AutoLISP is a dialect of Lisp programming language built specifically for use with the full version of AutoCAD and its derivatives like Autodesk Map 3D and Autodesk Architectural Desktop. Neither the application programming interface nor the interpreter to execute AutoLISP code are included in the AutoCAD LT product line.


AutoLisp is a small, dynamically scoped Lisp. It lacks modern Lisp features such as a macro system or let bindings. Aside from the core language, most of the primitive functions are for geometry or the manipulation of graphical entities in AutoCAD. The properties of these graphical entities are revealed to AutoLISP as association lists in which AutoCAD "group codes" are paired with values that indicate properties such as points, radii, colors, layers, linetypes, etc.

AutoLisp code can interact with the user through primitive functions that allow the user to input points, selection sets, numbers and other data. AutoLisp also has a built in GUI mini-language, the Dialog Control Language, for creating small interactive forms within AutoCAD.


AutoLisp was derived from a very early version of XLISP, which was created by David Betz. The language was added to AutoCAD in Version 2.18 in January 1986, and continued to be enhanced in successive releases up to Release 12 in June 1992. After that, its development was neglected by Autodesk in favor of more fashionable development environments. However, it has stubbornly remained AutoCAD's primary user customization language.

Vital-LISP, a considerably enhanced version of AutoLISP including an IDE, debugger, and compiler, was developed and sold by third party developer Basis Software. Vital LISP was a superset of the existing AutoLISP language that added VBA-like access to the AutoCAD object model, reactors (event handling for AutoCAD objects), general ActiveX support, and some other general Lisp functions. Autodesk purchased this, renamed it Visual LISP, and briefly sold it as an add-on. It was incorporated into AutoCAD as a replacement for AutoLISP in AutoCAD 2000, released in March 1999.

AutoLisp had such a strong following that other CAD application vendors added it to their own products. FelixCAD, BricsCad, IntelliCAD (now Cadopia) and others have AutoLISP functionality, so that AutoLisp users can consider using them as an alternative to AutoCAD.

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