Mid-Priced CAD: Visual CADD 1.2
|FastCAD Europe Ltd.
|Price at time of publication:
Visual CADD is strictly a 2D draughting program, for users who need to prepare detailed manufacturing drawings rather than develop design concepts. This, and its heritage in Generic CADD, determines much of its character. There’s a comprehensive if conventional collection of available entity-types and editing commands, which are similar to those in many other 2D CAD programs. The working screen is uncluttered and attractive – there’s a toolbar with fly-out icon-strips, and a status-line at the bottom containing help text and system messages. A context-sensitive button-bar provides low-level interaction for the major commands, and the right-hand mouse button activates a pop-up menu for frequently used tools such as zoom and snap.
Every command has a 2-character keyboard alias, which is identical to the equivalent Generic CADD keyboard command. As with all good CAD programs, you can drive the program via menus, icons or keyboard. Visual CADD’s multiple document interface allows you to open several drawings at once, although you can’t create multiple viewports onto the same drawing. Documentation and on-line help cover commands and basic techniques fairly thoroughly – unfortunately, advanced topics such as customisation are consigned to a separate addendum.
The interface contains some nice basic ideas – for example, tracking allows you to accurately place offsets from known features on the fly. Visual CADD handles relative displacements particularly well – placing entities a known distance away from existing features is fundamental to CAD drawing. Most programs require that you somehow let the system know that the co-ordinates you’re keying are relative to the previous point – AutoCAD’s ‘@x,y’ co-ordinate syntax is a well-known example. Visual CADD uses a combination of mouse and keyboard – pull the mouse in the direction you want, and enter a single distance at the keyboard. This method works particularly well in ortho mode, when the rubber-banded line attached to the cursor forces lines exactly horizontal or vertical.
As well as the usual drawing-structuring facilities such as layers and symbols, Visual CADD provides a comprehensive collection of tools for creating, editing and exporting text attributes. Attributes are items of text entered in user-definable fields attached to symbols – you can export the text from the drawing into separate ASCII files, and is a standard mechanism for creating bills of materials. You define Visual CADD’s attributes independently of a particular symbol, and store the definitions on disk prior to attaching them to symbols in the drawing. Each attribute can contain up to 128 data-fields.
Professional users almost invariably want to modify their CAD programs after a while – this might be simply adding custom menus for their own symbols and macros, or building a complete add-on application with a high-level programming language. Visual CADD offers users a full compliment of customising tools, from simple user-defined linetypes and menu-macros to a Visual Basic interface. Although the addendum and on-line help include thorough documentation about the simpler customising tools, users receive little guidance in Visual Basic programming for Visual CADD – you’re expected to learn everything you need by examining the sample applications.
Visual CADD can read and write Generic CADD, AutoCAD Release 12 and DXF formats. As usual the translation isn’t perfect, particularly with AutoCAD Release 12 files, but it’s no worse than much of the competition and the results are still generally usable. The program includes dialogue-boxes to adjust traditional file-translation problems such as text-font mapping. Visual CADD can also share data with other Windows applications through its OLE 2.0 server interface – however, you can’t paste bitmaps or Windows metafiles into Visual CADD drawings.
Although Visual CADD contains an attractive combination of good-quality interface design and carefully chosen draughting tools, it really needs more to compete successfully at this price-level. Its feature-list is very similar to the better budget-priced programs such as ChoiceCAD – almost all the other mid-priced competitors offer high-level features such as 3D, parametrics or advanced data structuring tools, and Visual CADD looks distinctly lightweight in this company. If you’re a committed Generic CADD user, Visual CADD is the obvious way of moving over to Windows. New users will find better value for money elsewhere.
Verdict: Visual CADD 1.2
- Easy to use
- Compatible with Generic CADD
- Modest hardware requirements
- Not enough advanced features
|Range of features:
|Ease of Use:
|PC Plus Value Verdict: