With so many free file viewers available, you would have thought that the CAD file View and Markup market has become a tough place to do business in. Martyn Day evaluates Cimmetry SystemsÝ AutoVue product.
AutoVue is one of the original file format viewing tools on the market and over time has seen its capabilities expand way beyond the simple display of text and 2D CAD drawings created in multiple systems. From simple view and print, to functionality like markup, file compare, analysis, and now EDA, quality control and controlled distribution. This explosion in capability is now defined as its own market space, and ÙcollaborationÝ tools are an essential part in extending the reach of engineering data. Many CAD software developers have seen this space as critical to the ÙdemocratisationÝ of engineering data and have come up with their own tools and usually offer products like AutoVue as part of their Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) portfolios ± or PDM (Document Management) systems.
AutoVueÝs key capability is the fact it can open hundreds of different file formats, from basic word processing and spreadsheets, to complex 2D/3D and electrical schematics, without the need for expensive licences of CAD, or the training and knowledge to operate them. The environment is safe, so that the original formats cannot be overwritten or damaged in any way.
CimmetryÝs strong presence in this competitive collaboration space attracted major PLM developer Agile to acquire the company, who in turn were bought by Oracle! Through all this, Cimmetry maintained its own development, products, sales and marketing, and the companyÝs day to day business of selling View and Markup continues. AutoVue is now in its 19.2 revision and IÝm glad to say it is still expanding in capability. IÝve said it before and IÝll say it again, AutoVue is a Swiss Army knife for people that work with files from multiple sources.
The AutoVue product range has been expanded with more vertical variants, depending on the intended usage. There are eight variants of AutoVue: Office, 2D, 2D Professional, 3D Professional SME, 3D Advanced, 3D Professional Advanced, EDA Professional and Electro-Mechanical Professional. Obviously each version offers targeted functionality.
For the mainstream users, AutoVue now supports all the latest versions of AutoCAD DWG (2008) and the most recent version of Catia (R5 V17). Redline and markup sees a fair amount of improvement e.g. you can now add arrows to all line entities, markups can be easily consolidated and tool tips give that extra degree of feedback. The compare tool has also been boosted to deal with documents that have multiple pages.
- AutoCAD 2007 Service Pack 1 and AutoCAD 2008
- Autodesk Mechanical/Mechanical Desktop 2007
- MicroStation version 8 XM
- DWF versions 6.01, 6.11, 6.20
- Catia 5 R17 and R17 SP3/SP4
- Cadence Allegro versions 15.5, 15.5.1, and 15.7
- Mentor Expedition 2005
- Mentor Board Station 8.10,
- CadStar version 8.0
- Zuken CADIF
- Cadence SPECCTRA
- Microsoft Outlook format
- Adobe Acrobat 8.0 including packages files
Apart from expanded format support, the MCAD capability in AutoVue gets a few incremental updates, like increases in accuracy in mass properties and the global axis has been replaced with volumetric axis which makes it much better for perceiving rotation.
The real benefit of this release will be most obvious to those using AutoVue in an EDA context. Format support has been greatly expanded, together with analytic functions. The cross-probe capability has been improved and offers the ability to test across multiple file types for the same design e.g. PCB vs schematic representation. Net and RefDes instance navigation allows navigation through multiple schematic sheets. ThereÝs much better layer ordering and visibility controls for physical layers and tooltips give in-context feedback of underlying geometry and nodes. The search command has been significantly beefed up for multiple sheets and drawings. Together with those capabilities, performance has been improved on many functions, from display speed to calculations like minimum distance design validation.
IÝm glad that Cimmetry has brought out the additional vertical versions of AutoVue. The feature set is now so deep in areas such as EDA and mechanical 3D CAD that the clarification of branding means you arenÝt paying for functions you will never use. ItÝs really quite amazing that there are now no less than eight flavours of AutoVue, from AutoVue Office for generic Word processing and spreadsheets, to the Ùall singing and dancingÝ AutoVue Electro-Mechanical Professional, in which you can check and analyse the mechanical and electrical design of an aircraft or car! Existing customers will of course benefit from the enhanced and additional file format support across the board but itÝs clear that the real focus of this release has been the improvement of EDA formats and capability. However there has been a good general tidy-up of commands, display performance and ease of use.
Overall I am left with the sense that the ÙcollaborationÝ market really is already an outdated marketing term for what this kind of product can do. Yes, AutoVue can open files made in just about anything and display the graphics but it can also access the manufacturing information, the BOM, the parts, assemblies, and part number, as well as build virtual prototypes, measure distances and store marked up edits. For EDA you can pretty much prove your circuit design, check for quality issues such as interference and apply design rules and cross reference multiple drawings. I guess collaboration and design analysis is probably a more apt description of what AutoVue offers.