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IntelliCAD by CADopia:
Sometimes Cubic Zirconium is Enough

By Elise Moss

At $149 for a standard edition ($249 for the professional edition), the software provides all the functionality of vanilla AutoCAD at the price of AutoCAD LT.

The software comes with a 480-page user guide, something Autodesk eliminated years ago. For many users the lack of paper documentation by most software vendors is fast becoming a sore point. IntelliCAD’s user guide is very well written and easy to understand. It is on the same level as any textbook from Autodesk Press.

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Not a real good way to launch after you first install IntelliCAD.

Once you OK-click your way through a series of dialogs that IntelliCAD should just plain eliminate, you will end at the standard user interface – menu, toolbars, and command line.

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My first reaction, as an AutoCAD veteran, was a sense of landing in some alterCAD universe, where the toolbars and interface looked familiar and yet strange. IntelliCAD uses a similar command interface as AutoCAD.

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Further exploration shows that this is really a more powerful tool than AutoCAD in some ways. The circle tool is actually a flyout with options for radius, diameter, 2 point, 3 point, tangent, and Convert Arc to Circle. AutoCAD provides you with the ability to create a similar flyout, but IntelliCAD has it right out of the box.

As you go through each command, you will notice that almost all of them have expanded functions over and above what AutoCAD offers. A shift-right mouse click in the middle of a draw command brings up an OSNAP pop-up similar to AutoCAD’s.

The problem comes if you actually try to use one of the OSNAPs. About 80% of the time, the object snap failed to locate and latch onto its target.

When creating a line, I was able to use absolute, relative, and polar coordinates, but Direct Entry did not work. Since I use Direct Entry often when drafting, this quickly became a major setback for me.

When invoking any of the Modify commands, this pop-up appears to aid in creating a selection set to modify. Interestingly enough, you don’t need to select any of the items in the popup to actually invoke the selection process. I was able to do Window Crossing or Window-Inside to select entities. To select using Window Circle, I had to select from the pop-up menu or type WC at the command line. You are still able to deselect using the Shift-Pick option. The ‘a’ and ‘r’ options also work in creating a selection set.

IntelliCAD comes with model space and paper space functionality. It works like AutoCAD minus the ability to control the viewport scale with a nice Viewport toolbar. Since I use that viewport scale toolbar a lot, this becomes another minus factor. 

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IntelliCAD manages Layers, Linetypes, Styles, Views, Blocks and Dimension Styles in an Explorer that is similar to the Style Manager in Architectural Desktop. You can use the IntelliCAD Explorer to copy and paste blocks, layers, etc. from one drawing to another similar to the way the Style Manager in ADT works. You don’t have the drag and drop functionality between drawings, so if you’re used to that, this would be a minus.

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The Dimension Style dialog box looks similar to AutoCAD. Like AutoCAD 2000 and above, the preview window updates when options are modified so you can preview your changes.

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I was very impressed with IntelliCAD’s ability to save all the way down to AutoCAD Version 2.5. I don’t know anyone who still uses that version, but it certainly makes a nice trivia question.

For those users who want to do solid modeling, IntelliCAD comes with the same standard 3D solids tools AutoCAD does, with a few improvements like the preset Viewpoints. Unfortunately, they forgot to add the “modify 3D” tools, so you can’t add or subtract solids easily. This isn’t a big deal for me since I use Inventor, ADT or MDT for 3D modeling, but for other users, this could be a big concern. Likewise, materials and rendering are still way behind AutoCAD’s functionality. ACIS solids are supposedly partially supported, but I was not able to get any ACIS solids to look proper when I imported them.

IntelliCAD comes with the same View and Pan tools as AutoCAD R13. For those users who have gotten used to the dynamic zoom or the 3D orbit, you will be disappointed and even annoyed.  Shifting your view around the drawing can be tedious and even frustrating.

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The Properties dialog in IntelliCAD looks closer to AutoCAD’s R14 properties dialog than the more advanced 2000 properties, but it has some expanded functionality to it.

The above dialog was brought up with a dimension was selected.

Drawings created in IntelliCAD opened with no problems in AutoCAD2002 and vice versa. IntelliCAD touts it’s ability to run AutoLISP and VBA, but the first lisp routine I tried to load and run caused the software to crash.

IntelliCAD works under Windows 2000, NT 4,0, Win 98, Win 95, and Win ME. XP will be supported starting in January. Network versions of the software will be available starting in March.

24-hour technical support is currently provided free…a major plus for those who are just starting out in CAD. CADopia has trainers, which they can send to your office for a fee.

OK, so why would you buy IntelliCAD versus AutoCAD or even AutoCAD LT? Well, if you want the functionality of AutoCAD for the price of LT, IntelliCAD is definitely a viable candidate. If you wish to make a protest vote against Autodesk for forcing you away from R14, you can use IntelliCAD to create drawings that are compatible with 2002. If you want an AutoCAD-compatible product that runs lisp routines for a lot less money, then IntelliCAD is worth a try. If you’re a student who can’t afford AutoCAD, IntelliCAD is a good way to get your feet wet and still be able to create AutoCAD compatible drawings. If you have some users in your department who do light drafting and need to be able to run lisp routines or custom menus, IntelliCAD is a good choice. Sometimes a cubic zirconium is the right way to go.

About the Author

Elise Moss has worked for the past twenty years as a mechanical designer in Silicon Valley, primarily creating sheet metal designs. She has written articles for Autodesk’s Toplines magazine and AUGI’s PaperSpace. She is President of Moss Designs, a Registered Autodesk Developer, creating custom applications and designs for corporate clients. She is also President of Silicon Valley AutoCAD Power Users, the largest AutoCAD user’s group in the United States. She has taught CAD classes at DeAnza College, Silicon Valley College, and for Autodesk resellers. She holds a baccalaureate degree from San Jose State.

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