March 23, 2009
Introducing DoubleCAD XT Pro
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Susan Smith - Managing Editor


by Susan Smith - Managing Editor
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Industry News

Introducing DoubleCAD XT Pro

By Susan Smith


In Las Vegas last year, IMSI/Design gave journalists and a few others a sneak preview of what was to come: their free DoubleCAD XT product, an AutoCAD LT “work-alike” product that provides some features such as self-healing walls, self-aligning blocks, modern handle-based editing, snap prioritization, brush editor, and smart dimensions. Just released is the company’s DoubleCAD XT Pro, which has all that and much more, at the very low price point of $695.


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Architectural layout
Targeting the AutoCAD LT market, DoubleCAD XT Pro is said to be “very compatible with those users’ DWG content,” and will make round tripping of DWG files complete without any loss of data. In addition to the features of DoubleCAD XT, DoubleCAD XT Pro has a drafting palette, constraints, and parametric programming of the parts. It interfaces very well with SketchUp. Bob Mayer, chief operating officer, said they feel that the economic downturn may work in their favor for releasing a product that accomplishes virtually the same thing as AutoCAD LT at a lower price point.


In spite of company optimism, the question remains whether or not users will switch to the less expensive product instead of upgrading to the latest version of AutoCAD LT.


Since its inception in 1988, IMSI has created retail CAD products TurboCAD, DesignCAD, and IDX Renditioner, which have had a strong following.


click to enlarge [

ConstrainedDrawing
Brian Carter, senior director, CAD Division, said that they have made the interface onscreen for those already familiar with AutoCAD. Because so many AutoCAD customers are more familiar with the classic layout than with Autodesk’s new ribbon interface, DoubleCAD XT Pro is designed with that classic layout. “We’re trying to take advantage of muscle memory. People are used to using their mouse in a particular way and find a tool a certain way, this makes it easier for them to use,” said Carter. “From our own research it seems like the majority of people still prefer to use this interface, and secondly, programmatically speaking it would have taken much longer to replicate that sort
(ribbon) of interface.”


In the area of commands, DoubleCAD XT Pro also has dynamic input that allow users to use virtual snaps. “We’ve tried to make it more readable, so standard options for the tool are on the first line,” said Carter. “Those are going to be the options you’d have when your drawing. The second are polyline properties that would be available from your local menu, so to change how the tool is acting, it makes it little easier to find out what you will need as a subcommand. On the local menu you also have local toolbars that are acting depending on the tool you select. This one changes depending upon which tool you’re currently in mode, and will allow you to pick a similar more
appropriate tool. It also gives you views, that are fully customizable, in fact the entire interface is fully customizable, and it’s easy to customize.”


IMSI is a founding member of the Open Design Alliance (ODA) which gives them access to the most current alternative access to DWG. Carter said it will be a number of months before anyone is talking about DWG 2010 compatibility because the ODA itself doesn’t start working on a compatible filter until Autodesk releases their latest version, which will be in a couple of weeks.


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Mechanical
As a demonstration Carter used a file that ships with AutoCAD 2008 as a sample file. It opens very quickly, no data lost, no broken lines, no disorientation, it’s a clean back and forth file handling in DoubleCAD XT Pro. Carter said they are always looking for some kind of data exchange error, and always are patching those fixes. “The one thing we can’t do is deal with is the RealDWG which flags any application other than AutoCAD with a warning message, saying this file was not created in a copy of AutoCAD . It doesn’t mean it’s not going to be compatible.”


According to IMSI’s research, the product for most CAD users is the 2D drawing, even though there is great interest in 3D. Carter said that if users take architectural tools from XT Pro into AutoCAD Architecture, they will be able to use architectural objects right away. “We think this is important because a lot of architectural preliminary work is done by draftsmen knocking out a basic design floor plan before you ever get to the full modeling and architectural stuff,” said Carter. “This provides an access point at your conceptual predesign phase so you can get going immediately. All of these objects we’re creating and looking at in 2D are actually also 3D objects that will
be represented as such in a 3D drawing program like AutoCAD Architecture. More specifically they have the place holder for the 3D data.”


Users can view 3D models in the application, designed that way for conceptual design. “We’re hitting another side of the conceptual design part where a lot of people are just doing 2D drafting and they don’t need a 3D modeling application. It’s a nice complement to the SketchUp side.”


Mayer noted that they have “very extensive SketchUp support.” A model of Thoreau’s cabin in an SKP file was shown.


“With an SKP file, we respect not only bringing in all the physical geometry, we also bring in all of the layers,” said Mayer. “Every component in SketchUp becomes a block in DoubleCAD and it’s possible to create nested, associative sections (i.e., cross-sections) that maintain your entire management structure from the go. We also bring in all the views, we do one more step -- we assign each view in paperspaces (paper layout) phase so that immediately it drops the view into the space, whether it’s perspective or not perspective it’s retained, and even whether it’s hidden line or not, it’s retained. From this point on you have a number of small drawings so you can start
dimensioning and annotating immediately for print out, etc. Or you can modify the paper layout as needed through the block. All of these are block elements that were created in the original walls in the SketchUp model.”


Carter also said users can use 3D models. In XT Pro, there are tools to move from conceptual design to the drafting and detailing of the model. “The Drafting Palette allows you to select any 3D object and immediately begin creating drafting sections for it.” With a model a user takes a cross section, horizontal section or diagonal view of the model and does elevations of the model. XT Pro creates associative 2D sections based on standard views or sectional planes of 3D surface or ACIS solid models, including XREFs. XT Pro also has a full constraint engine, like the one in AutoCAD 2010. The constraint engine is not in AutoCAD LT,
however.


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