There have always been great stories of interoperability around AutoCAD and 3ds Max. I remember starting to work on 3D in AutoCAD in order to get renders in Max back in the AutoCAD 12 – 3D Studio R2 for DOS. After exporting 3ds from AutoCAD, trying to figure out how many normals were flipped and then applying materials and lights, you got pretty good results. Of course, any change in AutoCAD would mean redoing the whole process again, at least for the edited pieces.
We’ve gone a long way since then. In the future I’ll talk a bit about the File Link Manager in 3ds Max Design, which for some reason does not get that much attention from some users.
But today I wanted to talk about a somehow minor feature in AutoCAD that will help a lot in creating more consistency across applications. Especially in the new context of the Suites, when we ship AutoCAD and 3ds Max together in Autodesk Design Suites Premium and Ultimate, we want users to feel in a familiar environment. You always have an application where you spend most of the time. If this application is AutoCAD and you use 3ds Max Design every once in a while, then any help to make the interfaces more familiar is a good thing.
The viewport controls for AutoCAD are new in AutoCAD 2012, and are a great time saver if you work in 3D and change visual styles and views very frequently. Having been using these controls from the early prototypes, every time I had to go back to AutoCAD 2011, it felt really bad not to have these guys on the top left of your viewport. This is how I normally realize how useful a feature is. Just go back one release, and feel how the number of clicks to do something grows.
So what can you do with these controls? Basically they allow you to change the configuration of viewports, the views within them and the visual styles.
Check out how easy it is now. No need to go to the View tab in the Ribbon. Or you don’t use Ribbon? Then you can turn off your View toolbar, and get some more real estate.
Now in 3ds Max Design, you got the same control. Slightly different options, but we’re talking about two apps with different targets anyway. The good thing is that there is no doubt that in both cases, you are going to the same place in order to look for visual styles. And yes, it’s been like this in Max for a long time, so now, for all of you people using both AutoCAD and 3ds Max Design, you get to exercise some muscle memory and definitely work a little faster.
As you can see, same is happening with the Views. AutoCAD displays the available views, same as 3ds Max Design. Max does offer more options like Lights and Cameras. Now, if you add a camera in AutoCAD, you’ll see an extra option for displaying cameras in this same control.
The first option lets you switch from a single viewport into a multiple viewport configuration. This was quite difficult in AutoCAD before, and now it’s just a double click away. You can also access ViewCube, NavBar and Steering Wheel options from this same place. Guess what. Same in Max.
If you go back and forth from single to multiple viewports, you'll see that your visual styles are maintained.
By the way, I want to share a small tip. When you click on this control, stay on top of it until you get the drop down menu. If you click and move the mouse, you won’t get anything. Is this a bug? Well… not really. This is a way to avoid people clicking close to the control by accident and displaying the drop down when they don’t need it. In these occasions, the user will be probably moving the mouse around, so there are no chances of getting the menu by accident.
In a nutshell, a small improvement that saves big time, and provides more consistency when working between AutoCAD and 3ds Max Design. Now that they are shipped together in many of the new Suites in the Premium and Ultimate flavors, it is even more critical to decrease learning curve and share as many components as possible.
In the future we’ll also talk about the Autodesk Materials and File Link Manager.