For small- or limited-budget users, DesignCAD offers some of the tools found in more expensive packages. The program comes with three manuals whose format is the same as those for the DOS version. On-line help comes to the rescue, though it is not context sensitive and is sometimes incomplete.
DesignCAD's main screen has several toolbars that can float around your screen. Some of these toolbars correspond to the 10 available toolboxes. From the options menu you can customize your screen and build your own toolbox with commands you use frequently. DesignCAD also allows you to assign icons to your BasicCAD programs and macros and include them in your custom toolboxes.
DesignCAD 3D for
DesignCAD 3D is a general purpose 3-D drafting package for Windows. DesignCAD has several features that make it easy to use in relatively complex three-dimensional projects. Requirements: 486PC with 8M bytes (12 recommended) and 12M bytes of hard drive space.
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For every tool or command you access from any toolbox, the bottom of the screen gives instructions on how to proceed. However, the instructions disappear as soon as you move the mouse to finish the command, rendering the prompt at the bottom useless. For prompts that have optional entries, the program returns with a message that the command fails, with no further explanation.
Drawing and editing tools. In performing 3-D operations, DesignCAD can be a useful extension to its 2-D sibling. With the basic drafting entities, you should be able to complete the 2-D representation of the object. Up to 256 layers can be used for organizing your drawing entities and attributes. As you switch back and forth between 2-D or 3-D mode, you will notice it is more difficult to select entities in 3-D mode. You may get a message that the command failed, though you did everything you were supposed to do.
DesignCAD offers 2- and 3-dimensional text capabilities. The down side is that text in DesignCAD cannot be edited. To make changes, you must completely re-enter the information. The dimensioning capabilities are very basic. Lack of dimensional attribute control and the ability to edit existing dimensions makes the tool literally unusable for professional applications. Unlike its DOS counterpart, DesignCAD for Windows does not support a digitizer for input or pro- gram operations.
Solid modeling. Solid entities can be built out of solid primitives such as cone, sphere, etc. Although there is flexibility in position and orientation, there are cases in which you cannot enter information without using the mouse. A simple entry would save the guesswork in positioning. For more complex objects, the boolean operators work nicely provided that you practice in selecting objects. As for interference checking, the only message that appears is that interference exists between two objects you selected. It would be better for the user to be able to see the interfered region highlighted.
BasicCAD. DesignCAD has its own Basic-like language that lets you perform mathematical operations using the entities of your drawing. The programs can be as long as 5,000 lines of code with limitation in nested loops and the size of 1-D array. However, BasicCAD has enough power to be used for parametric designs.
DesignCAD's tools and capabilities, combined with a competitive price, make it a good package for small-scale, 3-D drawings for the home or office. Some problems with editing can be frustrating for the user. Also, the user's guide could be a good starting point for a full tutorial session instead of just highlighting some of DesignCAD's capabilities.