With so much of architectures workflow now done on computers, technical proficiency is a top priority for professionals looking to stay competitive in the industry. However, deciding which programs to learn can be a tricky process.
Most architects around the world are faced with two main options, AutoCAD and Revit. In this AutoCAD vs Revit article we take you through both programs to help you understand the similarities, differences, and advantages of each.
Autocad and Revit – Who are they?
AutoCAD has been around since 1982, establishing itself as a pioneer and market leader in drafting software across multiple different industries.
Over the past four decades, it has been updated and packed with numerous new features, including cloud storage and mobile compatibility. It is available for Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS.
As the go-to drafting software for most of the world, the program shines as a digital counterpart to traditional drafting with pencil and paper. As such, AutoCAD features tools that make it easier to draw, including lines, shapes, hatch patterns, and layers. It is also capable of creating 3D structures.
AutoCAD can be used to make complete and precise drawings for architecture and construction, but the software is generally unaware of the contents of the drawing.
AutoCAD does not recognize when the lines form a wall, or when the walls form a floor plan. It is simply a geometric representation of a drawing, that can be polished, plotted, and printed.
The program is used all over the world by architects, engineers, designers, and manufacturers.
- Widely used
- Highly compatible file type (.dwg)
- Powerful layer management
- Capable of producing detailed drawings
- Packed with features and settings
- Mainstream program for 2D plans
- Limited 3D functionality
- Drawing and object information require manual input
- Updates to the drawing must be repeated for each affected view
- Learning curve for interface and keyboard shortcuts
- Files and layer changes are not fully-synchronized
- Independent views leave room for discrepancies
Revit was conceived to solve a problem – the time-consuming task of revisions with standard DWG drawings. The name Revit is short for “Revise It”, which was the original and primary goal of the software.
It was first introduced in 2000 by Revit Technology Corporation, advertised as a parametric modeling tool specifically designed for architects and building professionals.
From the very beginning, Revit allowed people to design and document a building with a three-dimensional model, controlled by parameters and loaded with information. This later became known as Building Information Modeling (BIM).
As one of the pioneers of BIM for architecture, Revit quickly gained popularity and was acquired by Autodesk in 2002. After the acquisition, Revit was integrated into their industry-leading product lineup alongside AutoCAD, 3ds Max, Maya, and more.
Today, Revit is used worldwide as one of the most popular programs for design, coordination, and documentation.
It is primarily used by architects, engineers, and planners, and it supports a wide range of multidisciplinary collaboration tools. As of writing, Revit is only available for computers running Windows.
- Fully-integrated BIM program
- Widely used
- Seamless worksharing and collaboration
- Revisions are made easier and faster
- Tags and titles update across entire project
- Limited compatibility with other BIM programs
- Limited families in default library
- Parameters can be restrictive for custom design elements
- Learning curve for properties and workflow
- Costly compared to CAD programs
- Not compatible with Mac or mobile
Understanding the differences between BIM and CAD
Simply put, CAD for architecture is focused on creating drawings, while BIM is geared more towards creating the building model, with many of the drawings automatically generated from it.
Revit and AutoCAD are fundamentally different programs, and to further understand their comparison, let’s discuss the differences between BIM and CAD.
What is BIM?
BIM stands for Building Information Modeling, and it involves creating a unified 3D model with corresponding 2D views, embedded properties, and component information.
Introduced more recently than CAD, BIM is at the forefront of building technology making drafting, modeling, and construction more efficient. BIM files can carry information about spaces, materials, fixtures, appliances, and more.
This makes it easier to prepare material takeoffs and estimates, and it helps automate the process of making schedules and spreadsheets. Essentially, BIM models are intelligent files programmed to make architects’ lives easier.
With BIM, project teams can work on several things at once, with very little room for unseen mistakes or errors.
For example, if an architecture firm works with an engineering firm, and both companies use Revit, the models can be seamlessly integrated to more accurately design structural and MEP systems in the building.
This helps identify clashes, conflicts, and potential solutions long before construction.
This does not mean that all BIM files need to be highly detailed in 3D with integrated engineering works. BIM can be used for architectural projects of all sizes, for different phases and in varying levels of detail.
