Home > Features > Product Review: MacDraft 5.5.7 for Mac OS X Tiger

Microspot's MacDraft 5.5.7 Professional is the latest version of the company's flagship 2D CAD program. And the point 7 release adds the important Apple OS X (10.4) "Tiger" compatibility with Spotlight search functionality (more on that later). This edition has been variously called the "Quartz Edition" since September of 2003 when version 5.5 was announced.

The first thing we noticed since our last review of this software -- which was version 5 under Mac OS 9 -- is that the Mac OS X version takes advantage of Apple's Quartz graphics technology built into the operating system. In short this means the line qualities of this CAD program are superb. Fills look absolutely beautiful and the whole interface is also quite snappy and polished.

General Features

MacDraft has always been a 2D CAD program and that still remains true today. The program features a very nice set of technical drawing tools (Tools Palette) including lines, double-lines, arcs, circles, polygons, and of course rectangles. Joining and manipulating drawn objects in MacDraft is quite facile with a full complement of accessory tools; and the dimension tools allow for both cartesian, angular, circular and arc dimensions. We'll cover some of these tools below in more detail. In short MacDraft has all the tools you would ever need to draft just about anything in 2D.

One of the features of MacDraft that is more commonly found in much more expensive computer-aided design (CAD) applications is a built-in database and reports generator. With this latest version, Apple's Spotlight search engine technology can tap into this data. We'll look at Tiger compatibility in some depth below.

MacDraft actually comes in two versions, Professional and Personal Edition (PE). We are herein reviewing Professional. The differences between the two are minimal but important. MacDraft professional provides such features as the Accessory Palette for more advanced drawn object manipulation, a custom dimension palette, a printed manual, the database and report functions, support for layers, and lastly Autocad DWG/DXF import and export. MacDraft PE also has a limited paper size of A3, whereas Professional is only limited by your large format printer.

What's New

Since our last review of MacDraft (version 5.0) the program now includes some excellent new features, some of which I'll demonstrate in screenshots. MacDraft opens to a new drawing file automatically upon launch, but a preference can change that. I'll quickly create a file to start the demonstration. The first thing you want to do is set up the page size by visiting the File > Page Setup menu. If you have a plotter setup to your computer you will have options for large CAD sheets. I chose US Arch. C. You can tile smaller sheets on a plotter via the Layout > Drawing Size menu palette and determine their print order (see image 101).

001 - drawing size setup palette

The big new change since our last review of this software is the native support for Apple's Quartz Graphics, the native graphics engine for OS X. Because of Quartz the program gains percentage-based transparency of objects as well as beautiful rendering of text, lines and fills. In the image here I've drawing several objects, some on different layers with color fills. As you can observe you can see through some of them, partially (image 102). Transparency can also be added to text objects as well as pictures.

MacDraft 5.5 added comprehensive picture support, allowing you to import PICT, TIFF, GIF, JPEG and Windows BMP format images. The pictures can then be resized, rotated and made transparent just like any other drawing object. From the example images shown below (image 103) you can see that layered and transparent images (photos) can be of useful purpose when combined with text and drafted elements.

002 - object transparency
003 - image object transparency

The Resize Palette also now works with pictures and text blocks, in addition to shapes. The program now features 100 levels of undo so you can go back and correct your mistakes. Some users may choose to use MacDraft as their technical illustration tool of choice. After all, it is a CAD program. This latest version of MacDraft supports the ability to convert files to Adobe PDF by using the Print to PDF command. The PDF files can then be edited in Adobe Illustrator.


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