If you’re looking for CAD software that’s beginner friendly but still feature rich, look no further than DesignCAD 3D Max. Providing robust 2D and 3D functionality, easy usability and exhaustive support options, this design application is the best CAD software for consumers on the market and our TopTenREVIEWS Gold Award winner.
DesignCAD 3D Max provides the same intuitive ease of use and versatile drafting and design tools as it has in previous versions, but the newest installment ramps up its offerings with new 3D model content that fosters easy and quick architectural design, even for inexperienced users. More than 600 new components can easily be dragged and dropped directly into your architectural designs, including kitchen items, furniture and structural models such as doors, windows, etc.
DesignCAD 3D Max provides an array of convenient, useful features that improve the application’s overall usability and make the design process smooth and uncomplicated for users. In fact, the software has more of the features we sought than any other product in our lineup of CAD software. There are several handy shortcut keys that enable you to easily execute frequently used drawing functions with a single keystroke. Additionally, drag-and-drop functionality allows you to simply drop various model components directly into your designs.
The application also provides command histories and macros. The command history tracks every action and change so you can conveniently reference past commands executed on a particular project. Within CAD software, a macro is a tracked set of actions that are saved so they can later be performed as a single action. Macros are highly useful because they allow you to turn a string of boring, repetitious and sometimes time-consuming actions into a single, time-saving command. We also liked how the software supports user notes. You can add your own notes to a drawing or design, which is useful if a project or drawing is a collaboration between two or more users.
DesignCAD offers a diverse range of both 2D and 3D design tools and methods. Some of the software’s more standard tools found on most computer design applications include snap tools, hatch patterns and a color editor. Also included are dimension tools and textures. Dimension tools are used to automatically calculate and display the dimensions of finite lines in a drawing or model. This is convenient because it allows you to see key dimensions of the project, and parametric drawing ensures all dimensions are automatically recalculated if you adjust any dimension within a design. Textures (think bricks on a house) can be applied to 3D models to add contrast and depth to an object.
DesignCAD also boasts some more standout features that are indicative of superior CAD software. Lighting effects and transparency options can be applied to help render a realistic view of a 3D object. In a similar vein, photorealistic rendering allows you to generate an image from a model so you can see how a particular object will likely appear in true form. Perhaps most impressive is the software’s animations. You can create animations with a moving view of a 3D model, ideal for presentations or slideshows. Lastly, with a click of the mouse you can extrude 3D models from 2D drawings or, inversely, generate 2D drawings from 3D models.
When it comes to architectural design, DesignCAD provides everything you need to create detailed, professional-grade house plans. You can create 2D floor plans as well as 3D models of the exterior of the house. As we mentioned above, the latest version of the software is chock full of 3D model content that enables realistic rendering. In addition to windows, walls and doors, you can add fireplaces, sinks, lighting fixtures and much more. You can even add furniture to figure out the layout of certain rooms.
Considering the abundant architectural features the software employs, we were surprised to find it doesn’t have any type of house wizard. In terms of CAD software, a house wizard walks you through the process of creating house plans step by step. However, DesignCAD does have a new file wizard. When opened, the wizard prompts you to open a file, create a new drawing from a blank template or create a new drawing based on tailored settings (e.g., distance, angle, etc.).
DesignCAD supports numerous file types so you can readily import existing designs and export those you’ve created using the CAD software. DesignCAD is compatible with all AutoCAD files and layouts (DWG and DXF files) – welcome news for current AutoCAD users looking to switch to a more affordable CAD solution. It also imports HPGL, WMF and XYZ files and exports all those file types as well as RIB, VRML, WPG and PDF. Finally, DesignCAD supports several image formats such as JPEG, BMP and TIFF. This allows you to easily export any images of your designs including those created through photorealistic rendering.
Users completely new to computer-aided design should be aware that there’s an inevitable – and often steep – learning curve with any type of CAD software. DesignCAD is no exception. We had questions arise on how to use a specific tool or execute a particular as we tried to create various designs in the application. However, an intuitive and organized interface in conjunction with impressive support options helps lessen the software’s learning curve and make it accessible to a wider range of prospective users including beginners.
Reminiscent of the Photoshop layout, the DesignCAD interface is brimming with icons and tools but never quite feels cluttered or overwhelming. If you aren’t sure what an icon is, hover over it and a text caption will tell you. Making the interface even more intuitive is the help button, which provides further clarification on other tools in the software. The help button is located on the far right in the top horizontal row of icons, shown as an arrow and adjacent question mark. When you click on it, a question mark will appear next to the cursor. When the button is “on” and you click on another icon in the interface, a help window will open with information on what that specific icon is and how to use it.
DesignCAD 3D Max is a stellar application in and of itself, but its supplementary help and support options make it even more so. The application has one of the best built-in help sections of any CAD software we came across. The language is comprehensible and it doesn’t use jargon the average user wouldn’t know. Furthermore, the knowledgebase is searchable by keyword, which makes finding information relevant to your specific issue quick and efficient.
The software’s manufacturer, IMSI Design, provides free email technical support and toll-free telephone support for sales and installation inquiries. The website hosts a DesignCAD community where you can find additional help and tips through user forums and groups.
DesignCAD may be saturated with architectural features, but with 2D drawing and 3D modeling capabilities, the software still proves to be a versatile design application suitable for an endless array of designs and projects. This robust functionality, combined with comprehensive support options, create a winning combination that makes DesignCAD 3D Max one of the best consumer CAD software applications on the market.
The software has rich 3D modeling tools including spheres, cylinders, solid modeling and more.
Its learning curve can appear steep but is greatly lessened once you take advantage of the available support options.
DesignCAD constitutes excellent consumer CAD software that delivers superior yet accessible performance.