How To Learn AutoCAD

AutoCAD Technical Design

In this day and age, anyone can pick up a new skill and turn it into a high-paying career asset. This is especially true for the tech savvy who already tinker around with and explore software on their own. They can translate that hobby into valuable skills needed for certain positions or tasks.

For instance, being able to create high quality AutoCAD images, 3D digital drawings and the like, is an extremely valuable skillset. Because of its extremely niched usage, AutoCAD isn’t a software skill likely to be common among average computer users.

And even if you’re not learning it for professional reasons, you may simply be curious about AutoCAD software, wanting to learn more about it.  

But where do you start? With such a complex piece of software, the learning process is sure to be confusing. Fear not.  Below are some basic answers, handy tips and a few pointers on how to learn your way around AutoCAD.

How To Learn AutoCAD On Your Own?

The best way to start learning AutoCAD on your own is to find an online course or tutorials that best suit your learning preferences and needs. For example, if you’re dominantly a visual learner you may want to start with YouTube video tutorials or enroll an online course with lots of video materials. If you prefer to learn by reading step by step instructions followed by images and screenshots, you may want to start with a basic course offering such materials. Fortunately, there are many AutoCAD learning resources to be found on the Internet. The first resource that comes to mind:  Autodesk official training guide, tools and learning tools.

Additionally, we’ve compiled a list of websites that provide free online AutoCAD courses, tutorials and complementary exercises.

Beside that, here are some additional helpful tips for self-learning with AutoCAD:

  • Find blogs and tutorials specific to your field of work. For example, if you want to learn how to use AutoCAD for mechanical workflows, try to find a blog or tutorial that specifically covers this topic.  
  • Search for exercises that will help you to memorize various commands by practice. He goes on to point out that this way of learning boosts your morale and self-esteem:  each time you complete an exercise, you feel more and more accomplished.
  • Start by learning how to use 2D drawing tools and applying what you learn to 2D drawings. If you don’t have any 2D drawings, just search the web; there are many 2D drawings available online. Once you get the hang of 2D drawing tools, then go for 3D which are mostly the same ones as 2D except for some specialized tools.
  • Practice, practice and then practice some more. This is the rule that applies to learning new skills or mastering a software application such as AutoCAD.

How Can Kids Learn AutoCAD?

Although AutoCAD isn’t a general purpose software application that all children will necessarily use in their higher education or future line of work, they can certainly learn how to draft 2D and 3D models in AutoCAD. Most importantly, a Quora thread shows that there’s an interest in teaching kids how to use AutoCAD.

A good place to start would be to teach a class or a child how to use one of the widely available free and easy-to-learn online apps for creating and printing 3D models. It’s fun and  good preparation for working with a more advanced desktop software program for 2D and 3D drafting such as AutoCAD.

The next step would be to do a few demos on how to use the key commands and solve common problems. Provide them with video lessons that you can create yourself or choose and use free online AutoCAD tutorials.  

There are also ready-made exercises and quizzes to test students’ progress. Follow their progress with the program and assign different challenges based on their individual performance, interest and engagement.

If you’re teaching, let’s say a bunch of 8th graders, chances are that majority of them won’t be engaged enough to become proficient in AutoCAD, especially if they don’t aspire to become architects or engineers. Therefore, adapt the course to accommodate for this and yet keep encouraging and challenging the students who do have higher engagement and interest levels.

How To Become An AutoCAD Professional?

Once you’ve mastered the basics and learned how to create basic drawings and blueprints in AutoCAD using any or all of the above mentioned techniques,  you’re ready to take your AutoCAD skills and expertise to the next level. Experienced AutoCAD users like Raymond Owusu suggest finding professional, complex drawings and trying to replicate them. Another good tip is to join AutoCAD forums and communities and ask how to do some difficult things. Consistent practice and especially real life projects will help you become a power user or even an AutoCAD professional.

The easiest way to test and prove your expertise in AutoCAD is to take a test provided by Autodesk and earn official certification status that will validate your drafting and design skills. Autodesk certifications are widely recognized credentials in the CAD industry and can establish you as an AutoCAD professional and further your design career.  

How To Get Autodesk Certification For AutoCAD?

In order to become Autodesk AutoCAD certified user or professional, it is necessary to take and pass a suitable exam offered by Autodesk.

You can find the detailed exam preparation information on the Autodesk website. This includes exam topics and objectives, recommended preparation methods for different certification levels, requirements, training options, and other related info.  


Top 10 Big Data And Data Science Conferences In 2016

Conference Event AuditoriumYou can’t go a day online without reading about big data. In our fast-paced, tech-oriented world where data is key, it isn’t any wonder. Managing, analysing, and storing all that generated data are issues many businesses are looking to improve upon or resolve.

