Tuesday, March 22, 2011

AutoCAD LT 2012 is here: what you need to know.

AutoCAD/LT2012 is an incremental upgrade to AutoCAD/LT2011, adding new commands, improvements to existing features, new and enhanced 2D features (and 3D for full AutoCAD users), better input and output tools, interface and performance enhancements as well as the continued tweaking to the user interface we've seen over the last three versions with the Ribbon.
  • Performance: faster startup times for the program, and faster switching between Ribbon tabs have been added. LT2012 now also supports Hardware Acceleration, similar to full AutoCAD, and is turned on by default if your system is determined to be able to support the feature. 3DCONFIG is the command name, but unlike the name's implication, there is no 3D in LT as always.
  • Groups: AutoCAD finally gets LT's group functionality, so not much new for LT users except the adjustments in the Ribbon. Expanding the Group Panel provides additional Group tools: the Group Bound Box option controls how groups are enabled (LT displays a single grip and a bounding box around a group when selected). Note: PURGE command has been updated to purge groups that contain no objects.
  • AutoCAD Exchange: the single information hub (aka Website) that offers learning and productivity tools, getting-started videos, news, discussions, blog posts, and more can now be accessed from inside AutoCAD/LT and is the default at startup (you can disable it). Unlike full AutoCAD though, LT will not have access to the Online App Store to add features to LT.
  • Content Explorer: ADCENTER is finally addressed and improved. Instantly find design content based on file objects or text attributes. This new feature uses a Google-like index at any location you designate, helping you to quickly access files. You can explore and browse into DWG files in order to access and insert blocks, layers, linetypes, styles and more. Content Explorer also provides a single interface fro browsing and searching other content sources such as Autodesk Seek.
  • Ribbon: the interface has been updated to better identify and access frequently used tools. Look for minor changes and adjustments in the Draw, Modify, Insert and View panels and tabs: most simply add those commands that were missing (like WBLOCK in the Create Block flyout), plus room for the new commands added.
  • Migration Tools: these have been improved to give you more information, more choices, and finally, migrate Tool Palettes. You can also, and easily, change your mind afterwards by using the new RESET tool to get back to the Out-Of-The-Box default installation.
  • PC3 files: you can truly have multiple folders for all your (and your clients) PC3 files and other printer configuration files (PMP and Plot style Tables STB and CTB). Just add these folders in OPTIONS command's Files tab. And even better, if you want to avoid the hassle (or are locked out of the option by your Windows log-in), AutoCAD will now just search for these items in the folder of the host file.
  • Auto-Complete Command Entry: In LT2011 and lower, you could do this by keying in a couple of letters and tapping the TAB key to cycle through all possibilities. In 2012, LT goes further and makes it much easier to auto-complete the command name (or pause and select from a list that appears). Works with system variables as well. You can totally control the behavior and whether this new feature is on or off.
  • Quick Properties: this has been updated in LT2012 so that the default list includes more frequently used properties. QP, when turned on, is displayed when you double-click on most objects and allows you to view and modify those object(s) properties.
  • Snap Mode: when it's turned on in 2012, the cursor only snaps to grid points when specifying points (not when selecting objects). Reduces the need for the user to toggle on/off while in a command.
  • External Reference enhancements: a new variable has been added, FRAMESELECTION, to control the Selection Preview Frames of DWF, PDF, DGN and DWG files inside your top file.
  • UCS Enhancements: UCS icon can now be directly manipulated on screen. You can select it and use the Multi-Functional Grips to directly change the UCS. Easily move the origin and automatically align the UCS with objects, and rotate the UCS around the X, Y or Z without access to the UCS command.
  • Multi-Functional Grips: This feature, found in LT 2011 when hovering over a grip for Plines for example (to add and delete a Vertex etc.), has been expanded to now include Lines (Stretch and Lengthen), Arcs, Dimensions (Stretch, Continue, Baseline, Flip Arrow) and Mleaders. Dynamic Input must be turned on.
  • Nudge: yes, you can now NUDGE (move) a selected object or objects a few pixels in an orthogonal direction using keyboard arrow keys.
