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

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Spotlight Capability

Microspot has announced Tiger Spotlight capability with most of their OS X apps and MacDraft 5.5.7 is one of them. I found this Tiger integration of Spotlight very compelling. For those who are not using Apple's latest operating system yet or for those working on Windows you should know that Spotlight is the search technology that Microsoft has been talking about for years and is planned for Longhorn. Today it exist in Tiger and Mac developers can easily integrate it into their applications -- especially those who are using Apple's latest Xcode tools and working in Cocoa.

Spotlight in MacDraft enables you to instantly find data inside your CAD files. The way this works is through the Object Info palette. In my steel connector drawing I have made the entire object a "group" and gave it object attributes which can then be searched via the Find and Replace features in the program or even better Spotlight. This way the object can be a library item that can be recovered quickly and reused in different projects.

MacDraft provides you five fields that you can custom name (name, client, width, height and thickness were my choices). You might think that Spotlight needs extra time to get this information into its index -- like during a late night scan of your hard drive. You'd be wrong. As soon as the information is input into the Object Info palette and the file is saved it's ready for Spotlight searching. Essentially saving files immediately pumps the Spotlight meta data index with file data. (see image 008 - 009)

008 - Integrated Spotlight Search
009 - Search files from Mac OS X Finder


Autocad File Support

MacDraft does a very good job of importing and exporting Autocad files (see image 010) The program cannot, however, deal with Autocad's xref system of linked Autocad DWG files. Very few CAD program can actually. It will also sometimes struggle with scale when Autocad files have multiple scales inside. For folks who are just grabbing Autocad files from the Internet, as in product manufacturer files, this isn't a problem at all since they don't link files via xrefs. If you work with someone who does use xrefs in Autocad they will have to bind their xrefs prior to sending you Autocad data.

010 - Import DWG/DXF Palette


Closing Comments and Suggestions

Microspot's MacDraft 5.5.7 is creeping close to version 6 -- which hopefully is on the horizon. There are several little improvements I can suggest (some of which I have already discussed) which would make this CAD program really sing. Firstly, a comprehensive system for assigning keyboard shortcuts to tool palette tools would be a great add. Currently you can assign many menu commands and use the Function keys for various other shortcut items but this is not enough. I've already mentioned the subtle interface comments; one suggestion would be to make tear-off palette strips for the many tool buttons that exist underneath other buttons. Dockable palettes and saved custom palette arrangements would also streamline work.

MacDraft could also incorporate Apple's built-in dictionary and grammer checker and forgo the "word services" feature. They could gain all those and more in Tiger by accessing the operating systems' built in Services functions, including speech services and Google search.

Clearly, MacDraft 5.5.7 is a great value for the dollar and that goes for either the PE or Professional version. The program is fast, elegantly laid out, and full of some surprising and nifty features, like its "saved views" and built-in slide show animator for presentations. Having Spotlight search capabilities directly inside a CAD program is a valuable asset and I'd like to see the database fields expand to about double their number now. For those on the Macintosh platform looking for a low-cost but competent CAD program, one that can converse with the world via DWG, DXF and PDF, MacDraft 5.5.7 is an absolute top contender. --- ANTHONY FRAUSTO-ROBLEDO, Editor-in-Chief, 27 June 2005.



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