Do you know that Autodesk also has free products and services?
There are wide range of products from viewers and markup tools, data sharing, to conceptual tools. Not all of them available as desktop applications. Some of them are cloud services. Some are for your mobile device. However, they’re great products that help for collaboration and productivity.
Note: Some of the products are technology preview. It means they’re still in beta. After they are considered mature, it may no longer available as free products. They may be bundled in other products like Inventor Fusion. But they’re also a chance they’re still free, like AutoCAD WS.
Let’s see the products.
Viewer and markup
If you need to see files that are created with Autodesk products, download these application for free. Some of them also allow you to do markups. So you don’t have to plot your drawings. Save some papers and less mess.
1. DWG TrueView
DWG TrueView is a free DWG viewer. Many of us need to review a drawing, but never need to actually using AutoCAD. So this is a right tool for you. We’re able to measure objects in your drawing, and plot it if necessary. Unfortunately, no markup tools.
The biggest advantage of using this tool is we can open and convert the file format to any version. I’ve seen how people get frustrated when they receive DWG files created in newer version, and they can’t open it. They need to convert those files to older version. It’s not always possible to ask the companies you work with to save to older version.
It was DWG TrueConvert that has this ability. Now it’s included in TrueView. Just keep updating your TrueView version to the latest, and you’re saved. Of course, you will miss many new AutoCAD features. But at least this is very helpful when you can’t upgrade.
2. Design Review
Design review, like it’s name, can be used to review your design. It opens DWF or even DWG files. It also has markup tools.
The problem is when you open DWG files, it will convert the file to DWF. There is no way you can save the drawing back to DWG after reviewing it. So your markups is only on DWF file.
However, it’s still a good tool if you want to markup your drawing, but you don’t use AutoCAD. Send the drawing as DWF to your engineer, then can underlay it to original drawing, as reference to modify their drawing.
This application is included in almost all Autodesk installation media. If you don’t have it, download your free copy of Design Review here.
3. DWF Writer
Do you wonder if there’s a way to create DWF from other than Autodesk application? Yes there is.
You can create DWF by installing Windows system driver, DWF writer. As it’s a Windows system driver, as long as your program can plot, it can produce DWF.
This application also has plugin for SolidWorks 2006, CATIA V5, Or Pro/ENGINEER Wildfire 2.0. By using this plugin, you can export 3D model with the design information.
4. Navisworks Freedom
Navisworks is a great project review software, especially in AEC. Now after you put all your model in Navisworks, created the visualization, schedules, and all… how you can share it to the others that don’t use Navisworks? Sure you can capture your screen, save the animation… but that’s not fun! Let them experience it in Navisworks too!
Send your Navisworks file and ask them to download Navisworks Freedom. It’s the Navisworks free viewer.
5. Inventor Viewer
What about Inventor files, can we see those files with free viewer? Sure. This viewer opens Inventor files for viewing, and plot them with Inventor View.
6. Revit Viewer
If you’ve never heard Revit Viewer before, because officially there is no Revit Viewer.
In the past, we can install Revit as 30 days trial. After the trial period is over, we can use Revit as viewer, but can’t use it to save or print your project. There’s a small change in Revit 2012, the Revit viewer/demo mode has a separate icon.
Conceptual Design and 3D modeling
Autodesk also provides several design and 3D modeling tools. Many of them are great, and I never thought these kind of applications are available for free! Let’s hope they’ll still be free after come out from beta.
7. Project Vasari
Autodesk labs release many great technology previews. And the best thing about it, they’re available for free. At least when they’re still in beta.
Project Vasari is one of their technology previews. Basically it’s a building conceptual modeling tool. It pretty much can do what we can do in Revit conceptual design here. But it also has energy and solar analysis.
You can then save the model and finish it in Revit. Very nice teaser for those who new to BIM.
8. Project Photofly
Photofly is also a technology preview. It’s a cloud computing application that converts your photo to real 3D model. Yes, really… Have you seen Shaan Hurley’s head in his post? And the best thing is we can use any kind of camera.