  • Implied Selection: PICKDRAG and PICKAUTO variables have been updated to add another choice (setting of 2). The former allows you to either click two points (traditional window selection method) or click and drag to selection objects automatically (think Wpolygon, Cpolygon and Fence selections). The latter allows for a one pick window selection.
  • Delete Duplicate Object: finally, the Express Tool OVERKILL is now a core command in LT2012 (it is in AutoCAD2012 too). Remove duplicate or unneeded geometry that clutters your file (you know, you select what you think is one object and find out there is one or more identical duplicate copies there instead).
  • Copy Nested Objects: another Express Tool is now a core command, NCOPY command. It enables you to copy objects from blocks or Xrefs into the main drawing without opening the block or reference for editing.
  • MText Enhancements: background mask option now remembers the last used fill color and border offset factor instead of falling back to a default.
  • MLeader Enhancements: You can now change the gap around Mleader text in a text frame. You can also extend the leader line to the text rather than ending at the text bounding box.
  • Dimension Right-Click Menu: added to the default list is the ability to remove any style overrides found in a dimension you right-click over.
  • Osnap Enhancements: Perpendicular and Tangent Object Snaps have been enhanced to be more flexible. AutoCAD finds osnap points to make objects tangent or perpendicular, as well as the tangent or perpendicular points relative to the selected grip.
  • Fillet and Chamfer: These tools have been updated to display a preview when passing the cursor over the second object in the fillet/chamfer selection. The Polyline option does the same for the entire Polyline. Fillet also now works with Spline Objects.
  • Blend: A new tool added to LT2012 to create spline objects with options for tangent or smooth continuity between curves. It supports lines, arcs, 2D and 3D Plines, and splines.
  • Join Tool: this has been updated to automatically combine selected objects using typical selection methods such as crossing windows or picking object is any order. You no longer need to select the source object first.
  • Spline Enhancements: Better results with the Close option, greater control when grip-editing fit points in Splines, a Kink option has been added, and the Extend tool is enhanced to support splines when selecting objects to extend.
  • 2D Array Functionality: A major improvement here is the ability to array objects along a specified path (think chairs around an irregular shaped table or a block around a circle), rather than the current limited rectangular or polar options. Preview functionality has been improved, you can multi-function grip edit the array, and you can establish and maintain a set of relationships between arrayed objects (yes, you can modify, erase or transform individual items in an array. There is even a Replace option).
  • Copy Tool: this now have a new Array option that enables you to create a linear non-associative array.
  • Layer Enhancements: a VPLAYER command has been added to the Layer Properties Manager, enabling you to quickly freeze specified layers in all viewports except the current one you are inside (right-click option).
  • Sheet Set Manager: This long-time full AutoCAD feature is now here in LT. SSM organizes your drawing sheets, reduces steps to Publish, automatically creates layout views, links sheet set information into title blocks and plot stamps, and more. A sheet set is an organized collection of sheets from several drawing files. A sheet is a selected layout from a drawing file. Think of it as a full-project management tool for your single project that has many DWG files (and then multiply to all of your projects).
  • Raster File Support: You can attach and handle more raster formats than ever, including but not limited to PSD, MrSID, JPEG2000, ECW, NITF, HDR, DOQ and more.
  • DGN Support: added support for complex line types when importing/exporting using the DGN8 file format.
  • DWG Convert: access to this tool that's been around for a while is made easier by adding it to the Applications Menu (Big Red A in the top left corner). This helps when sharing files with users as far back as R14, R2000, R2004 and even R2007 and 2010 formats when you just want to ensure total compatibility with no missing content.
  • AutoCADWS: The core 2012 program now fully integrates the free AutoCADWS web and mobile application for easier use by users. AutoCAD WS lets you view, edit, share and collaborate in real time with DWG files using a web browser or mobile device. Explore more about this free feature HERE.
  • No STANDARDS feature as found in Full AutoCAD for many versions now.
  • No "Infer Constraints" as found in full AutoCAD.
  • No Lisp, ARX, VBA or other external customization languages as always.
  • No online store in the new Exchange feature.
  • No Vault integration with the new Sheet Set Manager (SSM).
  • No Materials Library, no 3D Model Import from other formats (Catia, Parasolid, Pro/E, Rhino, Solidworks etc.), no 3D Model documentation, no Autodesk Inventor Fusion, and no Point Cloud Support.