch AutoCAD for the first time, you notice that the Mac version of the AutoCAD looks starkly different than the Windows version. It's designed that way on purpose and for good reason. The Mac version is designed to have a similar look and feel to other popular Mac applications but also provide the toolset and power of AutoCAD. For example, the vertical tool palette to the left is much like a standard Mac experience. Likewise, there is no Windows ribbon in the application. Instead, AutoCAD stays true to the Mac platform using the standard pull-down menus.
The Mac interface design is minimalist to the core - and packs the most functionality into the smallest amount of space.
What are the differences in functionality between AutoCAD for Windows and Mac?
AutoCAD for Mac is a very close match to AutoCAD on Windows, but with a few important differences. While most users won't notice, if you're a long-time AutoCAD user or expert, some of these differences may present a challenge. In an effort to be fully transparent about how the products compare, we created a comparison matrix that details what's in and what's not. Be sure to read the footnotes carefully - many features are not 1:1 comparable with the Windows product because of the way they are implemented - and as every designer knows, the devil is in the details.
Of course, we're still adding to the product - and carefully evaluating the trade-offs between value to users and development effort. For every bit of work we take on, we must ask: is this still relevant? Does anyone use this? Would this functionality make sense to a Mac user in the form in which it exists on Windows? And finally, should we do this instead of that?
We encourage you to ask questions to us and let us know what you think.