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Old 10-06-2010, 08:41 PM   #1
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Default DraftSight - Free 2D CAD

I got a heads up on this from a contact in the CAD business--

The Solidworks people (Dassault) have released a free 2D CAD/drawing program (in Beta now)

I've not messed with it, but it could be worth a look if not too crippled.

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Old 10-06-2010, 10:57 PM   #2
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I downloaded Draftsight and loaded it.
The info given warns that Beta programs can be unstable and should not be trusted with production drawings.

I loaded the most complicated drawing I could find into it, about a 5 MB drawing, and tried everything I could to make it lock up, but the program operated perfectly.
The screen layout is very good, and no jumpy cursor movement or other annoying things like the cheap programs.
I used it first time no problem without reading any instructions.
I just loaded it and started drawing. No problems whatsoever.
Very intuitive program.

It does ask you for an email address for registration, and then send you an email that you have to respond to just by pressing the link, but nothing else, no quart of blood or first born or anything.

I must say, I am very impressed with this 2D product. It is not an el-cheapo. It is obviously a part of a larger very well designed interface.

I did not figure out how to use "press-and-drag" with it, but other than that, it seems to do everything I want, and do it well.
Press and drag eliminates having to click twice to select an object. You just window an object with press and drag and it is automatically selected. Much faster.

It appears that the keyboard shortcuts can be customized easily, which is good since I use custom shortcuts extensively. I draw with two hands drawing, never taking my hands out of position, and never looking away from the screen. I use the left hand on the keyboard with custom keyboard shortcuts such as E for line, D for delete, F for move, C for copy, V for mirror, T for trim, S for save, A for match properties, R for rotate, B for block, X for explode, etc. The idea is to group the commands that are used most frequently under the left hand index finger, otherwise you can end up making some awkward hand movements trying to reach frequently used keys. The worst thing you can do is arrange your shortcuts so that you have to move your left hand out of position to reach a commonly used command, and worst of all, a key stroke that requires you to look away from the screen.

I have to make a living using 2D CAD, so time is money for me. I even built custom key extensions for the ESC, F3 (snap to grip) and F8 ortho lock keys.
The key extensions look like Rube Goldberg stuff, but they actually work, and keep my left hand in position. I also have to be careful for carpal tunnel syndrome, so less hand movement is better when you do it all day every day. It is amazing to me how may people put the keyboard and mouse up high so that you have to be like Moses holding up the tablets all day, and also put the screen up really high, so you have to crane your neck back all day to see it. Talk about a painful job when you have poor computer ergonomics.

The program seems to have excellent grips, which is what I use constantly, and the thing that I have seen other programs fall short on. The grips seem to match the other commonly used CAD programs, ie: center, midpoint, endpoint, etc. Without a good set of grips in a drawing program, you are really screwed (pardon my frankness). This program has good grips.

This program also allows you to "save-as" to a wide variety of formats such as version 2000, 2002, 2004, etc., and I think even to PDF, but I did not try the PDF feature.
This program would be a useful conversion tool to change from 2010 drawings to 2000 version drawings.

I use a few diesel routines, and some custom fly-out toolbars and scripts, but I think I could probably use Draftsight almost for production work, assuming they get it past Beta and can guarantee that it does not have any serious bugs. I could not find any bugs in it.

I did try a variety of things to try and lock it, and it passed the test very well, no problems at all.

It also has right click for repeat command, or other selections on a pop-up menu, and pan by holding down the wheel on the mouse. These are also two items that you don't want to try and do CAD without.

Photo below is of my Rube Goldberg keyboard.

Heck of a 2D CAD program.
It is anyting but crippled, this appears to be a real winner.
Normally you would pay about $750.00 for a 2D program like that.

The other 2D CAD companies will be crying in their beer over this one (and probably brushing up their resumes).

I assume it is a lead in to their 3D products.
Most of the 3D programs are out of my reach cost-wise, and the ones that are within my reach, I would not consider using for production.
I have heard good things about Solidworks, but have not seen it in action or used it.

Thanks Shred, it appears to be a really good and really free 2D CAD program.

