Comparing Revit to AutoCAD in 2023
The advent of CAD (computer-aided drafting) software led to many new terms being used all over the world. For example, it’s not uncommon for people to confuse Revit and AutoCAD since they don’t know the difference between BIM and CAD in the first place. However, the truth is that AutoCAD and Revit are quite different from each other.
While both belong to the Autodesk family, their purposes are quite different. However, to start working out the confusion that is Revit vs CAD, we have to address the elephant in the room – the difference between BIM and CAD.
BIM and CAD as concepts
In the most basic terms possible, you’re generating drawings when using CAD for various projects. Alternatively, when it comes to BIM – you’re creating an entire model of a building that can be used to create drawings.
At its core, CAD is a Computer-Aided Design that provides engineers, architects, and other professionals in the field to generate precise drawings of a project in both 2D and 3D – which means automating a process that previously involved a lot of manual drafting and drawing.
BIM, on the other hand, is Building Information Modeling – an intelligent multi-functional process that’s based on a 3D model and is capable of providing experts like engineers, architects, AEC specialists, etc. with both the insight about a project in question, as well as the tools to perform the entire lifecycle of a project – including planning, designing, constructing and management.
Now that the difference between the two is more apparent, it is time to address the troublesome task of comparing AutoCAD to Revit.
The basics of Revit vs AutoCAD
The main difference you can think of in this context is that Revit is BIM software, while AutoCAD is CAD software. This is where our previous comparison of BIM to CAD comes in handy – Revit is a solution tasked with supporting all phases of a construction project that deal with either design or documentation, while AutoCAD is a widely applicable drawing tool.
It’s not uncommon for Revit and AutoCAD to work alongside each other or even integrate into each other to some degree – but their purposes are still drastically different, as well as their list of situations where they can be used. It’s not uncommon for companies to use Revit for BIM deliverables generation and collaboration with design disciplines while also using AutoCAD for certain components of a design or a project.
Surprisingly enough, a rather unusual similarity exists between the two. It doesn’t matter if you’ll choose to start with Revit or AutoCAD – both of them are notorious for being rather complicated pieces of software that are not exactly user-friendly.
Both of them simply have too many different features, tools, and other pieces of information that can be done with them, and it’s the main reason why so many people claim that using such software is quite overwhelming at first – no matter if it’s Revit or AutoCAD.
However, if a choice needs to be made between the two, it is safe to say that Revit is the more complicated solution. One of the reasons for this is the fact that Revit can be operated at any stage of the project to provide a multitude of benefits. That’s not to say that AutoCAD is easy to use either. This is simply a choice between the two to figure out which one is easier to work with.
To make it easier to notice the differences when comparing Revit to CAD, we will go over each of the two to figure out their advantages and shortcomings.
Benefits and shortcomings of AutoCAD
AutoCAD, on its own, is ancient by professional software standards; it has been around ever since 1982. It singlehandedly managed to create a surge in accessibility for design-related software, and it offers a plethora of features in both 2D and 3D drawings. Some of the more prominent benefits of AutoCAD are:
- Cloud-based viewing and PDF integration. Since almost all construction projects nowadays are exclusively team efforts, it’s not that surprising to realize that AutoCAD has its own features that help with better accessibility and usability for people in different timezones and with different devices. AutoCAD can change their proprietary .DWG file format into PDFs to keep the project unaccessible for edits until it’s in the right hands. Additionally, AutoCAD offers a cloud-based viewing ability to allow several people to see the same project simultaneously, even though group editing is still unavailable.
- Precise 2D geometry. AutoCAD is a computer-aided drafting tool, first and foremost, which is why there are multiple different ways that AutoCAD can offer its users to interact with geometries – and it’s the main reason why people find AutoCAD so intimidating. And yet, once you’ll manage to get a good grasp of its features – you’ll have one of the best drafting tools on the market.
- 3D object flexibility. Although the original purpose of AutoCAD was to work with 2D objects, there is now an option to work in three dimensions, as well – with the same level of control and precision as with its 2D part, with no limitations to your creativity.
