Sixteen Bits Online


Corel Visual CADD

by Neil Moffat

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.

System Requirements

Minimum: 386 with Maths co-processor
4 Mb RAM
7-10 Free Disk Space
Windows 95 or Windows NT 3.5
Recommended: 486 or higher
8 Mb RAM
15 - 20 MB Free Disk Space (to include all options)
Windows 95 or Windows NT 3.5

Reviewer's System:

Pentium 120 MHz,
32 Mb RAM
Diamond Stealth 64 Video card with 4 Mb DRAM
Hex speed CD-ROM
Windows 95.
H-P Deskjet 500 (A4) Printer.


Installation is from a single CD-ROM using the standard Windows 95 Add/Delete programs option from the control Panel. Installation was straight forward and included the options of Full or Custom installation. I chose the Custom installation as I did not wish to clutter up my hard drive and load all the Architectural and Engineering symbol libraries. The actual installation took less than one minute and was trouble free. I did take the opportunity to check out the Corel/ Numera Homepage and found that there was a patch available for Corel Visual CAD to upgrade from version 2.0.1 to 2.0.2. I downloaded the patch (from201.exe at 663Kb) but have yet to install it as the software performed flawlessly during the review.

Initial Impressions

As a professional engineer I have had many years using CAD systems such as H- P ME10 (2D), H-P Solid Designer (3D), AutoCAD Release 12 (Windows), Release 13, LT (2D & 3D)and ISR CADDSMAN Modeller (3D). This was the first time that I had used Visual CADD and I found the Windows 95 user interface familiar and the icon toolbar relatively easy to interpret and use. In fact, the Visual CADD Windows 95 interface and command structure are very similar to AutoCAD LT so I had little difficulty in making the transition.

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.


The documentation accompanying Visual CADD was relatively spartan given the supposed power of the product stated in the advertising blurb and also given the price of the software. The manual itself is well organised within three sections, Getting Started, User Guide and Library Catalogue.

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.

Drawing Environment Setup

Set up for metric units was very easily completed using the Utilities/Settings dialogue box options. Setting up of the drawing Layers was also easy using the Utilities/Layer Manager dialogue box. There are 1024 layers available of which I used only 8. The drawing environment set up is accomplished using the Utilities/Set Up option dia-logue box. Options include dimension style, text style, system settings, file paths settings, font selection and etc. I set up the drawing environment for metric drawings using an Architectural True Type font and I immediately saved that setup as "metric' style profile. I also quickly set up a prototype or standard metric drawing which I could use as a template for all my other drawings. The use of standard "styles" and/or prototype drawings with your customised drawing environment (text style, dimension style, layer set up & etc) is almost mandatory for efficient use of CAD systems. For example, you can start your new drawing by opening a prototype A2 drawing (a drawing set up in an A2 environment) then apply an Architectural, Mechanical or any other Style to that drawing. The combinations and permutations of styles are only limited by our imagination.

Object Creation

Drawing my house plan was a relatively simple process. I chose not to use the multi line command and drew the outline of my house plan using single segment lines and then used the offset function to offset the outer shell to create the brick walls and interior walls. I then used the trim command to trim all the overhanging lines. Visual CAD has a Trim Intersection function specifically for trimming intersecting sets of parallel lines. This function proved to be very useful and saved a lot of time by not having to trim individual lines. When using the trim/intersection function you simply window (or box) the group of lines to trim.

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.

Multiple Document Interface

Visual CADD allows you to open multiple windows of your current drawing and then allows you to work in each individual window. This technique can save your a lot of time by not having to PAN and ZOOM around your drawing, particularly for large and complex drawings. Similarly, your can also open multiple drawings and use the Windows cut and paste functions to transfer drawing entities from one drawing to another.


Visual CADD allows you to modify, add or delete the Pulldown menus and the right mouse button context sensitive menus by cre-ating your own "CUSTOM.MNU" and/or "CUSTOM.POP text file. I made some basic changes to Visual CADD's DEFAULT.MNU file using notepad and saved the changes to NEILS.MNU file and loaded my custom menu by using the File/Load menu option. The minor changes worked fine, however, for major changes to the menu you would need to be very familiar with Visual CADD's command structure. Customising menus is normally carried out only after you have a lot of experience with the software and you have a very good understanding of what you want to achieve by making a customised menu.

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.

Printing and Plotting

Printing my drawing to my HP Deskjet 500 was extremely easy. For my first output I simply chose the Fit to Paper option, previewed the result and printed my drawing. One of the problems using a B&W printer and using coloured lines in your drawing is that your printed output will be missing lines and drawing entities because your B&W printer cannot accommodate colours, particularly yellows and greens. I normally only use black, greyscales, red and blue because of my printer limitations. Visual CADD has an option of converting all colours to black, which is very handy for users like myself who do not have colour printers and I do not have to restrict the colour range of my drawing to only those colours I can print out.

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).

Plot Scaling and output

Again, one of the problems CAD software originating from North America seems to be the exclusive use of imperial units for plotting. Visual CADD is no exception and has a Print/Plot scale option which is assumes that you will be printing/Plotting at scales of 3/32" = 1', 3/16" = 1', 1/2" = 1' and etc. ISO and AS1100 acceptable Architectural scales are 1:10, 1:20, 1:50, 1:100 and 1:200 and these drawing scales bear little relationship to the imperial plot scales. In Visual CADD, whilst you can specify the use of metric units for drawing, when it comes to scaled Printed/Plotted output you can specify the paper units in mm but you can only specify the Real World units in inches and you must use the appropriate conversion factor (based on 25.4 mm = 1 inch) for the appropriate scale factor. Apart form the issue of scale factors, obtaining hardcopy output from Visual CADD via the system printer is simple and straight forward and the software can also accommodate a wide range of plotter types.

Dynamic Reference Frames.

A powerful feature of Visual CADD is the use of reference frames for placing scaled views of the one drawing inside another drawing. You can use Dynamic Reference Frames to layout your "master" drawing made up of individual plan views, elevations, detailed views and etc. Whilst you cannot edit the contents of a reference frame, you can control the visibility of the reference frame drawing such as showing or hiding specific layers. Dynamic Reference Frames are normally "linked" to your main drawing so if you need to change the contents of the referenced frame drawing file you can simply open the original drawing, make any changes required, and then open the main or "master" drawing and the contents are automatically updated.

The use of Reference


Corel Visual CADD is a very good general purpose professional level 2D drafting application. Whilst the software has particular strengths and weaknesses, Visual CADD could easily be used for a wide range of "professional" applications in the Architectural CAD, Mechanical CAD and Civil Engineering CAD environment.

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

Corel / Numera Software or
Version: 2.0.1
Supplier: Corel Software
Distributor: Corel Software
RRP: $600.00

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