capsule review

MacDraft PE 5.5

MacDraft PE (Personal Edition) 5.5 is a slightly scaled-down version of Microspot’s well-known MacDraft, a 2-D CAD (computer-aided design) application for creating floor plans, architectural and landscape drawings, technical illustrations, and flowcharts. This version is aimed at the home, small-business, and education markets.

MacDraft PE includes nearly all the features of its more powerful sibling, such as drafting tools for lines, fills, dimensions, and more. And with a conceptual lineage that goes back to the original MacPaint and MacDraw, MacDraft has a familiar Mac interface that is very easy to learn and fun to use.

Attributes such as line weights, line styles, fill patterns, and line and fill colors can be easily viewed and changed via the Attributes and Resize palettes. You can also set an overall scale (choosing from 25 standard scales) and use European or American units of measurement.

MacDraft PE also lets you create and edit your own fill patterns, as large as 32 by 32 pixels; this facilitates more-complex and more-detailed designs.

But this version has limits. The maximum physical page size is only 17 by 17 inches (though that doesn’t limit the size of your drawings). The consumer version also doesn’t support layers, which professionals need so they can show and hide different parts of complex drawings.

Better-Looking Drawings

Quartz Graphics—the name refers to the high-quality native graphics engine in OS X—is a new feature for MacDraft PE, and it’s unusual even in more-expensive CAD programs. It provides higher-quality on-screen graphics, resulting in better differentiation between various line weights, for example. In addition, this version has a transparency feature for lines, fills, and other objects, and you can control the level of transparency—from 0 to 100 percent. This makes it possible for multiple overlapping objects to be visible at the same time. Another new feature is ATSUI (Apple Type Services for Unicode Imaging) text. This makes text look terrific on screen no matter what its rotation is.

Graphics Import and Export

Version 5.5 lets you import graphics file formats such as PICT, TIFF, GIF, JPEG, BMP, Photoshop, and PDF. Imported images can be rotated and scaled and can have various levels of transparency applied to them. Drawings can be exported in formats such as PICT, TIFF, JPEG, Photoshop, and PDF. However, you can’t import or export the architectural and engineering industry-standard formats DWG and DXF. To work with these formats, you need the professional version of MacDraft.

And MacDraft PE now lets you undo your last 100 actions—an essential feature when you’re working on a complex technical drawing.

Macworld’s Buying Advice

MacDraft PE 5.5 is a complete drafting tool for anyone who creates architectural drawings, technical illustrations, and landscape designs. But if you’re a professional, you should be aware of the product’s limitations: no DWG or DXF import or export, no layers, and limited page size. If you don’t need any of these advanced features, you’ll find that MacDraft PE is both extremely capable and incredibly easy to use.

MacDraft PE 5.5 has a familiar user interface that makes the program easy to learn.
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