Autodesk’s two powerhouse design programs, AutoCAD and Revit, are on their way to conquering the design world. AutoCAD is the broadly applicable geometry-driven traditional drafting program that’s grown a lot since its 1982 beginnings; Revit is the powerhouse 3D modeler that gives you real-world information about your design before you build a stick of it.
But how do they compare to each other?
Main Differences Between AutoCAD vs Revit
The Main Differences Between AutoCAD and Revit are:
- AutoCAD has a geometric CAD approach, whereas Revit has a 3D modelling CAD approach.
- AutoCAD covers a lot of industry functions, whereas Revit focuses on building design industries.
- AutoCAD gives you data based on your design objects, whereas Revit gives you data on the construction of your models.
AutoCAD: The Basics
If you’ve done any education or professional industrial design work, chances are you’ve used AutoCAD. It was released in 1982 as the first computer-aided drafting program available for home computers, which created a surge in accessibility for design software.
With a concentration on 2D drafting, its functionalities have grown with technology advances and user needs to add components such as 3D capabilities, industry-specific modules, and ways to enhance teamwork.
|Type of CAD||Geometry driven models|
|Type of Design||2D driven but also capable of 3D|
|Computer Operating System Compatibility||Windows, Mac|
|Price||Subscription-based: $210 per month, $1,690 per year, or $4,565 per three years|
|File Extension||.dwg, .dxf|
|Industry Usage||Architecture, electrical engineering, civil planning, mechanical design, graphic design|
AutoCAD: The Advantages
- Precise line work for 2D geometries. If you want a computer-aided drafting program that gives you complete control over 2D drawing, AutoCAD remains the first and best choice. Its extensive number of ways to manipulate geometries means you can use it to design anything you want, which makes it great for architects (or anyone else) who is starting from the beginnings of an idea. This amount of detail users have is often pointed out as the feature that makes AutoCAD so intimidating to learn, but once you’ve got a solid grasp of it, you’ll be rewarded with all the tools you need and more.
- Flexibility for 3D objects. Although it started as a 2D program, AutoCAD has added a solid (pun intended) 3D component to its design features as well. And just like with its original use, AutoCAD puts a large amount of control into your hands when you’re designing in 3D. Its surface, mesh, and solid tools let you customize your 3D models beyond strict confines of the parameters with which you started. That’s the beauty of AutoCAD’s reliance on geometries – because you use them as pure shapes, there are no preconceived usage limits, which means you can let your imagination go as wild as it wants while you design.
- Workspace customization. Users always complain that AutoCAD’s steep learning curve comes from its huge array of tools and features, and although they’re not wrong, much of that can be cleared up as soon as you figure out what you need for a job. To keep your workspace manageable without compromising its comprehensiveness, AutoCAD lets you create customized tool ribbons and work areas. You do need to have a working knowledge of what’s available as well as what your specific job entails, but once you’ve figured that out it’s super easy to jump right in.
- Integration of PDF files and cloud viewing for sharing. Taking a design all the way to the finish line often requires a team – sometimes of people working halfway across the world from each other, with different time zones and computer accessibilities. Fortunately, AutoCAD has a number of options to keep coworkers in sync. One of their big steps forward is AutoCAD’s ability to change PDF files into their proprietary .dwg type, so that if original designs need to be tweaked or referenced, their PDF versions can be read and edited by AutoCAD users. This is great for accessing archives and keeping versions locked until they get to the right person to edit. AutoCAD also offers a cloud-based viewing feature, which lets more than one user view a file at the same time. Although group same-time editing isn’t possible, being able to study and discuss a draft at the same time is a vital preparation step in making your design the same kind of flawless that everyone agrees on.
AutoCAD: The Disadvantages
Some of AutoCAD’s advantages can be flipped around to become inconveniences depending on what you’re using the software for; however, there are a few flaws in the system that affect most of the design jobs you’ll be doing.
- Steep learning curve. Yes, you can customize the tools and feature ribbons you see when you open AutoCAD; yes, that makes it less intimidating than the full scope of its offerings. But before you know which ones you need to curate, you’ll need to climb AutoCAD’s notoriously steep learning curve to find out how everything works to see what will suit you best. It’s not easy, and if you don’t have the right teacher or guiding material, it can get enormously frustrating. However, since this is a universal issue for AutoCAD users, there are a lot of self-pacing courses and training packages you can find around the internet, whether from Autodesk’s own training site, its AutoCAD user community, or an outside CAD educator. Connecting with someone who can show you around will make all the difference as you learn.
- Unsynced layering. AutoCAD’s layer system is great for tending to every detail needed while designing new parts. Unfortunately, that layering feature does not automatically sync edits or changes to all of the design, requiring users to manually make sure it’s replicated everywhere it should be for the full effect. Teams especially have to be super vigilant and 100% updated across the board so one individual’s work on the wrong draft doesn’t cost the rest of the group time or money needed for painstaking corrections.
- Manual entry of component information. The empty geometries you work within AutoCAD are blank slates, which means they could be anything you want them to be. Great for the imagination, terrible for consistent component information across your designs. You have to manually type in specifics for each part even if they represent aspects or measurements you work with on a regular basis. You can mitigate this somewhat by buying one of AutoCAD’s industry-specific modules, but even then, you won’t be completely covered, and if you’re not designing in one of their represented industries, you’re still out of luck.
Revit: The Basics
Revit is a different type of CAD software. It’s called a Building Information Modeling program, and that means it creates a 3D model of a building complete with details about the physical properties and how each component interacts with each other.
