Choosing AutoCAD 2009 or AutoCAD LT 2009

Part of the AutoCAD 2009 & AutoCAD LT 2009 All-in-One For Dummies Cheat Sheet

AutoCAD LT 2009 is a scaled-back version of AutoCAD 2009 targeted at companies that create only 2D drawings and can't (or don't want to) afford the higher price of AutoCAD. AutoCAD LT contains roughly 80 percent of the functionality of AutoCAD at about 20 percent of the price.

Deciding which version is right for you really depends on what you are doing: 2D drafting, 3D modeling, plotting drawings, or reviewing comments. Here are six questions that should help you to determine whether AutoCAD or AutoCAD LT would work best for you. This list doesn't provide all the possible questions that can help to determine which is best for you, but it should be enough to get you going in the right direction. Keep in mind that you have to consider what your current needs are and what your future needs might be:

  1. Are the drawings you create or work with 2D only?

    If so, you might think about using AutoCAD LT.

  2. Do some of the drawings that you create or work with contain 3D objects, or will you need to supply renderings to any of your clients?

    If so, you might think about using AutoCAD. AutoCAD LT doesn't support rendering or the creation of 3D objects. You might also want to consider using AutoCAD LT and Autodesk Viz if your 3D needs are centralized around presentations.

  3. Will you be doing nothing more than some light drafting, plotting, and reviewing of DWG files?

    If so, you might think about using AutoCAD LT unless you need to plot renderings. If you just need to plot 2D drawings or know someone in the office who does, you can download DWG TrueView 2009 from Autodesk for free.

  4. Do you need or want to run third-party applications to extend the functionality that comes with the program?

    If so, you need to use AutoCAD and not AutoCAD LT because AutoCAD LT doesn't support certain forms of customization and programming languages.

  5. Do you plan on working with a variety of clients and vendors?

    If so, consider using AutoCAD and not AutoCAD LT. AutoCAD offers a number of collaboration features that can make working with vendors and clients much easier. Some of the features that make collaborating with AutoCAD easier are CAD standards and sheet sets. If you choose to use AutoCAD LT, you can still work with vendors and clients, but you might have some additional hurdles that you will need to plan for. Vendors have a tough time working with the lowest common denominator, AutoCAD LT in this case, if you're missing out on productivity features.

  6. What is your budget for software?

    If you have a small budget and you do 2D only drawings, the best choice is AutoCAD LT. Another solution you might consider is to buy a single seat of AutoCAD and the other seats as AutoCAD LT if you are primarily doing 2D only drawings. This would allow you to at least see what those with AutoCAD created when you receive drawings or what they will see when you send drawings back. You can always upgrade to a full seat of AutoCAD later if you need to as well.

    If you have a medium or large budget, you might consider buying AutoCAD and using the license manager to allow you to buy fewer licenses than you have staff. You can then add new licenses later as needed. If your budget simply allows you to buy what you need, you could buy a license of AutoCAD for each user in your office and be done with it.

No matter whether you plan on using AutoCAD or AutoCAD LT, remember that you will be using the most popular CAD drafting package on the market and will be able to communicate by using the DWG file format. Using the DWG file format is important because almost all the products that Autodesk develops can either create or read a DWG file, and many other CAD-drafting packages on the market can at least read a DWG file, which makes DWG a popular exchange file format as well.

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