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CADPower for AutoCAD and BricsCAD

By Ralph Grabowski, January 3, 2013

CADPower offers a hundred productivity tools for AutoCAD and BricsCAD, with some gems you may have never known you needed

Four Dimension Technologies first wrote GeoTools for mapping, survey and other geographic CAD users. The geo-related and general purpose commands are ones missing from AutoCAD and BricsCAD. After 13 years on the CAD market, CADPower in 2012 was carved out of GeoTools to offer a hundred pure CAD productivity commands for users of BricsCAD and AutoCAD.

When it comes to special selection modes, one of CADPower's commands finds all the points enclosed by a space defined by 3D faces. The CP_FindEnclosed command was developed, says Four Dimension Technologies, "in response to the requirements of the mining industry where the mining shafts and cut-outs are often modeled using 3D face objects, with a lot of neighborhood points representing data captured from various sources." This isn't something I've ever read on the AUGI wish list, but CADPower has it.

With each release, however, Four Dimension Technologies added more commands to the point that CADPower is useful to general AutoCAD and BricsCAD users. As best as I can tell, the software provides an identical set of commands for both CAD packages. Commands are grouped into the following categories:

In terms of user interface, CADPower is traditional and modern. I access commands from a collection of toolbars, a menu item, by typing commands, entering aliases, or by going through the CADPower tab on the ribbon (see figure 1).

Figure 1: CADPower offers interfaces through toolbars, the ribbon, the menu, typed commands, and aliases

(Note: to use the command aliases, you need to load them separately: CADPower menu, Load CADPower command macros. This is intentional, to prevent existing command aliases from being overwritten.)

Commands of Note

I looked at some of the commands whose names caught my attention. For instance, I noticed the Layer Names Editor command, and I wondered what could be done beyond AutoCAD's massive layer dialog box. Lots, it turns out. This command adds prefixes and suffixes to selected layer names in the current drawing; in figure 2, I added "new-" to all of them. Or you can strip layer names, beginning at a specific character position, change cases, and so on. I have a feeling this command alone may be worth the purchase price to some users.

Figure 2: The layer name manager allows mass renaming of layer names

The Running Numbers command places a number each time you click in the drawing, such as 1, 2, 3, then 4, and so on. This is useful for quickly labeling items, and the related Settings dialog box lets you specify text parameters, starting number, increment value, and whether numbers or letters should be placed.

The conversion commands relate to polylines for the most part, such as converting polyarcs to segments; converting polylines to 3D faces; or blocks, text, and circles to points. This last command places points at insertion points of blocks and text, or at the center points of circle.

Running some commands brings up the Build Selection Set dialog box, which looks like this in figure 3:

Figure 3: Sophisticated selection sets are assembled with this dialog box

Looking over the dialog box, you can see a lot of power there, such as limiting searches to model or paper space, or searching by limited properties. At first, I found the dialog box intimidating, but as I worked through these commands, it began to make sense. The easiest way to use it is like this: the first time you see it, click Scan Entire Drawing, and then click Apply.

A second dialog box appears with commands that create objects, such as the points mentioned above. This Output Control dialog box lets met determine the layer on which the new objects appear, and whether the original ones are erased (see figure 4).

Figure 4: Placing new objects are on a specific layer

Among the drawing tools that caught my eye, there is Easy 3D Polyline, which prompted me for the elevation each time before prompting for the next point. The rules-based version of the same function automatically increments the elevation; a dialog box prompts you for the amount of increment or decrement.

Hidden under Miscellaneous I found a number of useful utility and editing tools. For instance, these folks came up with a way to split drawings by their layers: from the Export submenu, choose Layers to DWG function. It asks which layers to export, and then saves the content of each layer as individual DWG files. Like I said earlier, this package has functions you never knew you needed.

Also in the Miscellaneous menu is the CAD Procedures submenu. The name is a bit of a misnomer; I'd say "CAD Editing" would be better. There is, for example, a command that scales an object unequally in the x, y, and z-directions. While AutoCAD and BricsCAD justify only text, the Align Objects to a Justification command justifies (aligns) any objects to any of the standard nine alignments (top-left, bottom-right, etc). Another command rounds off the coordinates of points, lines, polylines, blocks, text, and shapes to a user-specified number of decimal places.

Some of the others include the following:

The Annotation menu labels the vertices, segments, and angles of polylines with their coordinate values, incrementing numbers, horizontal distances, and so on. A dialog box lets you choose the type of annotation.

And finally, there is a whole wack of commands related to editing blocks, attributes, and text which you will find in the Block and Text menus.

New in V13

I liked the way the documentation clearly lists what is new and changed in the latest release. I was working with CADPower V13, the first version compatible with AutoCAD 2013.

New commands added in V13 include the following:

(X-Hardware is a feature in BricsCAD that provides an extensive parametric library of hardware parts, such as bolts, washers, and screws. The CADpower tools extend their usefulness.)

Installing CADPower

I was interested in how it would install. It has been a long time since I installed a third-party app into AutoCAD, that I still recall having to load menu files manually. The intervening years, however, have made installs easier.

After downloading CADPower from http://www.4d-technologies.com/cadpower/download.htm, I asked my Web browser to open the .exe file. During installation, the setup software asked to which AutoCAD and which user profile it should attach itself. I chose AutoCAD 2013 as the CAD package and because I have no need for user profiles, I chose the default one.

The installation ends with the documentation and readme files opened up. The documentation is clearly laid out. If there was a negative it's that some of the commands could use more explanation for how they might be useful. To counter my complaint, Four Dimension Technologies includes a separate help file that lists step-by-step tutorials for every command. The installation includes 14 drawing files upon which to practice the tutorials.

I found it less convenient installing the software on BricsCAD, perhaps because Bricsys hasn't created the right third-party infrastructure. What is automatic with AutoCAD is manual with BricsCAD, as the dialog box below explains:

Figure 5: Instruction for completing the installation for BricsCAD

The readme file that pops up also lists the steps through the final installation steps after starting up BricsCAD. CADPower is also available in Spanish or German interfaces.

CADPower uses software licensing, and so there is no dongle to attach; licensing is based on the computer's ID. There is also network licensing available, which allows users to borrow a license from the server and then returning it when done.

Summary

You can think of CADPower as a super charged version of Express Tools. Four Dimension Technologies have created commands that you didn't even know you needed. The reasonable purchase price of $129 will quickly pay for itself through increased efficiency in your drafting work.

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Additional Information

CADPower for AutoCAD: http://www.4d-technologies.com/cadpower/

CADPower for BricsCAD is sold by Coordinate Systems: http://www.coordsys.com/cadpower/

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About the Author

ralph Ralph Grabowski, TenLinks senior editor, is one of the leading CAD journalists and authors, with over a 100 books and many hundreds of articles. His upFront.eZine may be the industry’s longest running newsletter. Ralph holds a civil engineering degree. More… 

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