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Old 10-07-2010, 04:31 AM   #3
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Default Re: DraftSight - Free 2D CAD

Thanks for the review. I could spend all day working with something like this and not pick up half what an expert would in five minutes.

I may pass it back by my guy and see if he'll spill any more beans
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Old 10-07-2010, 10:49 AM   #4
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Default Re: DraftSight - Free 2D CAD

Pat. J :
thanks for the review. Getting a write up from from a CAD professional means a a lot . I am slowly getting used to Alibre 3-D and some 2d for mods. I am starting to draw at a decent pace but Am making mistakes that it takes me too long to find. one little glitch can don extrude.
I may still download and try this program and I need something for work we have nothing. Sometimes C.O.C v 1.0( Pen paper and ruler) just does not cut it.
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Old 10-07-2010, 07:19 PM   #5
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Default Re: DraftSight - Free 2D CAD

Hi All
Bin lurking for awhile now and havn't got round to an intro as yet, I second Pat J's review of draft sight I normally use Acad at work and i now prefer using draftsight so much so I've removed acad from my home pc.

Its also got a "steering wheel" like acad2011 only they call it mouse gestures, hold right mouse button down and drag.

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Old 10-10-2010, 02:35 AM   #6
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Default Re: DraftSight - Free 2D CAD

Thanks for the review, Pat. I'm assuming that Dassault Systems will eventually market this program? More to the point, do you think the Beta will stop working at some predetermined date? I would hate to get used to using it only to have them pull the rug from under me.

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Old 10-10-2010, 02:42 AM   #7
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Default Re: DraftSight - Free 2D CAD

Well, I DL'ed the file for the MAC version but it will not mount or install on my laptop. I am currently running OS X (latest version). I would like to break into the world of CAD for my simple uses but find it difficult to hack over the big dollars for a program that will be entirely too complicated or possess far more bells and whistles than I will ever need or want. I was hoping this product would help me solve at least some of those obstacles. No luck again.

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Old 10-10-2010, 03:02 AM   #8
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My guess is that Dassault will offer this 2D program either for no cost or very low cost in order to get you warm and fuzzy with their 3D packages.

The 3D packages they offer are (way) out of my financial range, although I certainly could use a good 3D package, and if I did 3D production, I would use them.

The 2D program is so similar to AutoCad 2D that I did not have to read any directions or do anything appreciably different than I normally do in Acad in order to use Draftsight, I believe you could transfer anything learned to another 2D program.

If there are HMEM members that would like to learn 2D, I can put together a tutorial that is geared towards drawing model engines.

It was very difficult for me to learn 2D CAD, but part of the problem was that the tutorials are too generic, and special applications can really benefit from special configurations.

I will thing about the best way to set up a 2D tutorial.
Certainly many know 2D, but I am sure some may not.

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Old 10-10-2010, 03:44 AM   #9
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Default Re: DraftSight - Free 2D CAD


I for one am completely unlearned in any drafting that requires more than a piece of paper and pencils....
I will be an eager student of a tutorial that actually makes sense to my late 1960s appreciation of three views on an
a,b,c, or d sheet!

Cheers, Joe
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Old 10-10-2010, 05:53 AM   #10
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Ok, I have loaded Draftsight on my main machine at home, and am going through it.
It is basically just like AutoCad 2D, a clone basically.

I will detail the steps further, but the steps I take to set up the program include:

1. Turn on the toolbars that you want/need/commonly would use. Drag them around into a position that you prefer. ( I will detail this more later).

2. Set all the variables such as units, cursor size and type, and a few other options. (More details later).

1. I like to keep the drawings as simple as possible. I have found that many drafting people are of the opinion that if you are given 10,000 options, then you are a better drafter if you actually use all 10,000 options, and they feel better when they mix and match the options randomly so that only they can figure out what they did. I cannot emphasize enough....LESS IS MORE in 2D cad drafting.
Keep your drawings simple and then you and anyone else can use your drawings without having a PHD in 10,000 options. Don't force other people to have to reverse engineer your cad setup just to be able to use your drawings. Simple drawings are also much easier to import into other programs, or to change versions within the same program.
KISS (Keep it simply simple, it really pays off in the long run).

