Archive for April, 2015

Expert Interview with Lynn Allen, Autodesk Evangelist and Cadalyst Contributing Editor

April 10, 2015 Leave a comment

Lynn Allen, Cadalyst Contributing EditorContributing Editor Lynn Allen is a Cadalyst favorite — with readers who benefit from her prolific AutoCAD advice as well as the editors who work with her. Allen’s “Circles and Lines” AutoCAD tutorials are in their 23rd year of publication, and she is the creator of Cadalyst’s popular AutoCAD video tips.

But Allen’s day job is Technical Evangelist at Autodesk, where she advocates and instructs about AutoCAD and other technologies for the CAD software giant, speaking at events worldwide and authoring Lynn Allen’s Blog. She also has written three AutoCAD books.

We wanted to learn more about this well-known Autodesk personality, and Allen was happy to accommodate us.

A lot of people might not know when and how you got started with CAD and how you became what could be described as the voice of AutoCAD for Autodesk. Can you share that story?

While I was working at American Honda, I was handed a very early copy of AutoCAD (1.4) and told it would be my job to learn it and teach it to others. Embarrassingly, they were using it for flowcharts. Talk about overkill! I fell in love with the program and eventually went to work at one of the first AutoCAD Training Centers as a teacher. I went on to teach at the corporate and collegiate level — eventually joining Autodesk in its training department.

I eventually switched jobs within Autodesk to become the Worldwide User Group manager (go AUGI!) and started presenting my AutoCAD tips at user group meetings to help increase attendance. I was STUNNED at how many people would show up to hear me present. People knew me from my Cadalyst articles and my books and were anxious for more AutoCAD tips and knowledge. Remember that these were the days before the Internet — so user groups were an essential means of finding out Autodesk product information.

Eventually Autodesk changed my role to Autodesk Evangelist and began to use me as a full time presenter and advocate for their technology.

What does your job today entail, and what do you enjoy about it most? Do you see the job changing at all down the road?

Today I spend most of my time traveling and speaking at various Autodesk events worldwide. I no longer focus on AutoCAD alone — my expertise has expanded to include BIM, cloud technology, Internet of Things, 3D printing, reality capture, etc.

What do I enjoy most? The people — hands down. I love meeting our enthusiastic customers around the world.

You, arguably, interact with more AutoCAD users than anyone else on the planet. What can you tell us about this crowd? Has it changed over the years?

The AutoCAD crowd is definitely more knowledgeable on the product — and it isn’t uncommon for them to have more than one Autodesk product under their belts. They have many resources to find their AutoCAD answers but still always crave more!

How did you get started writing your blog?

I was asked by Autodesk to start my blog and actually had to be talked into it! Once I got started, though, I was addicted.

You’re also a big fan of Twitter, correct? What is it about Twitter exactly that you like? (Any interesting Twitter stories to share?)

I do love Twitter. I like that it’s so easy to write a quick post to educate people. I think it’s perfect for those of us with short attention spans. You can very quickly see the topic of a twitter post — explore more if you’re interested or simply move on to the next!

Even though I don’t really know my nearly 17,000 followers, it actually feels like I know them in a way. I just find the whole process very interesting!

What are a few lesser-known AutoCAD functions that you’re particularly fond of? And why should users dig into the depths of AutoCAD?

I’m fond of any tip in AutoCAD that helps my readers get their jobs done in fewer steps. The more options you know, the more likely you’re going to get your jobs done faster! A personal favorite is changing the F1 key so it does an Escape (instead of launching Help). It always drives me crazy when I hit F1 by accident and then find myself in the Help function!

Users should learn to customize AutoCAD to create a comfy design program that works just the way they like to work.

How do you decide which tips to share and which don’t make the cut?

AutoCAD is used in so many different ways and in so many different industries. I often share even the most obscure tips because I believe that someone out there will benefit from them.

It seems there’s never a shortage of interesting developments at Autodesk. What are you particularly excited about lately?

