Is autocad difficult to learn?


I was wondering how the user-experience is with it. Comments? Complaints?

Sep 6, 11 6:55 pm

2D or 3D?


Sep 6, 11 6:56 pm

As with any software, the ease of becoming fluent in a specific program is determined by the time that's put in. Anyone, especially design-oriented individuals, can learn any software.

Speaking from personal experience, AutoCAD isn't a tough program to learn. As soon as you become comfortable with the user interface, the commands, and the're good to go!

Sep 6, 11 10:39 pm

 I thought that AutoCad was rather easy to learn, but I had 10 years of drafting experience going in. You don't really have to know every deep command, just a way to produce a drawing. The program has all kinds of depth and you can learn all the neat tricks over time, some of which can get pretty involved, but the core fundementals aren't that hard. I would think any intellegent person should be able to do a few projects and be very proficient at it.

Sep 7, 11 12:14 pm

I taught a class on autocad before, feel free to message me on here, here's a pdf i made a few months ago. I'm working on version 2 at the moment

Sep 7, 11 3:30 pm

Thanks so much!

How long does learning autocad take to learn?

Sep 8, 11 10:25 pm

that was stupid-i just said "learn" twice in one sentence.

Sep 8, 11 10:26 pm
le bossman

two words: pgp file

Sep 8, 11 10:49 pm

forget it - Autocad is so 20th century -avoid long term unemployment by learning Revit .

Sep 8, 11 11:28 pm

it takes a day or 2 to work out the basics in 2d.  3d a few hours(possibly days) more.  for depth it takes longer.  but its pretty basic software when it comes down to it.

it ain't as easy as sketchup but if you know how to put together a drawing set then you shouldn't find it hard to make the software work for you.

Sep 9, 11 12:10 am

@jump I find it a lot easier than sketchup. If you get your 2d workflow setup properly, everything becomes intuitive. It's like a pencil and a paper, so versatile, yet so simple

Sep 9, 11 8:20 am

I just taught it to myself but asked a lot of questions - most people are glad to help.

Sep 9, 11 9:15 am

the problem with autocad is knowing the right key commands, its not as intuitive as some other drafting/modeling programs. Also, the interface is kind of clunky. However, 2 weeks, 2-3 hours a day and you will know all the fundamentals. The hard part is learning the programs's strengths and weaknesses when your under the fire as a deadline approaches, no software course or book can make up for that!

Sep 9, 11 12:06 pm

I am assuming you mean the 2D portion of AutoCAD, because learning the 3D portion of AutoCAD is a waste of time, there are way better programs for modeling. Saying that ...

As someone who teaches AutoCAD, the first think you have to get in your head is AutoCAD is just a really overpriced fancy pencil, It just draws lines.  As I tell my students, learn the commands on two tool bars: draw and edit. Ignore the rest until you master those. Those thirteen or so tools are the basics. With those thirteen or so tools you can draw the construction documents for any building. Of course learn On-snap and Ortho commands ...

But the main thing is to approach AutoCAD as if you were drafting. Use offset to measure and establish distances; use ortho like a triangle and "t-square." And if you really screw up, remember control z (or U command)...

What ever you do ... stay away from the retard way using AutoCAD they teach in the books ... line @ this distance ... blah blah blah ...  it will just confuse you. You are better off getting an old fashion drafting manual and reading it and applying those principles.

Sep 9, 11 3:56 pm

Oh and by the way SUVERK is correct ... if you are looking for long term employment opportunities, or maintain your sanity ... learn Revit. AutoCADs days are numbered. RIP AutoCAD

Sep 9, 11 4:00 pm

I'll keep that in mind

Sep 9, 11 8:44 pm

also-does revit work on tablets?

Sep 9, 11 8:46 pm

Not that I am aware of ... I have not used a tablet in years ... as in AutoCAD Release 11, real old school stuff. I would suggest you download the trial copy of Revit and see what it is all about. The ribbon interface does a good job for selecting objects ... and therfore no need for a tablet. Just remember Revit is more like a database, its not really drafting.

Sep 10, 11 8:54 am

just to reinforce points made by others, learning the basic commands is not too difficult --- few hours to a few weeks depending.

but learning to use autocad effectively, especially if your benchmark is effective use at crunchtime, is a different matter altogether

in particular, there are three main points:

1 - there are ways to organize how you draw that help you check your work as you go and assure accuracy.  this is critical.  you don't want to get to the end of a 4 or 6 or 12 hour drafting session and realize that a dimension is off or something is out of place and you don't know what it is or why or where the error happened

2 - drawing with lineweights and line types, such that everything comes out looking good and correct in the end will require maybe as much as a 1/2 to full day to figure out, comprehend and set up the first time you do it ---

3 - of all of the tools, most autocad drafting is done with the same few tools over and over, as noted by KASAI, but there are a dozen or so additional features and strategies that are essential to know for efficient power drafting, such as xrefs, clipping, associative dimensioning, image import and scaling, working with hatching, setting dim styles, how best to set your units, using blocks...i suggest, if you want to be really proficient in 2D autocad, that you push your development until you at least have command of these features

also, why do you want to learn autocad?  if the answer is design or modeling or even construction documents, then there are better, more marketable skills you could develop with other tools, such as revit or autodesk architecture or sketchup or rhino or 3dmax.  if the answer is detailing or because you need to work in it to work with certain consultants to ensure clean data exchanges, then autocad is still essential in many instances and it is the right tool to learn

Sep 10, 11 10:20 am

just wanted to know if it was still essential, and i see it is. the question itsself was very generally, so thanks for such a detailed response.

