AutoCAD for Mac is the best CAD software for Mac for 3D design and in this review, we take a closer look at what it can do.
AutoCAD has easily been one the most dominant Windows CAD applications on the market for years but it wasn’t until many years later that Autodesk finally released AutoCAD for Mac.
AutoCAD For Mac 2023 is still an industry leading CAD software for architects and designers and one of the most widely used CAD programs on the market.
The success of AutoCAD is partly because it’s so powerful but also because it’s relatively user friendly for such a complex 2D and 3D CAD program.
In the early days of AutoCAD For Mac, the macOS version wasn’t quite as good as the Windows edition, but nowadays it’s almost exactly the same on all platforms.
However, there are some limitations to the Mac version of this incredibly powerful CAD application as we found in our review of AutoCAD for Mac 2023.
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- Does AutoCAD Work Well On A Mac?
- Does AutoCAD Work On M1 Macs?
- AutoCAD For Mac System Requirements
- AutoCAD For Mac vs AutoCAD For Windows
- AutoCAD For Mac Features
- AutoCAD For Mac 2023 Improvements
- AutoCAD Web vs AutoCAD For Mac
- AutoCAD For Mac 2023 Pricing
- AutoCAD Subscriptions vs Flex
- AutoCAD vs AutoCAD LT
- Can You Get AutoCAD For Mac For Free?
Does AutoCAD Work Well On A Mac?
In terms of performance though, AutoCAD For Mac 2023 runs just as well on Intel Macs as it does on a Windows PC.
However, although AutoCAD works on the latest Apple Silicon M1 Macs, it currently has to use Rosetta in order to work with the M1 chip and this sometimes causes a slow down in performance (see more on this below).
Does AutoCAD Work On M1 Macs?
AutoCAD 2023 For Mac does work on M1 Macs using Rosetta 2 in macOS which “translates” Intel only software to work with the M1 chip.
However, this is not optimized for ARM M1 chips so although it works, it doesn’t work as fast as it an native M1 chip version would.
A native version of AutoCAD For Mac for M1 chip Macs is not yet available including for Macs with the M1 Max, M1 Pro and M1 Ultra chip.
Although the release of AutoCAD 2023 introduced a new graphics engine for multi-core Macs, it did not introduce native support for M1 Macs as was hoped.
However, Autodesk has stated that it is working on an M1 Mac compatible version of AutoCAD and it’s likely we’ll see it released sometime in 2022.
AutoCAD For Mac System Requirements
The exact system requirements for AutoCAD For Mac 2023 are below.
AutoCAD For Mac works with the latest versions of macOS including macOS Monterey, Big Sur and Catalina.
|System requirements for AutoCAD 2023 for Mac|
|Operating System||Apple® macOS® Monterey v12
Apple macOS Big Sur v11
Apple macOS Catalina v10.15
|Model||Basic: Apple Mac Pro® 4.1, MacBook Pro 5.1, iMac® 8.1, Mac mini® 3.1, MacBook Air®, MacBook® 5.1
Recommended: Apple Mac® models supporting Metal Graphics Engine
|CPU Type||64-bit Intel CPU
Apple M series CPU
Recommended: 8GB or higher
|Display Resolution||Basic: 1280 x 800 display
High Resolution: 2880 x 1800 with Retina Display
|Disk Space||5 GB free disk space for download and installation|
|Pointing Device||Apple-compliant Mouse, Apple-compliant Trackpad, Microsoft-compliant mouse|
|Display Card||Recommended: Mac native installed graphics cards|
|Disk Format||APFS, APFS(Encrypted), Mac OS Extended (Journaled), Mac OS Extended (Journaled, Encrypted)|
AutoCAD For Mac vs AutoCAD For Windows
Initially, the early versions of AutoCAD weren’t as complete as the Windows version of AutoCAD.
AutoCAD 2023 For Mac has come a long way though and is now very similar to the Windows version.
However, there are still some interface differences and features missing.
The biggest difference between AutoCAD For Mac vs AutoCAD For Windows is the Mac version does not support 3D rendering.
3D rendering was inexplicably dropped from AutoCAD For Mac back in 2017 and it was not reintroduced into AutoCAD 2023 For Mac as some users hoped.
In terms of file formats, AutoCAD for Mac creates files in the same DWG format as AutoCAD for Windows and can do pretty much anything AutoCAD for Windows can do in both 2D and 3D.
The most notable difference though is the interface which has been customized for macOS including Dark Mode, Coverflow navigation, Multiview and Touch Bar support.
The Classic AutoCAD interface with toolbars is only available in the Windows version of AutoCAD and AutoCAD LT.
