AutoCAD 2018 – 2/10, would not rent

It must be March, because another AutoCAD has just been launched. Despite this one being codenamed Omega, I’ve been assured it’s not the final AutoCAD release. The good news is that AutoCAD 2018 is twice the upgrade that 2017 was. But hold your excitement, because the bad news is that 2017 was only a 1/10 upgrade.

Autodesk has continued the well-established tradition of acting like a low-quality sausage machine, reliably popping out consistently unexciting products at regular intervals.

Here’s what’s in this year’s underwhelming sausage:

  • Xrefs now default to relative path attachment and there are a few associated tweaks including find/replace path
  • You can select objects off-screen (handier than it sounds)
  • File dialogs remember settings
  • A couple more dialogs can be resized
  • There are a couple more tiny user interface tweaks
  • The stuff from 2017.1 is included, of course, some seeing minor improvements since then
  • iDrop support is gone (will anybody miss this?)

Thrilled? Me neither. The xref stuff is worthwhile, and Autodesk does deserve credit for not adding any seriously undercooked “headline” features or pointless eye candy. That, along with the 2017.1 stuff, quietly fixing some old bugs, sorting out a few old feature issues and some unsung but worthy API documentation improvements, is just about enough to make this a 3/10 upgrade.

But wait! Autodesk earned itself a minus point to take it from 3 to 2 by inconveniencing customers with yet another API change (so your 3rd party stuff will need updating), and most unfortunate of all, a DWG format change. We had grown used to enjoying a lack of compatibility issues (with plain AutoCAD, anyway – don’t get me started on the verticals), thanks to the 2013 format surviving five releases rather than the traditional three. Now that’s over.

Why does AutoCAD 2018 need a new DWG format? It probably doesn’t. The 2013 DWG format is capable of holding pretty much anything you want, as Bricsys has shown with BricsCAD V17’s ability to compatibly store 3D parametrics and (optional) BIM and sheet metal features within that format. The changes to AutoCAD 2018 don’t come anywhere near that level of complexity. Although Autodesk cites performance reasons with certain drawings, I strongly suspect the new DWG format was introduced purely to make life difficult for competitors, and to encourage wavering customers to stay with Autodesk for fear of losing compatibility. In other words, it seems likely this is an anti-competitive change rather than a technical one.

Oh, and the desktop icon is the same as 2017, so if you run both releases side by side while you’re waiting for your add-ons to be updated, you’ll find it difficult to see at a glance which shortcut is which and what’s already running. Minor irritant, but an unnecessary cheapskate move.

There are alleged to be performance improvements; probably true in places. I did notice a slight improvement in 3D Orbit performance, with AutoCAD 2018 now about up to BricsCAD standards. However, this aspect of AutoCAD 2017 performance wasn’t a problem with the sub-20 MB drawings anyway, so you may not notice a difference.

In my experience with the Beta, AutoCAD 2018 was frequently appallingly slow, particularly start-up time, which was atrocious. Those 14 million lines of code have added up over the years, and AutoCAD 2018 is bloatware; literally ten times the size of the more fully-featured BricsCAD V17 Platinum, which starts up in the blink of an eye. However, I will reserve final judgement on AutoCAD 2018 performance until I have had chance to properly test the production version. I have not factored performance in to my overall mark.

There’s nothing in this release that comes close to justifying the annual maintenance fees, let alone throwing away your perpetual license and signing up for subscription. If Autodesk wants customers to think it will be worthwhile signing up for a lifetime of rental fees in the hope that substantial improvements will result, this weak release represents a singularly unconvincing argument.

Overall, 2/10. This is a sub-mediocre release that shows once again that AutoCAD is in maintenance mode. Autodesk appears completely disinterested in AutoCAD other than as a cash cow, and severely lacking in imagination about ways of seriously improving it. Omega might not be the final AutoCAD release, but given the glacial level of improvement being shown, it might as well be.

13 Comments:

  1. Installed 2018 this morning, it conforted me in our decision for next june : stop maintenance of our 7 licences, keep them perpetual, and switch to Bricscad if we ever need more seats someday. I’m sure autodesk put the autocad team on revit, like apple put the mac team on ios (which explains why mac desktop hardware stalled for years). Autocad is dead. Let’s not spend money on a corpse.

  2. Poor show from Autodesk. So essentially the same programme we already have. Won’t hold my breath for any significant improvements to Advance Steel.

    Feeling more comfortable in my decision to drop the 40% increased maintenance fee at the end of April.

  3. AutoCAD is dead. Perfect lyrics for an old techno song by Raver FX called apocalypse now, look it up. All those people that worried how to sell bricscad to their users are loving Autodesk’s latest moves. Its like we can’t lose.

  4. Autodesk is not messing around with using the file format stick to get people to switch to rental or pay more for less in their maintenance. Way back in the distant past 3ds Max didn’t have the ability to save to previous versions. We finally got that in Max 2011. I wonder how long saving to previous versions is going to last now that “everybody” will be on the same release.
    Showcase was discontinued on 21 March, in an article dated 14 March, and is being removed from 2018 suites. Anybody get a discount on their 2018 maintenance renewal for a suite that had Showcase?

  5. Off screen object selection is a fix not a new feature. This is how it used to work in older versions of AutoCAD. I guess if you remove something for long enough people will forget, then you get to add it back in as if it’s new.

  6. You forgot best new feature! You can now find and convert text in PDF-converted-to-CAD files from dumb lines into real text! Should have been in 2017, of course, but hey.

    For perspective I sometimes like to re-read a post I made back in 200-frickin’-7 on what was busted about AutoCAD. It’s nice that some stuff was added – notably polyline editing improvements and constraints – but it’s more amazing that lots of those irritants and deficiencies are still with us today.

    Check it out here:
    http://www.worldcadaccess.com/blog/2007/09/what-needs-to-b.html

  7. Dieter Schlaepfer

    Steve,

    Just to clarify a little, everything added after AutoCAD 2017 gets rolled up into AutoCAD 2018. Yes, I agree that calling it AutoCAD 2017 Update 1 makes it sound like it’s a part of AutoCAD 2017 or claiming it twice.

    Personally, I’d have called the 2017 Update release something like the AutoCAD 2018 Summer Preview. But then, what do I know about marketing?

    Dieter

  8. I just want to see how it works in 4k, i have a dell inspiron 7548 and it’s a fucking torture working in autocad 2017… and the hatchs, no need to talk how many time it tooks for drawing it. I miss those ol ‘days when autocad used to be fast to open, to execute commands … with a pentium 4 and just 1 gb ram. They fucked up, autodesk is going down.

  9. So AutoCAD 2018 gets released. Our subscription users get instant access but nothing shows up for for the perpetual licences (under maintenance plan). Apparently we have to wait ‘weeks’ for the perpetual versions to be rolled out (LT included). Is this just another pathetic attempt at pushing customers toward the pricey subscription model?

  10. Daniel Hieronymus

    Nothing worth the high price I am already paying for the maintenance plan. The only thing I will utilize is the selection improvement. Based on your post can I assume you consider BricsCAD the best AutoCAD alternative? Definitely considering dumping AutoCAD.

    • Depends on your needs. If you don’t need a high degree of LISP etc. compatibility then others might do the job for you. For my needs, yes, it’s the best available. Including AutoCAD.

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