Sep 10, 11 7:09 pm


Sep 14, 11 4:38 pm

Speaking personally, as a 20+ year user of autocad, I find Autocad 2011 to have a clunky, nearly-impossible to learn interface.  I mean.. why ruin a good thing and make it so longtime users can barely recognize your product anymore? hehe....

Sep 14, 11 5:27 pm

sorry for my horrible grammar, "itsself", "was very generally".i meant to ask for opinions, which i've received. i'll definitely try revit instead.overall, autocad doesn't seem worth the price.

Sep 16, 11 4:30 pm

 In the long run, Revit may be the way to go, but it is much harder to learn in my opinion. I don't think Revit is quite ready, there are just too many things that are odd or counter-intuitive. Some things don't work well or require workarounds to achieve desired results. I've  been learning it on and off for a couple of years and still find it easier to do things in Autocad first and than copy in Revit. I have a hard time working out design or detail in Revit without help from Cad. Maybe it's because I was raised in a drawing environment and haven't made the thinking process switch yet.

 I think the ability to draft is still essential, at some point you have to produce drawings to be built from. Revit's drafting tools are good but again, counter-intuitive. I can't see why Autodesk doesn't combine the tools from both, they come packaged together, they really should be the same program. I know it's very hard from a programming standpoint, but come on, this is the big leagues.

 I can see the benefits of BIM, but I can still see Cad being important for many years. You probably need to learn both. Regardless, the ability to visualize and coordinate your building designs is important. Autocad doesn't do this for you, and with Revit you still have to have a good idea about what you are doing.

Sep 17, 11 7:55 pm

I mean.. why ruin a good thing and make it so longtime users can barely recognize your product anymore? hehe....

I have noticed this over the years with 3DSMax.

It seems like every recent permutation of this product becomes increasingly more difficult and convoluted to beginner users. I have a feeling more experienced users know many of the basic commands and how to adapt but it kind of feels like it's more difficult to use if you're not savvy.

I guess fortunately for the people who have many years of experience have the benefits of growing with the added complexity over that time than having to learn everything all at once.

Sep 17, 11 10:57 pm

I have been using autocad for years now.

On better days, I am able to draw a brick. 

Sep 19, 11 2:23 am

And to think, the product looks so easy and effortless on

I don't understand which is better: designing on any kind of software, of just drawing the

'ole-fashioned way".That sounds better. Some say that autocad is basically crap, that it's old. But revit sounds like it's easy-depending on exprience, i guess.

Random question: does it install quickly?

Sep 19, 11 2:15 pm
On the fence

They have predicted the end of autocad, each and every time something "better" comes along.  I've been using it for 20 years, so I have seen it completely wiped out and replaced about 5 times now.

Sep 19, 11 3:53 pm

the thing to understand, ariana, in relation to On the fence's comment, is that it took years and years for facilities manager's and owners to finally switch over to archiving their buildings with .dwg files instead of paper documents.  often, if you work on big projects with a client who has a library of .dwg's for all of the buildings, additions and renovations done in the last 25 years, as well as their own cad standards, they will specify to the design firm drawing standards and may even provide templates for how to set up construction documents and what file types are permissible.  For many such large institutional, industrial, governmental, and commercial clients, they have not yet transitioned to Revit or other BIM and many do not plan to transition anytime soon.  In addition, the development of the structure package (to a small degree) and the mechanical package (to a larger degree) for Revit are behind that of the architecture package (though much better than they were), which means that your engineering consultants often times have not switched over or choose not to use Revit.  so even if your client does not care what platform you use, your consultants may mutiny or at least cause logistical headaches if they are working with different file formats or you try to force them to upgrade.

Such situations with large owners and/or consultants who have not yet switched can force the architect to also stick with cad, even if they would prefer to work in Revit or ArchiCad.  So it is true that autocad will be around for at least 5-20 years yet.  If you work on smaller projects or big projects where the client and all consultants have already transitioned to BIM, then you will likely work with Revit or other BIM.  Otherwise, the decision is more complex, is to some extent more a management and logistics decision and less about what is the best drawing tool, and requires coordination with the owner and consultants.

Sep 19, 11 4:34 pm

true story. my cracked copy of max installed funny and so the buttons on some of my menu bar dont have icons and instead appear blank. Yet I still know what buttons to press just by where they are on the screen. Been using max for about 15 years though.

Sep 21, 11 11:36 am

if anything else, it seems to have serious longevity. i have a stupid question to ask: what's max?


Sep 23, 11 11:29 pm

3ds max --- it is one of a few dominant modeling, rendering, and animation platforms and often used in architectural visualization.  it is owned by autodesk, makers of autocad.  it is very powerful.  but it is expensive, heavy, and not as efficient as some other tools. but it is completely integrated into the autodesk pipeline and is a good skill to have.

