For many architects, engineers and designers, AutoCAD is the tool of choice. First released in December 1982, AutoCAD was one of the first CAD programs to run on personal computers. However, back in 1992 Autodesk dropped the Mac version of the software and for over 18 years AutoCAD has only been available for PCs. That was until the end of 2010, when AutoCAD returned to the Mac. Why did it take Autodesk so long to reincarnate the Mac version?

Autodesk told us that like many developments in the software world, the evolution of AutoCAD was influenced by both market demand and the latest advancements in technology. In the early 90s, when the AutoCAD product was radically developed and evolved, Autodesk was utilising the state-of-the-art PC-compatible graphics cards for 3D modelling.

At that time the firm looked at the market and the platforms available and concluded that it wanted to develop the product for one platform alone. In the end, it chose to focus on building the application for PCs, rather than the less widely-used Mac.

In the past decade, however, the technology landscape has radically changed. Apple has improved graphic capabilities and switched to the Intel processor. These technology advancements – combined with Apple’s resurgence in popularity – made compelling reasons for Autodesk to reconsider re-releasing AutoCAD on the Mac, the company said.

After an 18-year hiatus, Autodesk has finally bought its computer-aided design program back to the Mac, citing Apple’s improved graphics and Intel processors 

While Mac users were requesting AutoCAD on the Mac, the move was not entirely driven by user demand, claimed Autodesk. By not releasing AutoCAD for Mac, Autodesk risked missing out to competitors who had the potential to grow in markets where it was not available.

Taking CAD to a new audience

Rather than port across the software from the PC, Autodesk started from scratch and developed a Mac version with a familiar look and feel for Mac users. Autodesk trialled a Beta version of AutoCAD among a core base of Mac users and their feedback on usability and features helped to shape the final release.

Autodesk decided against porting some of the more seldom-used features from the Windows version that relate to near-obsolete hardware, such as Digitiser Support. Other features, such as Visual Basic, were too closely related to Microsoft to port.

AutoCAD for Mac was eventually released in October 2010 and Autodesk told us that the availability of the software on the platform actually prompted existing PC users to move to Mac. According to Autodesk, the Mac version has received less positive feedback from Windows converts, but the native Mac users appreciate the Mac-inspired interface.

Six months on – hit or miss?

Autodesk told us that creative users (particularly in the architectural world) have been extremely receptive to the release of AutoCAD for Mac. Industrial design users now have a viable alternative to CAD products such as Shark and Rhino. Since the transition to Mac, other professions, such as theatrical lighting companies, are also actively using AutoCAD, claimed Autodesk.

AutoCAD for Mac is offered at a comparable price-point to its Windows-based alternative, with discounts available for existing PC users looking to make the switch, and a free version available for cash-strapped university students.

So what’s next for Autodesk and Mac? While Autodesk remains tight-lipped about potential future releases, as the market continues to turn in Apple’s favour, it seems inevitable that other Autodesk software will follow suit.