capsule review

VersaCAD 2001

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One of the earliest CAD programs for the Mac, VersaCAD is being reintroduced after ten years as a Windows-only product. But this plain-vanilla 2-D-drafting program still makes sense in an age of photo-realistic QuickTime walk-throughs and other 3-D effects, because many people rely on 2-D drafting. Architects and mechanical engineers still use blueprints as the basis of most of their activities, and Archway Systems' VersaCAD 2001 offers a friendly, intuitive way to generate 2-D drawings.

New and Nimble

VersaCAD 2001 is tiny (about 1.3MB) by current CAD standards, making it lightning fast on modern G3s and G4s. (The CD includes a copy of VersaCAD 4.0.1, which lacks a few features found in the 2001 version but doesn't require a Power Mac.)

Despite its small size, VersaCAD can tackle challenging problems-such as accounting for variations in machine-shop practice-thanks to Archway Systems' careful attention to feature selection. In some areas, VersaCAD is the most complete CAD product available and the easiest to use. It also includes good libraries of drawing elements.

As Time Goes By

Other aspects of VersaCAD are less wonderful. The shipping version was clearly produced in haste; several of the VersaCAD 4.0.1 files wouldn't open, and the awkward dimensions of the shoddy manual make it difficult to use. Instead of a modern HTML-based help system, VersaCAD offers balloons left over from its System 7 incarnation. The HyperCard-based utilities are more nostalgic than impressive in the age of the Web. And VersaCAD can't handle GIF or JPEG images, although it includes translators for DXF and IGES import and export.

But the main drawback is that VersaCAD is competing with products that have spent the past ten years evolving rather than sitting on the shelf. The basics of drafting may not have changed much in that time, but software design has improved significantly. The $795 PowerCADD 2000 ( Reviews, December 2000) has a much more powerful, feature-loaded interface for 2-D drafting, and the $795 VectorWorks 1.0 ( Reviews, June 1999) has added smoothly integrated, full-featured 3-D CAD to its 2-D repertoire.

Tool Time: VersaCAD 2001 presents on-screen parts libraries for architectural and mechanical drawings.
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