AutoCAD 2021

In a little over a generation’s time, computer aided design (CAD) has changed the way technical drawings are created. Gone are the days when engineers and architects used pencils, paper, T squares and triangles to compile a technical drawing. CAD has rendered obsolete the need to refill your mechanical pencil when you run out of lead, use an eraser when you make a mistake or walk across the room to share the drawing with another person. CAD files can be copied and distributed easily using the Internet, making it very simple to collaborate. A few advantages of CAD include:
  • Increased productivity
  • Improved precision
  • 3D modelling
  • Better visualization
  • Faster collaboration
AutoCAD is an industry standard CAD software that is extensively used by engineers and architects. In AutoCAD lingo, lines, text, circles, dimensions and just about everything else that makes up a drawing are commonly referred to as objects. All these drawing objects have properties associated with them that control their appearance and behaviour. Some properties are unique to a particular type of object, especially properties that relate to an object’s geometry. For example, a circle object has a radius, whereas text has a height. Other object properties are shared by all the objects in a drawing. AutoCAD also uses ‘layering’, a legacy of paper tracings to separate distinct drawing information. These layers can be turned on and off so that you can create multiple views of your drawing.

Introduced in 1982 by Autodesk, this popular CAD software has been growing stronger with each new version. Not only is AutoCAD popular with professionals, it is almost always the first choice of software for students desirous of training in CAD. What appeals to students is that it is simple to use, and full of features they need to gain insights into CAD.

As PCs became powerful and internet was introduced, newer versions of AutoCAD have been leveraging all the benefits these developments offer. No doubt this trend will continue in the future too. All versions of AutoCAD retain the good of the last version, and add functionality provided by the latest technology developments.  The latest version of AutoCAD (as of May 2020), is AutoCAD 2021, and it is no exception. It includes industry-specific toolsets; improved workflows across desktop, web, and mobile; and new features such as drawing history.

