Friday, July 27, 2007

Vdraft—Edit AutoCAD Drawings Without Translation (01apr97)

April 1, 1997

Ordinarily, we are not impressed with third-party products that tout themselves as being equal or superior to the bigger products they are supposed to be supporting, but we have come across a notable exception — Vdraft from SoftSource — an AutoCAD drawing editor.

Just released, Vdraft 1.0 is a full-featured, AutoCAD (through R12 — more about that later) drawing-based system — the first and only CAD product , other than AutoCAD itself, that can directly edit AutoCAD drawings without translation. There are no format conversion errors because Vdraft uses DWG as its standard native file format. It is also completely compatible with the DXF format. Priced at $495, Vdraft runs only under 32-bit Windows operating systems — NT (3.51 and higher) or 95.

Vdraft works with Paperspace exactly like AutoCAD does and users that know AutoCAD (and we feel that this is a pretty important prerequisite) will feel right at home with Vdraft, because the packages both share a lot in common:

  • Commands — Unlike some other third-party applications, Vdraft uses the same commands, conventions, and terminology that AutoCAD does. For example, a block is a block, not a cell. A layer is a layer, not a level. An attribute is an attribute, not a tag. And so on…
  • Keystrokes — Function keys in Vdraft perform the same tasks as AutoCAD Release 12 for Windows. Like in AutoCAD, pressing the spacebar or Enter key executes a command and the spacebar repeats the last command. Entering coordinates, distances, and angles is the same as in AutoCAD. Vdraft also has an option for using AutoCAD’s command aliases or creating your own aliases.
  • Mouse — As in AutoCAD, the default for the cursor is the Select Mode. AutoCAD’s BOX Selection Mode works in Vdraft and clicking the right mouse button simulates and extends AutoCAD’s right button by displaying a pop-up menu.
  • Windows — Vdraft actually uses more Windows-specific capabilities than AutoCAD R12 for Windows. It supports viewing and editing of literally hundreds of drawings at a time where each drawing, including externally referenced ones, opens in its own window. There is full clipboard support — drawing data can be cut, copied, and pasted within Vdraft, and between Vdraft and AutoCAD. Vdraft also supports long file names and ActiveX automation (formerly known as OLE).

Included with the package are Vdraft Internet Tools — plug-ins for viewing and distributing AutoCAD drawings. The plug-ins are compatible with Netscape Navigator and Microsoft Internet Explorer for Internet and corporate intranet drawing publishing.

From an ease of use standpoint, many users will probably prefer Vdraft over AutoCAD and its sibling, AutoCAD LT, for editing AutoCAD drawings, owing much to its simplified and streamlined user interface. Since Vdraft has dialog boxes for many of AutoCAD’s change commands, the number of steps required to perform a task is often reduced when compared to AutoCAD. Also, most of these dialog boxes don’t have to be dismissed before continuing with your work.

Vdraft can be customized using Visual Basic and Visual C++. The company welcomes third-party application developers with a policy, including free developers tools, that encourages bundling Vdraft with other packages. The package also comes with several useful add-on applications, including a drawing setup wizard.

SoftSource, the creator of Vdraft, has an interesting history. Founded in 1982, it was an early adopter of AutoCAD. In fact, the company was responsible for the first AutoCAD Release 1.3 installation in the Pacific Northwest in 1984, the same year it began developing third-party products for AutoCAD. Over the years, the company has developed a number of complementary AutoCAD products — digitizer templates, management tools for drawing libraries, drawing viewers, file translators, an Internet CAD publisher, and the DXE read/write application programming interface (API). DXE is widely used as the standard AutoCAD read/write API and is the core technology underlying the Vdraft system.

Wanting to get everything right from the beginning, SoftSource is a conservative company when it comes to releasing products. As an example, the current version of Vdraft and the drawings generated by it are compatible with AutoCAD Releases 2.5 through 12. The company opted to skip Release 13 compatibility due to problems it perceived and didn’t want to deal with. However, R13 is supported by using the AutoCAD "Save As Release 12" command. Vdraft’s next major release will support AutoCAD R14 and, according to the company, will be available some time before the end of 1997.

Admittedly, Vdraft isn’t for everyone. After all it is basically a simplistic version of an older release of AutoCAD, but for users who need to edit AutoCAD drawings quickly, easily, and relatively inexpensively, this package is definitely worth looking into.n

Contact: SoftSource 360-676-0999,