Developed and marketed by Autodesk, AutoCAD was first released in December 1982, running on microcomputers with internal graphics controllers. Prior to the introduction of AutoCAD, most commercial CAD programs ran on mainframe computers or minicomputers, with each CAD operator (user) working at a separate graphics terminal.
AutoCAD is the standard design software used in the engineering, architecture and construction industries. Designers and drafters use it to create two-dimensional (2D) and three-dimensional (3D) computer drawings. The native file format of AutoCAD is .dwg.
Autodesk has also developed a few vertical programs (AutoCAD Architecture, AutoCAD Civil 3D, AutoCAD Electrical, AutoCAD ecscad, AutoCAD Map 3D, AutoCAD Mechanical, AutoCAD MEP, AutoCAD Structural Detailing, AutoCAD Utility Design, AutoCAD P&ID and AutoCAD Plant 3D) for discipline-specific enhancements. For example, AutoCAD Architecture (formerly Architectural Desktop) permits architectural designers to draw 3D objects, such as walls, doors and windows, with more intelligent data associated with them rather than simple objects, such as lines and circles. The data can be programmed to represent specific architectural products sold in the construction industry, or extracted into a data file for pricing, materials estimation, and other values related to the objects represented. Additional tools generate standard 2D drawings, such as elevations and sections, from a 3D architectural model. Similarly, Civil Design, Civil Design 3D, and Civil Design Professional support data-specific objects, facilitating easy standard civil engineering calculations and representations. Civil 3D was originally developed as an AutoCAD add-on by a company in New Hampshire called Softdesk (originally DCA). Softdesk was acquired by Autodesk, and Civil 3D was further evolved.
AutoCAD is ideal if you work for a large architectural firm needing to upgrade its CAD software, or if you recently graduated and are looking to start your own business. This type of software is not for just anyone, since it does take months of training to learn the ins and outs. However, once mastered, AutoCAD is the best professional CAD software on the market.