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TurboCAD R20 Review

By Jeffrey Heimgartner, October 10, 2013

Not to date myself, but I began with CAD on AutoCAD Release 11 (that's years before Autodesk started referring to releases by the year number) and so I used the software ever since. This makes me fairly loyal as an AutoCAD user, but as a manager I have to keep an eye on the bottom line. That's why I got interested in IMSI/Design's TurboCAD Pro Platinum 20: it is software comparable with what I am using, yet has its own unique features. At a retail price of $1,695 instead of $4,195, I can get 2.5x more seats of TurboCAD over the other.

While I'd known about TurboCAD from reviews and advertisements, I'd never had a chance to use the software. I set out to see how easily I could pick up the software, and if it had the power and functionality I was used to. I knew I wouldn't have enough time to review all of the software, and so I decided to focus on two things: (a) how easily could I pick up the user interface, given my background, and (b) how could some of the new features in the latest release benefit our firm's efficiency and productivity. For instance, I discovered additional features I was unaware TurboCAD had, such as an extensive set of tools for creating architectural elements in 2D and 3D.

Here's what I found.

User Interface

The installation process gave me the option to choose either the default TurboCAD user interface, or one that is more AutoCAD-like, called "LTE." I chose LTE, but later after browsing through familiar-looking dropdown menus and toolbars, I found I could change the interface at any time. (Click the Customize Controls icon, and then in the Options tab select the appropriate style from the Workspace area. See figure 1.)

Figure 1: Choosing the user interface

The most immediate differences to me were that the TurboCAD Workspace has no command line prompt are, while the LTE Workspace does; and the TurboCAD Interface's default command is "Line," while the LTE default command is "Selection." Other parts of the UI are similar. Both workspaces, for instance, have a status bar in the lower left corner to keep me on track, prompting for the next action with the currently selected tool.

As a result of the LTE user interface being so similar to AutoCAD's, I was able to start drawing and modifying object with ease. On the other hand, I found the default TurboCAD user interface really quite intuitive. Although it took me awhile to get used to not having a command line, it became easier to navigate just through toolbars and icons. I liked that any of the toolbars could be moved and docked wherever I wanted them. One of the more subtle features I found quite helpful was the ruler for judging distances: rulers placed the left and the top of the drawing area showed the units currently selected, and upon zooming they update to reflect the current measurements at the new zoom level.

Overall, I am impressed by TurboCAD's ability to emulate AutoCAD's user interface, and how intuitive and powerful TurboCAD's default user interface is.

New Features

In deciding the new features on which to focus, I must say I was impressed at the number of new ones from which to choose. From my research, IMSI/Design has been doing a great job in adding new features with every release. The following new features are ones I felt could have the biggest potential impact on our organization, and so I looked into them a little further.

Selecting Objects. Selection is an obvious necessity to every kind of modification command. TurboCAD's latest release showcases three new drag modes - Window, Crossing, and Fence - in which I can drag the cursor on the screen to select objects. There is now an option to restore the previously-used selection. and I assume this was a welcome addition to seasoned TurboCAD users.

3D PDF. Sharing designs with others inside and outside our firm is the most important step of the design process. It ensures we deliver the correct deliverable. TurboCAD 20 allows me to export 3D models to a 3D .PDF file, which can be viewed and interacted with by using the free Acrobat Reader. This is extremely valuable in those instances when I share drawings and designs with non-technical people.

Associative Dimensioning in Viewports. We know how often design revisions take place, and so I found associative dimensioning in viewports is powerful new function that could increase productivity. It allows me to place dimensions in paper space, and then automatically updates them when changes are made to associated objects in model space. Not having to re-dimension every time there is a change is a huge savings in time. In this latest release, this function has been expanded to handle 2D objects, solids, and surfaces - they all remain associative in standard views.

Stellated Polygon Tool. The stellated polygon tool is brand new, and it lets me to create star-shaped polygon objects with just a couple clicks. (Select the Stellated Polygon icon from the Draw toolbar, which activates the Inspector Bar.) Within the Inspector Bar, I am able to change variables for the number of teeth, their external and internal diameters, size of fillets, angle between them, and an optional hole diameter (see figure 2).

