How to install and configure Autodesk SAAS 2023 in your Browser
Carl Bass first announced the ambition to release all of Autodesk’s software for one monthly rental price at Autodesk University 2014.
— KennethwongSF (@KennethwongSF) December 2, 2014
While we saw CAD being delivered via your web browser from Autodesk as early as 2013, it took some time to completely release Carl’s Grand vision. With the release of ‘Autodesk SAAS 2020‘ we finally saw Carl’s ambition bear fruit.
One simple login via your Internet browser, and you suddenly have the world’s most comprehensive set of Computer Aided Design tools at your fingertips.
Three years on, and we are starting to get to grips with this new way of delivering CAD software as a service. If you are a CAD manager like me, you will be grateful that you no longer have to spend all those hours installing software on your users machines!
There is a little set up to do up-front when you start working with Autodesk 2023, and in this Article I’ll run you through the pain points.
Disclaimer: Yes, this article is a complete fabrication. It is entirely woven from my own head, inspired by the release of Fusion360 and Onshape. I have no idea what Carl Bass is really planning ;) (You can find out what Autodesk are REALLY doing about CAD SAAS here and The Autodesk CAD Cloud here).
How close do you think I am to the reality of CAD SAAS (Software As A Service – in the cloud)? Leave a comment with your thoughts.
the first thing you’ll need to decide on is how you want to Host the Autodesk service.
Autodesk can Host the service for you, and this can be a great option for you or your small company. If you represent a larger company, you may want to chose a professional host, or even go self hosted.
There are many advantages to choosing Autodesk as a host. As soon as your application for an account is accepted, you can begin using your software. So why wouldn’t you chose Autodesk as a host?
The simple reason is Autodesk’s fixed price policy. While Autodesk’s low monthly usage fees are very reasonable if you only need a handful of logins, there is no economy of scale. If you want to negotiate on price, you will need go to an independent hosting company.
Many of Autodesk’s ‘VARs’ (Value Added Resellers) converted to official Autodesk Hosts back in the late 2020, by which time, simply ‘Pushing boxes’ of Autodesk software became an untenable business.
Some Hosts specialise in Industry specific hosting, such as Architecture or Automotive. A few prefer to specialise in niche areas that make use of cloud infrastructure such as CFD or Rendering.
You might get a good deal by going to an international Adesk host, but I recommend that you start with a local provider – network latency is still an issue and you will want to make sure that you get the best network speed to keep your users up and running.
If you work for a large corporation you may want to go completely self hosted. The advantage here is that you can licence the Autodesk service for a very reasonable price. The disadvantage is that you are responsible of owning and maintaining your company’s private cloud servers.
In practice, self hosting is usually only used by institutions such as the Military and their contractors for whom security is the primary concern.
Once you have navigated to Autodesk in your browser and logged in with your Admin credentials you will need to click on the ‘Administrator’ link at the top right of the page to configure your companies Autodesk account.
By default you are now configuring the software for everyone who uses your corporate account. You can drill down to specific groups, projects or users using the controls at the top of the page.
The first section in the configuration is the Autodesk Exchange App Store©. This is where you decide on which applications you wish to make available for your users.
Since Carl Bass announced that all Autodesk software would be available for your single monthly fee, you have a good selection of CAD modelling Apps to load into Autodesk.
- 2D Freehand sketching with the Sketchbook App
- 2D Drafting and Layouts with the AutoCAD App
- 3D Parametric Modelling with the Inventor App
- 3D Subdivision Modelling with the T-Splines App
- CAM machining with the HSMworks App
You can also load in 3rd Party apps from the Exchange such as Microsoft’s ‘Project for Autodesk’, or Adobe’s ‘Photoshop for Autodesk’.
Tip: Be aware that 3rd party apps are not covered by your subscription cost and while many are free, many more will cost extra on top of your monthly fees.
Autodesk has many national and international Modelling and Drawing standards built in. You can chose the default standard for your company account here.
You can also download many Standards Apps from the App Exchange. If you want to create your own standard, I recommend that you start with one of Autodesk’s default Standards modules.
All of Autodesk’s Standards Module Apps are open source. You can download them to your local machine and then edit them with an XML editor, or use the Autodesk Standards builder App from the App Exchange to create your own standard in your browser.
