Autocad vs Revit [2020]: Which Is The Right Choice?

Autocad vs Revit [2020]: Which Is The Right Choice?

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. 

Bottom Line Up Front Summary: Overall, AutoCAD is the better program as it combines both the 2D and 3D functionality as well as the compatibility across various platforms that Revit doesn’t have. You can sign up for a free AutoCAD trial here.

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 modeling 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 is considered best for 2D drawing, whereas Revit is better for modeling and getting cost estimates
  • AutoCAD is more flexible to use, whereas the Revit platform is more rigid.
  • Autocad is available on both Windows and Mac computers as well as mobile devices, whereas Revit is only available on Windows operating systems
  • AutoCAD is more difficult and time-consuming for modification of projects, whereas Rivet makes it easy.
Why Go With AutoCAD LT?

The Gold Standard for industrial CAD, AutoCAD LT can flexibly adapt to 2D or 3D projects, while using local network drives if connection speeds are limited. Most additive manufacturing speaks AutoCAD.

We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you.

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 tool 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 3D components such as 3D capabilities, industry-specific modules, and ways to enhance teamwork. 

autocad review

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 Architectural design, electrical engineering, civil planning, mechanical design, graphic design
Supports mobile? Yes

AutoCAD: The Advantages

  • Precise line work for 2D geometries. If you want a computer-aided drafting tool that gives you complete control over 2D drawing, Autodesk 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 anyone that’s an architect (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 CAD 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 file 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 CAD 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 vs revit

AutoCAD: The Disadvantages 

Some of Autodesk 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. 
Why Go With AutoCAD LT?

The Gold Standard for industrial CAD, AutoCAD LT can flexibly adapt to 2D or 3D projects, while using local network drives if connection speeds are limited. Most additive manufacturing speaks AutoCAD.

We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you.

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. 

Revit Review

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
Supports mobile? No

Revit: The Advantages

Revit software 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 Revit 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 design process, so will this information. It’s like you’re building a Revit 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.

autocad vs revit comparison

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. 

Exploring Autocad and Revit Features

autocad

Both Autocad and Revit have many similar features. If you are using either of these pieces of software to create models, designs, and concepts, these are the key functions that you will find.

Drawing and design

Creating drawings and models is the main purpose of using software such as Autocad and Revit. These models are then ultimately used as plans for real-life engineering and construction drawings and can also be used for things such as 3D printing as well.

Autocad is very similar to drawing on a piece of paper in that it is mainly used for 2D lines and you have a lot of freedom over the designs you draw. It allows for a number of methods in which you can manipulate geometrics and create accurate drawings.

So if you need a tool that allows for free form drawing Autocad is perfect. It also has 3D functionality. Even though this is not what it was originally intended for, Autocad has evolved over the years to incorporate the design of 3D models.

Revit is a bit different in that it doesn’t have the same freeform creativity as Autocad. Revit is more focused on what is known as building information modeling or BIM. This is where you use tools to create 3D models of buildings and other concepts which are mainly used in construction.

It doesn’t offer the same free form drawing and freedom as Autocad but it offers real-time information. For example, if modeling a building on Revit software you will get data on materials needed, how they interact with each other, and price estimates too.

Workflow

The workflow and the way in which each design phase is linked is different with Autocad and Revit too. When working with a small or large team on a project, keeping the workflow open and collaboration easy is important.

Autocad’s setup means that you will need to draw each part of your design separate so the workflow is a bit more disjointed. It is a form of free drawing because each section isn’t linked to one another. Essentially you need to work in separate layers for your design with Autocad.

Revit has a different workflow. With Revit, each stage of the design that you make is automatically linked to the previous one to create a more consistent and joined-up approach to modeling and drawing. It relies less on ‘stages’ of the workflow process and more on creating a joined-up and connected design.

autodesk revit

Modifications

Modifying designs, models and certain parts within a drawing is pretty common with these types of tools and both allow for modifications.

Modifications with Autocad can be pretty difficult or rather it is massively time-consuming. This is because each part has to be modified individually. There is also the issue that modifications to designs don’t update automatically across all views on Autocad. If one part of the model is changed then it generally has to be manually updated across different teams that are working on it.

Revit provides a much easier and straightforward way to make modifications. If something is changed on Revit it will update automatically across all existing views so there isn’t the need for manual updating. This is related to the workflow. As Revit considers the design as a ‘whole’ whereas Autocad has a more disjointed approach, anything that is modified in Revit will be reflected across the board.

Platforms

Companies and individuals that use this type of software are not just operating it on the one platform all the time. You may need to use modeling software on different operating systems or access it on the move.

The great thing about Autocad is that it can be used on several different platforms such as Windows and Mac devices. It also has a mobile app as well. This is one area where Autocad really excels and it is a lot more accessible across various platforms. You can get cloud storage available as well.

Revit platform is only available on Windows operating systems. It makes it a bit more restrictive in this sense as you don’t have as many options for using this on different OS or on a mobile device. However, you can also get cloud storage with Revit if you need to access designs at another location.

Comparing Autocad vs Revit Pricing

Both of these pieces of software offer 30-day free trial options which can help you get to grips with the software and they also offer monthly, yearly, or 3 yearly subscription options.

Autocad costs $1690 for a yearly subscription per user license. You can also choose to buy a monthly license for $210 per month or get a license to use Autocad for 3 years which costs $4565 in total. When you purchase Autocad, you also get a range of other tools such as AutoCAD Architecture, AutoCAD Electrical, AutoCAD Map 3D, AutoCAD Mechanical, AutoCAD MEP, AutoCAD Plant 3D, and AutoCAD Raster Design. You can also use Autocad via their mobile app.

