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Opening either the Autodesk® AutoCAD® or Autodesk® AutoCAD LT® program for the first time presents you with an expansive canvas of tools, settings, and more. Faced with this seemingly endless landscape of options, you are probably wondering where you should start. This chapter faces that question head on and breaks down the many components of the user interface into manageable segments, introducing you to essential operations, such as opening drawings.

Even if you’ve used earlier versions of AutoCAD, you’ll still want to review this chapter to become acquainted with changes that have taken place in recent years. The 2015 release continues the evolution of the user interface seen in recent versions of the software but maintains a foundational parity between AutoCAD and AutoCAD LT. Generally speaking, both platforms offer the same 2D drafting experience. The biggest difference is that AutoCAD LT doesn’t have any 3D capability, whereas AutoCAD offers many powerful tools for 3D modeling.

(These tools are the topics of Chapter 16, “Creating 3D Geometry,” and Chapter 17, “Rendering and Materials.”) With so little separating the two platforms, I refer to both interchangeably as AutoCAD for most purposes in this book. Although this book does not focus on the discipline-specific tools found within products based on AutoCAD for Windows such as AutoCAD® Architecture or AutoCAD® Civil 3D®, it does focus on the core AutoCAD skills necessary to use these vertical AutoCAD platforms. To use one of these vertical products to learn the topics covered in this book, choose Start ➢ All Programs ➢ Autodesk ➢ AutoCAD Product Name 2015 ➢ AutoCAD Product Name As AutoCAD 2015.

The Mac version of AutoCAD applies an OS X native interface that differs from its Windows counterparts. Although the core concepts covered in this book are universal, the step-by-step procedures differ between the two operating systems. The procedures covered in this book are intended for use with only the Windows-based version of AutoCAD.  Like most Windows-based applications, AutoCAD launches inside an Application window. Serving as a starting point, the New Tab is the first user interface (UI) displayed within the Application window, but workspaces will control the overall composition of your AutoCAD environment from there.

I’ll explain the general function of workspaces shortly, including the default workspace named Drafting & Annotation, but first I’ll explain the New Tab.   Before creating or opening any drawings, the New Tab is displayed to provide a starting point for your entire AutoCAD experience. This interface is organized into two parts: one page for creating drawings, and another page for learning about AutoCAD.

The Create page shown in Figure 1.1 is displayed by default and serves as a launchpad for creating and working with the drawing files that compose your projects. The Create page contains three columns and may include up to four panels: Get Started Serving as a pseudo File menu, the Get Started panel is focused on creating new files and browsing for existing files.