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Selecting a new 2D CAD system

Selecting a new 2D CAD system


Our Engineering group has relied on two CAD programs over recent years: Creo and ExpertCAD.

We handle a large number of customer drawings and simple part drawings that aren't appropriate for Creo and the whole 3d modeling investment. ExpertCAD handles these basic 2D drawings expertly, and as an interface it's fast and efficient. But it's no longer supported on our next workstation platform.

We have a clean slate now to pick another 2D CAD software. I do not need advanced drafting features - in fact I'm concerned that AutoCAD / AutoCAD LT has too much - 25 years of legacy commands.

What is the best / simple / efficient 2D CAD software? Are there good alternatives to AutoCAD LT?

RE: Selecting a new 2D CAD system

Does it have to be 2D? If creating machined parts, why not move to 2015 and create 3D?
If it has to be 2D, I would go with more of more widely used industry standard, AutoCAD.

Chris, CSWA
SolidWorks '15
ctophers home
SolidWorks Legion

RE: Selecting a new 2D CAD system

I would argue, yes, it has to be 2D. It has to be fast and easy to use.

For simple part drawings, in cases where an overall assembly will not be made, creating a 3D model is simply an obstacle to starting the drawing. The amount of editing time is longer and less efficient in these cases.

It should not be overlooked that we have many thousands of useful 2D drawings.

RE: Selecting a new 2D CAD system

"... But it's no longer supported on our next workstation platform...."

Are you talking about AMT software, or Applied Group, or Intrinsys? I get a hit on all three for "ExpertCAD". Maybe Intrinsys is a UK distributor for the software...?
What about the other options on the Intrinsys website, such as DraftSight? I haven't tried it - but it's free if you want to.

I've used AutoCAD since R12. I'm still a "classic" interface user, and I still turn off the Ribbon. I just upgraded to ACAD 2016, and set it up that way all over again just last month. No Ribbon, command line at the bottom, toolbars arranged along the top for layer styles, dim styles, text styles at the ready, and object properties on a fly-out from the left side of the screen. 90% of my screen area is canvas to draw. My drawing style with AutoCAD has not changed much since roughly 2009, when I figured out how to make multiple layout documents and publish them neatly. Nobody's forcing you to draw like that, though. You use what you need, and don't have to invoke commands that you don't want to use.

LT dispenses with many things you say you don't use, so it sounds like the way to go - that would also give the best assurance you won't have to transition in the future, either.

However, I should add... you are missing out.


RE: Selecting a new 2D CAD system

AMT ExpertCAD. In addition to being a very tight 2D drafting package, it has a two-cursor mouse system that avoids pawing back and forth across the screen to access menu commands. The problem is we're going to a virtual workstation setup and the two-cursor feature relies on legacy Windows APIs that do not exist in the virtual package.

I know AutoCAD can be set up "tight". But that's less efficient and reliable (and more expensive) than a program that's inherently tight.

Right now we're stuck with a hybrid of a local workstation running Win 7 for ExpertCAD and everything else on the virtual.



RE: Selecting a new 2D CAD system

A 3D model is far from an obstacle/speed bump..
Obviously there is a slight learning curve when all you know is 2D but after that it will be faster to model in 3d as the time it takes to do base/projected views via linework is much slower than 3d cad programs can do.
I guarantee that I can create a 3d model with accompanying 2d drawing faster than anyone can do it in 2d/Autocad.. Even with a simple rectangular block

But having said that.. Have you looked into Draftsight if you want to stay 2d.

RE: Selecting a new 2D CAD system

I went back to the AMT website. They look very responsive (small company). Have you contacted them about your problem? It sounds more like a limitation of your IT department, true, but maybe you're not the first to try to use ExpertCAD on a virtual workstation. They may have solved this problem before for another customer. CAD systems, like all software, are in an niche where "the winner takes all". The only way a small company like AMT can survive is to return the loyalty you have for their product.

Help me with the "dexterity" question: What do you mean by "two cursors"? I've never used ExpertCAD and not likely to in the future. How does the software distinguish input that is meant for cursor #1 from input meant for cursor #2? What combination of human interface devices do you need to run ExpertCAD? Are one mouse and one keyboard sufficient to operate ExpertCAD or do you need an additional HID?

Perhaps you are referring to an interface system that grew out of the original tablet-based drafting interfaces. AFAIK, AutoCAD still allows users to control it with tablets - which are about as "legacy" as you can get when it comes to some interface devices.


RE: Selecting a new 2D CAD system

ExpertCAD has a menu panel on the right side of the screen. There is the regular cursor activated by the left mouse button. However, there is also a cursor that appears when you press the right mouse button. The RMB cursor stays over the right side menu panel, avoiding the need to paw back and forth to alternate between picking commands and working in the display window. It's pretty slick once you get used to it. Most users have adapted a hybrid system of keyboard shortcuts for the basic commands and RMB for all other common commands.

The loss of productivity is stinging. It's the main reason we kept this software for so long. One option is to greatly expand the keyboard shortcuts, etc. But that would make this program even harder to learn and keep up with.

AMT claims that this is written on older windows APIs that have been dropped in the latest Windows implementations. They used a bit of programming creativity that worked on those APIs but are not supported on newer versions. Which is to say, if they could fix it, they would.

I've heard nothing from the VDE vendor about adding legacy support. Even if they did, it's probably a matter of time before I'm faced with the same decision. The VDE works pretty well overall. But for legacy software there isn't much.

RE: Selecting a new 2D CAD system

I hear you. I simply cannot use the "ribbon' for similar, but opposite, reasons that you state. If someday I am denied the use of the keyboard commands in ACAD, I would use it much much less than I do now, and I would be very open-minded to learning a new package.

Since you are facing a re-training exercise, no matter which software package is chosen, then factor that into your choice. Make sure to ask for training, budget for it, and find out how far the training goes in complexity. No course can fit all students, so prepare to give everyone "introductory" training, and save the advanced courses for those who will actually use it.


RE: Selecting a new 2D CAD system


My experience with computers is that you use maybe 10% of what the program can do, and I use 10% of what the program can do. This sounds like a 10% capable program would work for us, but we do not use the same 10%!

AutoCAD works. Lots of people know how to use it. User friendliness is overrated. If someone cannot figure out how to use AutoCAD, can you trust them to do mechanical design, or even drafting?

I use LibreCAD on my Linux box at home. It is Free Software. I find it very easy to use for carpentry projects at home. It is not powerful enough for serious engineering.


RE: Selecting a new 2D CAD system

Quote (drawoh)

My experience with computers is that you use maybe 10% of what the program can do, and I use 10% of what the program can do. This sounds like a 10% capable program would work for us, but we do not use the same 10%!

AutoCAD works. Lots of people know how to use it. User friendliness is overrated. If someone cannot figure out how to use AutoCAD, can you trust them to do mechanical design, or even drafting?

I suspect that one could say this about most ANY CAD system currently available, be it an expensive package or not.

John R. Baker, P.E.
Product 'Evangelist'
Product Engineering Software
Siemens PLM Software Inc.
Digital Factory
Cypress, CA
Siemens PLM:
UG/NX Museum:

To an Engineer, the glass is twice as big as it needs to be.

RE: Selecting a new 2D CAD system


I figure I use about 50% of the capability of LibreCAD. If I want to generate BOMs automatically, or work from 3D models, I will have to go out and buy something capable.


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