CAD on a Budget
Great Tools at a Fantastic Price.
Not every firm or individual needs or can afford a major design application, regardless of whether the economy
is booming or depressed. Justifying the cost of an AutoCAD license can often be difficult, particularly if your needs
are modest. Fortunately there are alternatives that are not only less expensive, but also quite capable.
It should come as no surprise, but somehow it always does, just how capable and sophisticated the low-cost CAD
applications on the market are. You expect that applications that cost several thousand dollars, such as AutoCAD,
would offer a broad and extensive range of features that are applicable to a wide range of disciplines. The old saying
"you get what you pay for" comes to mind. There's a tendency to think that CAD applications that cost in the hundreds,
rather than the thousands, of dollars can't possibly be all that good. Mistake. Big mistake.
SoftSource VDraft v2.22
VDraft, short for Virtual Drafter, offers a wealth of features for drafting and design as well as support for AutoCAD files
from Release 2.5 through 2002. Many VDraft commands are simplified versions of those found in AutoCAD. Vdraft continues
to offer an excellent online AutoCAD Help system that provides quick reference to supported AutoCAD commands and where
they are located in the menu structure. Many Vdraft commands use AutoCAD terminology, among them blocks, polylines,
layers and attributes. As with previous releases, VDraft's documentation is extensive and excellent, with a printed manual
for easy reference.
New in VDraft v2.2x are improved hyperlinks compatible with AutoCAD hyperlinks. When you hold down the key
while navigating over a drawing object, the hyperlink information displays and you can then copy listed Web page into your
browser. Also new are customizable object tips and a freehand sketch mode.
VDraft offers a fairly wide range of opportunities for customization, among them ActiveX Automation using your favored
programming language, including Visual BASIC and C++. A downloadable customization and programming Help system for
Vdraft is available from the SoftSource Web site. There you'll also find a VDraft quick API reference that discusses interfaces,
methods, properties, and events for Vdraft programming.
VDraft offers a fairly wide range of opportunities for customization, among them ActiveX Automation using your favored
programming language, including Visual BASIC and C++. A downloadable customization and programming Help system
for Vdraft is available from the SoftSource Web site. There you'll also find a VDraft quick API reference that discusses
interfaces, methods, properties, and events for Vdraft programming.
Vdraft runs well on standard PCs with Windows 95/98/ME/NT/2000/XP. Though it might not offer the extensive array
of commands and features found in AutoCAD, its compatibility with AutoCAD and its ease of use make it a good choice
for an inexpensive alternative or as a training application. Many users will find that it's the only CAD application they need.
by Ron LaFon, CADALYST
Full ONLINE review
"Entry-level CAD bargains"
A couple of years ago when we first looked at inexpensive CAD solutions (November 2000), we were amazed at both the high quality of the applications
available and their high degree of AutoCAD compatibility. That amazement continues unabated in this latest survey.
Certainly not every firm, particularly a new one, can afford an AutoCAD license, but AutoCAD compatibility may be important Because you plan to move
to that application or you need to exchange project information with others who use AutoCAD. AutoCAD is an industry standard, and even if Autodesk
were to do only minimal incremental updates for the next 15 years, it’s likely that it would continue to remain a standard. A vast amount of information and
money is tied up in drawing files, so protecting that investment grows increasingly important.
SoftSource's Vdraft reads and writes AutoCAD native DWG and DXF files directly without a translation ensuring that
the original drawing information is maintained. Further compatibility with AutoCAD is found in Vdraft’s ability to understand AutoCAD commands
entered at the Command line. Terminology for many entities is the same between the two applications blocks, for example, are the same in both
applications, as are polylines, layers, and attributes.
Not content to merely copy AutoCAD, SoftSource’s Vdraft has streamlined much of the tool and command structure. Though there are functional equivalents
between the core operations, many commands are greatly simplified compound with those found in AutoCAD. An excellent online AutoCAD Help system provides
quick reference to which AutoCAD commands are directly supported in Vdraft. In addition, The AutoCAD User’s Guide to Vdraft, a separate, printed manual that
ships with the product, provides an overview and parallel AutoCAD/Vdraft tutorials to walk the AutoCAD user through key features and procedures in the two
programs. Documentation is very well done, informative, and useful.
Vdraft does quite well as an inexpensive CAD application suited to both the novice and the experienced AutoCAD user.
by Ron LaFon, CADALYST, January, 2003
"6 CAD Options for tight budgets"
Good Documentation: "Vdraft does
have a well-written User's Guide that accompanies an equally
well-written online Help.
by Ron LaFon and William Adams, CADALYST, October, 2001 (full review)
"CADALYST Labs looks at new CAD viewers "
User Interface: "CADView’s uncluttered
user interface resembles AutoCAD Release 14’s layout." "CADView supports
file printing, and Internet tools include hyperlinks and
optional plug-ins available on the SoftSource Web site."