Once you have your Standard configured, you can upload it to your Autodesk account in this section and chose it as your default standard.
Tip: All standards Apps are uploaded to the App Exchange. By default, your Standards Module App will be marked as Private and will only be visible to people who are logged into your company account.
To share your Company Standards Module with others (For example an independent subcontractor who will be working for you), find your Company Standards Module in the App Exchange and click on the ‘Share’ link.
You will be prompted to input the email address of the person you wish to share with. This must be an email address associated to an Autodesk account.
Many Standards Institutions such as BSI global have created Standards modules which are available in the App Exchange. Once again, they are not all free and you get what you pay for.
Standard product libraries are also distributed via the App Exchange. This makes items such as nuts and bolts as easy to add to your configuration as ticking a box.
Note: The availability of Library Module Apps will automatically be filtered by your default standard. If you wish to load in product Libraries based on other standards, uncheck the filter boxes.
Tip: Depending on the kind of product you are designing, you may want to filter the available Product libraries by ‘Level of Development’. While nuts, bolts and washers may be very useful content for manufacturers, they are far to detailed for Architects.
The team at _Space group (the team behind BIM store) have once again shown how far ahead of the curve they are by creating some excellent BIM design libraries which you will find in the Autodesk Exchange App Store©.
Creating your own component libraries is a simple as clicking ‘Add to library’ while modelling in Autodesk. If you want to import content from your old fashion desk-chained CAD software, I recommend that you check out the Library Builder App.
Tip: Once again, there are many third party Library Module Apps available Via the App store. For example, check out the Cadsetterout Woodworkers library here.
Document naming and folder paths
One of the great boons to working with Autodesk is that Files have largely been done away with.
Every part, component, assembly, presentation, drawing and analysis you create is simply another entry in the database. Search is now our best friend for finding our data.
Instead of naming and saving your files to folders, you will use a system of categories and tags to find your data. This is called ‘Taxonomy’ and I recommend that you give your system some thought.
- Categories are used to sort data by topic, for example; Architectural, Landscaping, MEP, FF&E.
- Tags are used to add detail, for example; Plan, Elevation, RCP.
- Data can only belong to one Category.
- Data can have (almost) unlimited Tags.
- Categories are hierarchical, meaning that you can have sub-categories.
- Tags are not, and can be applied to any category.
I recommend that you keep the categories list as short as possible, and lock it down so that your users can’t add their own. I personally don’t like sub-categories, we are trying to move away from a folder>sub-folder type of relationship – right?!
I recommend that you keep tags open to all, this can be a good way for people to tag their files so that they can filter their view of your Companies data down to just the files they are currently working on.
Note: ‘Library files’ are simply a predefined read-only category that already exists in Autodesk as soon as you start using it.
Auto naming and tagging
Good search depends on good metadata being added to the project files so that you can find them when you need them.
Autodesk makes this easy by adding as much data as it can for you. Who created the data, what project it is for and when it was created are all added a soon as you create a new entry.
Physical properties such as material, coating, volume or weight are automatically updated in the background and are always available for search.
Other metadata such as cost or supplier can be added manually. You can add additional items as prompted entries, which will prevent people from releasing the file without the information being complete.
Note: Autodesk’s Auto-tagging feature is a nifty tool that adds tags for you automatically based on keywords. Autodesk looks for five figure or less entries in the file name, description and keyword fields for every file added to the database. If it finds that the same entries have been used multiple times, it automatically adds them as tags.
By default, Autodesk comes with a very simple workflow for locking and sharing files. Any file that you are currently working on is ‘WIP’ (work in progress) and can be shared with your project team or collaborators outside of your company.
Once a file reaches a completed stage you can change is status to ‘Released’, which will effectively lock it and make it read only. Toggling a file back into a WIP state automatically adds a revision letter to the file.
Tip: For more complex workflows, check out the following modules in the App Exchange store:
- Vault App for Autodesk
- PLM App for Autodesk
Working with Autodesk in your Browser
I hope that you now have Autodesk set up for you companies standards, and the kind of work you like to do.
In the next post, I’ll introduce the modelling browser and take you through setting up a simple project.
Do you have any questions about the process of setting up your corporate Autodesk browser based CAD modelling service? Please leave a comment below.