CorelCAD is a new 2D/3D Computer-Aided-Design (CAD) application for Mac and Windows. While CorelCAD is a new product for Corel and new to the Mac, it is not a completely new application. CorelCAD is based on ARES from Graebert, which has been around in one form or another since 2005. For that reason, CorelCAD feels more refined, complete, and stable than you might expect for a version 1.0 debut.
As it stands, CorelCAD is a fairly complete program with most of the basic 2D features you would expect, such as lines and shapes, layers, trim, joins, hatches, and more. Some functions work better in CorelCAD than in other Mac CAD applications. For example, the trim tool is faster and easier to use in CorelCAD than it is in VectorWorks ( ). But the program also features a fairly solid suite of 3D tools including extrudes, boolean operations (to add and subtract solids to and from each other), revolves, sweeps, and basic 3D shapes to speed up modeling.
Compatible with DWG format
CorelCAD supports the industry standard DWG file format natively. This makes importing and exporting files to and from other CAD applications (such as AutoCAD) a snap. In fact, CorelCAD’s entire interface is designed to be familiar to AutoCAD ( ) users. This is both good and bad. It is good if you have any experience with AutoCAD—you can get up to speed in CorelCAD quickly. It is bad because if you are not familiar with AutoCAD, you are going to experience some unMac-like interface issues.
For instance, when performing operations on objects (CorelCAD calls them “entities”), you have to first choose the operation (such as extrude, mirror, duplicate) and then the object(s) to apply the operation to. When drawing lines, for example, you have to use the enter key, the escape key, or right-click and choose “enter” to stop drawing lines (how about just having a single line tool?). And when drawing an object that extends past the edge of the current window, the window does not automatically scroll.
There is also a command line interface in which you control the actions of tools and the parameters of objects while you are drawing. There are command shortcuts you can use in the command line (once you memorize them) such as “ccs” for “change coordinate system”. While this is not very Mac-like, I have to say that the way it integrates into the workflow while you are modeling is pretty efficient. With enough use and familiarity, CorelCAD would be fast to work in.
CorelCAD’s interface is extremely customizable—you can make CorelCAD look and act the way you want it to and have it conform to your workflow. You can specify which menu items show up under what menus, set mouse actions and button behaviors, and determine palette locations and configurations, shortcuts, and more. You can also save your settings into a number of user profiles.
The 2D and 3D tools and features in CorelCAD are fairly complete for typical mechanical drafting needs. But there are no specialized tools for architectural drafting, such as walls, roofs, windows, and doors. CorelCAD is, at its core, a general drafting application. This is reflected in the $699 price, which is much less than most 2D/3D CAD applications for the Mac. The program’s native DWG support and the PDF export features will be valuable in a typical collaboration environment involving architectural work, but CorelCAD would benefit from the ability to import PDFs as well.
For graphic designers and technical illustrators who might need a tool that is more precise than a typical drawing program, or need 3D capabilities, CorelCAD should fit the bill. Some designers might already be familiar with other Corel products such as CorelDraw or CorelDesigner. However, while Corel offers upgrade pricing from those products ($499), they are Windows only and the useful feature of being able to export to those applications is not included in the Mac version of CorelCAD.
Missing Mac features
There are a couple of features missing in the Mac version of CorelCAD that are present in the Windows version. One is a great tool called VoiceNotes that allows you to attach voice memos to objects in your model. Also, there are only two add-ons in the online CorelCAD Marketplace; one of them is a Rending plug-in. But it costs $249 per year and is Windows-only. Corel is going to need to develop a Mac version of that plug-in and in my opinion, a different pricing model.
Lastly, CAD programs are typically not easy to learn. CorelCAD could benefit from some tutorials, either delivered with the software disc, or available on the website. As of this writing, there are none. So, your best bet is searching YouTube for user-generated tips and tricks.
Corel is marketing CorelCAD to technical designers who need a CAD solution for more precision and/or more powerful drafting tools. On its website, CorelCAD is listed under the Technical Illustration category. But, CorelCAD is really designed to be a simpler and less expensive alternative to AutoCAD. In that, it succeeds tremendously. It cuts the price of AutoCAD LT (not available for the Mac) nearly in half and provides 3D capabilities not found in LT.
That said, While $699 is a very good price for the features and tools you get with CorelCAD, if you can’t spend that much, there’s a similar application called DraftSight, from Dassault Systemes, that is also available for the Mac. It has fewer features and includes only limited 3D, but it is free.
Macworld’s buying advice
If you are looking for a full-featured 2D and 3D drafting program, or if are already familiar with the typical AutoCAD interface, CorelCAD 1.0 is a bargain at $699. If you come from the Mac CAD world, are not that experienced with CAD, or the $1700 VectorWorks Fundamentals is too expensive, then CorelCAD might be a good choice (especially if your focus is not architectural). The only caveat is that you will not get rendering functionality and you will have to get used to a few quirky interface conventions.
[Greg Miller is an architectural designer and an interactive software and Web developer specializing in new media for the architecture, engineering, construction, and publishing markets.]