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Prof.  Elizabeth  Macdonald

Computer Graphics for Planners
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AutoCAD Overview

AutoCAD is one of the most widely-used CAD programs in professional drafting.

Computer-Aided Design (CAD) is a type of software designed to replicate the process of architectural drafting in a computer environment, which yields many benefits over the traditional process of hand drawing. CAD programs allow precise vector drawing in real world size, but lack a high degree of graphic control. As such, the output from CAD is often passed through another program such as Photoshop or Illustrator for touch-ups before they become final presentation graphics.


CAD programs are very useful for creating precise vector-based drawings that replicate the precision of architectural drawings. Through the use of model and paper spaces, a single drawing can be printed or displayed at different scales, producing base files or underlays for multiple drawings, and drawing base maps from aerial photos.


The term "CAD" (like "GIS") refers to a general category of software, and various software developers have products available. AutoCAD 2000 is available on all computers in the DCRP lab. AutoCAD 2006 is available on computers in the LAEP lab. The primary difference between the two releases lies in more advanced 3D applications and rendering capabilities. The simpler concepts addressed in the tutorial below will be applicable to either version. AutoCAD is only available for Windows-based PCs. VectorWorks offers a CAD program that runs on Mac OS.


Students wishing to gain a better understanding of CAD software may be interested in the following courses, available to Berkeley students:

  • ED 134 - Computer Applications for Environmental Design


The following tutorials are available in .pdf form:

The University of Illinois at Chicago's Great Cities Urban Data Visualization Seminar Series has produced an introductory AutoCAD tutorial on creating a footprint map from an aerial photograph, also available in .pdf form:

Tips and tricks for AutoCAD

  • AutoCAD is one of the more complex programs covered in this tutorial. As a program that is difficult to learn by someone who has no previous experience with the program, there aren't really many "tips or tricks" that can be quickly presented here. It's user-interface is not very intuitive, and advanced tutorials are difficult to follow. The best way to learn is by looking over the shoulder of someone who knows the program well and doesn't mind explaining the way they work and how the program functions. Find these people and make them your best friends if you want to learn AutoCAD.