AutoCad 2012 for Dummies

No matter what your role (or planned future role) in the construction industry you will at some time or another deal with drawn information and this is increasingly likely to be in the form of an AutoCad file (.dwg) rather than a conventional drawing.

AutoCad is a very complex computer program and, unlike some office applications, isn’t something you can learn by just playing around with. Most construction courses include tuition in using Autocad but in many cases it is simply not covered in enough depth for you to become fully competent in its use.

The real problem with learning AutoCad is that there are always several ways of achieving the same objective – so often there is no right or wrong way to do things, just one person’s way over another? There are several books available aimed at novice users and AutoCad for Dummies From is the one you’d assume would be the easiest to follow but maybe it’s not that simple?

The book is divided into 6 sections and 26 chapters:

1. AutoCad 101

As you might expect, this book starts off with an introduction about the history of AutoCad, a demonstration of some of its capabilities and some guidance on initial set-up. By chapter three it starts to get interesting as here you’ll start to create your first proper drawing – a base plate and column.

The first exercise is to draw this base plate and column.

2. Let there be lines

This section covers the ins and outs of drawing lines, making your drawings precise, adding curves and editing your drawings in an efficient manner. There are worked examples for each section where you can see for yourself what all the various commands look like when the are applied to your own drawings, although they are not as comprehensive as the first example.

3. If drawings could talk

Here the author discusses the various options for marking up your drawings with text, adding dimensions, applying hatching to objects and the complexities of printing your work to old fashioned paper.

4. Advancing with AutoCad

This is where you’ll learn about using blocks, adding dynamic references and parameters to the objects in your drawings as well as a section about sharing and collaborating with drawings on the internet.

5. On a 3D Spree

This is a relatively brief section which covers 3D modelling explaining the basics of drawing in 3 dimensions, using the various modelling tools, adding coordinates and navigating your work in 3D.

6. Part of Tens

This section is just a list of resources and an explanation of the difference between the full-blown AutoCad 2012 and its poorer cousin AutoCad LT.

The Verdict

As someone who is new to AutoCad I expected the book to be simpler to understand and less detailed than it actually was. The author, I think, is trying to cover too much in each section and this makes the book rather unwieldy and difficult to follow. For someone who already has a little experience this may not be so much of a problem but I soon found myself overwhelmed with detail before I had even drawn a single line.

Another failing of the book is that although the first worked example (the base and column) was quite simple to follow (as well as being satisfying to complete) the subsequent examples were nowhere near as thorough and, consequently, were less simple to follow – especially, as in more than one instance, the written instructions could not be completed as they were described. I’m not sure why this was the case – it may have been a difference in initial set-up or something else – but some commands simply did not do what the author said they should? In some cases I found a workable solution but in others I simply gave up.

It should be noted, as is the case with many popular books on this subject, the imperial system is used as default, although, in this instance, the author has helpfully included a metric conversion at every point along the way.

I don’t think it is possible to learn such a complex program fully from just one book and expected a book entitled ‘For Dummies’ to be less comprehensive than it actually was. I couldn’t help feeling that the information I needed was in there somewhere – I just needed to read a lot of stuff I didn’t want to know (at this stage) in order to get to it.

For someone who already has a little AutoCad experience this may be a useful training aid and a future source of reference – but, for a complete beginner, like me, it is just little too detailed and difficult to follow. If I had known how much detail was included beforehand I may well have opted for one of the other popular titles such as the AutoCAD 2012 & AutoCAD LT 2012 Bible From which I’ll probably need to buy anyway at some future point?