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CAD software to design anything—now with time-saving specialized toolsets, web and mobile apps

The well organized interface feels the same across all platforms with all the same functionality on Mac, Windows and mobile. ARES Commander features a number of useful tools such as QuickModify which allows you to combine several commands into one. This is surprisingly useful and increases productivity by reducing the amount of mouse clicking you need to.

One other nice touch is Quick Input which automatically provides angles, dimensions, options and other useful data as you design to help you make sure your designs are accurate. Some of the highlights of VectorWorks include graphical scripting tools, intelligent objects and a superbly implemented virtual reality feature. Also ahead of the curve is VectorWorks Marionette which intelligently uses algorithms to shape design forms and customizations although this costs extra. SolidThinking Evolve features Geometry Simplification tools, smoothing options and concentrated mass parts.

Siemens NX is used by professionals worldwide for professional industrial and aerospace industries. Siemens NX is one of the few CAD software packages that also includes 4th generation 4GD technology to enhance and facilitate design on industrial assemblies. Another unique feature is synchronous technology for 2D which adds more intelligence to 2D data and enables users to edit multi CAD 2D files five times quicker.

MacDraft Pro is the professional version of MacDraft PE see review below with a more advanced multi-layered, scaled drawing environment. You can drag and drop common image or CAD elements into your designs and it can even be used to design brochures, magazines and even flyers. In particular it has some very precise vector tools, smart units and has a fully-featured scaled environment.


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It has a very limited library although you can purchase more from the developer website including architectural, electrical and graphic symbols. It was also one of the first packages to support BIM and includes BIMcloud integration for easy collaboration with other designers on projects, wherever they are in the World. One of the main advantages users report with Graphite is speed — it has a very smooth and efficient workflow that makes producing complex designs very quick.

The interface is also highly customizable so that you have fine control over the layout of your tools although apps such as AutoCAD for Mac have caught up in this area nowadays. For instance you can use macros to create objects or read in data although only those that have been using Mac for a long time will have any idea of how AppleScript works. The difference to other CAD programs in this price range is that it supports 3D as well. Rhino For Mac is a specialized 3D CAD software designed specifically for Mac with a loyal following and arguably still one of the best programs for organic 3D design.

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Rhino features tools to do everything from creating, editing, and rendering to animating, translating NURBS curves and creating polygon meshes. In the beginning, there were many features missing from the Mac version of Rhino compared to Windows but nowadays the two products are almost exactly the same. SketchUp Pro is both a serious option for CAD professionals but also beginners that want to create impressive mock ups.

The basic version of SketchUp is an ideal tool to give clients 3D mock-ups of their designs or for clients themselves to provide architects with an idea of their vision or plans. If you want your client to sketch out their vision for you to develop for example, point they can download SketchUp free for personal use and create a basic outline that you can then develop further. The professional version of SketchUp is for serious CAD designers but it still retains the general ease of use of the original Google product and still has Google Earth integration for geo-tagging designs.

QCAD is a free open source 2D Computer Aided Drafting application for Mac, Windows and Linux which allows you to create technical drawings for buildings, interiors, mechanical parts, schematics and diagrams. Online technical drafting software such as SmartDraw are aimed at those with minimal CAD experience and provide plenty of templates and automated functions to do the hard work for you. If you need CAD software for a specific industry, such as Architecture, then you need software designed specifically for the needs of 3D Architecture and all the components that go into buildings.

Again, this depends on what you want to use it for. If you only need to work in the Y and X axis i. Basically, anyone that needs to manipulate a design from every possible angle. BIM models are more intelligent than traditional CAD plans because they contain much more information.

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For instance, BIM models can calculate the knock-on effect that the smallest of changes to modeling plans can have. In the long run, BIM can help cut down on the amount of errors or reworking that needs to be done to your CAD designs. We have focused here mainly on CAD software, although we have also featured some 3D design or animation software because the line can be often blurred. The difference between the two types of software is subtle but the key difference is that CAD software is specifically for the needs of professional and industrial designers, with all the technical specs and needs they have.

In a nutshell, 3D design software is generally aimed at the more creative side of design — for example animation — whereas CAD programs focus on technical plans and designs. Make sure that the CAD app you choose offers extensive help, training and after sale support. The most reputable CAD software developers offer free customer support but some charge extra for it so check before buying.

A virtual environment like Parallels has the advantage of allowing you to run both macOS and Windows at the same time but if you use Boot Camp, you can only boot in either macOS or Windows at one time which can be annoying if you need to switch between your Mac and Windows CAD software regularly. On the Dessault website, one can find forums and discussions that can provide new users of the program and novice CAD-work operators with some tips, tricks, and insights about using the program and CAD work in general.


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  • The professional version can only be run on a PC for now. However, even with the limited capabilities of the beta version available on Mac, the program still has a lot of features one can use to help one create simple 2D drafts and documents. On the onset, the most striking thing about SketchUp is its interface. The ease of use of the program is due to the neat and very tidy way the buttons and functions are arranged on the SketchUp workspace. You can actually customize this simple surface and make things as complicated or as simple as you want. There are a bunch of intuitive tools as well when it comes to working with SketchUp.

    You can use these tools to effectively navigate around the SketchUp interface, you can accurately and efficiently create and sculpt geometry and models in a fully operable 3-D view, and you can create ready to print 3D models from scratch even as a beginner to the program. SketchUp is available as a paid program and with good reason. You could even add extra features to the program by installing certain user-made extensions, with a lot of them free of charge, to give you functionalities that could cut some significant time off of your usual workflow.

    The online community for SketchUp support is lively as well. The SketchUp 3D Warehouse is an online library of over 2 million SketchUp models that can be downloaded and open directly in the program. This is the result of the hardwork of the SketchUp community, modeling different products or space and uploading them onto the 3D Warehouse.

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    And with the rise of 3D printing as an industry, SketchUp is slowly being considered one of the best go-to products for the 3D sculpting and printing community. Registered and licensed Architect from the Philippines. Aside from independent architectural projects, I work part-time as an associate of Arch. Micaela Benedicto. I am also adept at doing 3D renderings with V-ray. Sign in Join. Sign in. Log into your account. Don't have an account? Sign Up Forgot your password? Sign up.

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