DesignCAD 2-D. (CAD software) (evaluation)
by Tom Netsel
Many professional CAD programs come with so many bells and whistles attached that they seem unnavigable. Lightweight or stripped-down versions may be easier to use, but they usually lack the power professional designers demand. Enter DesignCAD 2-D from American Small Business Computers.
With this CAD package a casual user can turn graphic ideas into finished drawings in minutes, yet professionals will find that the program can easily handle most design challenges. The features packed into DesignCAD are especially amazing when weighed against the program's low price.
Easy to install and configure for your computer, printer, plotter, or digitizer, DesignCAD sets your units of measure in either English or metric units. Files can be directed to any output device or port. If you use a mouse or digitizing tablet, these devices can easily be included during the initial installation process. You can also specify aspect ratios of screen displays and a preferred background color for EGA or VGA displays.
Once you've installed the program, a 60-page tutorial takes you through the basics. This manual guides the new user through many commonly used commands: lines, curves, arcs, circles, boxes, and polygons.
Drawing commands in DesignCAD use points as references. To draw a line, curve, or polygon, for example, set a number of points and then select the appropriate command. A line appears and connects the points.
You can set points in a variety of ways, most commonly by pressing a mouse button. Points can also be selected by more sophisticated methods. Various commands set points at the nearest existing point on a drawing, at specified (x,y) coordinates, or at a specified distance and angle from the last point set.
When drawing perpendicular lines for a blueprint, a mouse or digitizing tablet may be convenient, but not necessarily the best choice. Sometimes it's easier and more accurate to position the cursor with the computer's arrow keys. Regardless of which input device you use, it's a simple matter to ] set a point on one line and invoke a command to create a perpendicular line. Another command adjusts lines to make them exactly vertical or horizontal.
Should you create several variations of a drawing, you can display them simultaneously on the screen. A View command lets you open windows to display any three files. You can also zoom in to show different details of the same drawing if you prefer. Other features include a user-definable icon menu that lets you customize your screen or digitizer tablet. DesignCAD supports high-resolution printing on dot matrix and laser printers. Furthermore, it also has its own programming language that lets advanced users create their own custom commands in a format similar to BASIC's. Frequently used symbols can be saved as macros and inserted with a click of a mouse. More than 500 symbols are supplied with the package. Extended memory and a math coprocessor are supported but not required, and a 360-page manual puts all DesignCAD commands at your fingertips in an easy-to-reference alphabetical listing.
Version 5 of DesignCAD, which should be available by press time, will support even more printers, plotters, and digitizers and offer improved dimensioning techniques, multiple file handling, the ability to run external programs from within DesignCAD, and many new commands. Owners of the previous version of DesignCAD may upgrade for $50.
Packed with powerful commands and features, DesignCAD's power nevertheless proves easy for any user to harness. Its system of menus, keyboard commands, and shortcut keystrokes makes the program immediately accessible. For anyone looking for a powerful yet low-cost CAD program, DesignCAD is an excellent choice.