There are a number of very interesting new features in AutoCAD 2008, including the ability to fade the appearance of locked layers, control layer properties by viewport, and link AutoCAD tables directly to spreadsheets, so that changes to either the AutoCAD table or the spreadsheet automatically update the other. All very impressive, indeed.
However, the most exciting improvement by far to AutoCAD this year, (perhaps for the past several years) is the ability to control the plotted size of text and symbols by viewport. As a cartographer, I’ve struggled with this former limitation in AutoCAD by implementing a number of innovative, but tedious kludges. Like many of you, I have painstakingly created a lot of additional layers for my text, dimensions, hatching and other symbols, and then copied, resized and repositioned the text on each layer, so that it looks right at each of my intended scales.
With the new Annotative Object Properties feature, all of your text and symbols will plot at a consistent size at any scale, without all those time consuming and error prone workarounds. This single improvement to basic AutoCAD could completely transform the way you set up your drawings. Best of all, the annotative object properties will round-trip to older AutoCAD DWG formats, so you can take advantage of this great new tool even if you are working with others that have not yet upgraded to 2008.
Autodesk achieves this forward-thinking, backward compatibility by making each annotative object a block, and placing each scaled version of that object on a separate layer within each of those blocks. So, your earlier version colleagues will have more layers in their drawings, but they will have all of the objects you created, at all of the sizes of each object that you intended. Best of all, when they send the drawing back to you, everything is exactly as you created it – you don’t even see all those blocks and layers.
It’s no magic button; you’ll still need to position the objects differently for some scales and in certain circumstances, but we always had to do this anyway. You’ll certainly want to experiment with this powerful capability and achieve proficiency with it, before adopting it across your entire organization, but once you do, you’ll wonder how you lived without it. And when used in conjunction with many of the other cartographic tools in AutoCAD Map 3D, which are all included with Land Desktop and Civil 3D, you now have a truly versatile mapping platform.