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One of the most significant reasons for AutoCAD’s popularity is its strong support for third-party software. AutoCAD is like a chameleon; it can change to suit its environment. Out of the box, AutoCAD may not fulfill the needs of some users. But by incorporating one of the over 300 third-party add-ons, you can tailor AutoCAD to suit your specific needs.

This section discusses a few of the third-party add-ons that are popular today, so you’ll know about some of the possibilities open to you while using AutoCAD. This section will give you an idea of the scope of third-party software. For more information on the myriad of third-party tools out there, check out the Autodesk.

Custom-Tailoring AutoCAD

The needs of an architect are far different from those of a mechanical designer or a civil engineer. Third-party developers have created some specialized tools that help users of specific types at AutoCAD applications.

Many of these tools come complete with libraries of parts or symbols, AutoLISP, ADS, or ARX programs, and menus all integrated into a single package. These packages offer added functions to AutoCAD that simplify and speed up the AutoCAD user’s work. For example, most AEC (architectural or engineering construction) add-ons offer utilities for drawing walls, inserting doors and windows, and creating schedules. These functions can be performed with the stock AutoCAD package but usually require a certain amount of effort. Certainly, if you have the time, you can create your own system of symbols, AutoLISP programs, and menus,and often this is the best way of molding AutoCAD to your needs. However, when users want a ready-made solution, these ,add-ons are invaluable.

Specialized third-party add-ons are available for AEC, mechanical, civil engineering, piping, mapping, finite element analysis, numeric control, GIS, and many other .applications. They can save you a good deal of frustration and time, especially if ”’you find just the right one for your environment. Like so many things, however, third-party add-ons can’t be all things to all people. It is likely that no matter which add-on you purchase, you will find something lacking. When you’re considering custom add-ons, make sure that there is some degree of flexibility in the package, so if you don’t like something, you can change it or add to it later.

Check with your AutoCAD dealer for information on third-party add-ons. Most AutoCAD dealers carry the more popular offerings. You might also want to get involved with a user group in your area.

Third-Party Product Information on the World Wide Web

The World Wide Web is another good place to start looking for the third-party addons. In particular,  Autodesk Developers Resource Guide Homepage. While you’re at it, you may want to check out the other options on the Autodesk on the Web cascading menu. It offers links to support, technical bulletins, upgrades, and other valuable information.

Autodesk’s Own Offerings

Autodesk also offers a wide variety of add-ons to AutoCAD from simple symbols libraries to full-blown, industry-specific applications. There are offerings for architecture, civil, mechanical, mapping, data management, and 3D Visualization. Check out the Autodesk Web site for full details.

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