An introduction to Autodesk Inventor 2013

With a reported 82 new features (I didn’t count them all!) Autodesk have worked hard this year to make Autodesk Inventor 2013 more intuitive and easier to use than ever.

But I know that you only care about these five things:

Autodesk Inventor 2013

Will I have to re-learn the way I use Inventor to use Inventor 2013?

The good news is that Autodesk have focused on perfecting the Ribbon tab and the In-canvas toolbars, so if you’ve made the move to the Inventor Ribbon, you have nothing to fear here.

In fact, the only changes that Autodesk have made to the User Interface are so subtle and discreet, I am sure that you will be using them on day one and that you will soon forget that they were not there!

UI Changes

New file dialogue

The Create New File dialog box layout has been redesigned to be better organized and provide more information about your files.

  • You can display templates in groups by type.
  • You can see Information about the template, such as units and materials
  • There is a thumbnail displays for each template.
  • There is an example image for each template type.
The Autodesk Inventor 2013 Create new file dialogue


Material and appearance

This is probably the biggest single change to the UI, with the Material and colour of the part now having their own controls, and their own separate drop downs in the Quick Access Toolbar.

Autodesk Inventor 2013 Materials and apperances drop downs

Under the hood, the materials and appearances library has been updated to bring it in line with the rest of the Autodesk product range, which should make it easier to swap information between programmes.

An unexpected off shoot of this is that there are now more Architectural materials available inside Inventor, such as concrete, which weren’t available before.

Note: Your pre-2013 custom materials and colours will need to be translated to the new format. It is probably a good idea to do this in bulk as part of your migration to Inventor 2013.


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Sketch environment status bar

The sketch environment has a neat little addition at the bottom of your screen. Commands that were previously available via right click or ‘F’ keys are now also available as a toggle in the status bar.

Autodesk Inventor 2013 Status Bar toggles

This includes:

  • Snap to Grid
  • Show all Constraints
  • Hide all Constraints
  • Dimension Display
  • Slice Graphics
  • Show All Degrees of Freedom
  • Hide All Degrees of Freedom

And in the 3D sketch Status Bar:

  • Dimension Display

Display of fully constrained sketches.

Autodesk Inventor 2013 Fully constrained sketch pushpin iconFully constrained sketches are now indicated in the feature tree with a little ‘Push pin’ icon.

Note: By definition, an empty sketch is fully constrained – so the push pin will show until you add some geometry.

Shell tool

The shell tool now has direct manipulation tools and a min toolbar. The old dialog has not gone, but it will be rolled up by default, to encourage you to try out the new ‘In canvas’ tools.

Persistent display settings in Parameters

In the Parameters dialog box, the state of the display of folders now persists. For example, if you collapse the Model Parameters folder, it remains collapsed the next time you open the dialog box.

It’s always annoyed me how often I have to scroll past loads of parameters before I get to the user parameters I need. If you do a lot of multi-body part modelling I’m sure that you will find this useful.

Autodesk Inventor 2013 Move EOP marker to here

The good old EOP

The good old ‘EOP’ or ‘End of part marker’ has learned a few new tricks. You can now insert it under any feature by right clicking and choosing ‘Move EOP’ [to here].

Autodesk Inventor 2013 Move EOP to top or endYou can also right click on the EOP itself to move it to the top or the bottom of the Feature tree.

Conclusion: If you have made the leap to the Inventor Ribbon, you will have no problem picking up these logical and well implemented enhancements to the Inventor User Interface.


Will Inventor 2013 make my work any easier?

The vast majority of the ‘enhancements’ in this release of Inventor are in the Sketching and part modelling environment.

Considering that Sketching tools do not make for sexy marketing, it’s nice to see that Autodesk have listened to us users and worked hard to implement so many improvements.

In particular I impressed that 3D sketching has so many improvements, I am hoping that drag-able geometry will make 3D sketching [much more] useful.


