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AutoCAD and Revit are the most widely used software packages in the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industry. Both programs generate construction drawing packages in 2D and 3D. You might even think that AutoCAD and Revit are competing products, even though both come from the same software provider, Autodesk. In reality, AutoCAD and Revit are complementary products. So, what’s the difference between the two programs?

Autodesk Revit – beginner to an intermediate level

Last Updated March 2021

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  • 103 lectures
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Includes 15 quizzes & a Final Exam. For users of Revit 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020 & 2021. | By S15 Studio

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In this post, you will learn about the main differences between AutoCAD and Revit. You will also understand why moving to Revit is the right choice for AEC professionals.

A brief history of AutoCAD and Revit

AutoCAD was first released in December 1982 by the software developer Autodesk. By 1986, it became the most widely used design application in the world! Since its initial launch, 31 versions of AutoCAD have been released. With each new version, AutoCAD has included more current features and programs to attract users from more professions and industries. Today, AutoCAD supports APIs for customization and automation. This allows the software to integrate more programs and toolsets such as AutoCAD Architecture, AutoCAD Electrical, and AutoCAD Civil 3D. Over the last five years, Autodesk also has created mobile and cloud-based apps such as AutoCAD 360, Fusion 360, and A360 Viewer.

Revit was first released in 1997 by Charles River Software. There is a story that the name “Revit” comes from combining the two words “revise” and “instantly.” This describes the most revolutionary aspect of the software: revising an element anywhere changes it everywhere instantly, in any view. In 2002, Autodesk acquired Revit and added the software to its list of products.

AutoCAD vs. Revit

The main difference between the two programs is the target industry. AutoCAD is a general computer-aided design (CAD) and drafting program designed for precise line work. AutoCAD provides a set of general drawing tools such as lines, arcs, and circles to create 2D and 3D drawings. Users from many industries can apply these tools to fit their own needs.

On the other hand, Revit is designed specifically for the AEC industry and Building Information Modelling (BIM) tools. Revit tools focus on building components representing real features such as walls, doors, and windows. Revit users apply these tools to create intelligent 3D models of buildings and produce construction documentation.

Three key differences between AutoCAD and Revit

Digitized drawing sheets vs data-enriched components

In AutoCAD, you treat each element as if you were drawing it on a sheet of paper. In other words, AutoCAD is a drafting tool that allows you to draw precise, 2D lines. These lines represent real 3D elements—hence the term “Computer Aided Design” (CAD). Lines in AutoCAD have absolutely no data or information attached to them.

Revit thinks differently. Instead of drawing lines, you build a 3D model by creating 3D components. You can think of these 3D components as much more powerful versions of dynamic blocks in AutoCAD. A Revit model is the closest thing to a real building.

Each component includes real-time metadata, which can be used throughout the lifecycle of a building—hence the term “Building Information Modelling” (BIM). This is the most important difference between Revit and AutoCAD because it drives all the other advantages of Revit.

Separate standalone sheets vs one single model

In AutoCAD, you draw each element of a building separately. First, you might create the plans of the building in one part of the workspace and then create the elevations, sections, details, and schedules in another part of the workspace. Some designers may even draw these elements in separate DWG files.

In Revit, you work with a single model. First, you create the building model. Revit then immediately creates the building plans and elevations. The software uses these plans to create sections automatically as well. In other words, when you make a change in one of the views, Revit automatically updates the 3D, elevation, and section views. This changes the entire outlook of your project and the design process. You can now think of the overall design as a whole.

Updating many times vs updating once

When you need to update or change your building model, Revit shows its biggest advantage over AutoCAD.

Imagine that a client calls you to request an urgent design change. You need to increase the width of all north-facing windows by 10cm, and you must also increase wall thickness by 3mm. You have one hour to submit the new drawings.

If you’re using AutoCAD, you will need to update the window and wall dimensions in every floor plan, elevation, section, detail, and schedule. You will also need to update all references, tags, and leaders.  This is a time-consuming task in a large-scale project, and it’s easy to miss a drawing or file.

If you’re using Revit, you only need to change the properties of the window and wall once. Revit then automatically updates all views, schedules, and even revision clouds. You don’t need to worry about missing a drawing in the update because Revit does all the work.

The key similarities between AutoCAD and Revit

Interface and tools

If you are coming from an AutoCAD background the learning curve in understanding the interface and procedures is very minimal. As both programs are created by Autodesk, the interfaces are very similar in appearance and navigation. As an experienced AutoCAD user, you know that you can be taught how to use AutoCAD in a matter of hours, but it takes years to understand how to make the software work for you. Having this transferable skill from years of using AutoCAD makes the learning process with Revit that much quicker and enjoyable.  

All of the basic commands from saving a file or project to operating a tool have the same procedures, truly making the transfer from AutoCAD to Revit a pleasure. 

Summary

In general terms, both Revit and AutoCAD have their benefits and advantages. In many cases, the same firms and even the same people use both programs.

However, for architectural design, Revit is the future and has many advantages over AutoCAD. I personally began using Revit six years ago and haven’t looked back!

Ready to make the move to Revit?

The good news is that Revit doesn’t take years of practice to learn. I have created a course that helps people learn Revit as quickly and easily as possible. After you complete the beginner- to intermediate-level course, you will be capable of undertaking almost any design task in Revit.

Page Last Updated: February 2021

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