AutoCAD 2020 is here! Autodesk based the enhancements and new features on your feedback. This version is “packed” with enhancements to design and drafting.

With the recent move to One AutoCAD the enhancements apply to all AutoCAD based products. AutoCAD including specialized toolsets gets you access to AutoCAD, AutoCAD Mechanical, AutoCAD Electrical, AutoCAD Architecture, AutoCAD MEP, AutoCAD Map 3D, and Autodesk Plant.

“We’re continuing to deliver unprecedented value to subscribers via a streamlined offering, new features, and award-winning web and mobile apps.”

Marcus O’Brien, director of AutoCAD product management

What’s New in AutoCAD 2020?

Graphic Display Configuration

As a person who spends time helping people with AutoCAD, their issues, and their hardware, I appreciate the 2020 consolidation of the graphics display settings.

The three modes (options) are now Basic, Intermediate, and Advanced. The idea is you select the option that best suits your graphics card and system.

  • Basic for entry-level graphics cards with minimal processing capability and limited-to-no-memory
  • Intermediate for mid-level graphics cards with typical processing capability but limited memory
  • Advanced for high-end graphics cards with a significant amount of memory and processing capability

The Intermediate Mode resets several display parameters automatically to optimize your display. Select Details to view additional options for the selected mode.

BONUS: AutoCAD 2020 launches correctly with the appropriate DirectX drivers and the right stuff for high-resolution monitors and dual monitor support.

Rockin the Dark Theme

The new Dark Theme improves the clarity and crispness of AutoCAD. Use it for optimum contrast. This theme includes enhanced background and icon colors, allowing you to focus on the working area. [Hopefully the Inventor and Vault teams are taking notes!]

AutoCAD 2020 Dark Theme

For those not digging the new theme, the legacy “light theme” includes improved sharpening making the user interface elements appear crisp and new.

AutoCAD 2020 Light Theme

Accessing the Cloud

When saving and opening files (or any file interactions) the Places list now includes Box, Dropbox, and other similar services. The options listed is dependent on the installed applications.

AutoCAD 2020 Open from Google Drive
Open from the Cloud

BONUS: Xrefs are now included with files available for saving to the web.

Inserting Blocks

Block Palette

Way back when, you inserted blocks using the command line. With the adoption into Windows came the dialog driven Insert command. Over the years additional methods, like Tool Palettes and the Design Center, were introduced to provide alternative and specific optimized workflows.

As many existing tools already rely on palettes, it was a natural progression for AutoCAD 2020 to migrate the Insert dialog into the new Blocks Palette.

AutoCAD 2020 Blocks Palette
Block Palette

As a palette it can remain open as you work and used only when requiring block insertion. Resize and float the palette over the drawing window or anchor it to the application frame.

Compared to the Insert dialog, the Block Palette provides better block previews and a clearer view of the available blocks.

HOT TIP: Use the command CLASSICINSERT to open the legacy insert dialog. Use -INSERT for the command line version of the legacy INSERT command.

How does it work?

The top section of the dialog provides a view of the blocks contained within the current drawing (by default). Click on an icon or drag-and-drop it to insert the block into the drawing. Use the tabs along the side of the palette to switch between the Current Drawing, Recent blocks, and Other Drawings.

The Recent Blocks lists the most recently inserted blocks regardless of the current drawing. This list persists between drawings and AutoCAD sessions. Remove a block from this list by right-clicking on it and selecting Remove.

Use the Other Drawing tab to navigate folders for drawings to insert blocks from. These drawings also persist between drawings and AutoCAD sessions.

Diving Deeper

Use the view menu to adjust the view between Thumbnails (Icons) and List, and to select different sizes and styles.

AutoCAD 2020 Blocks Palette

Use the Filter field to apply wildcard filters to limit the listed blocks.

AutoCAD 2020 Blocks Palette

The bottom section of the palette provides the block insertion options. These settings are persistent and remain set until changed. This includes:

AutoCAD 2020 Blocks Palette
Insertion Options
  • Insertion Point to enable selecting the insertion point within the drawing window
  • Scale to select the scale after insertion. When disabled set the desired scale within the palette. Use the drop down to switch between a Uniform scale or setting the component scales (x, y, z)
  • Enable Rotation to specify the desired angle within the drawing window. When disabled, set the rotation within the palette
  • Explode to explode the block during insertion
  • Repeat Placement (a new feature) to enable multiple insertion of the selected block.

As these features are persistent, collapse the section to optimize the size of the block listing

BONUS: The system variable BLOCKMRULIST controls the number of blocks displayed in the Recent list. Use BLOCKREDEFINEMODE to manage whether the Redefine Block dialog appears when inserting a block from the palette with the same name as a block already contained within the current drawing.

