AutoCAD Q&A Guide: Top Answers to 11 FAQs About AutoCAD

CAD Model

Although AutoCAD is a complex program that brings to mind computer experts and technical precision, it’s an application that, despite its intimidating nature, can be very rewarding once you learn about it.

If you’re interested in AutoCAD, you’re probably full of questions. Well, we’ve scoured the web for the most common FAQs about AutoCAD usage and best industry practices and found the answers to them. Whether you’re a newbie, a hobbyist or an existing AutoCAD user,  you’ll get one super AutoCAD knowledge source right at your fingertips.

Check it out.  After all, if someone had a question about the program, chances are you have the same one too! 

What Projects Can Be Done In AutoCAD?

Autodesk AutoCAD is a general purpose CAD software application. As such, it can be used for drafting and design projects that involve creation, editing, viewing or printing various types of geometric 2D and 3D entities. Basically, this includes various projects in areas of architectural, civil, mechanical or electrical engineering drawing and design.

Do Civil Engineers Need To Learn AutoCAD?

The general consensus among experts online is that civil engineers do need to know their way around CAD software.  According to many structural engineers, like Norbert Pozsonyi at Quora, AutoDesk’s AutoCAD is an essential CAD software tool to learn and know. Learning AutoCAD will at least help you to read drawings, which is of vital importance for civil engineers.

Whether and how much you will really need it in practice, depends on where you are (in which part of the world) and what software is used at the company you work for. For example, civil / transportation design engineer Robert Lane explains in a Quora thread that most DOT’s (Departments of Transportation) in the US mostly use Microstation and its design software.

What CAD Software Does A Civil Engineer Need To Know To Land A Job?

Autodesk’s AutoCAD is an industry standard used by the vast majority of civil engineers and construction firms, but there are still many others that use different CAD software. So, if you have to pick one CAD software to learn, choose AutoCAD. But, to improve your prospects of landing a job as a civil engineer, you may want to learn a few other CAD software applications. Some of the most commonly used ones that will add extra strings to any civil engineer’s bow include MicroStation, Revit and Tekla.  A comprehensive list of CAD editors and a comparison of computer-aided design solutions is available at Wikipedia

What Is The Difference Between AutoCAD And AutoCAD 360?

AutoCAD is a commercial computer-aided design (CAD) desktop software application for 2D and 3D design and drafting. It’s used for creating blueprints and other engineering plans. AutoCAD is mostly used by drafters in architectural drafting, civil drafting, mechanical drafting, electrical drafting, electronics, aeronautical drafting, and beyond.  

AutoCAD is available for Microsoft Windows and Mac OS X.

AutoCAD 360, on the other hand, is a web and mobile drawing and drafting application that allows registered users to view, edit and share AutoCAD drawings via web and mobile devices. It’s available with a free plan and two paid plans (as a Pro and Pro Plus).  AutoCAD 360 is used by general contractors, project managers and tradesman with little to no experience with CAD and is commonly used across a wide range of industries: architecture, engineering and construction, mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and more.

AutoCAD 360 is available for download as a mobile app for Android and iOS devices.

What Is The Difference Between AutoCAD And Solidworks?

A CAD analyst Sandeep Kumar summed it up on Quora: Autodesk’s AutoCAD was initially designed for 2D drafting and subsequently extended with some 3D features. SolidWorks, on the other hand, is a full featured 3D modelling CAD software.

Solidworks Resource Homepage

When it comes to 3D modelling, SolidWorks is for the advanced users and tasks, while AutoCAD is mainly for intermediate 3D modelling.

However, while AutoCAD is available for both Microsoft Windows and Mac OS, Solidworks runs exclusively on Microsoft Windows OS.  

Autodesk’s Inventor is actually Solidworks’ counterpart, rather than the often compared AutoCAD

What Are The Differences Between AutoCAD, AutoCAD Architecture, 3DS Max And Revit?

AutoCAD is, as already mentioned above, primarily a 2D drafting software with moderate 3D modelling capabilities. It uses lines to graphically represent objects.

AutoCAD Architecture is a specialized version of AutoCAD with additional tools designed specifically for architects to enhance their workflow, aiding in tasks such as architectural planning and construction documentation.

