I operate a small electrical contracting business (about 20 employees). We are becoming more involved in design-build projects with one of my largest customers. The architectural drawing are all produced on AutoCAD. Am present, the electrical drawings are being produced manually. I have been looking at the various AutoCAD options (primarily AutoCAD Lite vs. the full blown package) and electrical plug-ins from several vendors. It is very overwhelming! I have absolutely no expereince in this area. I don't want to overbuy for my needs, but it would be worst to buy something that is inadequate. I would aprreciate any tips or guidance that others who have expereince with these products could share.
I use 3D Home from Broderbund, about $10 at Walmart or slightly more for the current version. It has some drawbacks but is easy to learn and the symbol library is not too bad. It covers the basics. It will not do for a lighting layout or to render lighting.
I use Autocad LT to do layouts where I need to see the joists or ceiling grids to layout fixtures. This takes longer to learn and is about $800. It will not do 3D, only the full version does that, but it is over $3000.
Email me with any other questions or I can call you. Send an email with your number and best time to contact.
As far as I know the only differences between the full AutoCad and AutoCad LT are views in 3D and being able to customize your lisp's. My father has been using the full version for years but only does 2D drawings. The next time he is due for an upgrade he is going to change to AutoCad LT and save some money on future upgrades.
Auto cad lite is great and I use it. But I'll tell ya if it was not for my bro-in-law who was a cad operator for a mechanical contractor to teach me I would not have a clue as to what to do with the program. have you looked at visio (sp?) by microsoft? I have not used it but know an IT guy who uses it for his drawings.
I have AutoCAD lite 2002. I love it. I took a few classes at the local community college and it really helped. But I enjoy CAD as a hobby. I don't do a ton of drawing on it, but it has been very useful occasionally for jobs.
The thing about AutoCad is that it's capability will always be beyond your need. As you become more fluent and find new uses for it, the program will handle it (2D for Lite) and if you ever needed to upgrade to the full version (I can't imagine why) you can carry those skills over. I don't know about the versatility of the others. I have heard good things about TurboCad, but mostly from them.
If you plan to use a CAD Package for Design-Build documents (Plans), then you are better off using a "Compatible" Package - such as AutoCAD (or similar Applications from Autodesk). Reasons being:
[*] Ability to exchange drawing files with other CAD using personnel,
[*] Understanding of terms and methods used within the environments, when discussing drawing files with other CAD users - either within your firm or other trade firms,
[*] Edits to "Base" Floor Plans may be done simply by replacing the existing Base Plan with the revised Base Plan,
[*] Layers, Layers, Layers! </OL>
Since you are beginning and do not plan to apply a lot of "Power Tools" to the CAD Package, the "LT" version of an AutoCAD Release will suit you just perfectly.
I am not going to beat around the bush regarding the amount of learning involved - it is quite indepth! But there is a myth about how much difficulty is found overall. For the most part, going from a Mechanical / Hard Copy state of drawing into a CAD Environment may be the most difficult step of all. In a CAD Environment, everything may be drawn at scale - meaning 1 foot actually equals 1 foot! There is no pre-formatted need to contemplate a scale size per the media used to print to. The scaling comes when the drawing is to be Plotted (Printed / Hard Copy).
The best thing you will do at the very beginning of any drawing job, is what you do not need to do!... Set Up Your Blank Media!!! No more taping down vellum, drawing borders or filling in multiple text boxes.
Even better than the end of tedious setups, are the end of annoying routines like: Drawing "Light Lines" with 4H or 6H leads, then using an eraser to clean up over traced lines; no more "Bolding Trace Lines" with 2B or 4B leads; and the best of all points: No More Frikken T-Squares, Triangles And Stencils To Deal With!!!
As far as scale accuracy goes, no CAD Package is any more accurate - or less accurate, than its Hand Drawn counterpart - provided the Draftsperson has applied the proper dimensions. In reality, a well seasoned Draftsperson may have a more accurate Hand Drawn Plan, than the CAD version! It is really easy to screw things up big time with a CAD Package - and fixing what went haywire, may be anywhere from: "Kind Of Hard", to "Extremely Difficult", upto "Virtually Impossible / Start The Whole Thing Over From Scratch"
Within the powers which make the CAD package the extremely powerful tool that it is, also lies the ability to totally mess things up with the greatest of ease!
Learning the basics is best done with some type of human being instructor - such as a Friend / Relative / Co-Worker whom is somewhat a seasoned CAD user. Instruction for the "Basic Basics" may be found at Community Colleges and ROP / Adult Continuing Educational options.
After grasping the "Basic Basics", it will be more effective to advance your CAD abilities from the many, many, many-many-many books available for purchase.
If you keep with it, in one year's time, you will be hunting the CAD Shareware sites, downloading tons of .SHX fonts, downloading hundreds of Blocks (along with creating your own), trying to build / find the "Killer VBA / AutoLISP Scripts" (or tweaking the heck out of what you already have), and waking up thinking of something cool to try - which might / might not save time...
I wish you the best of luck on this.
BTW, I went from being an 8 year veteran Hand Drafter, right into a CAD Package, and never looked back!!! It was mind boggling at first, but after getting the "Basic Basics" down, everything finally made sense! I still have all my Manual Drawing Tools like: Drafting Machine(s), Table, Stencils, Triangles, Graphicals (Berol, Staedtler / Mars, Zebra and Fullerton fixed lead and Mechanical lead devices), and all the editing / cleaning + pointing tools. Someday plan to use again, but will do all the setups in CAD, plot the base page, then fill-in by hand.
Feel free to contact me if you have questions regarding CAD "Stuff".
Scott " 35 " Thompson Just Say NO To Green Eggs And Ham!
Scott what are the AutoLisp's exactly? What do they do and why do you need them? Tried to get an answer from my dad but all he managed was a blank stare. He is good with AutoCad but not necessarily computers and definetly not explainations for computers. Seems customized lisp files are one of the big differences between the "full" and "lite" versions.
If you are familiar with Applications like MS Word, Excel, Access, Lotus 1-2-3 and such, then you also may have dealt with (or heard of) "Helpful Scripts" known as Macros.
Macros make an Application "Powerful" by performing automatic functions via another action (either a manual invoke or another automatic action). In the above mentioned Apps', building routines via VBA is like placing a Macro on Steroids!
In AutoCAD, LISP routines are kind of like Macros - only with more Testosterone! A LISP routine builds the basic template "Blank Drawing1" you see at each start-up for a new session. You can tweek "Drawing1.DWG" to have any look you want at start-up, due to the LISP routine behind its creation.
The term "AutoLISP" is an AutoDesk relative LISP. AutoLISP is an Embedded Programming Language.
You can create Menu Macros, VBA routines and AutoLISP routines, which assist drammatically in normal drawing work - from creation to plotting and archiving and all between + edits or revisions.
These routines may be tweeked to work with outside applications - like Word or Excel, and make the complete project much more powerful and easier (less errors, too!).
Now here inlies the best methods, of which total Chaos may easilly and non-intentionally be induced to any (or all) projects... Doom and Gloom hides within the Scriptures of Embedded Language, waiting to spread its Dicketry
Let me know if you have more Q's!
Scott " 35 " Thompson Just Say NO To Green Eggs And Ham!