Because of the wealth of information it automatically generates, this type of CAD software is very popular in architecture, construction, and city planning industries – making it a fairly direct competitor to AutoCAD, even though Revit is also issued by Autodesk.
|Type of CAD||Building information modeling (BIM)|
|Type of Design||3D modeling|
|Computer Operating System Compatibility||Windows only|
|Price||Subscription-based: $305 per month, $2,425 per year, or $6,550 per three years|
|File Extension||RVT, RFA, RTE, RFT (Revit native); DGN, DWF, DWG, DXF, IFC, SAT, and SKP (CAD); BMP, PNG, JPG, JPEG, and TIF (image); ODBC, HTML, TXT, and gbXML (other)|
|Industry Usage||Architecture, civil planning, construction|
Revit: The Advantages
Revit represents a powerful new stage in CAD programs. It’s got a number of BIM features that make it a favorite of users who are involved in structure management.
- All model information integrated. Unlike AutoCAD, Revit does not require a user to work in separate layers for each component of a design. Revit lets you work on a 3D model while automatically generating multiple viewpoints, translating changes across all aspects, and allowing multiple users to work on the same design at once. These behind-the-scene tools let you concentrate on creating without worrying whether the rest of your design will catch up. It’s also a great teamwork feature since all the changes and information are contained in the live model file rather than separate layers.
- Extensive automatic building information. Speaking of important information, Revit automatically generates information about your design as you’re making it that you can easily leverage into price estimates, material amounts you’ll need in the real world, and how those materials will hold up with each other. And if any of these get changed at any point in the process, so will this information. It’s like you’re building a model with real materials, which takes away a lot of the guesswork and the compensations for that guesswork when you move into the next phase.
- Simplifies maintenance and upgrades. Because of the dynamic way changes are automatically integrated across a design, plus its wealth of building info, Revit makes keeping up building and structures easy as well. As a user, you have access to its design archives feature, which means you can store plans in the cloud and grab them whenever they’re needed to update or reference. All that information will be right there waiting for you whenever you need it.
- Performance analysis. Revit also gives users access to performance analyses of their designs in real-world conditions. In addition to testing how a model works as a general building – how it holds together under stress, how its materials age together, etc – you can use this information for testing the environmental friendliness of your design. Power efficiencies and other measurements can directly lead to construction that is better for both the builders and the earth, which lets everybody win.
- Easier to learn. According to users, Revit is easier to learn than AutoCAD because of its cleaner interface. Revit’s automated integration of processes that are separate in AutoCAD also makes it simpler to jump right into its processes.
Revit: The Disadvantages
Although Revit has been advertised as more powerful than AutoCAD, it does have its drawbacks. Here are the details on a few that you should know about before investing in Revit.
- Operates on Windows only. Revit’s OS limitation makes it harder to share designs that are inherently going to need a lot of teamwork. If your coworkers, investors, or anyone working from your Revit designs use a Mac, they’re going to have to find a computer with Windows to view your plans. While that may not be a breaking point for you, it’s definitely worth knowing before you buy to make sure it won’t interfere with your workflow.
- Higher price. Compared to AutoCAD, subscriptions to Revit are uniformly more expensive. Its three-year plan is still the best option, but it’s going to run you about $1,000 more than AutoCAD’s. Do the calculations to see if you can handle that kind of up-front cost before you make your final decision.
- Narrower industry focus. Revit’s biggest drawback is its narrow industry focus. Although it displays an amazing array of functions for architecture, city planning, and other construction-based design areas, it gives subpar if any coverage for industries that aren’t connected to those. It’s a very specialized software compared to AutoCAD, and as such it doesn’t have nearly the occupational reach. If you’re not sure what area of design you want to go in, it might suit you better to learn a more general program first.
AutoCAD vs Revit: Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Can you use AuotCAD and Revit interchangeably?
A: In some design situations, such as architecture, you can use either program for design. However, AutoCAD and Revit have different functions for the type of tasks for which you can use either, so depending on the type of documentation or workflow you need, you may not be able to use them interchangeably for the tasks that overlap.
Q: Do AutoCAD and Revit have free trials I can use to test each one?
A: AutoCAD and Revit both have Autodesk’s option for a thirty-day free trial. We recommend taking advantage of these so you can test features out for yourself in your specific design situations.
Q: Do AutoCAD and Revit have mobile apps?
A: AutoCAD has introduced a smartphone app you can use to carry your designs with you even where you don’t have access to a computer. Unfortunately, Revit does not have an app, which makes it a slightly less portable option.
Q: Are AutoCAD and Revit directly competing for software?
A: Since AutoCAD and Revit are both from Autodesk, they are not directly competing for products. Autodesk likes to refer to them as complementary to each other since they cover a lot of the same ground but enhance each other’s usefulness.
Q: Which is better to learn from an industry point of view, AutoCAD or Revit?
A: Many design-based industries use AutoCAD because of its thorough coverage and CAD legacy. However, Revit is becoming popular as the “easier” relative of AutoCAD. It can’t hurt to learn AutoCAD first at this point, but that might change in the near future, so ask around with people who work in the design industry that interests you.
AutoCAD vs Revit: The Final Verdict
We’re going to award Revit as our winner here. It’s easier to learn, takes you through more steps in your design process, automatically integrates your changes in any step of the process, and gives you more flexible options to work with other people.
If you’re going to be doing any traditional 2D drafting, AutoCAD is still king. But Revit is coming for its crown.