They're mad about MiniCAD

Several federal building designers have found a computer-aided design package that
matches their Macintosh operating systems for ease of use--once they get past the user
manual.


Two federal users of MiniCAD 7.0 from Diehl Graphsoft Inc. of Columbia, Md., said they
design visitor centers for their agencies.


"I'm looking for tools to manipulate forms," said Steven Ferretti, exhibit
design manager at the Agriculture Department's Office of Communications. "The more I
use [MiniCAD], the more flexible it is."


Ferretti said the package works well with curved forms and complicated objects. He has
used it to design and plan space for part of the Prehistoric Prairies Discovery Center, a
10,000-square-foot museum to be built by the Forest Service and the University of
Nebraska.


Dick Kuehner is branch chief of educational publications and interpretive
communications for the Fish and Wildlife Service's Pacific Region in Portland, Ore.


He uses MiniCAD to design interpretive facilities, signs and publication covers for the
120 national wildlife refuges in his region.


MiniCAD's digital terrain modeler works well, Kuehner said.


"It has contours and looks like terrain," he said, and he can scan in maps
that appear in MiniCAD as raster images.


For budget presentations, MiniCAD's full-color output looks impressive, he said.


Ferretti and Kuehner work on concept designs and perspectives and usually turn their
work over to architects and engineers to fill in details. They each work in MiniCAD
several hours a week.


Kuehner began using MiniCAD several years ago. He now has an Apple Computer Inc. Power
Mac 8600/250 with a Mach 5 PowerPC 604e processor, 64M of RAM and a 4G hard drive. It runs
under Mac OS 8.0.


At first, Ferretti had problems with MiniCAD 7.0's manual, which he called tedious, so
he bought a tutorial from a British book publisher. Diehl Graphsoft's manual "made
the assumption that most users are geeks and like voluminous publications," he said.


"I got over the initial intimidation" two and a half years ago, he said. He
runs MiniCAD on a Power Mac 7100 under Mac OS 7.5.


Kuehner also said the MiniCAD manuals need improvement. But his long use has taught him
more about features and capabilities, he said, although he still sometimes finds it
difficult to align objects.


Ferretti said he likes the way MiniCAD users can click the mouse to easily drop
identifying labels on objects.


An Air Force engineer who uses MiniCAD said it annoyed him to keep choosing a higher
print resolution instead of the default. "Why would I want to print on a
600-[dot-per-inch] printer at 72 dpi?" he said.


Kuehner disagreed. "Sometimes you don't want the highest point resolution,"
he said. "It takes longer to print."


MiniCAD's Encapsulated PostScript format works well for transferring files between
Macintosh systems, the Air Force user said. He uses MiniCAD to design mounting plates,
object holders and microwave filters for airplanes.


Diehl Graphsoft began developing the package exclusively for the Mac, filling the void
left when Apple subsidiary Claris Corp. of Santa Clara, Calif., stopped developing
ClarisCAD.


Diehl Graphsoft sells versions of MiniCAD for Microsoft Windows 95 and Windows NT.


A direct purchase from Diehl Graphsoft starts at $595.


It costs less than AutoCAD 14 from Autodesk Inc. of San Rafael, Calif., Ferretti said,
and less training is needed.


Other federal MiniCAD users are the Agriculture Department, NASA and the Smithsonian
Institution.


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