I’m excited about the cloud — Autodesk A360 project-collaboration software — and the power that will bring to the design process. I am also very excited to see how 3D printing will develop and am anticipating the many steps forward we should progress as a result. I’m especially passionate about the future of bio-printing.

Why is it especially important that CAD engineers and offices stay as organized and efficient as possible?

A good design is an organized one and lends itself more to changes later on. And with project timelines getting shorter and shorter, efficiency will be the key to maintaining accounts. As you wrap in BIM [building information modeling] and digital prototyping, design projects can have many different pieces, and organization is essential.

Any parting words of advice for AutoCAD users? And where will you be appearing next?

You can check out my next speaking gig on my blog.

As for advice for AutoCAD users? Don’t get stuck using AutoCAD the exact same way every day. You might be working harder than you need to – always be willing to try other techniques, such as the ones you find on

For more from Lynn Allen, follow her on Twitter, and don’t miss her biweekly series of AutoCAD video tips, published on and in the Cadalyst Tips & Tools Weekly e-newsletter

A CAD Dinosaur’s Journey, Part 11: We’ve Come A Long Way

April 7, 2015 Leave a comment

Editor’s Note: Welcome to Cadalyst’s blog series by Patrick Hughes, A CAD Dinosaur’s Journey into Modern Times.” In this three-month series, Hughes chronicles his transition from AutoCAD R14 to v2015 and from an outdated PC to a state-of-the-art professional workstation. Follow along and enjoy!

Go Big or Go HomeHardware Hero

Even dinosaurs need to upgrade their computers once in a while. When I started my business in 1991, I chose to buy the most powerful, yet affordable desktop computer possible. Shopping around the local computer stores I settled on a gleaming Intel 486 equipped with a 17” color monitor. It’s almost embarrassing to remember that the price tag was nearly $4,000 back then, but this Dino was ready to work on CAD with the best of them.

Every 4 years or so, hardware technology growth justified an upgrade. Along with the hardware, now and then I also updated my software, that is until I chose to stick with AutoCAD Release 14 for an extended period. In hindsight, that may not have been one of my more astute decisions.

But now with AutoCAD 2015 running at my claw tips on a powerful workstation awarded to me for winning the Cadalyst video contest, this T-Rex is getting all he could wish for.

Powered by an Intel Xeon six-core processor and 32 GB of memory, this workhorse has not left me wanting. Coupled with a 3 GB NVIDIA Quadro K4000, I added a second 23” monitor (which is how I keep my many AutoCAD tool palettes and windows open). I haven’t had any performance issues to speak of. The only sound this machine makes is a pleasing whoosh of the fan on start up. The rest of the day this old Dino can concentrate on my design work without any computer noise in the background.

Tireless Tools

In the right-hand screenshot below you’ll see the Autodesk SEEK Design Center, a new tool I now enjoy. Design Center has been around awhile and you are probably familiar with it. I find it not only useful to insert content from my parts library, but I can also insert blocks from other drawings without opening them. A right-click on a block in a drawing gives you options to insert and redefine the blocks, open in the block editor, or create a Tool Palette. Once created, you can drag and drop additional blocks into the palette. Rawrrr!

AutoCAD SEEK Design Center

AutoCAD’s SEEK Design Center (right) offers tools that let you import objects and more into a current drawing (left).

Blocks are not the only objects that you can easily import from existing drawings, there is a whole slew of items ranging from Textstyles to Layouts, Layers, or Dimstyles to name a few. I mostly use it for blocks because my text styles are already set in my templates.

In an earlier article I mentioned the calculator that you also see in the screen capture. I find it especially useful to avoid errors in numeric entry from calculations. I’m a bit of a stickler for precision and often carry out decimals to 6 digits. The calculator lets me easily paste the calculated value after making the calculation. Any errant keystroke when dyslexia strikes is no longer a worry, well, as long as I don’t enter things wrong in the calculator.

You might also notice the status bar includes a bit of custom diesel code displaying a few items that I long ago decided were valuable. I appreciate that AutoCAD has kept so much of its legacy programmability. But, with that, you can also see that I’m still not using some of the newer tools such as dynamic input and other aids. I keep experimenting with new ones, but many times my old Dino ways seem to get the better of me.