This is known as Level of Development (LOD), the BIM standard for how detailed a project is modeled. You can use these BIM levels from conceptual design to scheduling, fabrication, and even as-built models for building management.
In recent years, BIM has emerged as the market leader for architecture production software. Popular BIM programs include Revit, ArchiCAD, Vectorworks, and Chief Architect.
What is CAD?
CAD means Computer-Aided Design and Drafting, and this refers to the digital production of drawings and designs. With CAD, software is used as a replacement for traditional drafting methods, and plans are represented by a series of geometric lines and patterns.
CAD has been around much longer than BIM, and it is more universal for different industries. It can be used for architecture, manufacturing, city planning, 3D printing, or even the military.
In architecture, CAD can also be used for early drawings, small details, or large plans, when geometric drafting may be more suitable than BIM.
Although BIM has taken the lead in most firms, CAD still plays a big part in many company’s workflows. This is largely because the DWG file format continues to be a universal language for transmitting and receiving workable 2D files. Some commonly used CAD programs include AutoCAD, CorelCAD, Solidworks, and FreeCAD.
Can AutoCAD and Revit be used together?
AutoCAD and Revit are often viewed as competing products, and although they have plenty of key differences, they can complement each other when used together. AutoCAD and Revit are regularly used in unison to complete different stages of a project.
AutoCAD can be used to create base plans and different iterations of the design, while Revit can be used to maintain the updated BIM model for the final product. Meanwhile, CAD files can be imported or linked to Revit for things like furniture layouts, equipment outlines, and reference files.
Additionally, when BIM services are not yet viable for a project, architects can use AutoCAD drawings to win clients without making work-intensive Revit models.
Autocad vs Revit – What is the difference between them?
Prices & Licensing
AutoCAD and Revit have both shifted to subscription-based licenses as of late, making it more accessible to get the full version. Both programs offer a free trial, as well as financing, a 30-day money-back guarantee, and occasional discounts on products.
Students and educators can also get free one-year educational licenses, which are renewable as long as you remain eligible. Here are the subscription prices for AutoCAD and Revit, with Revit costing over 40% more.
- Monthly subscription at $235
- Yearly subscription at $1,865
- 3-Year subscription at $5,315
- Monthly subscription at $335
- Yearly subscription at $2,675
- 3-Year subscription at $7,625
Winner: AutoCAD is the more affordable option.
Autodesk has an active online community with numerous forums, tutorials, tips, and tricks from experts around the world. Many people find solutions from other members in the forums, and these online groups help developers identify problems to address in future updates.
Those with active subscriptions gain access to Autodesk Support Specialists who can help directly through a call, online chat, or email. For more complicated concerns, Autodesk can help through remote desktop assistance, providing secure hands-on troubleshooting directly to your computer.
Winner: Draw. As both programs are Autodesk products, they get the same integrated customer support.
When choosing which software to learn, one often overlooked aspect is what it takes to actually run these programs.
It’s important to know what kind of system you need at home or in the office to operate these programs smoothly. Here are the system requirements for the latest versions of AutoCAD and Revit:
AutoCAD 2023 (Windows):
Operating System: 64-bit Windows 11, or Windows 10 ver.1809 and above
Processor: Intel or AMD 2.5-2.9GHz
Memory: 8GB RAM
Graphics Card: 1GB GPU with 29GB/s Bandwith and DirectX 11
Storage: At least 10GB Disk Space
AutoCAD 2023 (Mac):
Operating System: macOS Monterey v12, Big Sur v11, or Catalina v10.15
Processor: Intel i-series or Apple M-series CPU
Memory: 4GB RAM
Graphics Card: Mac native graphics
Storage: At least 5GB Disk Space
Revit 2023 (Minimum):
Operating System: 64-bit Windows 10 or above
Processor: Intel or AMD 2.5GHz
Memory: 8GB RAM
Graphics Card: 4GB of video memory with 24-bit color
Storage: At least 30GB Disk Space
Winner: AutoCAD. It is available for more operating systems and platforms, and it requires lower specs to operate.
Features & Functions
AutoCAD has a wide variety of tools for creating geometry in the model space.
The basic functions are line, polyline, shapes, and modifications, along with annotations and basic 3D functions. AutoCAD has extensive layer controls and detailed property management to change how the drawing appears both on screen and on plotted paper.
