Buying CAD software for your daily use, choosing from the myriad options in the market, is an important decision. Whether you are an individual user and you are evaluating for your team the choice needs to be a carefully considered decision. The decision not only impacts you and your organization financially, but it will also impact your productivity & your capability to communicate with vendors and customers. Through this article we will help you identify the key parameters you must evaluate to make an informed choice and answer “Where can I buy CAD software”.
Every software product will be in some way different from one another & what you are used to, impacting the speed at which you will be able to adapt.
The software must be easy to use and friendly
The software must be able to run with acceptable speed on the hardware you normally use
You will need to use and share the designs/drawings you have created with colleagues, customers, and vendors.
What would it take to have access all the time?
The software must perform reliably & not crash while you are creating your most complex work.
Consider the source of technology and how often the software is released.
How responsive is the company to the queries during your evaluation & use?
There will be repetitive tasks that you want to execute quickly.
Evaluate the cost of maintaining the software over a period of the next five years.
Evaluate each criterion on a scale of 1 to 5. Pick the software that fits your budget and scores closest to 50! you would have your answer for “Where can I buy CAD software”?. Now let us go through each criterion in greater detail.
Every software product will be in some way different from the one & another, but what you are using to, impacting the speed at which you will be able to adapt. Many CAD users will have used some software, New staff joining your company might be familiar with the use of industry-leading software such as AutoCAD. What you need to evaluate is how quickly, you and your team, can become productive on the software you are considering. This will make down to how similar is the organization of the menu, how similar the commands are and even how similar are the commands named to what you are used before. An interface you are familiar with will reduce the learning curve and get you and your team up and be running quickly. This criterion is often missed while considering new software and adds hidden costs during implementation.
The software must be easy to use and friendly. Look for modern user interfaces such as the Ribbon interface. In addition, the software must be easily configurable to make often-used commands easily accessible. Good CAD products offer customization through tool palettes. The facility of Command-Line allows you to pull up the appropriate menu or dialogue box instantly. This also allows you to import existing designs into the current drawing space. The best programs also have a setup manager that lets you change the settings on your document and easily access frequently used command strings to save you even more time.
The software must be able to run with acceptable speed on the hardware you normally use. Many CAD products require large RAM and fast CPUs to give you the performance you need. Using such products may require you to upgrade your computer systems for you and your team. This would be an additional cost
You will need to use and share the designs/drawings you have created with colleagues, customers, and vendors. The software you use must be able to handle as many industry-standard file formats as possible both for input and output. DWG (a file format used in 2D and 3D drawings), DXF (Drawing Interchange Format), DWF (Design Web Format) and DGN (used for large-scale projects and similar to DWG) are the most important formats that must be supported. For 3D printing, an STL export feature is handy. For printing or emailing read-only files, look for PDF and various image file formats for easy transfer. Reading PDF drawings into the software is also useful. The software must be capable of reading old versions of DWG, DXF, etc. You may get files that have been created long ago or created on systems that do not support new versions.
What would it take to have access all the time? Let us say you use a Desktop at work and a laptop at home and while on the go. What if you have to use CAD while at home? Do you need another license? What if this is the case with your team? Do you need twice the number of licenses or is there an easy way to transfer licenses. Obviously, while you are working at home you are not using the license on your computer at work. Your license requirement can easily balloon if the software does not support easy do it yourself license transfer.
The software must perform reliably and not crash while you are creating your most complex work. During evaluation load the software with your most complex drawing and work with it. Notice the performance in Zoom, PAN, and other often used operations. Modify the drawing, save and restore. Look out for performance bottlenecks and any crashes, especially those where you lost your work.
Consider the source of technology and how often the software is released. Buying software is not a one-time interaction with the vendor. The vendor must support you and release upgraded and bug fixed software periodically. Evaluate the vendor’s capability to repair the bugs you might come across. Large CAD vendors like AutoDesk will have substantial development teams. There are vendors who add value and base their products on the IntelliCAD consortium’s product. With such vendors, you are assured of periodic releases with new features and bug fixes.
How responsive is the vendor to your queries during your evaluation or use? The vendor should have email support with guaranteed turnaround time. Evaluate the responses you get to your queries. Do they help you sort out the issue? How many emails does it take to get a problem solved? Can the vendor do a remote session to solve a complex issue? Evaluate the online resources available for training yourself or getting a ‘How to …’ question answered. Look for video tutorials, FAQ’s and forums are convenient sources for additional help. Many of the vendors have video tutorials and PDF manuals you can download.
