POWER USER

AutoCAD 2000i goes interactive for users who work via the Web

John McCormick

AutoCAD 2000i has adopted online collaboration in a big way. I recently tried the new incarnation of the industry-leading computer-aided design package from Autodesk Inc. of San Rafael, Calif., which extends the collaborative features of AutoCAD 2000, also known as AutoCAD R15.

R15 had iX, or Internet eXtension, tools for sharing CAD files over networks, but the 2000i edition expands on iX.

The most important new feature is i-drop, which can drag and drop content from a server to an AutoCAD design. The entire design process is now more interactive with built-in MeetNow conferencing, which uses Microsoft NetMeeting technology, and Publish to Web, a new publishing wizard.

Even if you aren't interested in collaborating on designs over the Internet, you might want this latest release for its speedier performance. It improves considerably on that of AutoCAD 2000.

Autodesk claims support for multiprocessor systems, which I couldn't test, but 2000i did run noticeably faster on my uniprocessor machine. I've seen user reports of about one-third faster performance on dual-processor workstations.

Faster is better

The most obvious improvements were faster file loading and display. I can't benchmark graphics programs, but I did run AutoCAD 2000 on the same machine to compare them side by side. My Compaq Computer Corp. Pentium III isn't fully optimized for graphics, although it has 128M of RAM and a high-end monitor.

For most users, the ability to work more easily on CAD drawings over Internet or intranet connections will be the biggest attraction of the new version. It's compatible with existing AutoCAD .dwg files and doesn't require an upgrade of any third-party applications you might be using with 2000.

AutoLisp routines written for the 2000 version are virtually identical to 2000i's VisualLisp routines and should work fine. VisualLisp is the next generation of AutoLisp and adheres more strictly to the Common Lisp language standards.

The 2000i drawing database is fully compatible with AutoCAD 2000's, but don't forget that the drawing database changed between R14 and AutoCAD 2000. Just as you could share drawings between R14 and 2000, you can use a SaveAs feature in 2000i for backward compatibility.

If you still work with AutoCAD R12, which isn't object-oriented, you will have to exchange files in .dbx format. A Migration Assistant on CD-ROM lets you batch-convert files. The Migration Assistant also helps move customized menus from 2000 to 2000i. The old menus are compatible but will not show the new features of 2000i unless you use the migration utility.

Note that changes to digitizer and plotter drivers mean your old analog device drivers won't work with 2000i.

Although Autodesk claims 2000i will run with only 32M of RAM and every Microsoft Windows version from Windows 95 through Windows 2000 Professional and Server, I can't imagine shoehorning this massive program onto an old system.

If you do CAD on a 133-MHz or similar Pentium PC, you still might see improved performance by upgrading to 2000i, but be forewarned that some of its enhancements come from the Pentium III architecture. You might not get any better performance on an old system.

HTML is the one

The Command Reference and Customization Guide documentation comes only in the form of Hypertext Markup Language files. You can print out only one copy'or else order a printed manual.

AutoCAD software now has instant online registration. It recently caused me a few minor problems with another application, but it's still a big improvement over having to contact Autodesk directly and wait to get an authorization code.

A list of questions asked about AutoCAD 2000i appears at www3.autodesk.com/adsk/files/299136_AutoCAD2000i_FAQ.pdf. Technical specifications are available in another Adobe Portable Document Format file at www3.autodesk.com/adsk/files/302020_ACAD2i.pdf.

A new license for 2000i costs $3,295. An upgrade from 2000 is $395; from Release 14, $695; and from R13, $895. AutoCAD LT 2000i is $659 including MeetNow and Publish to Web.

John McCormick, a free-lance writer and computer consultant, has been working with computers since the early 1960s.

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