Drawing History, which traces the history of changes made in AutoCAD files saved in Box, DropBox and OneDrive, is also not available in the Mac version of AutoCAD.
Other things that are not available in the Mac version of AutoCAD include:
- Extract object data to tables.
- Share and use data from DGN files, Navisworks and Bing Maps.
- Apply and monitor CAD standards.
- Access to specialized toolsets for architecture, mechanical design, electrical design and more
If any of these missing features are deal breakers for you, your only other option is to run Windows on a Mac and install the Windows version of AutoCAD.
However, while this works well for 2D design, if you’re going to need AutoCAD for 3D design, it may not run very well as it requires a lot of processing power and ideally an eGPU too.
The main reason for this is the display is much bigger which makes it easier for doing complex CAD designs. And although AutoCAD For Mac 2023 now supports Trackpad gestures on MacBook Pros, it can be very tricky compared to using a mouse.
However, if you prefer the portability and power of the MacBook Pro, you can always extend it with an external display. The latest M1 MacBook Pro can support up to 4 external displays at once.
You can find out the best displays to use with Macs in our look at the best external monitors for Mac.
AutoCAD For Mac Features
Both are very similar in features but the LT lacks the 3D modelling and some of the more advanced tools of the full version of AutoCAD.
If you don’t need 3D modelling, AutoCAD LT is 75% cheaper than the full version of AutoCAD and excellent value for money for a 2D CAD tool on this level.
You can see how AutoCAD compares vs AutoCAD LT below.
The full version of AutoCAD for Mac supports 3D design, 3D printing and 2D drafting software with and includes XREF path mapping, select Express tools and PDF enhancements.
As mentioned earlier however, 3D rendering is not available in AutoCAD for Mac even though the latest M1 Macs are more than capable of it.
When you open AutoCAD For Mac 2023, the first thing that strikes you is how modern and clean the User Interface looks. For those used to AutoCAD for Windows, it can take some getting used to but the new interface is far more suited to macOS.
The previous version of AutoCAD For Mac 2022 was rewritten around the AutoCAD Core Engine (ACE) which is now in all versions of AutoCAD and part of the reason why AutoCAD for Mac is now very similar to AutoCAD on PC.
The development of AutoCAD is no longer limited to different platforms as anything that is updated and improved in the AutoCAD Core Engine is immediately pushed out to work on all platforms including macOS, Windows, mobile and web.
Some of the powerful features this has introduced include dynamic blocks to add flexibility and intelligence to block references, dynamic links to Excel documents and a layer state manager so you can save layer settings.
The latest version of AutoCAD 2023 also makes it easier to switch between Office and Home environments.
Many CAD designers use two monitors at work and one at home and the latest version allows you to control or hide the positioning of palettes depending on whether you’re working on one monitor or two.
Another big improvement has been the introduction of the Command Alias Editor into AutoCAD.
Many AutoCAD designers on Windows are used to using keyboard shortcuts and AutoCAD for Mac supports this in macOS too.
You can create hotkeys for your most used commands making your workflow quicker and easier than before.
Combined with the TouchBar support introduced in the previous version of AutoCAD for Mac, you can seriously speed-up your workflow without having to use the TouchPad or mouse all the time.
AutoCAD For Mac 2023 even supports Gestures on the trackpad for improved productivity so that you can use two finger swipes and thumb claw pinches as you work to speed things up.
You can also now convert 3D to 2D using AutoCAD on Mac. The flatten tool in AutoCAD for Mac retains original layers, linetypes, colors and object types.
AutoCAD For Mac 2023 Improvements
AutoCAD For Mac 2023 is definitely the fastest and most responsive version of AutoCAD yet.
The iOS version of AutoCAD 2023 has been updated with the AutoCAD Core Engine so the iPad version of AutoCAD is now far more powerful and useful than previous versions.
Unfortunately, AutoCAD Core Engine still isn’t compatible with M1 Macs but when it is, Autodesk will be able to push updates to both Intel and M1 Macs far more easily.
The Cloud features in AutoCAD For Mac 2023 include Design Automation. This means that to a certain extent, AutoCAD can automatically design based even when you’re away from your Mac or workstation.
It also includes Autodesk Ray Tracer (ART) which is an incredibly fast, physically based render that works in Autodesk products inlcuding AutoCAD, 3DS Max, Inventor Professional and Revit.
Note that although there’s no version of Revit for Mac, there are still ways to run Revit on a Mac.
AutoCAD is also now better integrated with other cloud storage services such as Google Drive.
Among other things, Autodesk Ray Tracer renders lighting realistically including how sunlight and artificial sunlight reflects off materials.
