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Getting Your Kicks with AutoCAD 2006

AutoCAD 2006 can save files as far back as AutoCAD 2000 format. If you need to go back farther than that (say, for a die-hard client still using Release 14), you can save to the R12 DXF format, which AutoCAD Release 14 will open. An alternative is to download a copy of Autodesk's Batch File Converter, which will save your files back to Release 14 DWG.

If you prefer to upgrade from a previous AutoCAD release, you should know the following:

  • Wash those old Windows: AutoCAD 2006 does not support older versions of Windows, such as Windows NT, 98, and Me. You must use Windows XP (Professional, Home, or Tablet PC) or Windows 2000.
  • DWG file compatibility: AutoCAD 2006 uses the AutoCAD 2004 DWG file format, so you'll be able to exchange files easily with users of AutoCAD 2004 and 2005. You can use File --> Save As to create DWG files for users of AutoCAD 2000, 2000i, and 2002, but not for AutoCAD Release 14 and earlier versions. (To get around this limitation, you can save to the Release 12 DXF format.)
  • Application compatibility: If you use third-party applications with a previous version of AutoCAD, they may not work with AutoCAD 2006. Many AutoCAD 2004 and 2005 applications, including those developed with the ARX (AutoCAD Runtime eXtension) and VBA (Visual Basic for Applications) programming interfaces will work with AutoCAD 2006, but older ARX and VBA applications won't work.
    Many LSP (AutoLISP) programs written for the last several versions of AutoCAD work with AutoCAD 2006.
  • Increased computer system requirements: For AutoCAD 2006, Autodesk recommends an 800 MHz Pentium III or better processor, at least 256MB of RAM, 1024 x 768 or higher display resolution with True Color graphics, 300MB of available hard disk space, an Internet connection, and Microsoft Internet Explorer 6.0 with Service Pack 1 or later.

AutoCAD 2006 comes out a mere year after AutoCAD 2005 and thus doesn't sport quite as many new features as did some earlier upgrades, many of which came out at two-year intervals. The new features and feature improvements in AutoCAD 2006, however, are well conceived and worthwhile. Three especially great new features are

  • Dynamic input: You can almost forget about the command prompt. AutoCAD 2006 features a heads-up interface that displays command names, options, prompts, and values right next to the crosshairs.
  • Improved object selection: AutoCAD provides more positive feedback than ever before with its new rollover highlighting feature.
  • Dynamic blocks: You no longer need separate blocks for every door or window size in your drawings. Now you can insert a single block definition and choose its configuration as you insert it.

If you're using any version prior to AutoCAD 2004, the new version definitely is worth upgrading to. You'll enjoy a slew of improvements, including a cleaner, more functional interface, smoother transitions between view changes, and many command enhancements.

AutoCAD 2006 is a worthy new version. If you've been putting off upgrading, and especially if you've been hanging out with an old version such as AutoCAD 2000 or Release 14, this probably is a good time to take the plunge.

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