- Customizable workspace. Surprisingly enough, this one comes from the main complaint about AutoCAD – with it being too intimidating to approach. Once you’re past the first impression and start working with AutoCAD regularly, you’ll quickly realize that most of the features that seem overwhelming to you can be easily hidden if you don’t have the need for them in your daily work. You do have to understand how to do that in the first place and the basics of AutoCAD itself, and yet, it’s surprisingly customizable.
However, some inconveniences and downsides can be noticed when approaching AutoCAD from a slightly different angle. For example:
- Layer synchronization. AutoCAD’s layering system is excellent for including an abundance of details into a model – but it’s rather terrible from the convenience standpoint since you always have to sync edits with the entire design manually. It is a massive problem for bigger teams that work with AutoCAD since one person’s mistake can cost an entire team several hours of manually changing values and adding changes.
- Inability to automatically fill in component information. While AutoCAD’s can freely manipulate all of the geometry parts, it’s a massive headache in terms of consistent component information – you’ll have to manually input all of the specific dimensions of each element every time you need it in your design.
- Difficult learning process. You can indeed hide most of the unnecessary features when you’re confident enough with AutoCAD, but this process can take a while, and AutoCAD’s learning curve is rather harsh and brutal. Luckily enough, it’s a well-known problem for everybody, so many different courses and training packages can help you to become more familiar with AutoCAD’s interface in some way or another.
Use case recommendations for AutoCAD
AutoCAD is ideal for improving or renovating existing buildings, particularly when the original construction plans were drafted primarily in 2D. AutoCAD’s compatibility is one of the best on the market, supporting older versions of both the software and the plans themselves, making it extremely easy to access a construction plan that was created years ago without any issues.
It’s common for engineering companies and property managers to have substantial databases of DWG files of past and current projects, and opening one of these files is much easier than recreating even one of them in Revit. Additionally, if the original construction plan is not available in a DWG format, AutoCAD also has a PDF integration for these use cases, offering PDF to DWG conversion with the ability to identify both text and linework.
Other useful additions to AutoCAD include 3D-printing compatibility for prototype creation, cloud-based view sharing for better collaboration, and many others.
Advantages and problems of Revit
Revit is also technically a type of CAD software – even though it is a BIM software first and foremost, allowing it to create a 3D model of a project with all of the details of both physical properties and how components can influence one another. Three of the most popular industries for Revit are city planning, architecture, and construction. Here are some of the biggest benefits of Revit:
- Detailed building information. Revit is capable of generating information about parts of your design in the middle of its creation, adding context in terms of materials, price estimates, and so on. If this information changes at any point in the project creation process – the entire model would be updated accordingly.
- Performance analysis for project designs. Revit is also capable of providing performance analysis of your model in real-world conditions, mostly centered around the environmental friendliness of your model. Power- or resource-efficient constructions are always a win in everyone’s book.
- Information integration into a model. Unlike AutoCAD, Revit does not work with different layers but offers the ability to work with the entire 3D model at once, including different viewpoints, synchronized changes, and more.
- Easier maintenance and upgrade. Because of the specific way that Revit integrates all of the changes into the entire model, it’s effortless to update or change said models whenever you want, or look at the design archives, if you need those.
- Clean interface. Since Revit’s interface is cleaner when compared with AutoCAD’s interface, many users consider the former to be an easier one to learn and get used to.
And yet, it’s the same situation as with AutoCAD – some problems can be found with Revit as a whole, such as:
- Bigger price. Since both AutoCAD and Revit are produced by Autodesk, it is reasonably easy to compare the basic prices of the two – and Revit is always higher, with the difference for the three-year plan being $1000 for the Revit version.
- Windows-only software. Unfortunately, design sharing with Revit is somewhat more complicated since it only works on Windows-based devices. It’s not a particularly deal-breaking problem, but it is something to be aware of.
- Industry-specific software. Possibly the biggest drawback for Revit is its spearheaded focus on three of its industries – construction, architecture, and city planning. Other than that, it pretty much cannot work with any other industry – and it’s a rather big problem for people to keep track of.
Use case recommendations for Revit
As a BIM tool, Revit is useful at all stages of a project, from planning and design to construction and day-to-day operation. Tasks such as upgrading or performing maintenance can benefit from Revit’s BIM information, and there are also advantages such as task automation, clash detection, and many other ways to simplify or improve existing processes.