Redesigned Purge

The purpose of Purge is to remove unused elements from the active drawing. Removing unused elements improves performance, reduces the file size, and declutters the drawing.

AutoCAD 2020 Purge
Redesigned Purge

Redesigned, the layout of the Purge dialog is more efficient, provides collapsible sections, and includes a resizable preview area. Purging Empty text objects and Zero-length geometry are now two separate features.

Use the checkboxes within the Named Items Not Used section to select items to purge by the category, opposed to selecting individual items.

Take note of the buttons along the top of the dialog. Use these to toggle between the list of Purgeable items and Non-Purgeable items.

Purgeable are those removable by the Purge feature. This isn’t new, but what is new is Purge now provides details on why an object cannot be purged. This includes the number of objects within the current drawing and the file size impact. Use Select Objects button to zoom into the objects.

AutoCAD 2020 Purge
Purge Possible Reasons

The ribbon now presents two options: Purge and Find Non-Purgeable Items. Both launch the same Purge dialog, but set which option is active.

AutoCAD 2020 Purge
Purge in the Ribbon

Enhancements to DWG Compare

DWG Compare is still a newer feature as it has only been around for a couple of releases. Anyone part of the beta program or any other Autodesk usability studies will know that Autodesk has gone through many iterations of this feature.

Why the iterations? They are looking for the optimal workflow. Some might find this annoying, as it keeps switching, but I applaud it. Autodesk is taking our feedback and usage habits and tweaking the feature to find the right balance between access, feature functionallity, and usability.

For AutoCAD 2020, Autodesk applied two main updates. First, you can now directly compare (and edit) the current drawing. AutoCAD dynamically compares and highlights the changes between the current drawing and the selected secondary drawing. I love this. The old work flow seemed a bit clunky to me as I almost always initiate a DWG Compare with the drawing I want to compare already loaded.

No longer contained within the ribbon, DWG Compare is now a toolbar docked along the top of the drawing area. The new Settings Control Panel contains this feature’s options.

I for one was not initially a big fan of this as I like everything to be consistent, I like how all contextual tool features appear within the ribbon. As I have limited use with the new toolbar the jury is still out if I find the new toolbar approach more productive. I’d love to hear your feedback.

Use the lightbulb to toggle the visibility of the comparisons. Use the arrows to step through each change set and automatically zooming into the area. Select the green checkmark to finish the comparison and return to the original drawing.

You can copy highlighted differences from the compared drawing into the current drawing. AutoCAD automatically ignores objects already existing in the current drawing. It only copies objects not contained within the current drawing

Hot Tip: To mimic the legacy DWG Compare results, create a Snapshot drawing. This combines the similarities and differences between both drawings into a new drawing.

Launch the Settings using the gear icon within the DWG Compare toolbar. Pin this Control Panel by selecting the pin icon. When pinned it remains open and visible.

Adjust the default colours by selecting the colour swatch. Select Draw Order to toggle the display preference between the three difference types.

Use the Revision Clouds options to manage the display, colour, shape, and size of the clouds drawn around the drawing differences.

The Filter section provides toggles to filter Hatch and Text from the comparison checks.

Quick Measure

Use the new Quick Measure to quickly (and easily) get the dimensions of objects within a 2D drawing. This is quickly becoming a staple of workflows. In fact, I wish there was a Drafting Aid (like Ortho or Polar) that I could enable so that Quick Measure was automatically active whenever no command was active.

AutoCAD 2020 Quick Measure

While active, move the cursor through the drawing and AutoCAD automatically displays measurements of the nearby objects. This includes object dimensions and distances between objects.

Tip: Autodesk recommends zooming into complicated areas to improve the performance of this feature and to avoid dimension clutter.

Live and in Action

What’s New in AutoCAD 2020

AutoCAD One?

Nothing new when it comes to “AutoCAD One”. By One, they obviously mean one large collection of software, sortof the same, but managed individually. Each flavour of AutoCAD still must be downloaded individually and installed on their own. There is no way of setting the Options across the board. Each one will have its own set of updates. Sigh.

When they announced AutoCAD One my expectations were obviously a bit high. I envisioned a singular download. During installation I would choose which functionality I wanted. Based on my selections it would download the required library and data. After installation I’d have one icon to launch the product. Once in AutoCAD I’d choose which feature set I needed and it would load it on demand. When opening a drawing if I realized I needed a different set of tools I’d pick it from a dropdown. This is what AutoCAD One should be!

In Summary

The AutoCAD One disappointment aside, AutoCAD 2020 is a solid release. I love the Blocks palette and Quick Measure. The Dark Theme is HOT! I really appreciate the redesigned Purge. Throw in performance improvements and you have a real winner.

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