CoAutoCAD:  converting single-user AutoCAD into a real-time collaborative CAD tool

The goal of our research is to develop innovative technologies that can be used to convert existing and new single-user applications into advanced multi-user collaborative applications. With such technologies, the myriad of single-user applications could be re-purposed as collaborative systems, thus significantly increasing the availability and improving the usability of collaborative applications. To end-users, this would mean that not only would they be able to collaborate, they would be able to collaborate with the applications with which they are familiar. To software vendors, this would mean adding new values to existing single-user products, and creating new multi-user collaborative products for existing and new customers. To enterprises, this would mean that not only their capital investment on information systems and tools would be protected, but also the skills and knowledge of using these tools would be leveraged to increase the competitiveness of the business.

This project builds on and extends the Transparent Adaptation (TA) technology from prior CoWord and CoPowerPoint projects  (http:///  We focus on researching advanced collaboration technologies for support multiple users to jointly design shared digital media over the Internet, and on converting a mainstream Computer-Aided Design (CAD)  tool - Autodesk AutoCAD  - into a real-time collaborative CAD tool, named CoAutoCAD. The TA-based CoAutoCAD architecture consists of three components,  as shown below:



1.      Single-user Application (SA) provides conventional single-user AutoCAD functionalities and interface features,  but has no knowledge about multi-user collaboration.

2.      Collaboration Adaptor (CA), which bridges the single-user application with the underlying GCE (see below). The CA component uses the SA API (Application Programming Interface) to augment the SA with collaboration capabilities without accessing the source code of the SA.  

3.      Generic Collaboration Engine (GCE), which provides application-independent collaboration capabilities in consistency maintenance, concurrency control, group awareness, interaction control, etc. The GCE component can be shared by a wide range of  TA-based collaborative applications.


Based on this TA architecture and a reusable GCE component, the task of converting a new single-user application is reduced into the task of researching, designing and implementing a new CA for this new application.  For more detailed information on TA and GCE,  please read the following article:


Chengzheng Sun, Steven Xia, David Sun, David Chen. Haifeng Shen, Wentong Cai: "Transparent adaptation of single-user applications for multi-user real-time collaboration,"  ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction,  Vol. 13, No.4, December 2006, pp.531-582.  In ACM Digital Library.  (please contact us if you cannot access this article from the ACM digital library).


This project is partially funded by

SERC Grant (P0520094).


Project leader:              Professor Sun Chengzheng  

        School of Computer Engineering  

        Nanyang Technological University 



Project members:        Assistant Professor Shen Haifeng   (SCE, NTU)

            Dr Steven Qian Xia   (SCE, NTU)


Project Officer:         Ms Agustina

      School of Computer Engineering  

      Nanyang Technological University 


PhD student:               Mr ZHENG Yang

       School of Computer Engineering  

       Nanyang Technological University