CADView v2.21 SoftSource 4 stars out of 5
by Dave Pitzer, CADALYST, January, 2001 (full review)
"Budget CAD Surprising Power for less than $500"
Value: "For value, Vdraft is difficult to beat."
"If you are on a thin budget yet need to work with AutoCAD drawings
or generate DWG output, Vdraft is a cost-effective choice." "As a drafting
package, Vdraft offers a full set of tools to create objects and view your work."
by Ron LaFon and William Adams, CADALYST, November, 2000 (full review)
Architectural CADD News, April 9, 1999
Best AutoCAD Drawing Compatibility:
"Of the non-Autodesk CAD packages [FelixCAD, IntelliCAD, TurboCAD, and Vdraft],
Vdraft did the best job of displaying the DWG file."
1 = best
||AutoCAD LT 98
|DWG Objects Displayed
5 = worst
A lower score means greater compatibility with AutoCAD Release 14
Cadence, January 1999
Ease of Use:
"Vdraft is easy to use and affordable."
"The system is easily learned whether you are an AutoCAD user or not."
"You can publish drawings to the Web via Vdraft's Internet and intranet tools."
"You can also copy and paste from Web-published drawings right into Vdraft."
"Because Vdraft is MAPI compliant, you can send a drawing from Vdraft to another user as an email attachment."
Cadence, September 1998
A better way:
"A better way to draw and swap files between different CAD systems is with a
new program called Vdraft. It solves the drawing file compatibility problem
and several others by storing drawings in the .DWG format, just as AutoCAD does.
And if you know AutoCAD, you already know a lot about Vdraft."
"I loaded 15 [drawings] on a Pentium 90 with little change in performance.
Five more drawings produced no appreciable performance hit. This is a big plus over
CAD systems which require launching separate sessions for every drawing to be edited."
edited by Paul Dvorak,
Machine Design, February 5, 1998
- 100% accuracy for AutoCAD drawings:
"...none can read DWG files with 100 percent accuracy...with the exception
of AutoCAD LT and Vdraft where DWG is the native file format."
"Because Vdraft (like AutoCAD LT) uses DWG as its native file format,
translation does not occur. This means the AutoCAD file you see in Vdraft is
a 100 percent accurate representation..."
Vdraft was rated as the fastest CAD system at loading an AutoCAD drawing for
editing. It was twice as fast as the next closest (AutoCAD R14) and 136 times
as fast as Visio.
|CAD Package ||Time (min.:sec.)|
|AutoCAD R14 ||0:27|
|AutoCAD LT 97 ||0:27|
|AutoCAD LT 95 ||0:51|
|Imagineer (view only) ||0:25|
|Imagineer (editable) ||4:53|
|Visio (view only) ||1:40|
|Visio (editable) ||27:11|
CADENCE, December 1997
Intuitive to use:
"Vdraft shows what AutoCAD could be if it were redesigned."
"Vdraft ($495 list), from long-time AutoCAD third-party developer SoftSource,
is the only non-Autodesk package here that offers 100 percent AutoCAD .DWG file
compatibility, thanks to its use of .DWG as its native format. The program then
does AutoCAD one better by allowing users to open multiple drawings and by
providing an extremely intuitive interface that behaves much like AutoCAD
(but is easier to use)."
"...Vdraft deserves some serious consideration."
David S. Cohn,
PC Magazine, December 2, 1997
For those of you who have read the review, here are responses by
John Lynch and Scott Taylor.
These appeared as letters to the editor in the February 24, 1998 issue.
Use for additional CAD seats:
"Vdraft's ability to read and write native AutoCAD files makes it an ideal
choice for the large firm that needs additional CAD seats to supplement their
existing major CAD system, or for small firms that don't want to make the large
investment on one of the major CAD systems. Version 1.5 is a solid CAD program,
providing the essential components needed in a production environment."
Robert M. Pasley, PE,
POB, November 1997
- Great program for AutoCAD users:
"I couldn't help thinking as I worked with this program that if Autodesk
had been able to bring it out and call it 'AutoCAD Release 13' they would have
had a lot more friends! This is simply a great program that belongs on the
hard disk of any AutoCAD user."
CAD Systems, November 1997
(first review of Vdraft v1.5)
"Virtual Drafter, or Vdraft as it is usually called, is refreshingly simple, versatile and affordable."
"Vdraft takes a new approach in working with AutoCAD drawings, but still lets
you work much like you do in AutoCAD."
Dale E. Evans,
commissioned by CADENCE
Many firsts for versatile package:
"By far, Vdraft's most compelling feature is the ability to open multiple drawing
files, each in its own window within Vdraft's main window. This also allows one
to print or plot drawings in rapid succession, a feature I found very useful,
as I may have as many as 30 or more drawings to print on any given job."
