ViaGrafix's CAD software makes drafting easy to learn | GCN PRoduct Review

Throw away the T square and plastic triangles. Stop drawing lines that are too thick or
thin, too dark or light.

I used to commit all those errors in a single drawing. That’s why I turned to
computer-aided design software.

DesignCAD Pro 2000 from ViaGrafix is a vector-based, 2-D and 3-D CAD package with
nearly a decade of development behind it, and the system requirements are quite modest.
When I ran the program on a 200-MHz Pentium Pro with 48M of RAM, I saw no appreciable
slowdowns for simple drawings.

Things changed, however, when I rendered a complex 3-D sample drawing. I had plenty of
time to get coffee and settle back to wait for the operation to finish. If you work
primarily in 2-D mode, any Pentium machine will suit. If 3-D is your forte, I recommend as
much computing muscle as possible.

ViaGrafix supplies excellent documentation in a 250-page user guide with installation
instructions and tutorials that go all the way from how to set a point and draw simple
lines up to 3-D modeling and rendering. A separate 500-page reference manual explains
every command and menu choice, arranged alphabetically.

It’s nice to see such full-fledged documentation, and the online help has equally
effective icon tool tips, a descriptive status bar and indexed help files.

If you need even more help, ViaGrafix can supply CD-ROM and video interactive training
courses. An introductory CD and an advanced and solids-modeling CD are each $49.95. They
let the student start, stop and review sections as needed. Each chapter ends with a review
quiz, and there is a comprehensive test at the end. The presentation is clear and logical.

DesignCAD Pro 2000 installation will take only three minutes for anyone familiar with
CAD or with other vector-based drawing software such as Corel Corp.’s CorelDraw.
Unlike CorelDraw, DesignCAD Pro has many ways to control precisely the location of points
and objects.

Drawing an object to scale means that you must accurately set end points of lines, arcs
and objects. DesignCAD simplifies point location with a few well-chosen commands.

The Point Polar command sets a point at a given distance and angle from either the last
point set or the cursor position.

The Point Relative command sets a point at a given distance on the XYZ axes of the last
point or cursor position.

The Point XYZ command sets a point to the exact XYZ position specified, relative to the
drawing origin.

In Preset Point Mode, you can set the points required by an object before selecting the
command. That keeps object lines from obscuring your work.

Another command that increases accuracy is Gravity, which snaps a point to the precise
location of an existing object. DesignCAD Pro has several useful variations on the Gravity

The Line Snap command snaps to a point on the nearest line. The Intersect 1 command
snaps to the nearest intersection of two lines. Midpoint snaps to the midpoint of a line.
The Center of Gravity command finds the center of gravity of a solid. The Plane Snap and
Intersect 2 commands find the intersection of two entities in a drawing.

In 3-D mode, there are plenty of predefined shapes to get you started. All the standard
shapes are present, such as box, sphere, cylinder and cone. And it includes there are
several shapes missing from competing CAD products: tube, rounded box and wall.

You can view finished objects in wireframe mode, shaded mode or with hidden lines

Shaded objects have three rendering quality options. Flat shading is a quick way to
view wireframe objects as solids. Gouraud shading gives medium quality, and Phong shading
produces the best quality. Anti-aliasing removes the jagged edges from Gouraud and Phong

The Materials toolbox applies color, shadows and texture to solid objects. My sole
complaint is that you can apply only a single material to an object.

For instance, I tried to apply different materials and textures to sides of a cube but
could not.

DesignCAD Pro 2000 can associate a specific color and line type with each layer of a
drawing and save the values as defaults. No longer do you feel constrained by the standard
selection rectangle—now you can define any polygon shape to select items within or
touching the polygon.

The dynamic Print Preview feature shows exactly what will print on the page. Margins
and drawing size are adjustable dynamically or by direct numeric input from the Print
Preview screen.

You access the Info Box by double-clicking on any object to change its characteristics

People with vector drawing experience will have no trouble learning DesignCAD.

Novices can come up to speed just by following the CD-ROM tutorials. ViaGrafix is
giving away one introductory CD course from six: Learning Word 97, Learning Excel 97,
Learning Photoshop 5, Learning Windows 98, Programming HTML 4 Volume 1, and Windows NT 4
Volume 1. 

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