IntelliCAD 2001 Professional

Reviewed by: Howard Carson, send e-mail
Published by: CADopia, go to the web site
Requires: Windows 98/Me/NT/2000, Pentium processor, 64MB RAM, 80MB free hard drive space, CD-ROM drive
MSRP: US$189 (download) to $249 (retail pack: CD + manual)

Professional Computer Aided Design (CAD) software can be had for less than $3000 per license. Really. As a matter of fact, according to CADopia, the publisher of IntelliCAD, for $189 you can get yourself a genuine AutoCAD 14 clone with AutoCAD 2000 file compatibility. Needless to say, any company that claims it can compete almost head-to-head with AutoCAD for a fraction of the price is bound to get our undivided attention.

If you've ever used AutoCAD, running IntelliCAD will bring on a feeling of deja vu. We have one AutoCAD user among our research staff and her first comment upon launching IntelliCAD was "it's a clone!" However it gets a bit eerie when you import an AutoCAD 2000 file, delve deeply into the drawing, then find that certain things are missing. It gets even eerier when you re-save the drawing, load it back into AutoCAD 2000, then find that the things which were missing in IntelliCAD (text & shapes in linetypes, text on an arc, linked text, wipeout masks and other niceties) are still intact and properly displayed in AutoCAD 2000. Obviously, like most other proprietary formats AutoCAD's DWG format is relatively secure. Competitors such as IntelliCAD can come close to AutoCAD DWG but never really fully duplicate or decipher it. Of course the same thing is true of Microsoft Word, Quark Xpress and other dominant application file formats. The competition can never fully emulate the leaders' document structures. Note however that files created in AutoCAD v2.5 through v14 are 100% compatible with IntelliCAD.

IntelliCAD's documentation - the manual and online help - are comparatively thorough, but we really felt the need for a section on importing AutoCAD 2000 files. On the other hand, trying to work with AutoCAD 2000 DWG files helped us give IntelliCAD Explorer a thorough workout. The Explorer feature lets you browse the content of any drawing - edit and manage layers, blocks, linetypes, styles, views and user coordinate system.

This version of IntelliCAD includes support for VBA, LightWorks photo realistic rendering and the Hitachi Raster Image Enabler. VBA support gives IntelliCAD a great advantage over AutoCAD LT, which does not support any programming features. Third-party software developers create engineering add-ons using these tools. The software also includes a Script Recorder that records anything you type on the keyboard into an AutoCAD compatible script file - a macro in other words - handy for all those repetitive drawing tasks. It sure beats VBA programming. It's a strong, versatile feature as implemented.

On the other hand, with more and more companies turning to the Internet for communication and collaboration it's amazing that IntelliCAD doesn't support any Internet file formats. AutoCAD, for example, has a built in Web browser, allows hyperlinking to objects and exports to the Drawing Web Format (DWF) for dynamically viewing AutoCAD drawings on the Web. At a minimum I would have expected IntelliCAD to export as a GIF or JPG image so that a drawing's representation can be embedded into an HTML file for viewing online.

The Columbus data management system is included with IntelliCAD as a separate program. Columbus was developed and is supported by Ove Arup, a big-time engineering consultant in the UK. Columbus provides a very good compromise between the insufficient organization of files provided by standard system tools, and the complex controls provided by some of the big document management systems. The UI resembles MS Windows Explorer with several additional management features. It appears to be a good system for small design shops.

All in all, IntelliCAD is pretty darn good. Although its accompanying documentation is good too, we lament the absence of a couple of solid tutorials which take you through the most important parts of the software while guiding you through the creation of a moderately complicated drawing. As long as CADopia continues to position IntelliCAD as a serious, low cost competitor to AutoCAD, new users attracted by the price ticket will benefit greatly from a set of solid tutorials.

Cons: Lineweights in an AutoCAD 2000 file were not displayed when imported into IntelliCAD, but reappeared when the file was re-saved and opened in AutoCAD - confusing. In essence, there's no control of plotted line-widths by the Lineweight property. The industry standard is AutoCAD, not IntelliCAD. If Autodesk would open up its format (unlikely) to other developers (under license of course), the CAD world would be a more interesting and varied place. No support for AutoCAD's Layouts (which are used for designing several paperspace layouts in the same drawing). No 3D solids modeling tools of any kind.

Pros: According to our CAD expert, you can use xclip to create a new clipping boundary, delete an existing boundary, or generate a polyline object coincident with vertices of the clipping boundary. With fly-over snapping enabled, tooltip icons display the most appropriate type of osnap mode applicable to the cursor location. The mode changes dynamically as you move the cursor to different parts of the drawing. The Columbus data management system is very powerful. Displays and prints ACIS solids in AutoCAD-generated DWG files. IntelliCAD 2001 Professional is recommended for users who don't need fully editable compatibility with the latest AutoCAD DWG files. At $189, IntelliCAD is also an excellent value. Recommended.

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