Brief Encounters Reviews

TurboCAD Designer 2D/3D

Publication Details:
Publication:“PC Plus”, UK
Date:January 1997
Product Information:
Title:TurboCAD Designer 2D/3D
Price (ex. VAT):£35
Supplier:IMSI (UK) Limited
Phone:0181 581 2000
Fact Panel:
Minimum Requirements:486DX CPU; 8Mb RAM; CD-ROM Drive; Windows 3.1, Windows 95 or Windows NT; 30Mb disk-space
Available on:3.5″ 1.44Mb disks + CD-ROM
Options:Upgrade to TurboCAD 2D/3D; Plotter
TurboCAD Designer 2D/3D
TurboCAD Designer 2D/3D’s 2D module is fully MS-Office compliant, with OLE support, tooltips, customisable toolboxes and multiple document windows

Brief Encounters: TurboCAD Designer 2D/3D

TurboCAD Designer 2D/3D is a cut-down version of TurboCAD 2D/3D, IMSI’s well-regarded budget CAD (Computer-Aided Design) program (reviewed in PC Plus issue 118). As with the existing product, it’s really 2 programs in one – a 2D draughting module, and a re-badged version of 3D Design Plus for solid modelling. Although some features have been removed there’s still a healthy feature-list, and the extremely low price will undoubtedly attract attention. TurboCAD Designer 2D/3D presents itself as an educational tool for CAD beginners – the comprehensive tutorial manual helps here, guiding you from concepts to detailed commands. Whereas many budget programs provide a rich feature-list to try and mimic professional programs, TurboCAD Designer has trimmed back features in favour of ease of learning.

The user interface is largely identical to TurboCAD 2D/3D. The 2D module shares some similarities with AutoCAD Release 13, using themed toolboxes – you open only the toolboxes needed for a particular task, and close them when performing other operations. Many icons contain fly-out icon strips to minimise on-screen clutter. There’s also a context-sensitive dialogue-bar for keyboard input, and a context-sensitive menu on the right mouse-button. Overall, it’s an attractive and efficient working environment. Most of the important tools from TurboCAD 2D/3D are still present, although you lose things like HP/GL and AutoCAD DWG file import, isometric grids, and the macro language. The most serious omission is the ability to group objects together to form blocks – a fundamental CAD feature.

The 3D drawing environment is quite different, and is beginning to show its age – as with the full product, there’s little integration between the two modules. You’re presented with three windows onto the model, and a button-bar along the top. There’s quite a lot of keyboard numerical entry in dialogue-boxes, but it’s all still quite workmanlike. The 3D imaging tools are impressive – you miss out on full ray-tracing and animation, but you still get surface shading, variable surface textures & transparency and multiple light-sources.

Given TurboCAD Designer 2D/3D’s educational bias, the documentation and help facilities assume rather greater importance than would normally be the case. The on-line help system is essentially the same as the full product, and contains both a command-reference and overviews of the main topics. The manual is particularly well-written, introducing important concepts clearly and taking users step-by-step through examples.

TurboCAD Designer 2D/3D is an excellent introduction to CAD. IMSI have tried to balance ease of use against the number of features, and have largely succeeded – the documentation also helps. The product is also capable enough to appeal to experienced users in need of a low-cost CAD program for home use. At this price TurboCAD Designer 2D/3D represents first-rate value-for-money.

Tim Baty

TurboCAD Designer 2D/3D - 3D Module
TurboCAD Designer 2D/3D’s 3D module is completely different in look and feel from the 2D module, with little integration between the two.

PC Plus Verdict:


  • Excellent value-for-money
  • Good 2D interface
  • Well-written tutorial manual


  • Poor integration between 2D & 3D modules
  • No Blocks
Range of features:9
Ease of Use:8
PC Plus Value Verdict:10
PC Plus Award:Value