The Purge command has been improved in AutoCAD For Mac and will now give you information on non-purgable items in Blocks, Layers, Text Styles and explain why they can’t be purged.
AutoCAD 2023 For Mac also has Xref Compare which is very useful for those CAD professionals remote working as it notifies you of any changes made on file versions stored in the Cloud such as Dropbox.
There have also been changes to the Blocks Palette which now allows you to drag a block out using the Scale or Rotation checkboxes.
AutoCAD For Mac is also now available in Chinese for the first time to satisfy demand for AutoCAD in the rapidly growing CAD market in China.
Other improvements to AutoCAD 2023 For Mac include:
- Autodesk Trace which simulates using tracing paper over drawings or blueprints to allow designers to copy and make suggested changes. CAD designers can add markup on Trace and see it in context so they can make any responses to it in the DWG file. Autodesk Trace works in real time so any changes made in the field will be seen instantly back in the office. Autodesk Trace is new to both the Windows and Mac desktop version of AutoCAD this year and works both on web and mobile.
- AutoCAD for Mac 2023 features a new count tool which automatically counts blocks or geometry to save time and reduce errors. You can count blocks in an entire blueprint or within a specific user-defined area.
- You can now Share drawings, sketches and blueprints including XREFS and images with anyone from within AutoCAD for Mac including to those using the web app. You can also control the level of shared access such as “view-only” or grant editing privileges depending on who you are sending it to. This works much better that the old XTRANSMIT command in AutoCAD and is easier to use with far more control over sharing.
- A new CUTBASE Command allows you to copy objects to the clipboard and define a specified base point if you want to remove them from a drawing or blueprint.
- A new 3D Graphics Engine to leverage the GPU and CPU power in the new multi-core Macs which makes it faster to work with large blueprints. Effects, lines and curves now appear much clearer in AutoCAD For Mac and it enables enhanced selection and highlighting tools.
These improvements enhance the additions made to AutoCAD 2022 which included:
- Flexibility With Enhanced Block Libraries
- Sort and Manage Blocks With Improvements
- Export Layouts Directly to a new DWG File
- Quickly Repeat Commands With Recent Input
AutoCAD Web vs AutoCAD For Mac
You can also access AutoCAD in any browser via AutoCAD Web although it’s not as functional as the desktop version of AutoCAD on a Mac or PC desktop.
However, the increased use of AutoCAD during the Coronavirus (COVID19) pandemic means that Autodesk has added more features to it in AutoCAD 2023.
You can create and edit AutoCAD files in AutoCAD web and it’s free to use, even if you’re not an AutoCAD subscriber.
This makes it very useful for sharing AutoCAD blueprints with non-AutoCAD users or subscribers.
AutoCAD For Mac 2023 Pricing
AutoCAD is only available on a subscription basis as there is no standalone version anymore. You can’t buy standalone versions of any Autodesk products anymore as they are no longer available with ongoing perpetual licenses.
A subscription starts at $235 per month for AutoCAD.
Alternatively, you can pay $1,500 for 500 tokens of usage.
A subscription for AutoCAD LT starts at $60 per month but there’s no Flex pricing option for it yet.
Autodesk do often run special promotions on products throughout the year so if you time it right, you may be able to get a discount.
If you’re already an AutoCAD for Mac subscriber, you can download the latest version of AutoCAD 2023 from your Autodesk Account.
You can also try a free 30 day trial of AutoCAD 2023 For Mac.
AutoCAD Subscriptions vs Flex
If you’re a regular user of AutoCAD then a subscription is much better value than Flex tokens which are only designed for occasional use.
A subscription to both AutoCAD and AutoCAD LT also includes access to the AutoCAD web app and AutoCAD mobile app which work in a browser on any Mac.
One of the other advantages for companies is that an AutoCAD subscription allows them to administer licenses across multiple Macs and workstations.
A subscription also includes technical support and access to older versions of AutoCAD if needed for testing at customer sites.
It also means that you’re entitled to use new versions of AutoCAD For Mac when they’re released without having to pay for major upgrades.
AutoCAD vs AutoCAD LT
If you only need AutoCAD for 2D CAD design on your Mac, you’re better off getting AutoCAD LT For Mac which is much cheaper but only supports 2D CAD.
AutoCAD LT is 75% cheaper than the full version of AutoCAD and excellent value for money for a 2D CAD tool on this level.
The full version of AutoCAD however supports both 3D and 2D design so you are getting more for your money.
Can You Get AutoCAD For Mac For Free?
You can get AutoCAD For Mac for free with an educational license which entitles students and teachers to free one year educational access to AutoCAD.
If you’re not entitled to an educational license, you can also try a free trial of AutoCAD For Mac.