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Cad for Mac


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 Mac that is not running MAC OS. We touch on the pros and cons or choosing a Mac for CAD usage and list the current CAD for Mac software available on the market.



Traditionally CAD has been very strong in the Unix and Windows PC world, whilst Apple Mac computers have been relegated to handling the more graphical world of desk-top publishing and photo imaging. The processors used in Mac machines were designed around handling large files that comprised mainly of bitmap image data. Bitmaps are a series of dots that make up a photograph or two dimensional image, they contain data such as hue color and saturation etc. CAD software on the other hand was mostly comprised of vector based information and the processors used in PC’s were particularly adept at handling vectors. Vectors are a way of describing the world as a series of linear entities with points in 3D space. A straight line for instance is described to the machine as two end points 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 MAC computer and the 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 Mac computers.


Two things have occurred quite recently in favour of taking Mac machines seriously for CAD usage. Manufacturers of many CAD software products have recognised the size and growth of the Mac market for their CAD software and have responded by developing CAD for Mac 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 the Mac at the same time as running the Mac OS (Operating System) thus opening up the ability to use existing Windows based CAD software on the Mac machine.


So now let’s explore these two options….


Dedicated CAD for Mac OS systems:

The choices of software in this market are now much greater than have ever been in the past. Many of the past CAD programs for the Mac have started out as simple and quite primitive 2D drafting tools like MiniCAD that later changed its name to Vectorworks. This CAD program in particular is the most well-known CAD software in the Apple Mac arena. It is now a 3D tool as well and has several niche market areas that it seems to have grown into such as stage lighting design, landscape design and basic architectural. Many traditional CAD for Mac products are not particularly intuitive or efficient software, relying on huge numbers of icons commands 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 Mac.  Plug-in applications that work with most CAD for Mac machines is rare, so as long as you are only looking for basic drafting of 3D modelling and not at more advanced customised tools then working natively on a Mac OS will be fine.

Let’s look at the list:-

ArchiCAD – is architectural CAD for the 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 Mac programs by Graphisoft


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


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


AutoCAD - from Autodesk is the latest CAD software for the Mac and like TurboCAD has opted to leverage its name to gain rapid market acceptance. AutoCAD for the Mac is a very different beast to AutoCAD for PC as they have opted for a very Mac like interface. One could say that AutoCAD for the mac is not really AutoCAD at all… But we won’t.

You can create custom scripts, linetypes, hatch patterns, and command aliases, as well as AutoLISP and ObjectARX applications, in AutoCAD 2011 for Mac; however, there is no support for DCL in AutoLISP, nor is there access to some of the custom AutoCAD user interface controls in ObjectARX. Technologies specific to Windows, such as Visual Basic for Applications, OLE objects, and Windows Media Audio, are not supported in AutoCAD 2011 for Mac.

The most commonly used functionality of AutoCAD is included in AutoCAD for 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.


SketchUp - isn’t quite CAD for the Mac as it is more like a 3D sketch tool. It is from Google, (Well they bought it from @last software) and is a valid 3D conceptual modeller.


Solid Thinking – is advanced 3d solids modelling CAD for the Mac by Altair Engineering. Also available for Windows.


RealCADD - 2D CAD for Mac program that works something like MacDraw but with more tools and is written by one person in France using RealBasic. Do0n’t get RealCADD with a double ‘D’ confused with CAD International’s RealCAD software for Windows. Different product, different company.


Rhino3D - CAD for Mac is a full NURBS modeling product by McNeal. This 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.


CorelCAD - a 2D and 3D CAD for Mac system, 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


iCAD 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.


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

Cobalt - parametric 3D modeling, product design, development tool, for both Macintosh, Windows by Ashlar-Vellum


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


Xenon- associative 3D modeling software for both Macintosh and Windows by Ashlar-Vellum (reviews)


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


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


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


DenebaCAD – is by Deneba Systems


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


Nonio C - 3D land modeling 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


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

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


HighDesign - 2D CAD and illustration application by ilexsoft


Live Interior 3D - interior design software for Mac


MacDraft - 2D software to produce simple sketches or complex drawings for mechanical, architectural and engineering designs and technical illustrations; supports AutoCAD files, by Microspot


PowerCADD - a 2D drafting package for the Macintosh PowerPC that offers enhanced color 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 Macintosh OS


StreamCAD - easy translation to other languages, editable user interface, text and dialogs stored in XML files, data stored in XML and DWG/DXF files


TurboCAD 3.0 - by IMSI (does not share data with or work similarly to TurboCAD for Windows)


VectorWorks - full featured CAD program, runs on Windows and Mac, by Nemetschek


VersaCAD - 2D drafting program that works well for mechanical drawings and runs on older Macs by Archway Systems


Maya – 3D modelling, rendering and animation by AutoDesk


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



What about running Windows on the Mac?

Now this is more viable than before. By installing an operating system sharing software like VMWare Fusion or Parallels and installing Windows 7 alongside your Mac OS you will be able to install most Windows based CAD programs on your Mac very successfully.


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


At the end of the day, if you are not sure which CAD software to purchase for your Mac machine, just email the gurus of CAD at CAD International. They will probably ask a series of questions to determine your needs and then make a recommendation – easy.







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