Reading and discovering all about data science while you’re online isn’t hard. It’s staying well ahead of the game that is. There are big data science trends going on and it’s crucial to stay on top of them.

What new developments are happening? Will business intelligence predictions affect your company? Where can you get expert advice?

The best place to start? Data science conferences. They’re a great way for data practitioners and business pros to network, gain some perspective or learn new skills.

Here are the 2016 conferences that made our shortlist.  Did we miss any? Add your suggestions and recommendations in the comments!

  1. Strata + Hadoop World

Presented by Cloudera and O’Reilly, this conference is one of the most renowned data conferences you can attend. Its focus is on putting new methods and technologies into the spotlight, helping you develop new skills, best practices and strategies for dealing with and leveraging your data.  Attend and you can take advantage of training, career opportunities, workshops, keynote speakers, and discussions. You’ll get the opportunity to network with industry leading data scientists, business professionals and thought leaders.

Date & location: 

  • San Jose, California
  • March 28-29 (training)
  • March 29-31 (conference)
  1. Emetrics Summit

The eMetrics Summit is an event dedicated towards the data-driven marketer. Its speakers and tracks are geared at exploring how big data and technology will impact the future of your online and social media marketing efforts.  Discover answers to your questions and learn the latest from experts about digital analytics and marketing optimization.

Date & Location:

  • San Francisco, April 3-6
  • Chicago, June 20-23
  • New York, October 24-27
  1. Predictive Analytics World for Business

The Predictive Analytics World for Business conference, is co-located with the eMetrics summit mentioned above. Attendees at this event can get insights and hands on discovery with predictive analysis to improve the decisions being made from collected data.  This conference brings together the predictive analytics community to cover popular topics like marketing and CRM (offline and online), insurance pricing, credit scoring and other areas where predictive analytics is applied.  Get product recommendations, ideas on strategies, and more.

Date & Location: 

  • San Francisco, California
  • April 3-7
  1. Open Data Science Conference

When dealing with big data, it isn’t uncommon for data professionals to work with open source tools. This conference is an event that fosters the melding of open source and big data where you can get deeper insight on how one is integrated with the other. Its focus? Open source languages used in data sciences, data visualization, predictive analytics, big data tools, Hadoop-based languages, and machine learning, among other topics.

Date & Location:

  1. Data Science Innovation Summit

While you may have missed the Big Data Innovation Summit going on right now, you can still catch the Data Science Innovation Summit next month. The event showcases a number of keynote presentations, interactive workshops, and case studies from Fortune 500 companies. Check it out if you’re interested in discussing how to extract the value from your data, which is the event’s main focus for 2016. Learn from other business, data, and IT pros in the field.

Date & Location:

  • San Diego, California
  • February 18-19


Making Business Connections

  1. useR!

This conference is offered and organized by the R language user and developer community, one of the main programming languages specifically designed for analyzing big data. Attendees get to hear from colleagues with invited and user-contributed presentations exploring R-related and general topics. The useR! program will cover visualization and graphics, bioinformatics, high performance computing, industrial applications, statistical learning with big data, teaching and more.

Date & Location:  

  • Stanford, California
  • June 27 -30
  1. Insight 2016

While details for this conference are still in the works, you’ll want to keep this one on your radar. In the past, this IBM conference has  had an excellent program that includes speakers, informative sessions, and tons of opportunities aimed at helping you learn about capturing your data more efficiently and leveraging it for your business.  In addition to data and analytics, this conference covers a broad range of interests including cloud, mobile, IoT, security and much more!

Date & Location:

  • Las Vegas, Nevada
  • October 23-27
  1. JSM

The Joint Statistics Meeting boasts being the “largest gathering of statisticians held in North America”. And rightly so. This conference is held jointly with a number of prestigious associations in the field of statistics. Attending this conference, you can get a broader picture about statistics, data, and their real world applications.

Date & Location:

  • Chicago, Illinois
  • July 30-August 4
  1. Data Summit

This summit has some of the biggest corporations in attendance. It covers a wide range of hot topics being discussed in data science: big data integration, data engineering, data discovery, modern data architectures, big data in the cloud and more. Visit the site for more details.

Date & Location:

  • New York, New York
  • May 9-11
  1. KDD2016

Behind this event is the SIGKDD, ACM’s Special Interest Group on Knowledge Discovery and Data Science. As an interdisciplinary conference, KDD 2016 will be the place to be if you’re looking for a community of data scientists and experts who are enthusiastic about discussing and spreading the word about developments in the KDD field, as well as encouraging education among researchers, users and practitioners.

Date & Location:  

  • San Francisco, California
  • August 13-17


Now that there are tools like Excel 2016 that are making it easy for dealing with big data, everyone has the potential to be a data scientist.  If you’re one of them, attend at least one of these in the upcoming year or, if not, check in with them online as there will have post-event content available.


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.