What’s New in Autodesk 2008 Geospatial Products: My Take on the Experience the Possibilities Tour
the Possibilities Tour is the rollout of its 2008 products to its
customers. Autodesk is partway through visits to dozens of North
American cities which will run through September 2007. The Cambridge,
Massachusetts session last week began with a morning of industry
breakout sessions and an afternoon of AutoCAD tips and tricks. There
was what looked like a healthy turnout at registration but the
geospatial session drew only about 40 people. Nearly all of them (I was
an exception) use Autodesk tools, but less than one-half use Map. About
one-quarter said they use just "vanilla" AutoCAD. Two people raised
hands to say they used MapGuide 6.5 (the last of the "old" version) and
just one person said he used MapGuide Enterprise (the "new" version,
with the same core as MapGuide Open Source).
The themes of the day were two: support for other CAD and GIS formats
and "back to the future." I don't believe presenter Peter Southwood
(Autodesk's "face" of Map) began any demonstration with AutoCAD data
and nearly all used ESRI shape file data. Across demos of Raster Design, AutoCAD Map 3D 2008, MapGuide Enterprise
and Design Review
he showed importing or connecting to ECW, MrSID, Oracle Spatial, ArcSDE
(a server at the University of Wisconsin) and Access data. He noted the
availability of a free-to-download FDO (Feature Data Object, the
connector to other datasets, akin to an ODBC driver for databases) for
ESRI's personal geodatabase.
I use the phrase "back to the future" for two reasons. First, much of
what we saw in AutoCAD Map has been in the product for most of its
existence. While the interface has changed (for the better), much of
the core functionality is the same. Second, several changes made in the
past are "unmade" in this release. For example, two releases ago there
were tabs in a dialog box. In the last release Autodesk removed them.
In this release, they are back. Southwood explained that Autodesk is
listening to customers' needs. Another "back to the future" example:
Autodesk renamed AutoCAD Map (its original name nearly 11 years ago) to
Autodesk Map in the last release. It's AutoCAD Map again at 2008.
It was interesting to me that quite a bit of time was spent on Raster
Design's rubber sheeting, raster to vector, line-following and text
recognition tools. Clearly, such tools are in demand and several
questions were raised about the product's output. Southwood emphasized
that the product is complementary to Map in that it works with it, not
in the sense that it is free. That term "free" or "the f word" came out
quite a bit as Southwood spoke of MapGuide Enterprise (the open source
version is available for download at no cost) and Raster Design 2008
(which is a free download).
It's hard to say what struck the audience most as it was very quiet and
polite. I believe the output of DWF from AutoCAD Map as a georeferenced
file excited some. A GPS emulator apparently confused others who asked
about its "accuracy." A GPS emulator typically "plays back" GPS data
that are already captured to allow demos of "real time" GPS data
Another topic that came up now and again in the three hours of the
geospatial session was "what was in AutoCAD" vs. "what was in Map."
Both can write out DWF, but only Map can write out georeferenced DWFs.
Only Map (and Civil Design built on it) can understand and use
coordinate systems. That led me to ask if Autodesk is considering
putting support for coordinate systems in core AutoCAD, something
Bentley has planned
for desktop and server products in its next releases of MicroStation
and ProjectWise. I noted that "our friends in the architecture
session need to share data in real world coordinates with us."
Southwood said he didn't know, but acknowledged that might prompt more
questions about "Do I need Map or AutoCAD?"
Every attendee I spoke with agreed that the interface of AutoCAD Map
has improved significantly. I have to agree. Tying CAD and GIS together
is not easy, but Autodesk has, over the years, made the presentation of
the tools far more intuitive. That alone should make those who've
stayed away from the product take another look.
One final note: I don't believe I heard anyone say "Infrastructure
Solutions Division" all morning. (I could not attend the afternoon
session). I wonder if there has been a decision to play down that