Running AutoCAD on Chromebook

When someone says, “Chromebook,” what’s the first thing that comes to mind? You may simply think of a low-cost, ultra-portable device that runs a streamlined, web-dependent operating system. Perfect for users with light workloads, but it’s no desktop Mac, Linux or Windows replacement, you might say. The reality, however, cloud’t be more different. 

Chromebooks and their operating system, Chrome OS, have a lot more functionality than many give them credit for (although that’s a perception that’s changing quickly). You don’t need a desktop OS and a beefy AMD Ryzen or Intel CPU to support heavy workloads. With the right tools, Chromebooks are actually capable of running demanding Windows applications like AutoCAD and SolidWorks to perform even the most compute-intensive tasks such as 3D modeling.

Virtual App Delivery (VAD) is one of those tools. Unlike legacy virtualization solutions that try to replicate the entire Microsoft Windows desktop on a remote client, VAD takes a much more streamlined, platform-agnostic approach. It avoids the usual cost and complexity typically associated with VDI while also extending support to include Chromebooks as well as Android smartphones and iPhones.

A Virtual App Delivery solution like Cameyo enables users to access software titles like Excel or AutoCAD on their devices via an HTTPS-encrypted HTML5 web browser session. Illinois’ Community High School District 99 (CSD99) is just one example of an organization leveraging Cameyo to provide its students with the AutoCAD Suite as well as the Adobe Creative Suite on their Google Chromebooks. (Read the case study here.)

Not only did the district’s IT team have Cameyo “up and running within a few hours,” it also provided them with a future-proof productivity platform. According to Rod Russeau, Director of Technology & Information Services for CSD99, Cameyo “really opens up our options for the future in terms of the deployment of end-user devices, and the potential reduction of expenses and the overall management effort associated with them.”

How to Run AutoCAD on Chromebook

Now that you know Cameyo makes it possible to access the full desktop version of AutoCAD on a Chromebook, let’s look at a step-by-step tutorial that shows how quick and easy it is to set up and use.

As an admin:

  1. Assuming you’ve already configured Cameyo (don’t worry, that only takes a few minutes), log into the portal and connect to your server as an admin.
  2. Using the convenient dialog box, download or drag-and-drop the AutoCAD installer (available from Autodesk) from your computer.
  3. Install AutoCAD and configure it as you’d like.
  4. Select the AutoCAD executable file to publish in the assistant window.
  5. AutoCAD should now appear in the “Publish Your Apps” window. Select it there and click “Apply”. This final step makes the software available to users.

As a user:

  1. Once you’ve logged into the Cameyo online portal, which can be accessed with Google Chrome or any other modern web browser, click “Play” under AutoCAD as in the screenshot above. This simple action launches the full desktop version of AutoCAD — not the AutoCAD web app or a stripped-down Chrome OS version. 
  2. Alternatively, you can skip the “Play” step and access AutoCAD directly through a URL provided by your IT admin. Some users like to bookmark these URLs to create quick shortcuts to their favorite apps.
  3. Better still is the ability to access AutoCAD as a Progressive Web App (PWA) through Cameyo. When users go to the AutoCAD app in Cameyo, they’ll see an install button appear in their browser address bar. When they click, AutoCAD (or any Windows app) is installed as a PWA and appears in their taskbar. When they click it, the app runs in its own window instead of a browser tab, making it look and feel as though the app is installed locally. 

That’s it. You’re now working seamlessly with powerful computer-aided design software on your Chromebook, and it didn’t take any command line magic or cumbersome workarounds.

No Windows Desktop Required

This kind of simplicity is only possible through Virtual App Delivery. Other methods of getting AutoCAD to run on Chromebooks involve using Parallels Desktop, which is a full-scale Windows container. In other words, users need to emulate an entire operating system just to open and work with AutoCAD .dwg files.

The obvious advantage of Cameyo over VDI-style virtualization approaches is that it provides a “cloud desktop” that complements the streamlined philosophy of Chromebooks. Cameyo doesn’t try to sideline Chrome OS by running Windows on top of it. It leverages the inherent strengths of Chrome OS to access Windows applications.

To that end, Cameyo doesn’t come with stringent system requirements and other caveats of Windows virtualization. Parallels Desktop, for example, calls for a Chromebook with an Intel Core i5/i7 or AMD Ryzen 5/7 as well as (at least) 8GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD. That can exclude users with older Chromebooks, and it definitely leaves out Android and iOS devices. Cameyo works with any device that can run an HTML5 web browser.

Realizing the Full Potential of Your Chromebooks

For years, IT departments have often felt like they had to source the most expensive laptops from industry-leading brands like Asus, Acer, HP, Lenovo or Samsung if they wanted users to have a combination of portability and power. But entire fleets of expensive hardware weren’t enough. To equip their users with business-critical software beyond Powerpoint or Dropbox, those departments also had to manage Microsoft Windows installs on top of that.

In the words of CSD99’s IT staff, Cameyo “levels the playing field” between Chromebooks and costly Windows laptops. And that’s not just for school districts or college campuses. Even architectural and engineering firms with their highly specialized software needs use Cameyo to capitalize on the affordability and manageability of Chromebooks without sacrificing desktop-quality performance.

Additionally, Cameyo’s anywhere, any-device application access pairs perfectly with Chrome OS for secure remote work. Cameyo uses several technologies to harden security while enhancing ease of use, which includes eliminating the risk and complexity of VPNs. As a result, remote Chromebook users can quickly get to work with everything from office docs to AutoCAD renders, wherever they happen to be.

To start using AutoCAD (and all your other business-critical Windows apps) on your Chromebooks today, simply sign up for your free trial of Cameyo. Then follow the quick tutorial above to give all your Chromebook users fast, secure access to Windows desktop apps. And if you’d like more info about Cameyo before testing it out, feel free to request a demo.