Sketching productivity enhancements:

  • Centre point rectangle – Save picks and clicks constraining those base sketches.
  • Scale sketch from first dimension – That first parameter will no longer blow your sketch all to cock.
  • Perpendicular constraints for arcs – Save having to add geometry to constrain arcs.
  • Arc length dimensioning – Save having to use complicated formulas like this!
  • Dynamic trim & extend – Wave your cursor like a magic wand, and make your geometry disappear…
  • Use parameters in sketch text (part and drawing sketches) – One less use for iLogic.
  • Splines can now be created with interpolation points or control vertices in 2D and 3D sketches – This should make splines easier to work with.
  • Drag geometry in 3D sketches – 3D sketches could now live up to their promise.
  • Equation curves – I have no clue about these. You may have to be a Maths wiz to work them out!

Part Modelling

Autodesk Inventor 2013 Primitives

The part modelling environment has its fair share of new features. One of my favourites is the inclusion of Primitives.

Unfortunately these aren’t true primitives – like in Inventor Fusion. Instead the new primitives’ tools roll up the creation of the sketch and the feature into one. However, if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck; we might as well all pretend it’s a duck.

In the joinery business, a lot of what we do starts off (or ends up) square, so I am sure that I will be able to make use of the new primitives’ tools extensively.

One nifty new work flow is the ability to edit ‘dumb geometry’ i.e. neutral format files from other CAD systems. The Base solid editing environment is a quick alternative to Inventor Fusion for simple edits.

Note: To access this tool, first turn on the ‘legacy’ solid editing environment in Tools > Application options > Part > Legacy Solid Edit Environment

Assembly modelling

Once again I am impressed at the breadth of Autodesk’s tweaks to Inventor 2013. The frame generator has not been lacking in attention and there are some nice features here that should help enormously.

  • Align frames to geometry – No more playing guess the rotation angle,
  • End treatments to curved beams – A straight beam and a curved beam can now be notched, mitred and trimmed, but not two curved frames together.


The shrink-wrap tool has also received an enhancement. The shrinkwrap tool now has the ability to remove internal voids in shrinkwrapped parts, which should save a few steps when you are preparing assembly models to be sent outside the company. This could be to protect your IP, for 3D printing or when preparing parts for inclusion in a BIM.

Note: Check out this preview of a new simplification tool for Autodesk Inventor 2013 from Autodesk labs.


Finally for this section on making your work with Inventor easier, there are some enhancements to the drawing environment that you might appreciate.

  • You can now copy and paste drawing views within the same sheet.
  • You can now delete multiple sheets at once.

Conclusion: Call them ‘Enhancements’, ‘New Features’ or simply ‘Stuff that should have been there in the first place’ – I think that Autodesk have done a good job of tackling a great deal of functionality that us users have asked for.


Will Inventor 2013 change the way I work?

There are three really big new tools in Inventor 2013 that may change the way you work: Interoperability, Cloud storage and Citrix.


Inventor 2013 gives you more options for opening, attaching and importing files than ever before.

Autodesk Inventor 2013 File open dialogue

  • Import .STL files
  • Export colours to STL files
  • Import Creo parts and assemblies
  • Import JT files (mesh data)
  • Attach and edit point clouds in parts and assemblies
  • Updated translators for Catia, JT, Granite, NX, Parasolid, Rhino, Solidworks & Sat.

Cloud storage

Autodesk Inventor 2013 Save to cloud

Frankly, copying drawings, assemblies and parts with Inventor is a pain. This can be massively inconvenient, for example when you want just want to be able to copy items on to a laptop to take out to site with you.

Autodesk have made use of their new cloud documents service to smooth this process out. You can now do a ‘Save to cloud’ directly from inside Inventor. This will back up your files in the Autodesk cloud. You can then download the files to your laptop or a colleague’s computer.

Autodesk 360 sync with Autodesk Inventor 2013

Note: You can view the files at any time using your Internet browser. If you are worried about IP and internet security – check out the uses of Citrix below.

Citrix ready

If you are worried about Autodesk moving your actual software to the cloud, I don’t think that you need to worry just yet. Autodesk have made it clear that they see the cloud as an enhancement to your desktop software, rather than as a replacement for it.

However, Autodesk are making it easier for organizations to manage and deploy their desktop software through the use of Citrix.

Note: You can now trial AutoCAD LT without downloading any software!

Inventor 2013 is the latest in a line of Citrix ready products from Autodesk that include AutoCAD and Revit. So how could you make use of Inventor via the web?

