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TurboCAD V8 Professional

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PROS: Price, price and price, interface & 3D capabilities

CONS: Not a big brand, will it be around in 10 years' time?

The World Cup has brought out the sporting instincts in most and gambling instincts in many. So why is it that we are quick to gamble on sporting events, but we shy away from taking a punt on architectural software tools? More than 80 per cent of the AEC (architecture, engineering and construction) industry uses Autodesk products, and the rest use a mixture of tools from the melting pot that makes up the opposition.

Autodesk may not always offer the best functionality but it does own the Holy Grail - the DWG file format; and, as such, the competition is always playing catch up. If Autodesk was a football team it would probably be Arsenal, a team that used to celebrate a 0-0 draw as a victory, happy to scrape by with mediocrity. Yet this season Arsenal has outplayed the very best in the English League and finished the season as deserving champions.

As a nation we love to see the underdogs win, which is why TurboCAD V8 is such a welcome addition to the playing field. At a meagre £349 for the professional version and £69 for the standard version, it is difficult to take TurboCAD seriously. Furthermore, TurboCAD is being promoted as better than the competition and yet IMSI (the parent company) is almost giving it away at this price. The standard option for TurboCAD leaves out the bells and whistles and does not help the professional version by weakening the brand considerably.

However, the interface on both is reassuringly familiar and I felt that I had seen it somewhere before. I instantly knew where to go for commands, and the tool icons were immediately recognisable and representative of their functions. Then it dawned on me and I knew exactly why it looked so familiar; the TurboCAD interface is the spitting image of AutoCAD and LT.

The similarities must surely be the product of a determined push by IMSI to create a tool that will sell into the existing AutoCAD and LT marketplace, perhaps explaining why IMSI thinks that TurboCAD is way better than LT and in some areas also stealing a march on AutoCAD. On a simple level, TurboCAD Professional and Autodesk LT look and feel encouragingly similar. However, TurboCAD knocks the socks off LT in the 3D modelling stakes. I think this is also where TurboCAD scores points against AutoCAD.

With an ArchiCAD-like approach to 3D modelling, TurboCAD allows you to work within your own limits when developing design information. If you are a 3D novice, there is no need to work in more than one window or view. Placing a series of walls in plan and dropping in a few windows and doors is a simple process, during which time TurboCAD Professional automatically creates the elevations, sections and isometric views behind the scenes.

If you were so inclined, you need never look at the 3D model (though I cannot understand why you would choose not to).

If you do choose not to adopt 3D just yet, you will be missing out and backing the wrong side, as working in 3D is undoubtedly the way forward for design development.

Ignoring 3D modelling tools is like backing Scotland against Brazil in the World Cup Final.You may want Scotland to win but you would be wasting your money if you backed them. TurboCAD's 3D is surprisingly, even astonishingly, good for the price. It would probably still be good if it cost a lot more, which also worries me. There is often a danger when reviewing technology that one misses something good or conversely one raves about something, which shines on the surface while rotting underneath.

Because of this, TurboCAD leaves me with a feeling of uncertainty. How can something cost so much less than the competition, deliver similar levels of functionality and in some cases deliver more? Common sense tells me that it just is not economically viable, but when using TurboCAD, I feel differently. For the sake of £350 (the cost of a half-decent digital camera) you can buy a copy of TurboCAD. It looks so similar to AutoCAD that re-training will not be a massive overhead. It has all of the 'low-level' functionality of ADT but none of the complexity, and it is as easy to use as ArchiCAD.

Whereas betting on football is exciting but frequently unreliable, you will be risking less and could win far more if you take a chance on TurboCAD.

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