For many AutoCAD users, the idea of mobility generally requires a laptop or the use of a fellow AutoCAD user's PC. What if I told you that there's an app for Android tablets that allows you to work with your .dwg files (a drawing file used by several CAD applications, such as AutoCAD)? Well, believe it or not, there is such an application. AutoCAD WS for Android tablets (there's also a version for iOS) allows you to edit, save, and share your .dwg files (you cannot, however, create new .dwg files using this tool).
Of course, we all know that AutoCAD is an incredibly powerful tool that requires a very specific set of skills. Is it possible that a mobile version of such a tool is actually useful to those that make use of CAD applications? Let's see if it has what it takes.
How to access files
With AutoCAD WS, it's possible to open .dwg files directly from e-mail attachments. Just open up the e-mail, click on the attachment, and AutoCAD WS should open. It's also possible to sync your .dwg files to the web with a service like Dropbox. You can also use your free AutoCAD WS account to upload your AutoCAD files. If you use AutoCAD 2010/LT 2010/2011, you can install the AutoCAD WS plug in, which allows you to upload your .dwg files from within AutoCAD itself.
Installing AutoCAD WS is simple. All you need to do is follow these easy steps:
- Open up the Android Market
- Search for "autocad ws" (no quotes)
- Tap the Install button
- Tap OK to Allow Access
Once the installation is complete, you should see an icon for AutoCAD WS on your tablet's home screen.
UsageWhen you first fire up AutoCAD WS, you will need to log into your account (see Figure A). If you don't have an account, tap the Create an Account button and then enter the credentials you want to use. Once you have an account, enter your username/password and tap Login. When the app opens, you will see either the three sample .dwg files available or any .dwg files you have uploaded to your account. Figure A
Forgot that password? AutoCAD WS has you covered.
From that screen, you can then select which .dwg file you want to work with. Tap the file you want to open, and enjoy a short wait. Remember, these files can get very complex and table hardware isn't exactly up to snuff when it comes to CAD. That doesn't mean the table will bog down when running the tool — it just means that it'll take some time for the files to open.When you have a file open (see Figure B), you have the following tools at your disposal:
- Draw tools (Circle, Polyline, Line, Rectangle, Area, Distance, Text)
- Markup tools (Rectangle, Cloud, Text, Free line)
- Layout selector
- View mode (Normal or Grayscale)
Here you see a fairly complex road layout.You can also use pinch zooming to zoom in and out of the image. Naturally, on the image shown in Figure B, you'd have to zoom in to do any work. But once you're zoomed in, you can have at it with the edits/additions. One of the very handy tools included with AutoCAD WS is the layer tool (see Figure C). When you open this tool, you can hide all but the primary layer (displayed with a lock icon). To hide a layer, tap on the light bulb icon associated with the layer. Figure C
Each layer also has a color associated with it, so it's easy to tell which layer is which.If you take a look at Figure D, you will see the same image with a number of layers hidden. This makes working with complex images so much easier. Figure D
Hide as many or as few layers as you need.You can also select a different layout for your drawing. Figure E highlights the Layout view of the same image. To toggle between Model and Layout mode, tap the Layout button (the third button from the right in the icon toolbar), and then select which layout you want. Figure E
Depending upon how complex your drawing is, switching between views can take some time.
Is this the ideal mobile CAD tool?
That all depends on if you can acclimate yourself to working without a mouse. If, however, you combine this with a Bluetooth mouse (or your tablet has USB capability), the task becomes quite a bit easier. Regardless of how it's used, AutoCAD WS is a free solution for anyone needing to edit .dwg files on the go.
Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.