Here is a brief list of the basic AutoCAD 2021 features:
  • Drawing history: Compare past and present versions of a drawing and see the evolution of your work.
  • Xref compare: See the changes made to your current drawing from changed external references (Xrefs)
  • Blocks palette: View and access your blocks content from AutoCAD on desktop or within the AutoCAD web app
  • AutoCAD on any device: View, edit and create drawings in AutoCAD on virtually any device – desktop, web, or mobile.
  • Performance enhancements: Experience faster save and install times. Leverage multicore processors for smoother orbit, pan and zoom operations.
  • Enhanced DWG compare: Compare two versions of a drawing without leaving your current window.
  • Purge redesign: Remove multiple unneeded objects at once with easy selection and object preview.
  • Enhanced DWG compare: Compare two versions of a drawing without leaving your current window.
  • Quick measure: Display all nearby measurements in a drawing simply by hovering your mouse.
  • Cloud storage connectivity: Access any DWG™ file in AutoCAD with Autodesk’s cloud, as well as with leading cloud storage providers.
Extended workflows
  • AutoCAD anytime, anywhere: Create, edit and view CAD drawings through your browser using the AutoCAD web app or through the AutoCAD mobile app
  • Save to web and mobile: Save drawings from your desktop to view and edit on the AutoCAD web and mobile apps, Xrefs included
  • Shared views: Publish design views of your drawing in a web browser for viewing and commenting
2D drafting, drawing and annotation
  • Text settings: Create single or multi-line text (mtext) as a single text object. Format the text, columns and boundaries.
  • Dimensions: Create dimensions automatically. Pass the cursor over selected objects to get a preview before you create it.
  • Leaders: Create leaders with a variety of content, including text or blocks. Easily format leader lines and define styles.
  • Centrelines and centre marks: Create and edit centrelines and centre marks that automatically move when you move the associated objects.
  • Tables: Create tables with data and symbols in rows and columns, apply formulas and link to a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet.
  • Revision clouds: Draw revision clouds around new changes in a drawing to quickly identify your updates.
  • Views: Save views by name to easily return to a specific view for quick reference or for applying to layout viewports.
  • Layouts: Specify the size of your drawing sheet, add a title block and display multiple views of your model.
  • Fields: Use fields in text objects to display text that can be updated automatically as the field value changes.
  • Data linking: Enable simultaneous updates by creating a live link between a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet and a table in your drawing
  • Data extraction: Extract information from objects, blocks and attributes, including drawing information.
  • Dynamic blocks: Add flexibility and intelligence to your block references, including changing the shape, size or configuration.
  • Arrays: Create and modify objects in circular or rectangular patterns or along a path.
  • Parametric constraints: Apply geometric and dimensional constraints to maintain relationships between drawing geometry.
  • Express tools: Extend the power of AutoCAD with a collection of productivity tools.
3D modelling and visualisation
  • Solid, surface and mesh modelling: Create realistic 3D models of your design using a combination of solid, surface and mesh modelling tools.
  • 3D navigation (orbit, ViewCube, wheel): Use 3D viewing and navigation tools to orbit, swivel, walk and fly around a 3D model to showcase your design.
  • Visual styles: Apply visual styles to control the display of edges, lighting and shading of your 3D model.
  • Section planes: Create section planes to display cross-sectional views through solids, surfaces, meshes or regions.
  • Rendering: Apply lighting and materials to give your 3D models a realistic appearance and to help communicate your designs.
  • Cloud rendering: Render 3D models online without consuming processing power or disk space on your local computer.
  • Point clouds: Attach point cloud files acquired by 3D laser scanners or other technologies to use as a starting point for your designs.
  • Model documentation: Generate 2D drawings, including base, projected, section and detail views from 3D models.
  • PDF and DGN files: Share and re-use data from PDF and DGN files by importing, exporting or attaching them as underlays.
  • DWG and image references: Attach DWG or image files to your current drawing as externally referenced files.
  • Sheet sets: View, access, manage and plot multiple drawings as sheet sets.
  • Model references and import: Attach Navisworks models as underlays to your drawings, and import models from other applications.
  • Geographic location and online maps: Insert geographic location information into a drawing and display a map in the drawing from an online map service.
Installation and customisation
  • TrustedDWG technology: TrustedDWG™ technology alerts you to a possible incompatibility when a file was not last saved by Autodesk software.
  • CUI customisation: Customise the user interface to improve accessibility and reduce the number of steps for frequent tasks.
  • Secure load: Specify security restrictions for running executables in AutoCAD to help protect against malicious executable code.
  • Action recorder: Record commands and input values that can be played back as an action macro.
  • System variable monitor: Monitor current system variables against a preferred list of values. Notification balloons alert you to deviations.
  • CAD standards checker: Define and monitor CAD standards to maintain consistent styles for layers, linetypes, text and dimensions.
  • Application Programming Interface (API): Control drawings and databases with ActiveX, VBS, AutoLisp, Visual LISP, ObjectARX, JavaScript and .NET.
  • Autodesk App Store: Customise your software with Autodesk-approved extensions


A special mention needs to be made of the Drawing History AutoCAD 2021 provides. It gives valuable insights on the evolution of your drawings. Likewise, another addition is that you can now use the DWG Compare feature for external references (Xrefs) attached to your drawing. Another noticeable feature is that with AutoCAD 2021, you can integrate and open DWG files stored in Google Drive directly in the AutoCAD web app using the Autodesk ID. Using AutoCAD web and mobile apps, users can also view, edit, and save DWG files and Xrefs on Autodesk’s cloud. In short, AutoCAD 2021 makes collaboration between different teams easier, which is much needed in these trying times.

Apart from these, AutoCAD 2021 also provides specialised toolsets for architects, electrical and mechanical engineering, Map 3D, MEP, Plant 3D and Raster design.    

To really appreciate the true power of AutoCAD, some formal training is essential. There are a few reputed institutes in India that provide such training. With proper training, AutoCAD can prove to be the key for successful career in CAD / CAE.