DATELINE: December 2000 Issue Drawing-Friendly Program Makes CAD Fun and EasyBy Charles Seiter
PowerCADD has long been a favorite of newcomers to computer-aided design. It’s probably the only serious CAD program you can teach yourself in an afternoon, without a manual. It’s actually fun to use, because it gets your drawing right the first time without requiring dozens of annoying little fix-ups. It supports graphic elements that will probably remind you more of Adobe Illustrator than of a CAD program; although it’s 2-D only, it’s not just for making blueprints.
Two new features in the latest version, PowerCADD 2000, are real improvements: the Tool palette now expands so you can see all the drafting tools at once, and you can view a thumbnail preview of each drawing before you open it via the File menu.
Show and Tell With PowerCADD 2000, you can expand the Tool palette to display the entire set of drafting tools with a single click.
Another plus in this version is a Table tool, which lets you add tables and parts lists to drawings. There’s also a flashy new Gradient Fill tool that allows you to add a gradient fill to any closed shape — an impressive effect, although it’s not clear how drawings with gradient fills translate to clunky old AutoCAD.
Thin on Trappings
What’s a bit objectionable is the number of goodies Engineered Software has left out of PowerCADD 2000, making them available as extra-cost plug-ins. Two libraries for mechanical engineering are $79 each, and some very nice architectural engineering libraries go for up to $129 each. The versatile WildTools drafting plug-in — which features great tools for filleting, drawing Bézier-type curves, and creating instant architectural drawing elements — costs $189. One could argue that these goodies should be extra, but making that case for the $150 DXG file (AutoCAD) translator is harder. Imagine buying a word processor that required you to purchase an add-on translator for Microsoft Word. A little generosity on Engineered Software’s part would be welcome.
Compared with Nemetschek’s VectorWorks ( ; Reviews , June 1999), PowerCADD is more intuitive, and it can produce fancier 2-D drawings with less effort. On the other hand, it can’t match VectorWorks’ 3-D features, DXG translation, scripting language, and group/collaboration support. VectorWorks is a better choice for bigger shops; PowerCADD 2000 is ideal if you’re drafting on your own.