Corel Visual CADD is advertised as a Professional/Production standard 2 dimensional (2D) Computer Aided Drafting and Design (CADD) package for creating Architectural drawings, Engineering drawings, Schematic drawings or any other vector based drawings that require precision input.
However, this may not be the case for the first time CAD system user. CAD systems are precision drawing tools and are not programs to be used for general freehand sketching or drawing. Even experienced manual drafters can find the transition to a CAD system difficult. The use of CAD requires precision user input in the form of Cartesian coordinates (x, y and z co-ordinate values) and Object Snaps when placing lines, circles, arc and other drawing entities within the drawing editor.
The user interface has a standard windows software look and feel with the standard windows Menu Bar, Speed Bar Icons and Status Bar. The user interface also includes an additional embedded toolbar on the right hand screen that provides quick and easy access to all drawing tools and some of the more important drawing and editing commands.
All drawing commands could be accessed in a number of ways by using either the menu bar pulldown options, the icon toolbar and pullout options or by keyboard short cuts. It is interesting to note that Visual CADD follows the standard Windows format in that all commands are available from the standard Menu Bar as well as icons and keyboard short cuts. Some other vendor's windows based (CAD) software have departed form this convention and the majority of drawing commands can only be accessed from floating toolbar icons, with limited access from keyboard shortcuts. This practice is fine for experienced users of that software, however, it makes using the software for first time users extremely difficult and hard to learn.
Getting Started has a comprehensive drawing tutorial based on creation of a simple house floor plan. Unfortunately, the tutorial used imperial measurements of feet, inches and fractions of inches and at a scale of 1/8" = 9''. I soon abandoned the tutorial and decided to draw my own house plans in metric units and at full size. (When will North American software manufacturers realise that the world is metric?). Apart form the imperial units issue, the tutorial was well designed and structured for the ab-initio CAD user.
“User Guide” was the most spartan part of the manual. The explanation of how to set up and organise a drawing, the use of layers and drawing objects was well laid out and easy to follow, however, the section on dimensioning and the setting up of dimension styles was very brief. Particularly given the complexity of the dimension setup options.
The core of the manual appeared to revolve around the comprehensive use of standard symbols or parts libraries and a large portion of the manual is given over to cataloguing the comprehensive symbol libraries (which I chose not to install). Again, the symbol libraries appeared to be more useful in the North American environment than and Australian or European environment. In fact, the power and productivity enhancements of Visual CADD as espoused in the manual are predicated on the extensive use of the built in symbol libraries.
All the Drawing and entity modify commands were very straight forward to use and I had no difficulty putting together a detailed drawing relatively quickly. The modify command structure is very simple and intuitive and allows you to either select the entity and then pick the modify option or pick the modify command and then select the entity you wish to modify. Some CAD systems can be very pedantic in the order in which you are required to select the commands and entities.
Another interesting Visual CADD function is the use of Boolean addition, subtraction and intersection of primitive shapes to create complex geometry. I could have created my house plan outline by creating a series of rectangles, used the offset command to create the brick outer walls and interior walls then used the Boolean operation of intersect to create the house outline.
Visual CADD also makes exclusive use of the Windows 95 right mouse button to execute "interactive" commands, that is, you can execute viewing commands such as pan, zoom and snap whilst in the middle of say drawing a line, arc or circle.
One annoying function of Visual CAD is the way you are required to input X and Y coordinates via a combination selecting the X dialogue box with the mouse and then entering the X numeric value via the keyboard then selecting the Y dialogue box then entering the Y numeric value. You also have select the Absolute, Relative or Basepoint co-ordinate option prior to entering the X and Y values. Normally X and Y values are typed in directly at the keyboard and separated by a comma. Similarly, Absolute or Relative co-ordinate options are denoted by a symbol preceding the keyboard entered X and Y values i.e. i [iX,Y]for incremental, d [dX,Y]for delta or the use of the @ symbol [@X,Y]). These additional steps of selecting either Absolute, Relative or Basepoint reference options required for co-ordinates and the actual coordinate entry technique can be time consuming and tricky for the uninitiated.
Also Visual CADD does not make use of direct entry Polar coordinates for drawing lines at a specified length and angle to the horizontal. To draw a line at angle of, say 22.5o, to the horizontal you first have to set the Ortho(graphic) angle to 22.5o then draw the line then set the Ortho angle back to 0o and continue the drawing. Again, this method of drawing entities at a specified angle can be very time consuming and in-efficient, particularly for survey type drawings. Another feature of Visual CADD that I found relatively poor was the lack of standard Hatch Patterns. Hatching is achieved by drawing the "seed" hatch pattern and then using that "seed" as the basis of future hatching. This technique means that any user defined hatch patterns you create as part of your drawing belong to that drawing only and must be redefined again for other drawings. There appears to be no standard hatch patterns available for general use. There is a facility to generate and store standard hatch patterns such as ISO, AS1100 or ANSI patterns using a text file, however, I did not go to that extent. Standard Hatch Patterns are normally provided with CAD software.
You can load your customised Pulldown and Right Mouse Button Context Sensitive menus either on the "fly" by using the File/ Load Menu option or by configuring Visual CADD to start with your custom menu using the Windows 95 Registry Editing facility. I chose not to fool around with the Windows registry.
As well as printing to your system printer there is also an option for plotting to a specified plotter. The range of plotter out is very comprehensive and covers all the well known brands, such as the HP Series, CalComp, Novajet, Mutoh Roland and etc. The Plot to File option is also available. For example, the amount of plotting I do on A3, A2, A1 and A0 is very small and I could not justify the purchase of $5,000 to $10,000 worth of plotter. I simply create a plot file in say HPGL-1 or HPGL-2 and take that plot file to a bureau for plotting. At about $7 - 8 per plot it makes sense (the cost is normally recovered in my charge for services).
I found Visual CADD very easy to use. I was most impressed with the Win95 interface, the right mouse button techniques for snapping, panning and zooming and other command contexts. The use of multiple windows within the one drawing. The ability to open several drawings in the one session was also excellent (classic windows working environment). Cutting and pasting between drawings, if required, is very easy using the right mouse button or CRTL+C and CRTL+V. I briefly dabbled in linking (OLE) a drawing into a Word document, but you lose a bit of clarity when you paste a full size drawing of a house onto an A4 page.
I found the pull out icons with the right mouse button the most efficient way to work and the icons appeared (to me) to be intuitive and relatively easy to interpret their function. Corel Visual CADD is a professional/production level 2D CAD program specifically aimed at 2D drafting market. Visual CADD offers some fairly sophisticated functionality, including Dynamic Reference Frames, 2D Boolean operations, OLE functionality, Symbol creation and Dynamic Symbol placement. and Windows Multiple Document Interface and in terms of price versus performance, Visual CAD would be well placed in the general purpose 2D CAD market