You also need to download a desktop application called Photo Scene Editor to compile your photo and upload them.
Why do we want to create 3D model from photograph?
- For renovation design.
- To create surrounding for visualization and rendering.
- We need to create 3D model to do energy analysis and create surrounding environment.
- Because we can, and it’s fun!
9. Autodesk 123D
This is a new one. Just released last week. It’s pretty much like Inventor Fusion, but intended for ‘makers’. You can make any model, as your digital prototype.
In the application website, you can download free or paid 3D contents to start working with. So you don’t have to start from scratch.
See this review by Roopinder Tara for details. It’s still beta, but already listed as free download in Autodesk products list.
If you want to give it a try, go to 123D website: http://123dapp.com/
10. Autodesk Homestyler
Homestyler probably not a ‘serious CAD’ program like AutoCAD, Revit, or Inventor. But it can help you to design your interior by placing real world products from it’s library.
I like the idea. You can create your design online (yes, it’s a web based software), place items from library. Make sure it fits, and it’s available in the market. It’s easy to use and fun. I tried it here.
On the other side, manufacturers can use it to promote their products, right?
If you want to try it, go to Homestyler website here.
11. Sketchbook Mobile Express
Sketchbook is not really a CAD application. But you can use it for sketching and painting, to create your concept. Imagine that you have a tablet or mobile phone, and need to show your concept quickly to your customer. Instead of drawing on tissue paper, you can draw on your tablet.
Sketchbook mobile express is free, but if you want more features, you can consider to use Sketchbook mobile for a very low price. I purchased it from Android market, and even my 3 years old boy like it.
Online data sharing and collaboration
Collaboration is a big issue lately. We are looking for an efficient and save way to share our drawings and work with our partners on different part of the world. You may want to see these.
12. AutoCAD WS
AutoCAD WS allows you to upload your AutoCAD drawings, and share it with your colleagues. The idea is for collaboration. You can open one drawing and discuss with your partners online.
There is a chat feature, and you can see the others mouse pointer so you can review the design together online. There is also file history, so you can track the design changes. All you need is to open it in a browser and login with your account. Creating your
It also has mobile application for iOS and Android. So you can open the drawing from server when you’re on site. You can create some drawing markups and update it to server, so engineers at your office can quickly see your reviews.
13. Autodesk Freewheel
Freewheel is also a way to share your design. You can upload your DWF files and let your colleagues see it. Sometimes people just don’t want to install Design Review. Or probably they are not at the office when they need to access the drawing. They can see it online if you share it using Freewheel.
You can also embed your 3D model on Freewheel to your website. Very cool if you have a blog or website, and want to show it off on your portfolio pages.
See Freewheel here: http://freewheel.autodesk.com/
Autodesk is well known for their visualization applications. Most of the box office movies use 3ds Max or Maya. But rendering capabilities are not only for 3ds Max or Maya users. We can render in many Autodesk applications, for example in AutoCAD. But the problem, it takes too long.
14. Project Neon
If you think rendering your AutoCAD models take a life time, then you will like this very much. This is also a technology preview, a cloud service.
We can upload our model, let Autodesk server render it for us. This should take less time without we have to invest expensive software for rendering.
I’m not sure how it’s going to be. But my wild guess is it’s going to be built-in plugin like AutoCAD WS. So you can upload your model directly from AutoCAD, render it online, and then download the rendering image.
Probably it will be available for free for anyone, or probably only for those who are on subscription. Or we may have to pay to use it. It’s free now, so go ahead… give it a try.
If you are interested to give it a try, visit Project Neon here.
Entertainment and fun
Autodesk is not only about design applications. They also have stuff for entertainment too!
This is not related to CAD at all, but you can play an engineering game from Autodesk. A game? Yes it is. It’s available for iOS device.
Have fun with this mechanical riddles here.
If you have iOS device and want to have a clock with cool special effects, then you’ll have fun with it. I don’t have iPhone, so I can’t try it. But sounds cool.
See TimeFX here.
I believe there are more free applications from Autodesk that I miss. Now if you know more free helpful applications from Autodesk, please share it here!