AutoCAD users can now open, edit and design within multiple drawings in a single session using the newest version of the software, which boasts more than 400 enhancements.

Features of AutoCAD 2000 from Autodesk Inc. include the Multiple Design Environment (MDE); the AutoCAD DesignCenter, a central repository that enables users to reuse design objects, geometry and standards; a Properties window that gives users direct access to objects and drawing attributes; a Layouts feature to display and plot multiple hard-copy renditions of a single design without replicating the data; and a new AutoSnap/AutoTrack implementation that lets users design and edit without the need for construction lines.

“The software gets out of the way of creativity. It’s almost an oxymoron,” said Al Steel, general manager of Autodesk Canada. He explained the new release has object code built in to recognize common design elements such as walls.

“There are certain things you can do to a wall, so as you move on those two parallel lines and click on them, the software…presents you with the most likely things that you can do to that particular representation or object.”

Steel said prior to this feature, users had to painstakingly import and scale elements they wanted to add to their design. “Now, you can start one session, then go to another drawing and drag and drop that drawing into the other…saving literally hours of time. It scales itself automatically from one side to the other.”

This feature is especially beneficial for content reuse, Steel said.

“Quite often design involves taking different parts of a design and reusing them. So the easier you can make it for people to take that content and bring it into a new drawing, the faster they can get it out to market. And that is really the name of the game, no matter what the discipline is.”

Claude Milot, director of CAD applications at Montreal-based engineering firm SNC Lavalin Inc., has been testing AutoCAD 2000 for several months. He said the multi-session capabilities of the MDE was the biggest improvement for his company, “because we have lots of drawings where we start with something pre-existing to produce some new ones. So instead of making a block from one drawing to insert into another drawing, you just cut and paste right away.”

This saves time as well as disk space, he said.

Bruce Jenkins, vice-president of Cambridge, Mass.-based CAD/CAM market research firm Daratech Inc., believes the most significant aspect of the new release is its increased focus on workflow.

“The company has done a lot to make the product not just a design documentation aid, but a product that works very well as a node in users’ product creation process chains,” he said.

“The data mining and the knowledge reuse of the DesignCenter is part of that. And the ability to share data much more readily from drawing file to drawing file, from design to design and from project to project is also part of that.”

The only downside to the product, Jenkins noted, is that it may take extra time for users to master all the changes. “Users should plan for a little bit of a learning curve, because there are so many new capabilities in it, although some of that (time) may be counteracted by the fact that some of these are productivity-enhancing features,” he said.

Suggested retail prices for AutoCAD 2000 ( are US$3,750 for the full commercial unit, US$495 for an upgrade from Release 14 and US$695 to upgrade from Release 13.

Autodesk Canada in Markham, Ont., is at 1-800-538-6401.