Developing for Autodesk desktop software? Here’s why you should care about Forge DevCon (and Autodesk University)

September 12, 2017

You’ve been developing solutions based on Autodesk desktop software for years. Business is booming. Your customers love your products. Why should you care about what’s going on at Forge DevCon?

Or …

You’re a desktop software developer. You have plenty of work stacked up for your company’s next software release. How can you persuade your boss to send you to Las Vegas for a week?

Hopefully, this blog post will give you the answers …

What’s this Forge thing, again?

If you’ve been paying any attention at all to Autodesk desktop software releases over the last few years, you’ll have noticed that:

  1. Autodesk now has a large portfolio of web (SaaS) applications
  2. Autodesk ‘desktop’ software is increasingly making use of web services and integrations with the Autodesk web applications to deliver new features and increase customer productivity.

Putting it simply, Forge is Autodesk’s platform of web services APIs and web components that you can use to extend your desktop software in the same way – or to build your own web applications that integrate with the Autodesk web application products. Think of the Forge APIs as Lego blocks – take the ones you need to build your product, leave the rest on the table. 

Need to present your customer with an interactive 3D model of your design? Easy. Want to generate a Bill of Materials from a Fusion or Inventor model? No problem. Need to integrate BIM 360 into your own workflows? Done! 

The Forge APIs are the same APIs that Autodesk use in our own products, so you’re drinking the same champagne as we do.

Ok, but why will coming to Forge DevCon help me?

There’s a steep learning curve to climb if you’re relatively new to web development (or even if you know web development, but are new to Forge). Coming to Forge DevCon is a great way to get help to quickly climb that curve, by:

  • Asking for 1-1 help and advice from our team of Forge experts at the Forge Answer Bar.
  • Working through self-paced tutorials, or working on your Forge projects with help from an expert at our Forge DevLab.
  • Learning Autodesk’s strategy for Forge from our Senior Executives and Product Managers.
  • Attending in-depth classes on the details of particular Forge APIs (including soon to be launched APIs), and also classes specifically for desktop developers migrating to web programming.
  • Listening to early adopters explain how they’ve used Forge to create new businesses or transform their existing products.
  • Meeting members of the Forge team and fellow Forge explorers like yourself.

I’m an AutoCAD developer. How will it help me?

Well, I already mentioned that we’ll have several classes on migrating your desktop (e.g. .NET) development skills to the web, including how to use the Forge APIs to create ‘hybrid’ add-ins.

If you’re developing products that enhance collaboration, then you can learn how to use the Forge Viewer to help your customers share and markup DWGs, or to save their work (and your application specific data) to A360.

Or maybe you’d like to batch process DWGs using the Design Automation for AutoCAD API. You can even use the Design Automation API to extract your custom application data (for example Xdata or Xrecords) so it can be displayed by the Forge Viewer when it loads your DWG.

And what is this Project Fabric that the AutoCAD team have been working on?

What about Revit developers?

Our Revit (or more generally BIM) customers have proven themselves time and again to be keen early adopters of new technology – Dynamo, C4R, BIM360, IoT, … 

As well as integrating your Revit add-ins with web-based workflows, you can enhance your add-ins to access and store data in our BIM 360 products, or even to extend BIM 360 or integrate it with other web applications. (And publish those apps in the BIM 360 Apps Store).

Talking about Revit add-ins, at Forge DevCon, you’ll get a first look at our Design Automation for Revit API. Using the same API framework as Design Automation for AutoCAD, you’ll soon be able to port your Revit add-ins to run automatically on a ‘headless’ Revit in the cloud. 

You’ll also hear lots of case studies in the AEC/BIM area – spanning design, planning, construction and building operations – that will give you ideas for your own applications.

Inventor? Fusion?

Just like AutoCAD and Revit, you can easily enhance your Fusion or Inventor add-ins by linking them to your own or Autodesk’s web services. And just like AutoCAD and Revit, our Design Automation API allows you to automate running your Inventor add-ins in a ‘headless’ Inventor in the cloud. 

Being a cloud-based application, Fusion 360 lends itself particularly well to the hybrid add-in approach, and the Fusion API and customer base are growing quickly, so perhaps it time you investigated porting your Inventor add-ins to Fusion 360. Or you can access and query data from Fusion 360 designs stored in Fusion Team.

We also have plenty of customer show cases and panel sessions, where you can use the lessons learned by our Forge early adopters to help you architect and build your own web application workflows.

And what about Autodesk University?

Forge DevCon runs over two days during AU Las Vegas week (November 13th-16th). Monday 13th is a dedicated Forge DevCon day, when we have 25 Forge-focused classes available for you, as well as the Forge Village (networking/expo area), Forge Answer Bar and AR/VR Playground. Tuesday 14th is a joint Forge/AU day, where another 23 Forge DevCon classes will also be open to AU attendees. Tuesday is also Forge DevLab Day. DevLab is an informal workshop where you can drop is for as long as you like to ask questions, work on your projects, or work through some self-paced tutorials on Forge APIs, web development or machine learning – all with the help of experts from the Forge team.

But why go home then? The Autodesk University conference (Tuesday 14th – Thursday 16th) offers a huge expo hall, parties, and hundreds of classes aimed at all levels of expertise and covering almost all Autodesk (desktop and web) products – including a full track of ‘Software Development’ classes.

You had me at ‘DevLab’. Where do I sign up?

There are a few ways you can get a pass to Forge DevCon Las Vegas:

  • Purchase a ticket to Forge DevCon through the AU registration process.
    • You can select the combined ticket which includes Forge DevCon for only $1,845 Early Bird / $2,175 General.
    • Or purchase Forge DevCon for standalone for $295.
  • Already have a ticket to AU and want to add Forge DevCon? No problem.
    • Forge DevCon access can be added to the AU full price ticket, anytime for only $95.
    • You can call customer service at call 888-371-1722 (toll-free in the United States) or 415-446-7717.
    • Or click to send an email to customer service autodeskuniversity@autodeskevents.com.

I don’t live in the US, and I don’t plan to visit. Where else can I learn about Forge?

Although Forge DevCon at Las Vegas is by far our largest Forge conference, we have several other Forge DevCons around the world, and associated with local Autodesk University events:

We will also have a Forge booth at Autodesk University Bangalore.

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Stephen Preston has been with Autodesk since 2000, focusing on providing programming support, consulting, training and evangelism to external developers.