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Cad for Apple


In this article we explore CAD software designed for the Apple Mac computer and its native operating systems as well as look at CAD for Apple that is not running MAC OS. We touch on the pros and cons or choosing an Apple Mac for CAD and list CAD for Apple software currently available


Way Back when…:

In the past CAD was very strong in the Unix and Windows PC environment, whilst Apple Mac computers have been relegated to handling the more graphical world of desk-top publishing and photo imaging. The processors used in Apple machines were typically designed around handling large files that comprised mainly of image data. Images are created as bitmaps and bitmaps are a series of dots that make up a photograph or two dimensional picture. They contain data such as hue color, light and saturation. CAD design software on the other hand is mostly comprised of vector based information and the processors used in IBM style PC’s were particularly adept at handling vectors. Vectors are a way of describing the world as a series of linear entities made from points in space defined by x,y,z coordinates. A straight line for instance is described  as two end points in space and a definition in between those two points. An arc is described as four points, one in the centre, two at either end and another at some point on the circumference. The advantage of Vectors over Bitmaps is that vectors accurately describe the world in 3D with dimensional precision. Vectors can also be scaled up of down without compromising the appearance of the drawing or model. Bitmaps on the other hand simply end up with bigger dots when scaled up and jagged edges as the dots become more visible to the naked eye. They are also totally inaccurate and therefore cannot be relied upon when measuring or scaling.


New Times:

In recent times the Apple Mac computer and the Windows PC are more similar than ever, even to the point of using the same Intel brand processors, and with the huge uptake of the Apple Mac computer in industry, more and more people have been asking for a serious CAD for Apple computers.


Two things have occurred quite recently in favour of taking Apple macs seriously for CAD demands. Software developers of CAD software products have recognised the size and growth of the Apple market for their CAD software and have responded by developing CAD for Apple software either from the ground up or as a spin-off of their Windows based programs, and,  it is now possible to run Windows effectively on an Apple at the same time as running the Apple OSX (Operating System) thus opening up the ability to use existing Windows based CAD software on the Apple machine.


So now let’s explore these two options….


Dedicated CAD for Apple Mac:

CAD programs for Apple have started out as simple and quite primitive 2D drafting tools like MiniCAD that later changed its name to Vectorworks, the most prolific  CAD program in the Apple Mac arena that have carved several niche markets such as stage and exhibition design, landscape and basic architectural design. Many traditional CAD for Apple products are not intuitive or efficient software, relying on huge numbers of icons and detailed dialogue boxes. The double-click single button mouse of the Apple Mac of the past was probably responsible for this. These days there is a flood of new mid-range CAD software for the Apple machine.  Plug-in applications that work with most CAD for Apple machines are rare but if you only need basic CAD functionality or generic modelling then CAD for Apple is perfectly ok.


Here is a list of CAD software for Apple Mac

There will be other Apple Mac software released shortly. This is the current list.


·         ARES® – AutoCAD like CAD for the Apple Mac by Graebert It is also available for Linux and Windows and runs DWG natively

·         ArchiCAD® – is architectural CAD for Apple Mac, purpose built architectural software that has been around for years and was the leading Architectural CAD software globally for some time. It is still one of the most popular architectural CAD for Apple programs by Graphisoft®

·         Argon® – another in the suite of similar CAD for Apple Mac software by Ashlar Vellum

·         AutoCAD® - from Autodesk is the latest CAD software for Apple Mac and like TurboCAD® has opted to leverage its name to gain rapid market acceptance. AutoCAD for the Apple Mac OSX is a very different beast to AutoCAD for PC as they have opted for a very Apple-like interface. One could say that AutoCAD for Apple Mac is not really AutoCAD as such. It does however still natively use Real DWG® from Autodesk®. The most commonly used functionality of AutoCAD is included in AutoCAD for Apple Mac, however, there are a few commands that are not included in this first release, including layer filters, layer groups, and layer states; Sheet Set Manager; and DGN, PDF, and DWF underlay support.

·         BOA – French architectural CAD design software for the Apple Mac that allows users to design projects in 3D easily and obtain 2d drawings automatically.

·         Bonzai® – is a 3d sketch tool for Apple Mac and Windows in the realm of SketchUp (only more powerful) and is a subset of Form-Z

·         Cobalt® - parametric 3D modelling, product design, development tool, for both Macintosh OS X and Microsoft Windows. It is by Ashlar-Vellum

·         CorelCAD® - a 2D and 3D CAD for Apple Mac, again based on the ARES system from Graebert of Germany. We are not quite sure why Corel decided to enter the CAD market but can only assume it was to complement their suit of graphics products such as Corel Draw

·         DenebaCAD – is by Deneba Systems

·         DigiCAD 3D - for architects, surveyors or others involved in building and construction, by Interstudio

·         Interiors - 3D interior design software for Apple Mac, by Microspot

·         DomusCAD - an architectural CAD program for Apple Mac supporting QuickDraw 3D technology and plug-in renderers, by Interstudio

·         Draftsight® - CAD for the Apple Mac OSX from Dassault SolidWorks is also new in this arena and is built on the same platform as ARES CAD for Apple Mac from German company, Graebert GmbH.

