my CAD Story, Consulting

2011. I am three years into being on my own and one full year into being fully committed to making it work. I have gained quite a bit of expertise in HighDesign. But i simply do not have enough work. So i hooked up with an Architect out of Columbus who had a project at the National Guard base in Mansfield. He needed some assistance on the project. And i needed some work. Only he worked in AutoCAD. And i did not have AutoCAD. So now what?

Could i work in HighDesign and then export as .dwgs? Not really. While line work goes back and forth between HighDesign and AutoCAD quite nicely, text is a bit trickier. And then there is the whole issue of xrefs, getting drawings to consultants, and the general need for all this to go off without a hitch. So i started looking around for options.

Doing line work for consulting work in HighDesign to later be brought into AutoCAD
Doing line work for consulting work in HighDesign to later be brought into AutoCAD

I had heard rumors of AutoCAD coming back to the Mac platform, but had not heard anything definitive yet. Besides, i did not really want to drop nearly $1,000 for a program i may only use for one job. I had done some drafting work for a friend who is an exhibit / environmental designer the previous year. So i thought maybe i could borrow his copy since i knew it was not his preferred tool for representation. But i still had the issue of not having a work station to run it on. Sure i could purchase Windows to run through Boot Camp on my Mac. But again, as this was a one off job, i really did not want to invest any more than i needed to. Besides, as it turned out, he had borrowed AutoCAD himself and did not actually own a copy.

So back to square one.

Then it occurred to me that my previous employer had two workstations and two copies of AutoCAD LT that were not being used (he still drafts everything by hand). Maybe he would sell me one cheap to get me through. Yes, the most recent version he had was only version 2004, but it should be good enough. Right? Alas, he was not willing to sell it, but he did give me a key to the office and free reign to use it whenever. With the caveat that i be available to assist him with computer drafting as he had need. Sounded like a good deal. And it worked well for a couple of years.

AutoCAD LT 2004 on a 15" screen at my former employer's office.
AutoCAD LT 2004 on a 15" screen at my former employer's office.

As the one off job turned into an ongoing working relationship, however, working in my former employer's office was becoming less and less feasible. When i could schedule several hours to go in and work, everything worked smoothly. But when i had last minute changes to make, it meant getting on my bike or in my car, going to the office, booting up the computer, making the changes, shutting everything down, taking the file home on a flash drive, eMailing it (the CAD computer was not hooked up to the internet), and hoping there would not be another change. All for five minutes worth of actual work time on the computer. Needless to say, it did not take long for this to get old.

Two years in, i finally bit the bullet and purchased AutoCAD LT 2013 for Mac. While it is not my go to CAD package, it has served me well the last couple of years as i have been able to pick up consulting work several other Architects as well.

AuotCAD LT 2013 on my Mac
AuotCAD LT 2013 on my Mac

As a bit of an aside, it is interesting going back and forth between HighDesign and AutoCAD. I find myself befuddled and frustrated when the keyboard shortcuts from one do not work in the other. I know full well they will not. But i can get into automatic mode when drafting and sometimes forget which program i am in. So i keep pressing command+T to move objects in AutoCAD (the AutoCAD command is M then space bar) only to have the tool bar disappear and reappear several times before realizing what is going on. But otherwise, i am equally comfortable in either. Though i still prefer HighDesign overall.

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