AutoCAD: What’s New for 2021

  • AutoCAD 2021 was released in March 2020
  • It featured four main updates from the 2020 version
  • It also released seven new tool sets that cover various engineering fields
  • Drawing History, Xref Compare, Blocks Palette and Graphics Performance are the main updates

On March 25, 2020, Autodesk announced that they were launching AutoCAD 2021. This is the 35th iteration of their flagship software. There was no big event or press release for the new version, Autodesk announced on their blog and they made it available to download, along with the seven new tool sets that accompanied AutoCAD in the release.

The new tool sets that Autodesk announced were as follows:

  • AutoCAD Architecture
  • AutoCAD Electrical
  • AutoCAD MEP
  • AutoCAD Plant 3D
  • AutoCAD Rater Design
  • AutoCAD Map 3D
  • AutoCAD Mechanical

Also released on the same day was AutoCAD LT 2021, and the Mac-compatible version of AutoCAD 2021 was released in April. Autodesk described their new release as having four major updates, although there were also a lot of minor updates that they did not focus on. The four major updates in AutoCAD 2012 as stated by Autodesk are:

  • Blocks Palette
  • Drawing History
  • Performance
  • Xref Compare

Blocks Palette

The blocks palette was introduced in AutoCAD 2020, and it has been enhanced in the 2021 version again. Now the user can sync the block that they are recently working on to the cloud storage location and access them through the AutoCAD web app or through their desktop/laptop.

The Libraries tab, formerly labeled the Other Drawings tab, can show the five most recently used block libraries. Also, you can choose a drawing file, any stored block definition or folder and insert it as a block into a drawing that you are working on.

Source: Autodesk

Drawing History

For pretty much all of AutoCAD’s existence, when you save a file a previous version of that file is saved as a .BAK file. In the new release, when a file/drawing is saved to Dropbox, Box or OneDrive, these cloud storage platforms retain previous versions of the .DWG file. The Drawing History of a file then allows the user to compare the current version of a file.drawing with previous versions.

When a drawing is opened from one of these cloud platforms, a Drawing History palette can be seen listing all of the available previous versions. These versions can then be filtered based on various factors like the name of the person who saved the file, the date, or a minimum time increment can be set between versions. The Drawing Compare tool can then be utilized to contrast one version of the drawing to another.

The comparison tools included in the 2012 release are almost identical to those in the 2020 version. The toggling on and off, changing the display of revision clouds and swapping the drawing order are common to both releases. The user can also bring objects from a compared drawing and generate comparison results in a new drawing.

The drawing history function only works with one of the compatible cloud storage options, and is not available for files that are stored locally. Each cloud storage provider sets their own limit of drawing revisions that they will store and determines their expiration dates.

Source: Autodesk


Every release of AutoCAD will come with its own performance upgrades, as is the nature of a new release – it has to keep up with the rapid advancements in technology in today’s world. In this release, Autodesk have said that the Graphics Performance has improved, with faster panning, zooming and regeneration included in the new software.

Save and install times are also said to be faster, with AutoCAD leveraging the ability to call on multiple cores within its machine’s processor. This results in the faster operation of AutoCAD and the aforementioned panning, zooming and regeneration becoming smoother.

Xref Compare

Xref compare is basically a drawing compare function that was introduced way back in AutoCAD 2019, but now in this new release, Xrefs have been added to the drawing compare tool. When an Xref (external reference) changes, there is no need to reload the Xref, AutoCAD now has the ability to recognise when an external reference has changed and will display said changes in the current drawing.

The components that have changed in the Xref show up as red, and the new components show up as green, the existing parts of the Xref that have not changed stay a grey colour. All of these colour choices are configurable in AutoCAD. The only real new feature added to Xref Compare is a tool used to toggle the object display in the drawing’s viewport. The Xref Compare tool can also be accessed from the External References palette.

Other Improvements

Break, Extend and Trim

One of the other improvements made to AutoCAD 2021 that were not mentioned by Autodesk is enhancements made to the break, extend and trim functions. Instead of selecting the boundaries for the Extend and Trim commands, now the quick mode intuitively selects all of the potential boundaries by default, in order to make both of these commands much faster.

The new Break at Point command is also new in AutoCAD 2021, so opposed to the previous method of selecting the first point to break, the user can now use the command to select the object and break it at a specified point. This new Break at Point feature on the ribbon can be replicated by repeatedly pressing the ENTER button.


The MEASUREGEOM command’s quick option was introduced in AutoCAD 2020, it now features the ability to extract perimeters and areas from inside of a 2D enclosed shape.

Upon clicking an enclosed area, the inside lights up in green and AutoCAD displays the perimeter and area of the shape. When the cursor is moved from the shape, the information is no longer displayed.

This new feature allows area calculations to be performed much faster. The user can now hold SHIFT and click multiple areas and have the perimeter and area instantly of all of the shapes.

Have you downloaded the new AutoCAD 2021 software? What has been your experience with it? We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments down below!



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