Book Reviews Reviews

AutoCAD for Dummies

Publication Details:
Publication:“PC Plus”, UK
Date:December 1995
Product Information:
Title:AutoCAD for Dummies
Author:Bud Smith
Publisher:IDG Books Worldwide
Supplier:Transworld Publishers Ltd.
Price at time of publication:£18.99

AutoCAD for Dummies

AutoCAD’s an intimidating program for beginners, despite recent versions’ improved tutorials and documentation. This is a particular problem for AutoCAD – it’s often companies’ first CAD investment, and many users will have no computer or CAD experience whatsoever. AutoCAD sorely needs a well-written introductory book for skilled but computer-illiterate designers.

“AutoCAD for Dummies” from IDG is not that book. Although it uses many successful themes from other “Dummies‚Ķ” books, with icons, box-outs, bad jokes and good cartoons, there’s a lack of clarity in the book’s structure, its subject and its target readership.

Although claiming to supplement rather than replace AutoCAD’s official documentation, it wastes space repeating details from the manual without explaining essential underlying concepts – too often it discusses details without explaining why they’re important. The content of sections is vague, making information difficult to find when browsing. “AutoCAD for Dummies” tackles AutoCAD Release 13 both for DOS and Windows – an enormous workload for an introductory book. Puzzlingly, the author devotes over a chapter to opinions about AutoCAD LT.

The book’s most serious flaw is its inconsistent view of its readership. It can’t decide if readers just want to learn to draw, or if they’re responsible for system setup. Some sections guide readers through setup details, while others assume the presence of a resident AutoCAD expert to help – the book would be much improved if it discussed underlying setup principles, and then concentrated solely on the basics of drawing and editing. The book is also surprisingly weak on technical drawing – there’s little awareness of which features are really important to professional designers.

Another irritation is the manner in which the author’s own tastes intrude – in particular, he refuses to accept AutoCAD as it is, expending lots of energy making it behave like other Windows programs. This presumes that users have lots of experience of other programs, which is simply not the case for many professional draughtspeople. The book is totally American – it even omits European ISO paper sizes from the Appendix. It doesn’t list any European contact-addresses, and also ignores useful Internet sites such as Autodesk’s own home page ( or newsgroups such as comp.cad.autocad.

If “AutoCAD for Dummies” had a clearer structure, a firmer grasp of its subject, and a specific readership in mind it might have been an ideal introduction to AutoCAD for beginners. As it stands, however, it’s a missed opportunity.

Tim Baty