Revit is a 4D BIM modeling software with tools for planning and tracking various stages in a building’s lifecycle, from concept to construction and eventual demolition. Simply said,  Revit is used for building computer models of physical structures. It allows users to create actual objects with attached parameters and data like material, as opposed to just creating lines that graphically represent objects. It should be noted that Revit is a building modelling tool, and isn’t used for generic modelling purposes.

Autodesk 3ds Max is a 3D modelling, animation and rendering software. It’s mostly used for making 3D animations, games, images, movie effects and movie-pre-visualization. Its most common users are video game developers, TV studios and architectural visualization studios. While AutoCAD is primarily used for drafting, 3ds Max is mostly used for presentation. These two are both are geometric modellers, while AutoCAD Architecture and Revit are classified as BIM modellers.

Despite the differences between them, these programs primarily handle design and its implementation into usable construction and presentation documents.

What Are The Limitations Of AutoCAD Supported .DXF File Format?

To identify limitations or advantages of the .DXF file format, it is necessary to compare it to AutoCAD’s native .DWG format.  What can these formats do and which should you use?

Although both file formats are developed by Autodesk and supported by AutoCAD, there are some differences between the two vector image file types. The main one is that DWG (which stands for DraWinG) files only work with Autodesk’s AutoCAD, while .DXF (meaning drawing exchange/interchange format) was developed to allow other CAD programs to open and use information from the drawing file.

Furthermore, some CAD programs can’t import .DWG files, but they can import .DXF. That being said, if you’re a CAD user who doesn’t use AutoCAD, the ability to open and use the .DXF file in other CAD programs is its obvious advantage over the DWG.     

Possible limitations of .DXF in comparison to DWG are:

  • DWG files retain all drawing layers, colors, lines weights and x-references, while DXF files retain lines, dimension and text only.
  • While DXF is ACSII text, DWG is a binary file. This means that .DXF is more bloated in size than DWG.  

Despite these potential drawbacks, the ability to work with all vector-based programs has made the .DXF the most pervasive vector file type in the CAD industry.

Is It Possible To Convert TIFF To AutoCAD File?

It isn’t possible to directly convert TIFF image to DWG/DXF, but there’s a workaround you can try if you need to reuse a TIFF image in AutoCAD. Use the IMAGEATTACH command to insert TIFF as a raster image, then use the image as reference. It’s possible to trace the image.

Is It Possible To Convert PDF To CAD File?

Yes, it’s possible to convert PDF to CAD file. All you need is a PDF to CAD conversion solution. There are a number of available PDF to CAD converters, including Investintech’s Able2Extract, which converts PDF to DWG and DXF formats. Able2Extract PDF Converter is a desktop software, which is free to try for 7 days. There are also some free online PDF to AutoCAD converters, like this one.

Able2Extract Autocad Conversion

If the PDF file was generated from a CAD application, such as AutoCAD, the vector data should be embedded in it, which allows for an easy and accurate conversion.

Do Software Packages That Convert PDF To CAD Files Really Work?

In short: yes, they work. According to a BIM expert and educator, Stefan Boeykens, there are a number of things to keep in mind when converting and evaluating results of a PDF to CAD conversion. Firstly, note that a PDF file is a visual representation of a CAD drawing.  It contains lines, color and text. Thus, when it comes to the conversion output of such files, know that:

  • Lines are, by rule, converted accurately, with an exception to line weights which convert with less accuracy.  
  • Hatches are turned into blocks or groups of lines.
  • With text and dimensions,  the conversion output largely depends on the source. Thus, text can be turned into curves resembling the text, and dimensions become grouped text and lines. There can’t be dimension entity in the conversion output simply because there is no such thing in the PDF.

Note that when converting PDF to CAD drawings, your resulting content will end up as a graphical output containing line-properties, colors, curves, etc.

What Is The Best Format To Transfer CAD Files To Non-CAD Recipients?

The default and usually the best format for non-CAD recipients is the PDF (Portable Document format) as anyone can open and view PDFs on any device. PDFs are non-editable and an obvious choice when the owner or sender doesn’t want the recipient to edit the document.

An alternative to PDF would be DWF as another non-editable file format. However, to open it, the recipient needs to have DWF viewer installed. Compared to the widely used PDF format and the number of freely available PDF readers, chances are that most non-CAD users won’t have the necessary DWF viewers installed on their devices. They may even be unaware of such software, or even if they are, finding and installing would take up extra time.

