The Home Series, Release 2. (computer-aided design software) (Software Review) (Evaluation)
by Phillip Morgan
T-squares and architect's scales begone! Autodesk's The Home Series, Release 2, lets you create architectural drawings on your home computer, view them in 3-D, and quickly and easily makeas many changes as you like.
The series consists of four programs: Home, Kitchen & Bath, Deck, and Landscape. They're strippe-down versions of Autodesk's Generic CADD 6.0 and use built-in macros to eliminate much of the full program's complexity. The programs use the same basic interface, but each includes special commands and symbols. Kitchen & Bath, for example, has a much wider variety of cabinet and appliance symbols than does Home.
The programs also differ in how their output can be used. Deck is probably the most useful for true do-it-yourselfers who intend to handle everything from designing to building. While all of the programs render very accurate plan and elevation drawings, Deck produces more detailed drawings and allows you to selectively view and print their layers. The other three programs seem best suited for drawing basic spatial plans, which professionals can import directly into their high-end CADD (Computer Aided Drafting and Design) applications and use to develop complete sets of drawings and specifications.
Even as only initial planning tools, The Home Series programs can be tremendously useful. They scale your drawings for you, so miscalculations won't throw off your plans (unless, of course, you use incorrect measurements). The many symbols included in the series are automatically scaled to your drawings when you place them. It's much easier to get a sense of proportion if you can look at a drawing of a house full of furniture and fixtures or a kitchen complete with cabinets and appliances.
The Home Series won't make you an architect. A basic knowledge of home design and familiarity with architectural drafting is necessary. The programs' documentation repeatedly warns hat you need to consult architects, builders, and inspectors to be sure your designs are safe, workable, and up to local building codes. Nevertheless, Autodesk tries to give you enough basic information to get started.
The manuals list common building materials and standard dimensions and offer advice on functionality and esthetics. Landscape's intructions discuss balance, order, unity, proportion, variety, and seclusion as considerations in creating your backyard environment.
If you have much drafting experience, you'll notice that the programs don't strictly follow architectural conventions. If, for example, you're using interior measurements in your drawing but your architect or builder assumes you've specified conventional exterior dimensions accounting for wall thickness, you could have some serious problems.
The best reason for using The Home Series is to get an accurate spatial impression of your new or remodeled home or yard. If you can't get that from the programs' two-dimensional plan views, you can render them as 3-D eye-level or overview drawings. By changing your point of view, you can "enter" any room or area you like using the 3-D Plan module. It's possible to move around the room using the eye-level view, but 3-D Plan is a memory- and processor-intensive subprogram and may run quite slowly on some systems. You may also have to play with your configuration and eliminate some TSRs to get it to run properly.
CADD experience isn't necessary to effectively use The Home Series. In fact, if you've worked with full-blown CADD programs, you'll probably be frustrated by limitations built into these four programs for the sake of easy use. Still, you should plan to spend some time with the manuals; their tutorials are quite helpful. It'll probably take you longer than Autodesk's estimated 30 minutes to figure out a Home Series program, but once you do, it won't take half that long to decide you never want to go back to the drawing board.
(800) 228-3601 (U.S. and Canada) (206) 487-2233 $69.95 each
Circle Reader Service Number 437