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Blog – What’s new in AutoCAD 2021?

Towards the end of March 2020, we saw the public unveiling of the new AutoCAD 2021. In this blog, we summarise the features and enhancements introduced in this release.

AutoCAD Web App and Google Drive Integration

AutoCAD 2020 introduced the option to be able to work on DWG files stored in Microsoft OneDrive, Dropbox or Box directly in the AutoCAD web app, giving you access to your files wherever you go. You don’t need to download them, make changes and re-upload them – you just work on them in the same way you would a file stored on your hard drive.

AutoCAD 2021 lets you do the same with DWG files stored in Google Drive.

From within the AutoCAD Web app, you can establish a link to your Google Drive, letting you open your DWGs directly in the AutoCAD web app or AutoCAD mobile.

Drawing History

The new Drawing History provides an insight into the evolution of your drawings. You can see the changes made to your drawing over time, and compare previous versions with your current drawing.

Cloud storage providers such as Google Drive, OneDrive, Dropbox and Box automatically save multiple past versions of each file. AutoCAD 2021 utilises this capability. Now, when you open a drawing from the cloud, a balloon notification appears in the lower right corner indicating there are previous versions of that drawing can be compared, for example:

AutoCAD 2021 Display Notification History

You can then use the Drawing History palette to:

  • List the previous versions of the drawings
  • Select a version to compare with the current drawing, identifying any differences.
  • Revert to the previous version.

This feature can be particularly useful if several people have worked on a drawing file and you need to see what’s changed, and who made each change:

AutoCAD 2021 Drawing History feature version history

Quick Identification of changes with Xref Compare

The new Xref Compare feature compliments the already popular DWG Compare feature.

DWG Compare displays a notification in the status bar if an externally-referenced drawing file (Xref) changes.

Clicking the notification loads Xref Compare, which lets you compare the changes in the context of your current drawing. You can:

  • See visually what has changed between two versions of an external reference (Xref) attached to your current drawing.
  • Implement changes to the Xref without leaving your drawing.

Colour-coding identifies the changes in the Xref:

  • Red represents the past; it shows something present in the previous Xref that’s not in the current Xref.
  • Green and grey represent the present. Green shows something present in the new Xref that wasn’t in the previous version. Grey shows something present in both the current and previous Xrefs.
AutoCAD 2021 enhanced Xref Compare feature

Blocks palette enhancements

The Blocks palette has been enhanced to store your block content (folders, drawing files, block definitions) in the cloud, for fast access anytime, from any device–desktop, web or mobile.

When you create or insert a block into a drawing, it’s automatically saved to the cloud. It’s then available in the Libraries tab on desktop or in the AutoCAD web app to insert in the current drawing:

AutoCAD 2021 enhanced Blocks palette feature

Quick Measure

The MEASUREGEOM command, introduced in AutoCAD 2020 measure geometry much faster than was possible previously. Dimensions, distances, and angles within a 2D drawing are displayed dynamically as you move your mouse over and between objects.

This feature has been enhanced in AutoCAD 2021, to display area and perimeter information.

Clicking within a closed boundary highlights it in green and displays area and perimeter information. Pressing Shift lets you select multiple closed boundaries to ascertain the cumulative area and perimeter.

Any closed areas (islands) within your closed boundaries are automatically excluded from calculations.

Trim and Extend

The TRIM and EXTEND commands have been changed to make the workflow quicker.

In ‘quick mode’, instead of having to first select boundaries for the Trim and Extend commands, all potential boundaries are selected by default, saving you time.

Rev Cloud enhancements

AutoCAD 2021 offers enhancements to Rev Cloud:

  • Arc lengths calculated more accurately. The arc length is now based on the size of the drawing area. This ensures that the Rev Clouds are automatically set an appropriate size.
  • Rev Cloud is now a recognised object type. One benefit of this is that the Object Properties Palette for Rev Clouds have an additional property, ‘Arc Length’, which lets to make changes much faster than in previous versions.

Break at Point

The new BREAKATPOINT command lets you separate a line, arc or open polyline at a specific point. This offers two major benefits:

  • It’s more accurate and reliable than the Break command, used previously.
  • It’s repeatable. Pressing Enter or the spacebar.

Improvements to graphics performance

AutoCAD 2021 utilises multi-core processor support, meaning that you can pan, zoom and orbit smoother and faster in real time.

In 2D, panning and zooming is faster and smoother.

In 3D, orbit, pan, and zoom operations are more responsive, especially for complex 3D models.


Whilst there’s nothing ‘earth-shattering’ in there, AutoCAD 2021 offers numerous welcome enhancement and features that will, collectively, make your work a little easier, improve your productivity and save you time.

Integration with Google Drive will be welcomed by those for which that is the cloud storage option of choice.

Many will find the insight into the evolution of drawings provided by the Drawing History useful, and the Xref compare, Block palette enhancements and enhanced Quick Measure features will save you time.

The drawing format for this release continues to be AutoCAD 2018, which many will welcome.

Armada offers AutoCAD training to users at all levels.

For information about our three-day introductory-level course, see AutoCAD Essentials.

For details about the follow-on AutoCAD courses available, and the training we offer in the AutoCAD toolsets, see AutoCAD follow-on courses.

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