If you want to transfer the editable CAD file to a client, project manager, tradesman, contractor or any other project stakeholder, the best formats are .DWG or .DXF. If they don’t generally use desktop AutoCAD, they can open the DWG or the DXF files in AutoCAD 360 even with a free plan and make edits to it.


Improving Lean Document Management With Data Extraction

Successful Results Graph

In this day and age, the success of a company relies heavily on efficiency and productivity. As such, systems and services have been developed in order to cut down on waste and reduce the effort in managing workflows and document management. When reassessing the effectiveness of their workflows, companies across all industries use systems like Strength-based Lean Six Sigma.

With the level of data finance and compensation service companies handle, Strength-Based Lean and Six Sigma can work to improve the business process and records management.

What is Strength-Based Lean Six Sigma?

Strength-Based Lean Six Sigma is a system that focuses on assessing and identifying practices used within a company in order to improve it through methodical and active modifications. After best practices (and problems) are identified, steps are then taken to start restructuring the workflow according to the company’s goals and ideals.  Companies are then evaluated periodically to ensure the changes made are consistently effective.

This on-going process can show business owners where there are weaknesses, bottlenecks, and wasted effort in their system. As you can imagine, workflows that handle high volumes of documents daily require such evaluation to ensure data processing keeps going smoothly, accurately, and efficiently.  If not, business owners can then make adjustments accordingly in regards to both time and activity.

But working to apply that system to clientele data requires more than just a records management system. Companies like CM Global Partners specialize in applying Strength based LEAN and Six Sigma to sales compensation (Lean Sales Compensation).  As a consulting company, they assist in strategically planning and creating accurate sales compensation plans for their clients.

The Only Setback In The Workflow

However, in order to create customized Lean compensation plans for companies, they need to deal with the client’s information that comes in the PDF format, a locked down file format that prevents editing of any kind.

Consequently, they would extract the data manually by retyping scanned PDFs into Excel. They had used different software in the past, but needed accuracy. In addition, they needed a way of exporting their clients’ PDF data into Excel that would work with their system, Compensation Master. Their process always required the data to be audited and identical to data in the PDF file.

CEO CM Global Partners“We had an industry leading service,” says David Cocks, CEO of CM Global Partners, “Now we just needed a more efficient way to extract the data.”

Creating the most effective plans possible is CM Global Partners’ priority. So the company decided to invest in Able2Extract to help speed up the data extraction process. 

Using Data Extraction To Help With Strength-Based Lean Six Sigma

A case study was done to get a closer look at how and where Able2Extract fit in with their goals and workflow. Some of the benefits that resulted from their move to Able2Extract include:

  • $15,000 saved on average
  • 80% of time saved on data extraction
  • Streamlined their work almost instantly
  • Converted large sets of data in a matter of hours with extreme accuracy
  • Increased the productivity of everyone on the team

Efficient workflows need efficient systems. However, as CM Global Partners knows, these systems alone aren’t enough if they can’t bridge the gap between their system and their clients’ data. 

Read the full CM Global Partners case study to learn how the company successfully integrated Able2Extract with their Lean Six Sigma methodology.



Personalized AutoCAD Workflows vs. Industry Trends

Industrial Technical Drawing

Believe it or not, as advanced and cutting edge as CAD industry workflows seem to be, they evolve and change slowly, if ever. And one thing that certainly never changes for CAD designers is time.

It becomes an even more precious commodity when it’s intertwined with a company’s productivity and deadlines are a priority. As you can imagine, to change up CAD workflows and systems costs not only time, but money and resources, as well.

One such work trend in the CAD industry, for instance, is cloud based technology. Though cloud based tech is heavily advocated in other industries, cloud based CAD is a highly debated topic in the CAD niche. CAD professionals, in fact, are generally resistant to it.

The Resistance To Cloud-Based CAD Workflow Trends

The resistance to cloud-based CAD technology is growing. Robert Green,  columnist and CAD consultant, sums up the issue of the resistance to Cloud-Based CAD that covers the growing trend in the industry.

In sum, there are key business trends that are keeping companies  from implementing them. This skepticism is for a few reasons, the overarching theme of them being data centralization on the cloud.

Online CAD tools and software flavours have only been coming out over the past few years. And, as with any industry, full adoption of it relies on many existing factors including: cost, software ownership, network security, and prioritizing risk reduction over cost reduction.

Other notable factors include the fact that the cloud is a slow internet-based platform, which will primarily affect the commonly bloated file transmissions the CAD industry is known for. And quite obviously, using such a platform puts users who don’t have the best connection or hardware at a disadvantage.