Figure 2: Creating stellated polygons

The Inspector Bar from time to time pops up in TurboCAD, depending on which command I am using. It can be used for canceling actions, opening objects properties, or in this case provide numeric fields for data entry, relative to the current chosen tool.

Gear Contour Tool. Now if you though that the stellated polygon's properties sounded like gear parameters, you would be correct. The new Gear Contour Tool creates and aligns gear-shaped objects quickly. Like in the previous example, after I selected the appropriate icon to activate the Gear Contour Command, the Inspector Bar popped up. From here I was able to control teeth number, diameter pitch, pressure angle, angle of rotation, hole diameter, and when working in 3D the thickness of the gear. While past versions had the ability to draw gears, this new version adds the ability to draw them parametrically so that they are easily modified after being created.

Entity Markers. Another new feature, which TurboCAD classifies as a BIM (building information modeling) tool is the entity marker. This function places custom-defined marks that track and count objects. In addition, the marks add information to drawings by creating and defining property sets.

I found that Property Set definitions allow me to create custom information for objects, such as for windows: style, cost, and dimensional information. Or for tracking square footage of areas within buildings. The information is used to generate reports, like BOMs (bills of material) and window schedules.

Part Tree. One of the features that I found really handy, especially when working in 3D, was the Part Tree feature, also referred to as "history-based editing." (It is found under the Selection Palette.) I found I can use this function as a selective Undo/Redo tool, meaning that I am able to adjust parts of my drawings and models without having to Undo any series of commands I've used. Even if a parameter I want to adjust was created days ago. I am still able to undo it; the rest of the model was updated accordingly.

Figure 3: 3D Part Selected and Part Tree Open

In my opinion though, the real power lies in the ability of the part tree to make changes parametrically to designs by adjusting values within the appropriate fields. In figure 3, you can see that I have selected a 3D part (a drill bit): by choosing the fields I want to revise and updating their values, I am able to change the number of sections per coil, the spiral pitch, and the pitch direction. All this without having to make any traditional editing change to the part itself.

There are a myriad of different fields available for adjusting, depending on the type of model I have and how it was created.

Not So New Features

While noodling around in TurboCAD, testing the two user interface and trying out new functions, I ran across a couple of items that I really liked, but are not new to this release.

I love reading about new tools and ways to increase productivity and ultimately profitability, and so I read a lot of CAD Industry blogs, tips and tricks, and so on to keep up-to-date with the latest and greatest in the industry. I share this worthwhile information with my team, possibly sharing some not so useful information as well! This is why one of the little features in TurboCAD caught my eye: Tip Of The Day is located under the Help menu. Having a place for CAD users to just click and get a tip that may teach them something they don't already know - this is priceless.

The other feature I found interesting is the many commands under the Architecture menu (see figure 4). It has tools to create 2D and 3D architectural elements, such as walls, floors, roofs, doors, sections, and schedules.

Figure 4: Functions on the architecture menu

This section included a command titled HouseWizard. It allows me to design houses by starting with my room and room size requirements. I picked the types of rooms or spaces I wanted, size them, and then place them accordingly. Once I had rooms in place, I chose the Build House command and a floor plan was created from my room layout. You can see the before and after below in Figure 5. While I had only a little time to experiment with this function, it was quite obvious that I would be able to add to and revise the floor plan, and then create elevations, sections, and details - everything needed for a full set of house plans.

Figure 5: The house wizard in action

Conclusion

With an impressive array of import/export options and an intuitive, flexible user interface system, I found it easy to dive right into the software and start exploring. The similarities to AutoCAD, along with TurboCAD's own strong set of unique features, allowed me to catch on quickly.

For its price point, TurboCAD Pro Platinum 20 in my opinion definitely delivers a lot of bang for the buck and can stand toe-to-toe with the competition. I will continue to work with and learn about TurboCAD, and suggest anyone in the market for affordable yet powerful CAD software to take a look as well. I think you won't be disappointed.

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About the Author

Jeffrey Heimgartner has over 20 years of industry experience. He manages Advanced Technical Services for CapStone's CAD division. He has a bachelor's degree in Industrial Technology with an emphasis in CAD from Wayne State College in Wayne, Nebraska. More...

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