Revit is more expensive than Autocad and the cost of a yearly subscription is $2425 for a standalone license. You can also take out a monthly subscription for Revit that costs $305 while there is the option of a 3 yearly license as well which costs $6550. Revit is only available on Windows operating systems so there isn’t a mobile app or Mac version.

If you are a student it is possible to get free access to both Autocad and Revit, however, commercial and professional organizations have to pay the license fee.

Autocad vs Revit ease of use

house

Neither Autocad or Revit is really ‘straight out the box’ pieces of software that someone with no experience in design, modeling, or drawing is going to pick up and be able to use straight away. However, for people who do have some experience with this field, there are differences in the usability between the two products.

Autocad can be a bit harder to use as the interface isn’t as straightforward and the fact that it is designed with separate processes means it is more difficult to get to grips with initially. You don’t necessarily need to have years of experience to grasp its functionality but it can appear very confusing at the start.

The one big advantage Autocad has is its Custom User Interface Editor. This means you can customize the workspace within Autocad so you have it the way you want which can make using the program much easier once you get to grips with the basics.

Revit is a much more data-intensive program which can make it harder for some people. That being said, the interface looks cleaner and because processes and the workflow aren’t separate like it is in Autocad, it is generally accepted that it is easier to use tools overall. You probably won’t have a steep learning curve with Revit as you will with Autocad.

Why Go With AutoCAD LT?

The Gold Standard for industrial CAD, AutoCAD LT can flexibly adapt to 2D or 3D projects, while using local network drives if connection speeds are limited. Most additive manufacturing speaks AutoCAD.

We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you.

Are there any alternatives?

Fusion 360

fusion 360

Fusion 360 is a well-known CAD product that is actually free for individuals and startups who make less than $100k per year. It also works solely off the cloud which means files aren’t locally stored.

This can have benefits in that you can access your files everywhere and drawbacks because you need constant internet access. It does let you dabble in modeling and drawing although highly complex objects do test its processing power.

Fusion 360 is a decent alternative if you are looking for a cost-effective solution to Autocad and Revit, but just in case, check the full comparison between Fusion 360 vs AutoCAD before reaching out a verdict.

Solidworks

solidworks

Solidworks is another product that we have compared to Autocad in the past. It is a computer-aided drafting software that deals with 3D modeling and it also has 2D functionality as well. Solidworks is also more expensive than both Autocad and Revit however it is a one-off payment so it may work out cheaper in the long run.

Like Revit, you can only use it on Windows operating systems. However, it is another option to consider for computer-aided design software and it has a loyal following since it was released back in 1995.

Why Go With AutoCAD LT?

The Gold Standard for industrial CAD, AutoCAD LT can flexibly adapt to 2D or 3D projects, while using local network drives if connection speeds are limited. Most additive manufacturing speaks AutoCAD.

We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you.

AutoCAD vs Revit: Frequently Asked Questions

Can you use AuotCAD and Revit interchangeably? 

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.

Do AutoCAD and Revit have free trials I can use to test each one?

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.

Do AutoCAD and Revit have mobile apps?

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. 

Are AutoCAD and Revit directly competing for software?

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. 

Can I customize either of these programs?

Autocad is the most customizable out of the two. It features a Custom User Interface Editor which means you can have the interface the way you want it by displaying/hiding tools as you wish.

Can I use these programs for 3D printing?

Yes, both Autocad and Revit can export STL files which are used in 3D printing technology so they are ideal as 3D printing software.

What support is available?

Both Autocad and Rivet are Autodesk Software tools so you get the same level of support for both. There is a Learning Section that features guides, videos, and tutorials while you can visit the online forum. You can also contact Autodesk through their website if you need help.

Conclusion: Revit or AutoCAD?

Both Autocad and Revit are very powerful design tools that if used properly are highly effective in what they do.

They do have overlapping features that are often used with a different focus. For example, Revit is generally used within the construction industry. Autocad tends to be the software to use for more prices 2D drawings however it also brings in 3D functionality as well which is a bonus.

The big difference in how these programs work is through their modifications and workflow. Revit has a more joined-up approach to both with better workflow and modifications can be updated right away. Many users also comment that Revit is a bit easier to get the hang of over Autocad although Autocad has a lot more customizable options so you can make the interface the way you want it to be.

Which one should you use?

Autocad is better as a drawing and drafting program whereas Revit is more geared towards parametric object-based design.

Bottom Line Summary: Overall, AutoCAD is the better program as it combines both the 2D and 3D functionality as well as the compatibility across various platforms that Revit doesn’t have. You can sign up for a free AutoCAD trial here.

Not only that but even though both are available through Autodesk, Autocad has been an industry standard for decades and is one of the best design programs available.

Why Go With AutoCAD LT?

The Gold Standard for industrial CAD, AutoCAD LT can flexibly adapt to 2D or 3D projects, while using local network drives if connection speeds are limited. Most additive manufacturing speaks AutoCAD.

We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you.

Further Reading on Autodesk Product Software Packages:

Melanie Griffin

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Melanie Griffin is a freelance writer based in Columbia, SC. She writes about 3D printing, pet care, pop culture, and news that affects her neighborhood. She reads and writes fiction to stay sane and scratches her dog's tummy to stay happy.

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