  • Autodesk (or their resellers) could run Inventor on the web as a trial so that you can try it out before you buy it without having to download or install anything.
  • Autodesk (or their resellers) could run Inventor on the web to allow you to learn from online training and tutorials, without you having to own (or even install) Inventor.
  • Autodesk (or their resellers) could offer the use of Inventor as a pay-per-use product for people who only need Inventor for brief periods (for file conversion, for example).
  • You could use Inventor remotely from your home, without having to copy files from your work machine to your laptop (Thus avoiding the Cloud completely!).

Will I have to do anything special to migrate to Inventor 2013?

As always, you will need to migrate your templates, styles, and library content along with your actual models and data to the new version. How you go about this depends on whether you use Vault or not, and how you have your data set up.

There is a new Data migration resource to help you through this process as part of the Product design suite Wiki site.

Or you could check out my favourite Blog post on this subject from Jon Landeros:

Migrating Inventor files

Conclusion: Autodesk Inventor 2013 will be no more or less difficult than usual to migrate your files. Pay special attention this year to your material and appearance styles.

Next – Is Inventor 2013 worth the money?

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13 Responses to “An introduction to Autodesk Inventor 2013

  • What I find amazing is just how much they rip people off for this software.
    I live in Australia and we always get hit with higher prices, The Australian dollar is stronger than the US dollar yet Autodesk Smoke 2013 is $2,796USD and $4,140AUD. The cost of software should vary by country. There is no cost for shipping so why do they charge so much.
    SAS tried the same thing until I confronted them about it and they sold it to me for the US price, $3,000 less.

    • Don’t be amazed. Autodesk sell software for profit.

      We have the same deal. In the UK we pay the same price in pounds as they do in dollars. The exchange rate doesn’t favour us either.

      You might get a deal on some software via the Autodesk store – check it out:

      ‘Smoke’ is currently 20% off (at time of writing).

      If you buy through a reseller, then negotiate hard!


  • Marco
    12 years ago

    Good day Gents,

    I stumbled across this article while frantically looking for a way to get the model bar back (Where the individual extrusions etc are listed). I did my training on a previous Inventor so I am a bit lost. The tutorials just mention that it remains hidden, but no mention of how to get it back! Any help will be appreciated! Thanks

  • Orest
    12 years ago

    Hi Paul,
    I was also glad what improvements and features Autodesk have done until I came to Appearences.
    I am a week with Inventor 2013 but did not start to work yet.
    So far I still have unseccessful atempts to return simple colors I used to have in 2012.
    The simpliest custom libraries I am trying to make in different ways either do not work or make Inventor to crush. All I want is ability to choose between BLACK, RED, GREEN and etc withot reflection, bumps and ather stuff instead of “Anodized Aluminiun Red plus reflection and transparentand St Elmo’s fire with tiny stars arround” for example…
    Regards, Orest

  • james
    12 years ago

    Thanks Paul, be in touch with a reply when I get to my pc instead of my mobile ,until then take care!

  • James
    12 years ago

    Hi Paul,it all sounds great but makes it very hard while your learning,in the 7 months or so since I started studying and learning inventor we’ve gone from inv2011 to inv2013,and I liked inv2011 and then you have problems with files as was so new to it that I got 2012 and then tried to open my old 2011 inv files and then had a lesson in converting to STEP files but you have no history tree then and I downloaded something from labs that rebuilds the tree in the newer release but have never been able to get that to work(HELP!)do we really need it Paul,honestly will it make that much differrence?

    • Hi James,

      The release cycle for Inventor can be a pain in the Arris ;)

      I make a point of never upgrading during a project. When I get around to putting 2013 on my machine, I won’t use it until I start a new project. I keep Inventor 2010, 2011 (and soon 2012) on my machine for working on old or current projects. It’s still a pain, but it saves a lot of file migration Issues.

      Is it worth it? Only you can answer that – Download a trial (or speak to your reseller) and give it a whirl. I think that 2013 will really help my workflow and I’m looking forward to getting it into action, but we are on subscription so I am free to make this choice. You might make a different decision.

      There are many people who recommend upgrading AutoCAD once every three years (In line with the new File type release cycle). If your company doesn’t work on a project by project basis like ours I could see that it would be a good idea to do a similar thing with Inventor.

      Here is some good advice from my Favourite CAD manager – Robert Green:


  • Good stuff Paul!
    Here’s another link on the subject of migrating files, that might be helpful.