Naturally, the topic of Green’s article incited a number of comments and reactions from CAD readers. One significant point readers highlighted is that CAD users “don’t appreciate having their software choices dictated to them. The level of disdain for software companies forcing a cloud-based software model onto their customers is palpable.”

It’s also understandable.  How one designer works will always play a major role in deciding what new, more advanced workflows and software can be implemented. Not the other way around.

Freedom To Choose A PDF to DWG Converter

Flight Homes’ timber designer, Paul Erickson, is a real world example of this freedom of software choice in action. And in his case, his choice of software gave him the weekly advantage he needed for projects each week, something that wouldn’t have been possible if the software was chosen for him.

Flight Timber Products Ltd. is a leading construction company in the United Kingdom.  The Flight Timber team struggled with re-entering their PDF drawings manually into AutoCAD, the main productivity and time killer.

Flight Timber Designer

“As successful engineering service providers, the Flight Timber team regularly deals with a variety of PDF files,” says Paul Erickson, designer for Flight Timber Products. “Every employee in the company has their own document management workflow and preferred software.”

And as a CAD designer himself, he tested out a number of converters which never generated the results he needed. He finally discovered and chose Able2Extract as his preferred PDF conversion software.

Personalizing The CAD Workflow With Able2Extract

In this case study, we take a close look at exactly what the effect of choosing one’s own tools has on a personalized CAD workflow.  Paul Erickson cites benefits from using Able2Extract, which include:

  • 6 hours of time saved per week
  • Quick and accurate conversions
  • Interaction with knowledgeable customer service
  • Easier PDF management
  • Added bonus of converting PDF to Word for files issued for production

Read the full Flight Homes case study here and read about how one PDF tool became the data extraction solution for one CAD designer.


Meet Able2Extract 10: The Next Level of Data Extraction

We’re happy to announce today that Able2Extract 10 has just been released!

Continuing from the innovation and success of the last version, Able2Extract 10 comes with a number of great features. With PDF creation and editing you wouldn’t think that it could get any more advanced than it already is.  But it has!

Able2Extract 10 Boxshot

With this latest version, we’ve pulled out all the stops. You’ll find a lot of new PDF power features that will improve your PDF productivity and business intelligence workflow by more than half.

From PDF editing to improved Excel conversion, Able2Extract 10 has all the PDF capabilities you’ll ever need to keep up with your work. Get a good look at what the new Able2Extract 10 has to offer.

Convert Any Format Directly Into Excel

We’ve always known that highly valuable information can come in any format, not just PDF. So  to prevent you from missing out on accurate data assessments, we’ve included the ability for you to convert almost any format directly to Excel!

Able2Extract PowerPoint To Excel


Extracted Data In Excel

So whether you have a table in Word or information locked away in an XPS file, you can now get that data into an Excel spreadsheet and perform your analysis on complete data sets.

Just simply open your file and select your content as usual and choose the PDF to Excel conversion command from the toolbar.

Convert To PDF CSV Instantly

For those who work closely with raw data and text formats, you’ll be happy to know that Able2Extract 10 now has the ability to convert directly to CSV and TSV from the toolbar. In a nutshell, you can now integrate Able2Extract 10 directly into the analysis stage of your workflow.

Able2Extract PDF To CSV

This is especially handy for data extractions that are used in analytical software programs on the enterprise level. You can even copy to clipboard in RTF/CSV format. Your information analysis can be done more quickly as Able2Extract eliminates the need to convert to Excel and then export to CSV. 

Split And Merge PDFs Precisely Page-By-Page

For the first time, Able2Extract now has the ability to split and merge PDF files. We’ve made the process simple by allowing you to insert and extract the PDF pages themselves.

Split And Merge PDFs

Insert PDF pages from an already existing PDF on your computer or extract PDF pages from the currently opened PDF into a separate file.  Your original source PDF isn’t modified.  This makes assembling  and breaking up PDF documents for professional or personal use simple and hassle free.

Edit PDF Text On The Spot

Able2Extract 10 will finally let you edit the text directly within the PDF document. You can delete, add, and move existing text in a WYSIWYG editor, making instant corrections to PDF text.

Editing Text In PDF

As you can see you can match the font, text colour and size directly from the side editing panel, making seamless modifications to professional documents.  To boot, your changes are immediately visible, so you can see the edited content you’re converting.  

