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TurboCad Mac Pro 3 review

Verdict:

Needs Mac OS X 10.4 or later + Open GL graphics card

Review Date: 25 Apr 2008

Price when reviewed: (£128 ex VAT)

Reviewed By: Tim Danaher

Our Rating 4 stars out of 5

TurboCad Mac Pro 3 is a further upgrade to a program that delivers a great deal for very little outlay.

The most welcome aspect is that version 3 provides full Leopard compatibility. The basic TurboCad started out as a 2D drafting application for producing technical drawings. The Pro version expanded that toolset, but also opened up whole new capabilities by incorporating Cad-accurate 3D modelling. This was achieved by the integration of the ACIS library, a heavyweight 3D API used by applications like, among others, formZ.

TurboCad has always been a drafting program aimed more at the value-conscious Cad user, and by extension, at the hobbyist or part-timer who needs to output accurate drawings. However, that doesn't preclude it from being used in full-scale production environments. The 2D section is a mature and stable environment that covers most of the bases in the Cad world.

The most useful aspect is snapping and inferencing. Whereas draftsmen would traditionally use a T-square and set square to produce drawings, inferencing allows Cad programs to relay a wealth of information on alignments, intersections, radii, tangents, and so on, to make producing Cad-accurate and properly-aligned drawing simplicity itself.

Snapping comes in two varieties - Grid and Entity. If the object under construction is built to a specified modulus, then Grid Snapping comes into play. Entity snapping is useful for off-grid alignments between objects, if you need objects like lines and bounded areas to intelligently attach themselves to other objects, or when you want building elements (such as walls) to cleanly close and fillet themselves together. You can also choose to filter your snaps - snapping only to endpoints, or cutting out snapping to tangents or turning them off altogether.

TurboCad also uses Layers to organise drawings. Every new document has three layers - Layer 1 (for drawing), Dimensions and Construction. Dimensions is specially set up to hold your annotated dimensions, and these can then be turned off via the Layers palette to make the drawing more easily readable. The other default layer is Construction, reserved for Construction lines. These are non-printing and are used to guide your final drawing. As in version 2, there's no Construction Line tool. To place a drawing, you need to choose it by Ctrl-clicking in the main drawing space. Then use other tools to offset and duplicate it to where you want to place it. You can, however, press Command-Alt and click to drag them, but it would be nice to see a dedicated tool.

You can have up to 2000 layers in a drawing and these can be grouped. This allows you, for example, to place all plumbing layouts in one group, then in sub-layers for the different floors of a building. Drawn objects can also be grouped, but all the parts of grouped objects must reside on the same layer. Version 3 has the capability to add metadata to a drawing - user details and design notes can be added for collaborative projects and bill of materials can be extracted from drawings and exported to spreadsheets. There's also a new tape measure tool that lets you take measurements in both 2D and 3D.

The 3D capabilities of TurboCad Mac Pro are based on the ACIS library. TurboCad Mac Pro 3 has been upgraded to use version 17 of the ACIS APIs and this means Nurbs, and all the trimming, splitting, lofting and stitching that goes with them. Because of the ACIS library, this application also boasts true Solid modelling in addition to surface modelling. Nurbs modelling is far better suited to the sphere of TurboCad than Subdivision Surfaces. It enables models to be built that are Cad-accurate and as such can be output to other programs and fed into systems like 3D printers via IGES, Step or Sat export.

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