Many of AutoCAD’s functions are accessed through keyboard shortcuts.
Revit features menus that are more straightforward for creating a building, with dedicated tools for building walls, doors, windows, and other elements. It comes pre-loaded with different families to choose from, and all elements placed in the model are accounted for.
When making things like walls, floors, and roofs, Revit recognizes their relationships and adjusts elements accordingly. Elements are controlled by user-defined constraints and properties, and Revit includes native support for parametric and generative modeling with Dynamo.
The entire Revit workflow is 3D-centric, and allied professionals can work together seamlessly.
Winner: Revit offers superior features with the latest functions for design and development.
With AutoCAD, drawings can be made freely without restrictions, and designers have the flexibility to try out different things without having to worry about errors in BIM elements.
Much of the drawing is done manually line by line, but users can get around the manual aspects of the program by making use of an AutoCAD template. Templates provide you with readily available elements and settings to streamline the drafting process and to maintain consistency across drawings.
Revit requires a more deliberate approach, but almost all elements are reflected in 2D and 3D with multiple associated views. The icon-based interface makes it easier to get started with, and hovering over buttons can reveal previews, visual guides, and additional information.
With Revit, several users can work on the same file at once through worksharing. Worksharing is the most common collaboration tool used in offices to create Revit models in a timely manner.
After working on the file, users can synchronize their changes to the Central File and all edits will take effect automatically. The central file is typically stored on the office network.
Winner: Revit is more intuitive for the architecture workflow.
Use & Applications
AutoCAD is useful for coordinating 2D plans, and this is often done by overlaying files with previous versions to compare and adjust. Architectural plans, landscape designs, and engineering plans can be overlaid with XRefs, which are linked references that can be updated externally.
The latest versions of AutoCAD also allow for the import and viewing of PDF files, making it easier for low-memory drawings to be shared between stakeholders.
As previously mentioned, one of Revit’s most attractive features is its ability to have all engineering systems modeled and integrated within the same environment as the architecture.
This means BIM models in Revit are as close to the final product as you can get, and designers can identify and address issues as they arise to avoid bigger problems on site.
Many drawings that don’t require a 3D model are still being done in AutoCAD, like enlarged sections, construction details, cabinetry layouts, and more. AutoCAD is ideal for creating detail drawings quickly and accurately.
Most engineering firms and contractors have access to AutoCAD, and many still use it as their default drafting tool, so CAD files can be opened promptly if any issues are encountered during construction.
With Revit, more time is required to make the model accurate, but the production time can ultimately save countless hours further down the line. In some cases, designs require the accuracy of BIM to simulate the cutting-edge technologies and building systems being used.
With kinetic facades, for example, exterior systems use mechanical elements, and each piece needs to be fabricated with very little room for error. Revit allows these systems to be modeled and analyzed with 2D, 3D, and data-driven accuracy.
It can also be used to measure energy performance and building efficiency.
Winner: Revit has more up-to-date applications for the architecture industry.
AutoCAD and Revit both rely heavily on the CPU for good performance. Due to the nature of the programs, they depend less on the amount of threads in the CPU, and benefit more from the clock speed of individual cores.
A higher clock speed in GHz means a generally smoother workflow in both programs. Graphics cards only come into use when working on graphically intensive tasks, such as plans with heavy hatch patterns, 3D views with shadows, or 3D rendering.
Revit is more demanding on both the CPU and GPU, because of its integrated 2D and 3D functionality.
When it comes to system memory (RAM), more is always welcome. Higher RAM allows for more multitasking, and the ability to handle larger project files.
The rule of thumb for Revit is that the amount of RAM should be around 20 times the size of a model to be able to handle it smoothly. AutoCAD can run with lower amounts of RAM, but both programs become sluggish as file sizes get larger.
Winner: AutoCAD is lighter and more manageable.
AutoCAD’s DWG format can be saved and imported into nearly every architecture program on the market, including Sketchup, Illustrator, Revit, and ArchiCAD.
The versatile DWG format is interoperable in both 2D and 3D with the majority of architecture softwares, without the need for conversion or geometry loss. Likewise, AutoCAD can read and edit files from a broad spectrum of softwares, including GIS and geomapping data.
