VersaCAD for Macintosh 2001

End-User Review for Product Design Engineers

by Jack C. Binford, product engineer, BinCo Engineering

Note: This article was submitted by a marketing firm representing VersaCAD.

VersaCAD Macintosh 2001 software is a full production design and drafting package for Apple Macintosh computers. Engineers, draftspersons and other technical professionals working in the architectural, civil engineering, mapping and mechanical industries prefer to use VersaCAD over other design and drafting software because it offers a friendly, intuitive and logical way to generate 2-D drawings. VersaCAD Macintosh 2001 gives users the ability to account for variations in machine-shop practices and has an extensive library of architectural elements.

At BinCo, VersaCAD Macintosh 2001 is used for product design for manufacturing. BinCo serves as a manufacturer's representative and provides systems integration. BinCo receives input from customers, including specifications and desired features and effects, then designs products accordingly, making designs complete with embedded manufacturing instructions for export via DXF or IGES. BinCo also uses VersaCAD Macintosh to provide illustrations of any stage of the products it designs for use in sales brochures, user manuals, packaging and the like.

VersaCAD Macintosh 2001 is considered to be a low-range computer-aided design and drafting software, meaning it has a price of less than $600 per seat in a universe of more expensive offerings (some far more expensive). For the price, VersaCAD Macintosh 2001 provides high value with solid drafting features, making it ideal for BinCo.

I started with the VersaCAD forerunner (and pre-AutoCAD) CadApple on an Apple II+, and much later switched to VersaCAD Macintosh 2001 when it became available. BinCo served as a beta tester for Archway Systems and only had a Macintosh Plus at the time. VersaCAD Macintosh (an older version) was as slow as molasses on the Mac Plus. VersaCAD Macintosh 2001 is a flexible, adaptable comfortable application. At just 1.3MB in size, it's fast - lightening fast on my G4 system.

VersaCAD Macintosh 2001 requires fewer mouse or keyboard clicks to accomplish a drawing than most if not all the other CAD software. A user can keep his left hand on keyboard and right hand on the mouse with his eyes always focused on the work.. There are no unnecessary movements or shifting of eyes away from the work on the screen to choose commands. What this means in practical usage is that users can brainstorm and perfect concept designs quickly and before having to commit to saving lines or marks on "electronic paper." Of course, this would not be possible using actual paper.

BinCo uses Layers to separate different parts of an assembly. With it, I select whatever layers and whatever parts of the assembly that I want to plot using any plot scale desired. This feature alone sets VersaCAD apart from most of the Mac-based CAD drafting software that will only plot to size of sheet and scale originally set for the drawing. I can plot 1-to-1 on a D-size sheet and then turn around and plot at quarter scale to an A-size sheet or I can spool the file in Postscript format and email it to my customer who can print it on a laser printer.

I use VersaCAD Macintosh 2001 in preference to other drafting software programs. I use Canvas as a paint and draw program, but I prefer VersaCAD Macintosh 2001 for all other BinCo designs and drafting needs because of its ease of use.

VersaCAD provides drawing functions normally found only on much more expensive software. For example, VersaCAD includes true Bezier curves and quadratics, symbols from libraries that automatically cut into other geometry, geometric tolerancing, and top geometric construction tools for extending, trimming, and construction. The comprehensive functionality is hidden by a clean, simple interface. Tools are chosen with a single click. Settings for tools are chosen by a double click. That metaphor is used as a standard throughout the program.

Finally, I like working with VersaCAD's developers, Mike and Tom Lazear, of Archway Systems in Huntington Beach, California. They are the original developers of the software dating back to the early 1980s. For a time, VersaCAD was owned by another company that didn't do very much to improve on the product. A few years ago, in 1999, Tom Lazear purchased VersaCAD back from the other owners, and Archway Systems has been improving upon it ever since. Tom and Mike Lazear, along with their customer support staff, are easy to work with and responsive to customer needs.

VersaCAD Macintosh 2001 is easy to install and learn. I was up and running within hours of installing it the first time, even as a beta tester. That said, the main drawback to VersaCAD Macintosh 2001 is its user's manual. For me, the manual is somewhat awkward to use, but that might be because it is a 400-page reference manual plus an optional 200-page training guide. Also, there are two kinds of Help involved: A streamlined Help found under the Apple symbol and a complete reference Help in HyperCard. When I first started using the program, I found that almost all of the problems I had were due to errors in the manual instead of the software.

Areas I would like to see improved would include: unlimited zoom, a different method for setting plot specs, and more fonts. I believe some
improvement is expected in the next version. With regard to the Zoom function, when the system is out of Zoom, a message comes up that says, "Out of Zoom; OK?" I'd like the ability to expand the Zoom range or to even skip that message all together and increase the Zoom by some factor.

BinCo only has need to do 2-D designs. However, the VersaCAD Macintosh 2001 CD includes a copy of 3Djoy. This is very good three-dimensional (3-D) surface modeling software and is a good place to start for those users who want a full-featured, easy-to-use 3-D software to make models, generate nice renderings and even do some animation.

For CAD design and drafting, VersaCAD Macintosh 2001 is the most complete product available and the easiest to use. It does the job and does it very well. I enjoy working with it and shall continue to do so.

About the Author

Jack C. Binford is a product engineer and owner of BinCo Engineering. He earned a bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering from Penn State University.