In closing, I doubt this constant progression of more powerful computing will end. There are times when you must update and when you do, you should reach for the stars and equip yourself with something that will not just do an adequate job now but will handle future demands as well. How about that? Here’s an old dinosaur offering up advice about planning for the future — what has this world come to?


About the author: Patrick Hughes, machine designer and owner of Engineered Design Solutions in Rockford, Illinois, has worked with AutoCAD since 1991. He has developed a number of AutoLISP and other software solutions to automate his workflow and increase productivity, including the commercially available time tracking program, CadTempo.

Expert Interview with Viktor Nordstrom of CL3VER

April 2, 2015 Leave a comment

Viktor Nordstrom understands that the future of CAD exists on the cloud. His company, CL3VER, provides a cloud-based platform for interactive 3D presentations for the web and mobile devices to help AEC and manufacturing professionals to engage customers and stakeholders. CL3VER 3.0, released on March 11, was presented at the GPU Technology Conference together with the integration of CL3VER with Lightworks’ iray+ photorealistic rendering solution that enables users to explore a CL3VER presentation via a web browser and generate a photorealistic rendered image of a specific point of view using iray.

In this interview, Nordstrom discusses the future of CAD and how it is changing along with technology.

In what ways does a cloud-based platform enhance the CAD process?

A cloud-based platform enhances the CAD process by making the time to market products and projects faster, thanks to the possibility of accessing information in real-time from any location around the globe and at any time. The cloud also provides infinite computer power available on an “on-demand basis,” thereby cutting costs traditionally associated with the requirements for expensive hardware and software maintenance.

How do you bring CAD to life on all devices?

The CL3VER proprietary 3D engine makes use of HTML5 and WebGL technology to enable interactive 3D visualization on any device without the need to install any plugin. In addition, a native iOS App provides an immersive experience on iPad and iPhone in high definition. During the next months, we will also improve the current offline viewing system.

How does CL3VER democratize the creation of real-time 3D?

The CL3VER editor interface allows a user to add interactivity to a 3D scene without the need for programming, making real-time 3D accessible to any 3D designer who doesn’t have specific programming skills. The content created is then distributed via the web and made accessible from any device.

CL3VER is headquartered in Barcelona, Spain, and has offices in Palo Alto, California. Do you see a difference in CAD use or experiences between the United States and Europe?

BIM software adoption and penetration in any country is influenced by several factors such as the country’s laws, the industry technology trends and the industry competition, to name a few. In this scenario, we see that in North America, the use of 3D in the CAD industry is widely adopted when compared with Europe. As a matter of fact, that makes U.S. users more skilled and experienced.

Can you comment on the role of CAD workstations in the 3D workflow?

Workstations normally have 2 multicore processors (36 threads, for example) for rendering outputs. The best experience for real-time 3D environments is based on the GPU rather than the processors, meaning the more powerful GPU that is installed in a workstation (more RAM or cores), the better the viewing and working experience will be.

CL3VER does not require a high performing dedicated GPU for its standard use; an integrated graphics card is enough. For professional use, having an AMD or NVIDIA dedicated graphics card brings the production workflow and the viewing experience to a higher level.

Where do you see CL3VER going in three to five years?

We see in the 3D visualization industry a clear trend for real-time solutions. Especially in the AEC and manufacturing industries, the way a project, product or solution is presented is a key element of differentiation that directly affects sales revenues and competitiveness. Top architecture, engineering and manufacturing firms are already using real-time techniques, and we are seeing a great acceptance of CL3VER for its unique fast workflow to produce interactive 3D presentations for any device.

Based on those facts, we see CL3VER in three years from now to be the leading platform for architects, engineers, manufacturers, and any 3D professional to communicate their designs. The platform will allow a super fast production workflow of browser based real-time interactive 3D with a photorealistic quality that runs fast on any device.

Follow CL3VER on Facebook and Twitter.