There will be repetitive tasks that you want to execute quickly. If you are planning to use the software for considerable time evaluate whether it is possible to customize the software. Depending on the domain in which you use the software there will be a group of repetitive tasks that you use often. You should be able to bundle all the commands into a single custom command using programming. Many CAD software will support LISP, Diesel, SDS, and DCL. Additionally, some CAD products implement the Application Programming Interface (API). An example is ARX of AutoCAD and IRX of IntelliCAD. Using the API, programs can be written to automate complex tasks to improve the productivity of your team.
Evaluate the cost of maintaining the software over a period of the next five years. Traditionally CAD products were sold with licenses with lifetime validity. You had to then pay the Annual Maintenance Contract (AMC) to avail of upgrades and support. Purchasing an AMC was optional. Your software continued to work even if you did not pay for the AMC. Now many CAD products have switched over to annual licensing. This means you have to renew your license every year or your software will stop working! To calculate all the costs involved in keeping your software running for 5 years before you make the buy decision.
We hope you have answered your question “Where can I buy CAD software”. This decision has a long-term impact on you and your team’s productivity, exchanging files and communicating with clients and vendors effectively without losing information or additional work.
Now I would like to introduce you to ActCAD, my favorite CAD software and evaluate ActCAD on the above criteria.
Commonly used commands and menus of ActCAD are very similar to the industry-leading AutoCAD. If you are familiar with using AutoCAD you have no learning curve when it comes to ActCAD.
ActCAD is easy to use and friendly. It offers both the traditional and ribbon interfaces. This CAD software is easily configured and customized through tool palettes to put often used commands and command strings at your fingertips.
ActCAD is light and does not need high-end computers to deliver acceptable performance.
ActCAD handles all industry-standard file formats. DWG, DXF, DWF and DGN, PDF, STL and many more.
Where can I buy CAD software
ActCAD offers a unique licensing feature that is not offered by anyone else. You have been working on your desktop at work and have some leftover work that you want to finish at home? No problem! Just uninstall the license at work. When you get home to install it on your home computer and continue working!
ActCAD is based on IntelliCAD. All releases of IntelliCAD are tested extensively. There are two major releases during a year which means continuous improvement and reliability. ActCAD warns you, when you are working, that it might crash, giving you adequate notice to save and restart.
ActCAD is based on IntelliCAD. There are two major releases during a year which means continuous improvement and reliability. ActCAD is always first off the blocks to make an ActCAD release based on the most recent IntelliCAD release. Since the first version of ActCAD, ActCAD 2015 based on IntelliCAD 8.0, there have been three major releases. ActCAD 2016 (IntelliCAD 8.1b), ActCAD 2017 (IntelliCAD 8.2a), ActCAD 2018 (IntelliCAD 8.4a). ActCAD has continuously added value to the IntelliCAD releases in UI, drawing commands, file import-export, block library and much more.
ActCAD prides itself on its customer support. Email support is prompt and where necessary we will get on the phone with you and solve the problem. 90% of our user support requests are solved in 24 hours.
You can customize ActCAD using tool palettes and custom menus. LISP, Diesel, SDS, and DCL are supported. Non compiled applications in these languages can be used directly in ActCAD. IRX the API interface to ActCAD offers the similar capability that ARX in AutoCAD offers. Minor changes need to be made to ARX code to run using IRX.
ActCAD wins this hands down! Not only is the license inexpensive it has lifetime validity. ActCAD’s TCO for five years with annual upgrades is under $500 for the professional version! Add the facts that you can easily move licenses from machine to machine and that a license for a version of ActCAD will run all the lower versions i.e. ActCAD 2018 license will run not only 2018 but 2017, 2016 and 2015, and you have a real winner!
Thank you for staying with us until the end and I hope you are able to answer the question “Where can I buy CAD software” for your particular requirement. There could be more criteria than the 10 criteria I have listed that are important to you. Add them to your list during the evaluation and please do send them our way. We would love to add them here. Some criteria could be more important for your application. You could increase their weight in the final score. For some, a small Learning Curve may be important, for some of the Cost of Ownership and for others Customer support. Decide what is important for your application and your team and evaluate the products you are considering objectively. Happy CADding.