Sep 24, 11 12:56 am

I have the same issue with AutoCAD now as my only real, actual training with AutoCAD was 2005.

AutoCAD 2010? LOL. No thanks.

Sep 24, 11 2:21 am

J.James R., how long did it take you to learn?

Sep 25, 11 4:08 pm

Give yourself a project (involving modeling) and learn to use the program to achieve what you want.  I always learn best by doing, personally.  It's good to get an instructional book to have next to you while working through your self-assigned project.  You can probably find a used Autocad book for pretty cheap online or at a used bookstore.  I believe 2010 was the first for the new UI, so even something from that release could get you going on the new version.


Sep 25, 11 8:07 pm

I think the program itself is pretty easy to learn in terms of drawing and making drawings - but every firm has different kinds of standards and that's where things get tricky.

Sep 26, 11 9:49 am

how helpful are the instruction books?(opinions, anyone?)

Sep 26, 11 4:43 pm

 Medi, I think it's much harder to learn a firm's standards than to learn any particular program.

Ariana, most of the instructional books I have read are quite helpful. That's pretty much how I learned. Every 5 years or so I get a new one just to keep up. It really just depends on if you have a knack for drafting, good spacial recognition, and good organizational skills. Like others have said, having some general building knowledge will probably be need to fully learn Revit, but Autocad is just a tool to do just about any kind of drafting.

Sep 26, 11 6:07 pm

 i notice that everyone mentions keeping up by updating their knowledge of both programs, that said, is every new version completely different from the last?

Sep 27, 11 5:04 pm

no.  more recently, autocad has gone through some significant changes.  but historically, not much changes year to year.  not the best perspective on revit as i'm just learning it.  

Sep 27, 11 6:30 pm

ah, i see! changes being?.....

Sep 27, 11 11:12 pm

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Sep 28, 11 9:26 am

well between '08 and '10 autocad switched from being a 2d drafting program with 3d modeling capabilities to a 3d modeling program with 2d capabilities.  

as part of this switch, autodesk was very agressive.  they included solids modeling, nurbs surface modeling, something like polygonal modeling even though you still end up with a solids model in the end.  they also included a pretty good, simple to use rendering engine.  they've been getting simpler with better quality for several years.  personally, overall, i think the interface is still a little clunky, but they give a tremendous amount of functionality in the package.

then of course you have the switch to the ribbon style menus at the top of the screen.  some love it, some hate it.  but they also integrated more useful, more advanced, more usable context menus, right-click menus, and palettes.  for 2d drafting, these palettes and context menus are excellent and really have improved my workflow

in my experience playing with it, the newer autocad seems very powerful, pretty well designed, and feature rich.  the problems i've noticed are that it slows down quickly if modeling larger models (so for instance it is very responsive if modeling a small to mid-sized consumer product or simple building, but anything of any complexity at all will slow the system) and it is still more clunky and slower than using rhino or modo or sketchup --- so i don't know that it really functions as a true conceptual modeler.  of course, if you want a production quality 3d model, revit or inventor or alias is a better choice generally because they have so many more discipline-specific features, so all of the 3d modeling capability built into the latest autocad, to me, seems a bit of a product without a clear market --- for me, it is still just the best 2d drafting tool out there

having said that, FYI, dassault systemes, makers of catia and virtools, have put out DraftSight, a free 2d drafting autocad clone.  i've used it a couple of times and it is outstanding for 2d work.  it really is a faithful autocad 2d clone and where they've made some minor departures from the workflow, they are very well thought-out and useful

Sep 28, 11 11:17 am

i have something that's akin to autocad, only it's a very amateur type. it also gets pretty laggy the more color or decoration that i add.


Sep 28, 11 2:31 pm

again, i'll recommend draftsight.  it is very, very good.


Sep 28, 11 3:58 pm

 I haven't used AutoCad's 3d features all that much in a real world situation. The changes that I have seen the most of are in keeping up with the ways drawings are published and organized. Lots of web based features, and printing features like sheet sets. To be honest I don't use half of the new stuff unless someone in the office prefers it that way.

 In other words, AutoCad 12 from many years ago had all the features needed to quickly and accurately design and delineate a set of drawings for a building. The new features certainly enhance productivity but aren't really essential. The 3d aspects are usually better handled either by sketching and physical models or with other programs.

Sep 29, 11 11:22 am

what type/brand of computer is best when using revit?

Oct 1, 11 3:58 pm

Check out these Autodesk recommended system requirements:

Another site that I saw has this:

Oct 1, 11 4:30 pm

ahh, i see. thanks,Rasa!

i wonder if anyone would know if revit works best on a laptop, or?....

Oct 1, 11 9:27 pm

should work fine on a laptop.  get an i7 processor if you can with 8 GB of RAM and at least a 1GB gpu, preferably a 2 GB gpu.  faster hdd will also help - 7200 rpm minimum.

go to:

for reviews

Oct 2, 11 1:11 am

thanks jmanganelli

Oct 6, 11 5:21 pm

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