·         Form Z® – by AutoDeSys is powerful 3D modelling CAD for OS X machines. It has been around for a long time and has recently seen a revival due to modernization changes in the interface.

·         Graphite - 2D/3D drafting tool, running on Mac OS X or Windows, by Ashlar-Vellum

·         HighDesign - 2D CAD and illustration application by ilexsoft. Not really a CAD software but an illustration tool for OS X systems

·         iCAD Mac – for Apple Mac is a new player and one we haven’t been able to review as yet. It is by ProgeCAD as far as we can tell and looks by its promised advertising to be an interesting one to watch.

·         Live Interior 3D - interior design software for Apple Mac. Very Illustrative with great rendering.

·         Maya® – 3D modelling, rendering and animation by AutoDesk for the Apple Mac

·         MacDraft - As the name suggests, very Apple Mac centric this is a 2D software to produce simple sketches or complex drawings for mechanical, architectural and engineering designs and technical illustrations; supports older AutoCAD DWG files. Mac Draft is from Microspot

·         Nonio C - 3D land modelling for large projects and surveys that supports QuickDraw 3D for walkthroughs or flyovers in real time, plug-in renderers and drag and drop technology, by Interstudio. Apple Mac only

·         PowerCADD - a 2D drafting package for the Apple Mac or PowerPC that offers enhanced colour management capabilities and plug-ins for popular file formats, by Engineered Software

·         Pythagoras® - surveying and civil engineering 3D CAD software offers integrated calculation and drawing functions and runs on both Windows® and Apple Mac

·         RealCADD - 2D CAD for Apple Mac that works something like MacDraw but with more tools and is written by one person in France using RealBasic. Don’t get RealCADD (with a double ‘D’) confused with CAD International’s RealCAD software for Windows®. Different product, different company. (RealCAD with a single ‘D’ is a much more sophisticated tool with greater ability and ease of use)

·         Rhino3D - CAD for Apple Mac is a full NURBS modelling product by McNeal. This Apple Mac version of their most popular Rhinoceros 3D for Windows is a most powerful 3D modeller that is particularly good for complex surfaces and used extensively in the product design, industrial design, ship design jewellery design industries.

·         SketchUp® - isn’t quite CAD for Apple Mac as it is more like a 3D sketch tool than a true CAD tool. It is from Google®, (Well they bought it from @last software) and is a valid 3D conceptual modeller and an excellent tool to use as a compliment to a 2D CAD system

·         Solid Thinking® – is advanced 3d solids modelling CAD for Apple Mac by Altair Engineering and is also available for Windows®.

·         StreamCAD - easy translation to other languages, editable user interface, text and dialogs stored in XML files, data stored in XML and DWG/DXF files. This is a CAD for Apple Mac OS X only product.

·         TurboCAD® - for Apple Mac is a relatively new player using its well-known product brand name to slip into the CAD for Apple Mac OSX market but with a completely different CAD software and very Apple Mac oriented interface. Do not confuse TurboCAD® for Apple Mac with the software of the same name for Windows

·         VectorWorks® - full featured professional level CAD software, runs on Windows and Apple Mac OS X, by Nemetschek

·         VersaCAD® – professional 2D drafting program that works well for mechanical drawings and runs on older Apples by Archway Systems.

·         Xenon®- associative 3D modelling software for both Apple Mac and Windows by Ashlar-Vellum


About having Windows alongside Apple Mac

Now this option is more viable than ever before… By installing an operating system sharing software like VMWare® Fusion® or Parallels® and installing Windows 7 alongside your Apple Mac you will be able to install most Windows based CAD programs on your beloved Apple Mac machine.


This opens up a big question then when it comes to which software to purchase? There are many more options available for the Windows environment than there are for the Apple Mac environment, most of which will be more specialised to specific industry needs. For instance the best landscape design software for the Apple Mac is actually LANDWorksCAD® running on Windows 7®, so you can see how easily you could become confused?


If you find you are unsure which CAD software to purchase for your Apple Mac machine, contact on of CAD International’s CAD gurus as they have no particular allegiance to any one CAD product and are expert in many areas of design software. They will ask you a series of questions to determine your needs and then make a recommendation to make your selection process much easier.




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