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MacDraft 4.4.1

PROS:

Excellent for producing simple plans

Clean interface

CONS:

Lacks complex functionality

PRICE: £229

Further information: MicroSpot on 01622 687771 or visit www.microspot.co.uk.

While much of the recent focus within the Mac community has been on the multimedia power of the latest models, it is still true that you often have to do the groundwork. Quark and InDesign are all well and good, but if Word falls off the Mac platform, the Mac's usefulness to most people will cease.

This simple fact is as true in professional realms as it is in any other, and the need to get the job done is the overriding factor in the choice of any computing system. In architectural and industrial design this is even more the case, with the field dominated by a few (mainly non-Mac) players.One company in this field, MicroSpot, has doggedly stuck by the Mac and is still providing very useful design tools, which while perhaps lacking all the bells and whistles get the job done.

MacDraft 4.4.1 is the latest version of MicroSpot's 2D drafting package. Its simple interface has always been popular, giving it MacDraw feel that makes it really simple to pick up.This release sees a number of major improvements to many areas of the application including file import and export and drafting tools. Simple things like providing a preview window in the open file dialogue make using and managing data easier.

Now fully OS 9 compliant, a great deal has been done to make MacDraft more productive.

Improved export options include the ability to save MacDraft drawings as PICT files, which can, in most cases, be reopened in MacDraft without losing any information. This works only if the files have not been edited in another application so, unfortunately, using this as a means for others to redline drawings when they don't have MacDraft doesn't work. DXF file support is much better in this release, allowing users to open and work on drawings from other applications.The DXF format is the de facto standard within the architectural community but it does have limitations.Recognising this, MicroSpot has produced an excellent DWG import and export filter. DWG is the native format of the market-leading AutoCAD package from Autodesk. All the QuickTime graphic export options are fully supported, again adding to overall flexibility.

In terms of general drawing tools, a number of new options make life easier.Two new line weights have been added to the Attribute Palette, 0.5 and 0.75. These appear as 1-point lines on screen, sometimes making it hard to differentiate lines of different thickness.But they do print at the correct resolution. Three new line tools have also been added, allowing you to draw lines from midpoint, endpoint or an existing straight edge or curve.

These tools make general drafting much faster.

They work well with the new snapping options that are controlled using a simple set of keys. For example the 'C' key is used to snap to the centre of a line. The cursor provides feedback on which option has been selected. A strong set of dimensioning tools also helps if you have to produce working drawings.

A new 90 degrees rotate tool that appears in the main tool palette is useful when you are placing library objects such as furniture within plans. Another great new tool for producing layouts is the 'paste unscaled' command. This pastes selected objects into a new drawing at their original scale rather than scaling things relative to the drawing scale.

Objects can be moved and rotated relative to their current position, which really helps when you are editing complex plans. A new align tool provides even more control over objects.

The ability to produce drawings with clear graphic codes is important in both engineering and architecture.MacDraft has a simple to use and powerful set of tools for creating patterns and fills to define line styles or area fills. The attribute tool can now be used to pick up these graphic attributes from any object on the drawings and quickly place them on another.

Drag-and-drop functionality is much improved with new modifier keys enabled to perform tasks such as copy and selective moving.A new set of keyboard shortcuts in this version may confuse existing users but has been designed to match standard CAD applications. MacDraft ships with a small application that can be used to create libraries of graphics or objects which can be stored independently of the main application and used in any project. It is simple to draw up your own collections of frequently used objects. Objects within a drawing can be tagged with text-based information and this information can be exported to Excel to produce schedules for estimating or ordering materials.

MacDraft is an excellent application if you just need to produce simple plans. It has a clean interface that makes it fast and easy to learn. I did find one aspect of the tool set-up strange. When you click on a tool within the main palette that has a number of options, the options appear in black and white in the top left-hand corner of the screen rather than appearing as pop out, as you would expect. But this is a minor gripe which I'm sure can be fixed easily. The main advantage of MacDraft is that it will run on anything, so you can dig out that old LC 475 and put it to work.

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