I number of months ago I put a question to Steve Bedder and Shaan Hurley asking them where Autodesk’s head was at with producing two mobile Design Review tools, AutoCAD WS and Design Review Mobile. Although they offer vastly different feature sets, there are definite cross overs when it comes to marking up drawings in the Cloud, so I was after their point of view. For a number of reasons at the time I wasn’t able to get it in detail, but they were clear the two solutions were formulated with distinctly different philosophies. Steve mentioned he could feel a blog post brewing to answer the question, but he’s a busy fella and hasn’t got round to it, so here I am.

While I was in San Francisco at the end of March I had the good fortune to meet Shaan and also have an hour meeting with the Design Review Mobile product team. During conversations with each of them it became obvious where the differences in philosophy lay and the purpose of each product. Since returning to New Zealand I’ve had a good old poke around in AutoCAD WS, Design Review Mobile, and Autodesk 360 Design Review. I did this for two reasons, pure curiosity and attempting to solve a design review collaboration problem between the company I work  for and its clients. These are the challenges we face with Design Review, which I am sure are common across a wide range of industries:

  • Cross Platform compatibility
  • Multiple stake holders with varying degrees of CAD skills
  • Maintaining integrity of data
  • Controlling the design review process
  • Closed loop review process
  • Responding to mark-ups and tracking their status

Although Autodesk Cloud based collaboration software is extremely exciting and full of potential, so far none of the Design Review tools fulfil all of the above critical requirements. But I’m going to start with AutoCAD WS since its the most mature and coolest tool of the bunch.


AutoCAD WS is a slick little operator which has been sneakily building up its features over the last couple of years. I hadn’t looked at the browser based version for coming up to 12 months and was shocked at how many proper features have been added. You can actually draw stuff properly now, albeit slowly and the commands do behave differently to WS’s grandad, all the same its very impressive. The thing is though its still clunky and unpredictable at times, I’ve had our staff trying to use it on an iPad 2 onsite to markup our drawings with onsite measurements and its just too fiddly and inconsistent for users with little patience for technology & CAD. Autodesk already took a step in the right direction when they fixed the dimensioning tool on the mobile app. You can now get the magnifying glass to pop up to select the first snap point instead of stabbing at the screen repeatedly until you lucked into snapping onto the correct point.

The first point magnifying glass selection on the iPhone. But I'm disappointed Autodesk continue to make inefficient use of screen real estate; the 'Prompt' & lower tool bar are oversized and static

AutoCAD WS's Rev cloud's are sexy looking and very satisfying to draw (I'm taking a cheap dig at Design Review Mobile/Web)

I have to say though, the Rev Cloud tool is lovely and sits quite nicely with a text box next to it. I’ve noticed a few conversion issues as well a few times; I’ve had a random white blob appear in WS that didn’t exist in the full AutoCAD which covers up some objects as well as causing objects to disappear behind it when you zoom in.

Identical DWG viewed in AutoCAD WS on the left and AutoCAD on the right

I do like AutoCAD WS though and I’ve used the mobile app a number or times to view dwg’s which have been emailed to me while I’m out and about. Its a great productivity tool and with a bit of patience you can do quite a lot with it.


  • Impressive feature set considering its free and only a couple of years old.
  • Good Mark-up tools.
  • Read/write so you can make small modifications to actual geometry on the fly.
  • Changes and Additions stay with the DWG, as such they appear when its opened in AutoCAD.
  • Connects with your Cloud file storage site of choice.
  • Has a fairly useful Mobile app.
  • Ubiquitous desktop & mobile access, except maybe on Windows Phone.
  • Opening from smartphone e-mail is supported.


  • Read/Write means the CAD data can be modified and used by a 3rd party once shared.
  • Clunky.
  • Not a convenient format for reviewing Vaulted Inventor CAD data.
  • Can’t be tied into a closed loop review process with Autodesk Vault.
  • No built in facility to track who created the Mark-up or its status.
  • Not particularly intuitive for the non CAD user.

Since this post is starting to get quite long, I will post the 2nd part of the comparison separately so make sure you come back and check it out.

Edit: Part 2