Revit’s RVT file type, however, is generally limited to Revit, with the exception of certain partner products. Additionally, RVT files are not backward-compatible with previous versions.
Once you save a file using a new version of Revit, it can no longer be opened in older versions. If you need to transmit 2D drawings from Revit, you’ll need to export views or sheets to DWG or PDF. If you need to generate a 3D model from Revit, you’ll likely need to make an IFC (International Foundation Class) file.
Generating an IFC file is effortless and can be done from the File dropdown menu. IFC files are platform-neutral, and are typically used for checking and review of BIM models.
They can be opened in all BIM programs, but they do not retain the complete functions of the original Revit file. Other 3D model formats such as DXF or FBX can also be exported, or you can use Autodesk FormIt to manipulate 3D elements throughout the production process.
Many architecture firms work with plans and massing in other programs before beginning BIM production to avoid unnecessary hiccups in the design process.
An increasingly popular workflow is to use Rhino for early design and model exploration, then to bring it into Revit as the project matures for refinement and documentation. Revit can import Rhino and Sketchup models to be used as the underlying massing for the BIM model.
Winner: AutoCAD is more compatible with other softwares.
AutoCAD has been around for much longer than Revit, but you can count on both to stick around for many years to come.
Autodesk has positioned its products to remain at the forefront of building development software, with continued updates, improvements, and innovations to ensure responsive and resilient programs for everyone in the industry.
That being said, Revit has the upper hand in long-term reliability, as AutoCAD gradually falls behind with its limitations.
The world is becoming more and more dependent on information, intelligent software, and efficient processes, which suggests BIM could become the standard for architecture and construction.
With Revit and other BIM softwares continually improving, adding new features and becoming more user-friendly, CAD softwares could eventually become obsolete.
Winner: Revit is poised to lead the industry moving forward.
AutoCAD and Revit are the go-to programs for architecture and construction, but many people don’t have the need for all of the included features. Some professionals find themselves using only the basic, most essential tools in the software for their project needs.
This is where LT versions come in. Autodesk offers LT or “Lite” versions of both programs for those who want a lower-cost solution with the same core functions.
AutoCAD LT was first introduced in November 1993, to offer an entry-level CAD package for a more affordable price. Due to popular demand, Revit LT was eventually released for the same reasons.
These versions have reduced capabilities, but they still provide enough functionality to complete projects at an accessible price range. Here are some of the main differences between the full versions and LT versions.
AutoCAD vs AutoCAD LT
AutoCAD LT has the same drawing toolsets as the full AutoCAD package, complete with Xrefs, annotations, batch printing, and block libraries.
The LT version provides users with virtually the same drawing experience, only leaving out features such as 3D modeling, automation, and certain collaboration tools. Pre-installed block and object libraries are also less extensive in the LT version.
The complete list of feature differences can be found here.
AutoCAD LT is perfect for those who use the program exclusively for 2D drafting and documentation.
- Monthly subscription at $235
- Yearly subscription at $1,865
- 3-Year subscription at $5,315
- Monthly subscription at $60
- Yearly subscription at $460
- 3-Year subscription at $1,310
Revit vs Revit LT
The LT version of Revit is a simplified 3D BIM tool for architectural production. It features the same architectural modeling tools, along with some basic structural tools for slabs, foundations, columns and beams.
Some of its limitations include trusses, steel connections, MEP systems, in-place modeling, and FormIt support. It also lacks multi-user collaboration and performance analysis. You can view the full comparison list here.
Revit LT is a practical BIM option for architects with private practices or independent projects.
- Monthly subscription at $335
- Yearly subscription at $2,675
- 3-Year subscription at $7,625
- Monthly subscription at $60
- Yearly subscription at $495
- 3-Year subscription at $1,410
AutoCAD vs Revit – Which should you learn?
AutoCAD and Revit are two of the most widely-used programs in architecture, and as such, they’ve become household names in firms all over the world.
In this roundup, we pitted them against each other head to head to determine which program is the best option for architects today. Based on our results, the programs faired in a draw with 5 wins each, so for the tie-breaker, we considered one final question:
Can one program perform the tasks of the other, and vice versa?