Resize PDF Pages To Meet Any Business Standard

Because the PDF is the standard used to communicate important content with companies from different industries, following each industry’s document requirements is important. For instance, print publishers, legal proceedings or marketing departments, will need specifically sized PDF pages. And this is why we’ve provided you with the ability to select your PDF page size from the start.

Resizing Pages With Able2Extract

Whether you need legal, letter or executive sized documents, you can adjust your PDF pages as easily as you can convert them. Resize your pages to paper sizes compatible with ANSI, ISO and ARCH specifications.  You can even graphically reposition the content of your page, if needed.  

This combination of page resizing options makes  it so that your PDF can work with any type of businesses, no matter which industry standards they follow.

Convert PDF To Excel More Accurately  

For even more precise and accurate data extraction into Excel, we’ve updated the PDF to Excel conversion engine. When you convert to Excel, Able2Extract now provides you with a variety of sub options to choose from.

Able2Extract Excel Conversion Settings


When you convert a PDF table, Able2Extract will better analyze how the source document  and its tables are  structured so you get even more refined PDF to Excel conversion results than before!

Improved OCR Technology For Highly Accurate Text Renditions

With Able2Extract Professional, we’ve also improved the OCR engine, providing you with more accurate renditions of broken text when converting scanned PDFs.  Professionals who need to use legacy information trapped in hard copy can now merge that data with digital data for complete and accurate business intelligence analysis.

Given everything this latest version has, you’ll be looking at your PDF work in a different–hopefully easier, light.  

Take it for a test drive yourself. Download the free 7 day trial and get your PDF productivity going!


Document Storage And Data Extraction Needs For Accountants

In the world of accounting, document handling and management are important. Everything is now highly digitized and it’s now necessary for accounting firms to adjust to an ever growing world of digital data.

To do so, there are many best practices and standards that all accounting firms are encouraged to follow for dealing with document and financial data.

Successful Document Storage Options For Accounting Firms

Major accounting resource sites like, for example, emphasizes the importance for document management in the accounting industry by outlining factors for one important area: document storage.

In addition to security and liability among other factors, they place emphasis on file type, and in particular, the PDF format for archival purposes, on their list of factors for successful document storage.

Floppy Disk Saved Files

And this is a great point that needs to be highlighted. As a PDF solutions company, we know the format’s excellent and effective capabilities for archiving. Whether clients decide to password protect the file or selectively lock down what users can do with the content, your clients’ financial data is faithfully and securely available to only you and your intended recipients.  

The Double Edged Sword: Archiving And Data Extraction

However, this also sheds light on one important point about the PDF format. The data that is accurately preserved can also be extracted just as faithfully. This is the PDF format’s main strength for accountants. 

Accountants will often find that PDF documents are not only used at the starting and end points of the process, but also at points in the workflow that come in between–during  the data analysis step.  But as you can imagine, this part of the process, which deals with data that’s already in archival format, can be the number one cause for backlogs in the workflow.

And accounting companies are highly aware of this. The accountants at JMPA (Jewell Muller Professional Accountants), who specialize in tax and accounting services in South Africa, for instance, struggled with the issue themselves.

PDF Bank Statements Need Editing

JMPA provides accounting solutions to small businesses. Being a technology dependent company, they rely on software tools to get their work done. However, they need to work with and edit the data stored in archival PDFs first.


“Almost all our documents are PDF bank statements that need to be imported to our accounting software,” explains JMPA CEO Cassie Muller. “Before we can do that, we have to edit them in Excel, which is where we had our first obstacle.”

Their search for a PDF converter solution led them to Able2Extract, which helped them speed up the management of PDF documents.

In our case study with JMPA, we took a close look at how data extraction played a factor in their document management process and what it meant for the company overall. JMPA highlighted some of the benefits of using Able2Extract:

  • Reduced processing time by 85%
  • Saved 80% of money on wages
  • Improved delivery time to clients by 90%
  • Converted 7 months’ worth of bank statements in minutes

In sum, knowing how your accounting company works with all kinds of documents is one of the keys to success. Because being efficient with your document process has an effect on the rest of your firm’s efficiency, be sure to explore all of your software options for storing and extracting document data. With JMPA, they were able to resolve the one factor holding them back with a single PDF converter tool.

Read the full JMPA case study and learn how they managed to improve their document management system in detail .