Brief Encounters Reviews

AutoSketch Release 2 for Windows

Publication Details:
Publication:“PC Plus”, UK
Date:May 1994
Product Information:
Title:AutoSketch Release 2 for Windows
Author:Autodesk Limited
Supplier:Autodesk Limited
Phone:(0483) 303322
Price at time of publication:£199
Fact Panel:
Display Types:Windows
Issue Disks:Dual Media (High-density)
Minimum Hardware:386SX or 486SX CPU; 4Mb RAM; Hard Disk with 10Mb free; Mouse
Minimum Software:MS-DOS 3.3; Windows 3.1
Other Hardware:Maths Co-Processor; Additional RAM; Printer or Plotter
AutoSketch Release 2
AutoSketch Release 2 for Windows offers a state-of-the-art user interface. The aerial view helps users to manipulate the display easily.

Brief Encounters: AutoSketch Release 2 for Windows

AutoSketch Release 2 for Windows is the latest version of Autodesk’s popular budget CAD (Computer-Aided Design) program. The original version had a well-earned reputation for ease of use, while still having enough features to do real work – the new release builds on this base with a number of useful enhancements to further boost its capabilities.

It’s essential that a CAD program is easy to use, and Autodesk has given AutoSketch Release 2 for Windows one of the best-designed PC CAD user interfaces on the market. The screen layout is simple and well organised, with liberal use of icon toolboxes and scroll-buttons. Nice touches include being able to choose text menus or customisable button-bars, and different shapes and sizes of cursor. What really puts AutoSketch in a league of its own, however, is its excellent and logical help features. The ‘SmartCursor’ and ‘Quick Help’ place context-sensitive help-text next to the cursor and in the Windows banner respectively – it’s possible to learn a great deal about the program simply by moving the cursor over different controls and reading the help-text. AutoSketch also includes a thorough, well-designed standard Windows Help system.

AutoSketch uses natural and consistent conventions throughout. The basic command syntax is ‘Verb-Noun’ – select an action, then choose the objects on which to perform it. It’s not true Windows syntax, but it’s consistent within its own terms, and popular in many other CAD programs. Similarly, a single mouse-click executes a command, while a double click brings up the appropriate dialogue-box – users can modify command settings quickly and easily, without having to roam around complex menu-systems.

CAD programs typically offer a huge number of features, which can easily overwhelm the casual user. AutoSketch provides a well-balanced range of 2D drawing and editing tools – there aren’t as many features as some other budget programs, but the choice of commands is sensible. The program targets occasional users in particular, doing the simple things well while avoiding gimmicks.

Being able to share CAD data with other programs is vital – AutoSketch does well here, supporting CAD data in both DXF and AutoCAD formats, and ASCII text. AutoSketch integrates properly with Windows, supporting Bitmap and Metafile file-formats and Truetype fonts – it also uses the Windows Clipboard, and allows full Object Linking and Embedding (OLE) to other Windows applications.

AutoSketch Release 2 for Windows contains several useful enhancements. It’s now possible to have up to 5 different drawings open at once, making it easier to copy bits of other drawings and include them in the one you’re working on. Isometric drawing is useful when describing complex 3D objects – although not full 3D modelling, it’s easy to use and makes minimal demands on hardware. AutoSketch now has 256 Layers, each of which can have a descriptive name. The printer dialogue-boxes have gained a useful preview feature. Juggling drawing size and orientation against paper dimensions is always confusing, despite AutoSketch’s print dialogue being clearer than most – previewing results here avoids wasted paper.

AutoSketch Release 2 for Windows is an excellent all-rounder. Its superb interface design and clarity of purpose make it the perfect introduction to CAD for novices, proving that CAD doesn’t have to be arcane and intimidating. At the same time, it contains enough features to satisfy many users with experience of more up-market products. It’s reliable, professionally presented and supremely easy to use, and sets the benchmark for what a budget CAD program ought to be. AutoSketch Release 2 for Windows is a nicer environment to work in than almost any other budget CAD program currently available.

Tim Baty



  • Excellent user interface
  • Multiple drawing windows
  • Isometric drawing tools


  • Needs fast hardware
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