Revit offers the ability to draft in 2D and 3D, but AutoCAD does not have the ability to make integrated BIM models. This makes Revit the overall winner, and it’s also the reason why Revit is taking the lead in building development software.
With Revit, you can immediately begin creating, with unlimited 2D drawings associated with the same model. Although Revit is the victor, AutoCAD is not likely to leave anytime soon.
The two programs can and should be used in harmony, tackling different tasks that are best-suited for each. No matter which program you choose, it’s always good to stay updated on the latest technologies and trends in the industry.
FAQ’s about AutoCAD vs Revit
Is Revit harder than CAD?
It’s difficult to say whether Revit is harder than CAD because it depends on a variety of factors, such as the user’s previous experience and familiarity with each program, as well as the specific tasks being performed.
In general, Revit is considered to be a more powerful and complex software than CAD, and it has a steeper learning curve. Revit is primarily used for Building Information Modeling (BIM) and is designed to integrate various aspects of building design, such as architecture, engineering, and construction.
As such, Revit requires a greater level of expertise and understanding of the building process and workflow.
CAD, on the other hand, is a more general-purpose design software that can be used for a variety of industries, including mechanical, electrical, and architectural design. It may be easier to learn for beginners, but the complexity of the tasks it can handle may depend on the specific application being used.
Ultimately, the difficulty of using Revit or CAD will depend on the user’s experience, training, and the specific project requirements.
Can Revit replace AutoCAD?
Revit and AutoCAD are two different software tools that serve different purposes. While both Revit and AutoCAD are used for 2D and 3D modeling, they have distinct features and functions that make them unique.
AutoCAD is a general-purpose design software that has been used for many years by various industries, including architecture, engineering, and construction. It is a powerful tool for creating 2D drawings and 3D models, and it has a vast library of customizable design components.
On the other hand, Revit is a specialized Building Information Modeling (BIM) software that is specifically designed for architectural, engineering, and construction professionals. Revit provides a more comprehensive workflow for designing and building complex structures.
It has a centralized database that stores all project information, including 3D models, annotations, and schedules, allowing for easier collaboration and communication between team members.
While Revit and AutoCAD can be used together, they cannot completely replace each other. AutoCAD remains a valuable tool for creating 2D drawings, while Revit is used for creating 3D BIM models that can be used for construction and facility management.
In some cases, Revit models can be exported to AutoCAD for use in 2D drawings. Therefore, it is essential to understand the strengths and weaknesses of each software tool and choose the one that best fits the specific project needs.
Is Revit better than AutoCAD Architecture?
In terms of which software is better, it depends on the specific needs of the project and the user’s preferences. Revit is generally considered to be more advanced and comprehensive than AutoCAD Architecture in terms of BIM capabilities and collaboration features. However, AutoCAD Architecture may be a better choice for small-scale projects or users who prefer a more traditional CAD-based workflow.
Ultimately, both software tools have their strengths and can be used together or independently to create high-quality architectural designs.
For a deeper dive into this, the below breakdown from VinZero, discusses why they think it is:
Do civil engineers use AutoCAD or Revit?
Both AutoCAD and Revit are used by civil engineers, but the choice between the two will depend on the specific tasks and workflows involved in the project.
AutoCAD is a widely used software for civil engineering design and drafting. It is a powerful tool for creating 2D drawings and 3D models of civil engineering projects, including infrastructure, roadways, and buildings. AutoCAD is also highly customizable, allowing users to develop and integrate their own tools and plugins.
Revit, on the other hand, is a specialized BIM software designed for building design and construction projects, including civil engineering projects. It offers a comprehensive workflow for creating intelligent 3D models with all the necessary data for construction, such as building systems, materials, and quantities. Revit is also highly collaborative, allowing multiple team members to work on the same project simultaneously, which can help to reduce errors and save time.
In some cases, civil engineers may use both AutoCAD and Revit in their workflow. For example, AutoCAD can be used to create 2D plans and profiles for civil engineering projects, while Revit can be used to create 3D models for detailed building design and construction coordination.
Ultimately, the choice between AutoCAD and Revit will depend on the specific needs of the project and the preferences of the civil engineer or the engineering firm. Both tools have their strengths and can be used independently or together to create high-quality civil engineering designs.