"Vdraft is a versatile drafting package which has accomplished many firsts
with its ability to work with drawing files created with AutoCAD. I would
recommend Vdraft to AutoCAD users and non-users alike, if you need the ability
to quickly edit drawings files, whether you have AutoCAD or not, Vdraft will make
a useful addition to anyone's arsenal of software."
Virgil G. Richards,
DESIGN DRAFTING News, DESIGN DRAFTING News
"...Vdraft's unique feature is that it does not just have the capability of
reading and writing DWG files; it actually uses that format as its own data
format. Hence it is the only system other than the actual AutoCAD that does
not have to translate the DWG format to and from its own internal
representation. This obviously should remove any doubts about interchange
"It is probably more easily learned by a newcomer to CAD than AutoCAD, but
is sufficiently similar to allow an established AutoCAD expert to work
productively with very little familarization."
Geoff Harrod, Muti-CAD, September 1997
Vdraft is a better deal:
"SoftSource has worked with Autodesk to produce the DWG translators for
Autodesk's AutoSketch and (now no longer available) Generic CADD software.
Due to a complicated history of licensing agreements, SoftSource ended up with
permission to use the DWG file format for its own competitive CAD package."
"At about the price of AutoCAD LT for Windows 95, Vdraft is a better
deal, especially for those who use AutoCAD for 2-D drafting."
Government Best Buys, September 1, 1997
- Perfect AutoCAD DWG:
"Vdraft was nearly twice as fast in every category when compared to AutoCAD R13."
"Users can open AutoCAD files within Vdraft without translating them.
I found that this process leads to perfect imports, with layers, colors,
hatching, text, and dashed lines all preserved. Even blocks, Xrefs, and
3D objects came over as they were created in AutoCAD. Paperspace and all
modelspace ports - sometimes lost in DXF/DWG translations - were also
Computer-Aided Engineering, September 1997
"The program includes graphics cues for object snap points, block and Xref
preview before and during insertion, dynamic feedback, cursor tips and property
Windows Magazine September 1997
Ease of use:
"...Vdraft expands on AutoCAD, offering an interface that behaves much like
AutoCAD's, but is easier and more intuitive to use."
"Vdraft feels comfortable as soon as it starts up."
David S. Cohn,
Desktop Engineering, August 1997
Vdraft speaks English:
"Unlike some programs I had no trouble deciphering the icons . . . Even
more impressive, this program 'speaks' English. The command to create a block
is 'Create Block.' "
"I appreciated that I really didn't have to learn anything to get right
down to work. I think Vdraft will make a lot of people very happy."
Viewpoints, August 1997 (The Newsletter of the Greater Boston Autodesk User's Group)
Product of the Month:
"Vdraft. . .the first program produced outside of Autodesk that can
create and edit AutoCAD drawings and DXF files in their native format with no
NASA Tech Briefs July 1997
Cut and paste:
"Each drawing opens in its own window, and you can cut, copy, and paste
between AutoCAD and Vdraft."
CADENCE July 1997
Complete AutoCAD compatibility:
"Bill Plummer. . .says no translation ranks number one on his list of
favorite features: 'Vdraft creates a completely compatible DWG file. Period,
end of discussion, no exceptions!'"
Computer-Aided Engineering June 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."
"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."
A-E-C Automation, May 1997 Volume 21, Issue 5
"Vdraft supports direct editing of AutoCAD drawings and DXF files in their
native format, without translation, as well as simultaneous loading and editing
of multiple drawings..."
ENT (Windows NT Enterprise Computing), May 7, 1997
"Vdraft ($495) includes a detailed properties box for each drawing object,
context-sensitive pop-up menus with options for dynamically drawing and
manipulating objects and DWG/DXF and SVF plug-in formats."
CADalyst, September 1996
"[Vdraft] bundles web tools for Netscape Navigator to add plug-ins
supporting DXF, DWG and SVF formats embedded into web pages."
Personal Engineering, September 1996
"SoftSource based Vdraft on DXE (Drawing eXchange Engine), its AutoCAD
read-write API (Applications Programming Interface), used by the world's
largest CAD companies."
"Vdraft's single Properties command is equal to four AutoCAD object
property commands (DdModify, DdChProp, ChProp, and Change). Unlike AutoCAD,
Vdraft is not burdened by separate tiers of redundant commands for the same
action in different contexts - the result of AutoCAD's evolution from
character-based UI to GUI."
Ralph Grabowski, CAD++VRML, February 1996
"Sausalito [Vdraft] natively displays and edits .DXF files, the industry
standard for exchanging information among CAD systems, and it can also work
natively with AutoCAD's .DWG file format."
A/E/C SYSTEMS Computer Solutions, January-February 1994
"Industry observers and users praised the entry of SoftSource into the CAD
market with a package that will compete with Autodesk's product."
InfoWorld, November 8, 1993