Softdesk® Auto-Architect®
Architectural Software for AutoCAD®

Comments by: Odin Cary

This program continues to perplex and surprise me. In the past, I found that it suffered from poor design, poor integration with AutoCAD® and massive code, yet it appears that this program continues to be a popular 3rd Party add-on for Architects. Just prior to Softdesk's acquisition by Autodesk® I was asked by a client to install and configure Softdesk® 8.0.

Auto-Architect; installation:
On the second attempt, the CD installation of Softdesk's Auto-Architect was rather simple and problem free. What was not obvious to me on my first attempt, was that I had to request a "custom" installation to set it up for my client's network configuration; under the "custom" installation, the network pathing was self-explanatory. I launched Auto-Architect 8.0 from the automatically created desktop icon and found that it loaded without a hitch and I was pleasantly surprised to see that instead of replacing or restructuring the native AutoCAD menu layout, the Auto-Architect menu items have simply been added to the familiar layout. Once I saved the default drawing with a name, I managed to test the features of Auto-Architect; everything seemed to work quite well.

Auto-Architect; customizing for a small office network:
Knowing that this program covers a vast spectrum of architectural needs, I immediately attempted to customize its default settings for a more streamlined implementation. My client works primarily on residential projects which are basically identical with respect to layers, annotation styles, dimension styles, symbols and so forth. Since Auto-Architect was designed to manage projects as individual islands of information I was not able to configure it to store the plethora of folders and files it creates for each project, in one folder and then refer to it for all similar projects. What I had to do, was configure it so that it saw all of my client's projects as part of the same Auto-Architect Project.

Auto-Architect; layers:
Auto-Architect provides a rather simple and easy to comprehend interface for customizing most of its standard settings like layers and text. What I soon discovered upon testing my layer and annotation customization, was that Auto-Architect doesn't appear to follow its own rules. For example, I attempted to set the Auto-Architect layers to allow my client to turn off text within symbols while maintaining the symbols so that information could be manually written within the symbols on the printed sheets as it became known and then input later, but though Auto-Architect has a layer for symbol text and though it creates this layer when you insert a symbol, the attribute information is actually inserted on the same layer as the symbol itself. Another example of irritating design decisions, is that layers are automatically created by object association rather than user desire; i.e., with the first construction of walls, comes a layer for text.

Auto-Architect; door and window symbols:
If the user manages to maintain walls in the native Auto-Architect form, inserting doors and windows is not only effortless but quite intuitive. It offers two types of door and window routines: one for simple block insertion without symbol and 3D support and another for totally customizable detail which can later or simultaneously be manipulated as 3D objects. My client will primarily be using what Auto-Architect calls "Quick Doors and Windows"; these are basically simple blocks without attributes. By default, the doors require three layers, one for the door, one for the door-swing and one for the insertion reference layer. Since I cannot change the innate structure of the program, I had to set its insertion layer for all such items to layer 0 in order to prevent it from creating reference layers. This could have been remedied by creating a symbol on layer 0 to begin with, create a symbol layer prior to insertion, and then insert that symbol on its own newly created layer. Okay, maybe the concept was to allow the user to freeze both doors and windows by selecting one insertion layer, but that is something simple layer management could do without excess layers; i.e., a user should be able to ask for all openings to be turned off.