MacDraft Pro 6.2: Tom's Mac Software Pick

Strong 2D Drafting App for Your Mac

MacDraft Pro 6.2
Screen shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

It's been a while since I've used MacDraft, having first used this 2D vector drawing app with a Mac Plus quite a few years ago. Back then it was the professional CAD drawing app of choice for Mac users. It provided most of the features a CAD user needed, without having to pay an astronomical price.

That's still a good description of MacDraft Pro 6.2; a very good 2D CAD app that provides just about all the capabilities you'll need, but doesn't charge an arm and a leg for them.

Pro

New Dead Zone allows objects to be stored around your drawing for easy access. Items in the Dead Zone are excluded from printing.

New Templates and Template Chooser let you start new documents with a leg up, and drawings predefined for size, borders, and title sheets.

Smart Snap allows you to quickly snap objects to precise locations, such as edges or centers.

Helper Palette guides you through using drawing tools you may not be familiar with.

Customizable toolbar.

Smart dimensioning tools.

Con

Retains older user interface styles.

MacDraft Pro 6.2 has that warm feeling of running into an old friend. So much remains that reminds you of the good times, but your friend has gained new capabilities over the years. If you ever used any of the older Mac drafting apps, you can easily pick up MacDraft Pro and be productive the first day. But if you spend some time looking around, you'll discover many new and helpful features.

Using MacDraft Pro

MacDraft uses a central drawing area surrounded by floating tool palettes and panels, and a toolbar across the top. By default, the toolbar uses somewhat large icons to represent the various functions available, including rotation, size, layers, page setup, and quite a bit more. Even better, the entire toolbar is customizable.

Think of it like a Finder window's toolbar; you can right-click in a blank area of the toolbar, and then rearrange the existing icons, add additional tools, or revert to the defaults.

The floating palettes work just as you would imagine. The tool palette has all of the usual drawing tools; you'll also find palettes for attributes, layers, libraries, and dimensions.

One of the features I appreciated right away is that once I have a drawing size selected, along with all of the palettes I want to use open and placed where I want them, I can save the configuration as a template, allowing me to easily reuse the settings on subsequent drawings.

Smart Dimensions

I've used CAD tools in the past with my Mac, including basic drawing tools like MacDraw, and higher end 2D/3D CAD packages such as Vectorworks. I've mostly used these tools for home design and CAE (Computer-Aided Engineering). As such, one of the must-have features is an easy-to-use and smart dimensioning system. MacDraft Pro has a set of smart dimensioning tools that not only make it easy to apply dimensions, but the association between an object and its dimensions remains intact; as you manipulate the object, the dimensions displayed change.

If you select the resize palette, you can enter dimensions for an object and the object will resize to the new dimensions. Together, the dimensioning features make creating and adjusting objects in a drawing both accurate and a breeze.

Dead Zone

No, it's not an American horror film; it’s a strange but surprisingly useful new feature of MacDraft. With MacDraft 6.2, drawings are now centered in the drawing window instead of being oriented by the top left corner. Being centered, there are likely to be areas around the drawing window that aren't used by the drawing size you defined. This area that isn't used by the drawing, but is part of the drawing window, is called the dead zone, and is shown with a gray overlay in MacDraft.

The dead zone, however, isn't really dead; just mostly so. You can use the dead zone as storage space for objects you're using in your drawing. For instance, if you're working on a house floor plan, you likely have a few different door types that you'll be using throughout the house. You can call a door up from a library and place the door in the dead zone. Then whenever you need a door, you can just duplicate the one in the dead zone, instead of reloading a library.

In actual usage, the dead zone can become pretty cluttered over time, leaving you little room for adding new objects to it. But MacDraft has a trick up its sleeve. Objects in the dead zone can overlap the drawing area. As long as part of the object is in the dead zone, it's treated as a dead zone object.

Why is this important? Because while they're saved as part of the drawing, items in the dead zone aren't included when the drawing is printed. This lets you print a drawing without having to clean up your dead zone first.

Reports

Objects you create in MacDraft can have properties associated with them, such as area, name, perimeter, height, and length. You can use the object information to create reports about your drawing. With a bit of attention to details, MacDraft can generate such useful reports as a bill of material, projected cost, space used, even basic inventory.

Final Thoughts

MacDraft Pro is a very strong candidate for those looking for a 2D CAD app for general or hobbyist use. If you want to plan your home's new deck, or even design your new home, MacDraft Pro can handle your needs.

If you want to create a garden plan, make floor or office space plans, or you just need a vector drawing app, then MacDraft can meet your needs.

If you're looking for a low-cost replacement for a multi-thousand dollar 2D/3D CAD app with full rendering and virtualization, then MacDraft is not for you. But it's a great candidate for anyone who needs a good-quality, basic 2D CAD app with some very nice advanced features thrown in.

One More Final Thought

MacDraft is available both directly from the developer, and from the Mac App Store; I recommend buying directly from the developer. When I checked the Mac App Store, the version being sold there wasn't the most current version.

MacDraft Pro 6.2 is $314. A demo is available.

See other software choices from Tom's Mac Software Picks.