There are many use cases for Revit that would be much harder to perform in AutoCAD. Most of these use cases are the result of Revit’s ability to work with different data parameters and combine them in one place. Project calculations, data analysis, reporting, rendering, and updating are all examples of use cases where Revit excels.
Revit is the preferred tool for project calculations because it can pull necessary data automatically, while AutoCAD requires manual labor to compile the data. Revit’s data analysis tools can analyze construction data in a variety of ways, which is impossible to perform with AutoCAD alone.
The versatility of Revit when it comes to data compilation and analysis also makes it an excellent tool for data reporting, generating comprehensive reports based on existing project data with minimal user input. While both AutoCAD and Revit can technically render projects, only Revit can perform detailed renders with little to no additional solutions/plugins.
Lastly, Revit’s capability to retroactively calculate every value and parameter in a project if there has been a change to one of the existing model parameters is what makes it a powerful tool for potential clients. This is a task that would be long and strenuous with AutoCAD alone, and it highlights the effectiveness of Revit’s BIM approach.
Revit vs AutoCAD: system requirements
The system requirements for both AutoCAD and Revit in 2023 are similar for the Windows version of the software. Both require Windows 11 or Windows 10 (update 1809 or newer) and recommend a minimum RAM size of 8 GB.
However, the biggest difference between the two lies in their macOS compatibility. There is no native Revit application available on macOS to this day, and the only way to work with Revit on a Mac device is to use Parallels Desktop, a specialized application that allows Mac users to run Windows-native applications on their devices.
Understandably, the native version of AutoCAD is much less resource-demanding than the version of Revit run via Parallels, even though both can work on macOS 10 and newer. A complete list of Revit system requirements can be found here, while the page with AutoCAD system requirements is located here.
Revit or AutoCAD: pricing and support
As both AutoCAD and Revit are distributed by Autodesk, their licensing models are practically identical. One subscription purchase is equivalent to one stand-alone user license, providing access to the software for a single user. Both AutoCAD and Revit are included in Autodesk’s policy of offering free software for educational purposes, available to teachers, students, and other educational institutions.
The network licensing model, which allowed multiple users access to the software through a single subscription, was retired more than two years ago. Currently, the prices of Revit and AutoCAD are as follows:
- $235 per month
- $1,865 per year
- $5,595 per three years
- $335 per month
- $2,675 per year
- $8,025 per three years
It’s worth noting that Autodesk offers an even more attractive three-year plan by guaranteeing that the customer’s price will not change during that period, regardless of any circumstances.
As both AutoCAD and Revit are distributed by the same company, they offer similar customer support. Both have community support in the form of forums, as well as official Autodesk support, including tutorials, quick-start guides, troubleshooting guides, and more.
Another factor to consider is the overall community around the software. For instance, AutoCAD has been around for quite some time, and a regular user has a high chance of finding a solution to their issue with a quick Google search. While Revit hasn’t been on the market as long, it has its fair share of user guides and answers to questions posted all over the internet, particularly in the community forums and Autodesk’s official documentation.
There is, in fact, a significant list of differences between Revit and AutoCAD, and some of those things might not seem as apparent at first glance. However, the most sensible approach is not to choose one over the other, but rather to learn how to work with both.
This line of thinking is common among CAD users, especially those familiar with the older solution. In truth, every CAD user will have to learn at least the basics of Revit sooner or later. This is because BIM is transforming the entire industry, and CAD modelers who refuse to embrace new technologies risk being left behind.
If the question is about choosing just one software, the answer would depend on the context of the topic, as both applications serve completely different purposes. Companies or users in need of extensive modeling capabilities would choose AutoCAD over Revit any day of the week. AutoCAD can be used to draft nearly any model from scratch, and it is also less expensive than Revit.
Alternatively, customers looking to simplify tedious tasks and improve their existing system would consider choosing Revit – a more expensive solution that can benefit contractors, engineers, architects, and many others, supplying reports, calculations, and other features of a high-performance BIM solution. If the one asking the question is not an individual, but a company – there may be many benefits to choosing both solutions, as each performs different tasks and complements the other’s capabilities.
It is clear that these two solutions differ from one another in substantial ways. Hopefully, we’ve managed to explain the topic to the degree that makes the difference rather evident for everyone.