One of the benefits of AutoCAD is the ability to install 3rd-party add-ons that introduce new features and enhance workflow. However, when reviewing all of the options available in the Autodesk App Store, it can be a daunting task to know which to use. Since each add-on has distinct functionality, it does not do justice comparing them apples-to-apples, but this article will introduce some of the best apps and publishers you can find in the App Store.
As of writing this post, there are 3,903 add-ons currently available in the Autodesk App Store, and 966 specifics to AutoCAD. Of the 966 that are available for AutoCAD, here is how the pricing is broken down:
- Free – 301
- Trial – 244
- Paid – 425
Some apps are listed as free but require purchasing a license directly from the publisher. Trial add-ons provide limited access, either within a 14-day or 30-day period or by limiting functionality. Paid add-ons range in price from 50 cents to almost $1,500. The App Store allows for the filtering of results, but since each publisher can choose its way to control access and monetize, it may still require some digging to know where the paywall resides in the path to gain access.
The majority of other App Publishers in the Autodesk App Store have just 1-3 apps, with a smaller set of publishers having several or dozens of add-ons. JTB World develops some of the most useful and reliable tools and has a total of 90 add-ons in the Autodesk App Store. The majority of the apps by JTB are natural extensions of AutoCAD functionality but automate specific tasks for users or CAD Managers. Below are some of the most popular JTB World Add ons:
DWG Columns for Explorer (Free) – Displays the version of AutoCAD as an added column in Windows File Explorer.
JTB LayoutsToDwgs (Free) – Takes a DWG with multiple layouts as input and splits it into separate DWGs with one layout per drawing.
JTB SSMPropEditor (30-day Trial, $95) – Easily manage properties across all sheet sets, including the ability to export to Excel, Edit, and Import back into the sheet set (DST).
JTB Flex Report [LT] – For organizations using Network licenses of Autodesk products, CAD Managers can use this tool to understand usage across an organization, down to a very granular level. Pricing for the full version depends on the number of network licenses managed (e.g., $3,891 for 450-300 network licenses, $7,626 for an Enterprise license). The LT version is a free but has very limited functionality compared to the full version.
Here is a video of some of the reporting features in JTB FlexReport:
Some apps are designed to help prepare or export files for other software or hardware such as CNC, Robotic Arms, or 3D printers. Other applications are focused on keeping the drawings clean and uncorrupted, which can often happen when importing from another application and file type. All of these apps provide additional automation features that build on or extend existing features in AutoCAD. Here is a list and description of some of the best apps that I recommend:
3D Printing App for Autodesk AutoCAD – Produce or repair a stereolithography file (STL) in preparation for 3D printing.
Area Object Link (AOL) – Report the area of a closed polyline or hatch to an attribute in a Block. I have found this tremendously useful for managing room tags that report the area of a room. Once the link is created between a Block instance and a polyline representing the area of the space, any change made to the boundary will be reflected in the block (after REGEN).
Autodesk App Manager – Simplify the process of managing apps installed on your machine, especially if there are multiple in use.
AutoRebar – Provides an extra toolbar with Rebar specific objects (Rebar, Marks, Call-outs, Bar Bending Schedule) that can be created and stretched as easily as a polyline.
Drawing Purge – Purge unused drawing elements, such as unreferenced linetypes from DGN files, in addition to RegApps and Annotation Scales. A Batch mode is available to Purge all unused elements from multiple drawings at once. This has quickly become one of the most popular apps in the app store.
LITIO2 – 3D Sheet metal unfolding soft – calculate flat (unfolded) sheets of ductwork or piping systems to produce 2D specifications for CNC or laser cutting from sheets.
ZombieKiller – Find all proxy entities and objects in a drawing and selectively or batch erase.
Before implementing any add-ons across your organization, it is best to test them and how they may change the CAD Standard. It is also important to understand the functionality of the add-ons and how they store information within DWGs. In some instances, it may be necessary that ALL team members actively editing the DWGs have the add-on(s) installed; otherwise, saving the DWG could remove links, functionality or orphan some of the data in the drawing.
Hopefully, some of these apps can help users or CAD Managers to accomplish tasks quicker and easier, and at the very least, provide an introduction to the world of add-ons that are available for AutoCAD. If you try an add-on and really like it, please write a review or make a donation (if free, and the option exists) for the publisher. User feedback is a big part of what makes the AutoCAD community so powerful, and recognition of helpful tools helps influence the efforts leading to what tools will come next.
About the Author
Joseph Freund joined Microsol Resources in 2019 as an AEC Application Specialist. Joseph has a B.S. Degree in Electromechanical Engineering, and a Master of Architecture from Iowa State University. In his free time, he loves camping under dark skies and taking photos of nature.