Friday, September 24, 2010


DraftSight and other DWG incompatible clones

It is an interesting phenomenon this autumn. Even respectable software vendors jumps to be the first ones who release an AutoCAD clone for Mac, and better AutoCAD clone for Windows.

There is the Dassault's DraftSight, CAD Schroer's STHENO/LX, Graebert's ARES, ProgeCAD is said to be in the works, and maybe others.

The first strange thing in these feverish activities is the Mac platform. I don't know if the US market is so different but there are simply no Mac users in the technical/engineering industry in Europe. Someone should divulge that to these vendors.

The second thing is the lack of innovation. Are all these software vendors so short-sighted and non-creative that they are able only to copy (steal if you wish) an existing software - AutoCAD - and bring no own idea into their development?

And the third thing - the most important for us, users. When they happen to copy AutoCAD, they should do it right. I had a chance to try DraftSight which is said to read/write DWG files "almost like AutoCAD" and I can say that this is simply not true. DraftSight reads most of the DWG contents but not all! Some drawing objects are missing, some objects are interpreted differently that in the genuine AutoCAD. So you definitely cannot trust the DWG drawings you open or even modify in DraftSight. It does not support DWG, it does support only a clone of the DWG format (a subtle but important difference).

Maybe your business does not depend on the precision and fidelity of the technical drawings but our business does.

So if there happens to be some Mac users longing to process DWG files on their apple-boxes, they will need to use the official "AutoCAD for Mac" by Autodesk.

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It is not that surprising that so many companies are developing for the Mac. Since the iPhone and iPad have been released, the market share of Macs has increased dramatically. In addition, there are many companies, such as ours, that will switch to Macs once AutoCAD is proven reliable on it without using Parallels and if Revit is ever ported over, we would be even more likely to do so. It would be a gradual transition, so they would have to play nice with their Windows counterparts. In addition many of our users use a Mac at home and would welcome being able to run AutoCAD natively on them when they need to do some quick editing at home.

As for Draftsight and similar free programs, even though they are not 100% compatible, it is close enough that it serves a purpose here. We have a few engineers that ocassionally need to make a fast tweek to a drawing (i.e. edit some text) before sending it out. This software allows them to do so without us having to purchase an extra seat for them. Now that will make the drawing not be a Trusted AutoCAD drawing and sometimes stability issues arise because of that, but we have some handy lisp routines and other tools at our disposal to quickly fix that when and if the stability issues occur (doesn't seem to have caused many here lately though, they seem to be getting more and more compatible).
It's actually no longer true that Windows is the default OS for architects. This is at least true in the France and in Spain; I see more and more Macs in architectural firms and amongst university students of architecutre.

This is especially true in the South of France where a lot of firms use archiCad and other CAD software that works natively on MACs.

Although I still use PC's , it's only because they are cheaper. But my friends they have all switched to Mac. I'm seriously considering it myself.
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