IMSI TurboCAD Professional 10 review
TurboCAD devotees will warm to the addition of more pro-class features, such as NURBS deformation, and to simpler conversion of 2D lines to 3D. But it's neither a beginner's tool nor a challenge to AutoCAD.
Review Date: 22 Jun 2004
Reviewed By: Alistair Dabbs
Price when reviewed: (£500 inc VAT); Standard Edition, £60 (£70 inc VAT); Upgrade £68 (£80 inc VAT)
Advanced CAD (computer-aided design) software doesn't come cheap: the high-end pro's choice, AutoCAD from Autodesk, costs about £3,700. If business users want to create technical drawings, they normally have to make do with basic sketching and floorplanning programs instead. IMSI's TurboCAD admirably fills the gap between these extremes, making advanced modelling tools available to a wider audience, while also providing an easier 'way in' for beginners. Version 10 takes yet another step into professional territory with the addition of powerful new features, along with more streamlined functions for current users.
Take floorplanning as an example, TurboCAD now lets you convert lines, polylines, circles and curves directly into walls while designing building projects. As well as freeing you from the limitation of having to use the Wall tools exclusively, this makes it a lot easier to integrate existing floorplan diagrams into the basis of an architectural model. You can specify certain materials for interior walls and others for exterior walls, and you can take advantage of wall-direction indicators while selecting the materials.
Beyond these new features, TurboCAD remains a versatile package for architectural planning, with support for styled wall openings, parametric roofs, cross-sections and more. Costs and scheduling can be linked to the materials to help with the organisation of big projects. The Professional edition is supplied with a CD containing 10,000 ready-made objects, including the usual suspects - furniture, kitchen units, and so on; usefully, many of these are 3D models. And pretty good quality they are too, being neither too basic nor overly complex. Final models can be rendered to walkthroughs. Of course, not everyone feels the need to reconstruct an entire building in order to plan it out, so IMSI has bundled a copy of its FloorPlan 8.2 program to make things easy for office managers.
The lion's share of feature enhancement can be found among the general technical design tools. The program is based on the industry-standard ACIS R11 specification for solid modelling with NURBS. This allows you to add editing nodes to any flat 3D surface and distort it into bent and rippling shapes. It's a bit fiddly, but this level of 3D manipulation is almost unheard of in CAD software at this price. Professional 3D design standard features, such as shelling and lofting, are an integral part of TurboCAD. You can turn any surface into a solid and vice versa.
To call CAD fiddly is a bit like saying the sky is blue, but at least IMSI recognises the need to make drawing and modelling simpler. For example, you can now continue using 2D drawing tools in a 3D scene, which is displayed in rendered mode. That said, working in the full OpenGL rendered mode isn't advisable unless you have a fast graphics card. At least you can switch to a couple of part-rendered mode options without having to resort back to wireframes. When producing final hi-res rendered images, you can take advantage of radiosity and ray-tracing effects - once again, the type of features not normally found in CAD packages under £500. Another new feature is the Draft palette, which makes it easier to turn drawings and models into conveniently printableÊpages.
But there's a big snag. Most graphics software outside the world of CAD has little problem with fundamental tasks such as printing out what you've just drawn. But jobs that you wouldn't think twice about in a vector illustration package are often insufferably tortuous to carry out in TurboCAD. It wasn't so long ago that CAD programs grudgingly allowed you to draw curves with Bezier pen tools rather than forcing you to construct complex splines and apply corner fillets. And, while earlier versions of TurboCAD certainly gave its more expensive competitors something to think about with regard to the concept of a friendly Windows interface, we feel that it's time to move on. TurboCAD's button-crazy interface layout is beginning to look more like a hindrance than a benefit, with all its hidden flyout buttons and annoyingly fussy individual snap options.
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