Feature Reviews Reviews

AutoCAD LT Release 2

Mid-Priced CAD: AutoCAD LT Release 2

Supplier:Autodesk Limited
Price at time of publication:£499

At first sight, AutoCAD LT Release 2 appears almost identical to the original version, owing much to AutoCAD Release 12 for Windows. A toolbar along the top contains frequently used functions such as undo and layer control, and the traditional 3-line AutoCAD command-line is at the bottom. Most of the important commands are also in a floating toolbox. The program now has Microsoft Office-style ‘tooltips’, or descriptive text attached to the cursor – this feature was first seen in AutoSketch, and really helps when finding your way around the screen. Both the on-line help and printed documentation are excellent, with clear introductory material and comprehensive technical information.

Although it includes some 3D features, AutoCAD LT is primarily a 2D program – it’s biased towards 2D draughting rather than design, with plenty of heavyweight tools for preparing complex drawings. AutoCAD LT’s underlying drawing techniques are identical to previous versions of AutoCAD. This has both advantages and disadvantages – LT is extremely easy to learn for those with prior experience of AutoCAD, but AutoCAD in general isn’t the friendliest CAD environment for raw beginners. One real irritation for old AutoCAD hands is the absence of the traditional text-menu to the right of the drawing area – icons are great for selecting primary commands, but don’t help when selecting options within a command. The old DOS-style side menus always included low-level responses such as these – without the side menus, the only way to interact with complex commands in LT is via the keyboard. You get used to it eventually, but it’s an annoying oversight in the interface design.

LT’s tools for managing drawing content really set it apart from the competition. Most programs allow you to place objects on layers or gather them into blocks, but LT goes much further than this. A fundamental problem with any design is that different people need to view the design in different ways – for example, the plumbing and the roof-structure in a building. Designers usually create separate drawings for each different application, but the different drawings become difficult to manage if the design changes. AutoCAD addresses this problem by separating design and drawing preparation, through the concept of Model and Paper space – you design in Model space and create drawings in Paper space. Paper space contains multiple windows onto the design – each window contains its own different view, layer settings and scale-factors. Subsequent changes are automatically visible in all the windows. Once you’ve set the views up, it’s a simple matter to place drawing-borders and dimensions around the windows. Although complex to describe, this feature is enormously powerful and offers huge benefits in data integrity.

Dimensioning is excellent, with almost exactly the same commands and controls found in AutoCAD Release 13. You can save groups of dimension settings as named dimension-styles – this allows you to configure leaders, text and tolerance-figures differently to suit linear and radial dimensions, for example, and recall all the settings consistently. Another feature which helps with complex drawing is the user co-ordinate system, which allows you to create and save extra drawing planes at any position and rotation in 3D space. Although originally designed for 3D work, it’s enormously useful in 2D – if your drawing contains features at odd angles, this technique is more reliable than rotating the main drawing grid.

As well as a full compliment of block-handling ant text-attribute commands, LT includes the ability to dynamically include one drawing inside another. Normally, the drawing contains its own block definitions – externally referenced blocks, however, simply point to the disk location of other AutoCAD drawings, and use those as the block definitions. This can get horribly complicated if you’re moving drawings around all the time, but it ensures that library parts within a drawing are always up-to-date. AutoCAD LT is also a Windows OLE 1.0 server application – another welcome addition is LT’s ability to run from a network server. LT Release 2 can share drawing-files with AutoCAD Release 12, although inexplicably there’s no Release 13 compatibility – a frustrating missed opportunity.

Customisability is a good compromise between creating new features easily, and avoiding intensive programming. LT contains almost all the customising features from AutoCAD Release 13 apart from high-level programming languages such as AutoLISP. Despite the lack of a complete high-level language, there’s still plenty to play with – command-scripts, menu macros and icon-building tools are all present. A limited amount of high-level programming is even possible within menu macros, thanks to the quaintly named DIESEL string-expression language.

New features in LT Release 2 include associative hatching, which automatically refills hatched areas when you edit them, and more dialogue-boxes throughout the program – in particular, when you start a new drawing dialogue-boxes appear which help you choose drawing-frames, scale, paper-size and so on. Intriguingly, LT now includes tracking and mouse & keyboard distance entry – these are both present in Visual CADD, suggesting that Autodesk want to entice as many Generic CADD users to LT as possible.

AutoCAD LT Release 2 contains no dramatic new features – instead, it has concentrated on refining or tidying up many small areas. The changes to the on-line help are good news for new users, but those with experience will probably find in the quick-start features and improved networkability more interesting. There are some disappointing missed opportunities such as the lack of AutoCAD Release 13 file compatibility, and parts of the user interface definitely need improving, but despite these shortcomings AutoCAD LT Release 2 is still some way ahead in terms of sheer draughting power at the price. Other programs offer more advanced features like 3D rendering or parametrics, but there’s still almost nothing else in this market which can beat it for preparing complex drawing.

Verdict: AutoCAD LT Release 2


  • Wide range of 2D draughting features
  • Advanced drawing-structuring tools
  • Widespread support


  • Steep Learning-Curve
  • Some weaknesses in User Interface
Range of features:10
Ease of Use:7
PC Plus Value Verdict:9/10