2. Consistency is everything in CAD drawings. One should almost always draws a line or entity by snapping to some fixed point on an object that is already in the drawing. Never draw "floaters". Floaters are objects that just float around in space, and are not attached to or referenced to any point. A drawing full of floaters will prohibit you from having accurate measurements.

3. Don't draw more than you have to. For most objects, you can draw just 1/4 of the object, and then mirror the remainder into place. The mirrored objects will be exactly identical to the original, and you only have to draw 1/4 of the object.

4. Remember the UNDO button. Many times, I will have drawn a number of lines, only to remember that I started the first line wrong. Don't erase the drawing, just UNDO back to the correct point, and then start again.

5. Either use the AUTOSAVE option so that the program automatically saves your drawing every so many minutes, or toggle this command OFF and do a manual save every so often. I toggle off the AUTOSAVE option, but I manually save the drawing after every command is completed using the customized keyboard keystroke "S". Whichever works for you. If you are not religious about saving, then by all means use the AUTOSAVE option. There is nothing worse than working on a drawing for an hour, only to have a power bump, and poof, it is all gone.

6. Every day I do major work on a drawing, I save the file with a new Rev number, ie: ENGINE-NO-5-Rev-01.dwg, ENGINE-NO-5-Rev-02.dwg, etc. That way, if the file happens to get corrupted (which happens rarely, but it happens), then you can drop back to the previous rev number. Or if you realize you have made a massive error on day 5 of drawing, you can just drop back to the drawing created on an earlier day, without loosing the entire drawing.

7. I never use grids (grids are a series of tiny dots that you can toggle to show up on the screen), and I find them very counterproductive. If you have a specific application that would lend itself to the grid, by all means use grids. If you do use grids, the F7 key toggles them on and off. If you see a bunch of dots appear suddenly that you were not expecting, you may have hit F7 accidently. Just hit it again and toggle the grid off.

8. Get a text and scale chart (I will post one here). It is the CAD equivalent of a tap and die chart. Don't CAD without a chart.

9. Draw EVERYTHING exactly the size it is in the real world. If you measure a screw 6" long with a ruler, then draw it 6" long. If you have a piston 2" in diameter, then draw it 2" in diameter. If you fail to draw things the same size as they are in the real world, then your will have endless trouble with dimensions, etc., etc.
NEVER SCALE A DRAWING UP OR DOWN. That is a serious no-no, but it is so easy to do. Scale titleblocks up and down all you want, but not the drawing itself.

10. I have a series of pre-drawn titleblocks for all the common scales, and I insert the whole bunch of them into whatever drawing I start. It is then a simple matter to just pick the one you want and the one that fits around your drawing. This eliminates having to scale titleblocks up and down. The titleblock that fits around your drawing will determine your scale factor. For small models, I like to stay with a 8.5"x11" sheet, and plot everything at a ratio of 1:1, ie: a 5" line in CAD plots on the paper 5" long.
If you include correctly scaled text below each titleblock, then just copy the text that goes with the size titleblock you select, you don't even need the chart for that.

11. I generally draw a horizontal and vertical centerline first, and then any mirroring uses the intersection of these two lines. Other lines can get trimmed, etc. and may not reflect a true center when mirroring.

12. I use shortcut keys for the most frequently used commands such as "C" for COPY, "M" for MOVE, "R" for ROTATE, "T" for TRIM, "S" for SAVE, "M" for MIRROR, "O" for OFFSET, "E" for DELETE, "L" for LINE ( I actually have my own key shortcuts to minimize hand/finger movements, but many people stick with the stock shortcuts that come with the program, since it is easier to rember). Shortcut keys are keys on the keyboard that can be programed to start a particular command using your left hand using a single keystroke. (Remember to hit ESC to stop drawing a line, unless you want to continue to draw segment after segment.)
Generally, a fairly consistent shortcut key arrangement will be as follows:

R = ROTATE (you will have to set this in Draftsight)
T = TEXT (I use T for TRIM)
S = STRETCH (I use S for SAVE)
C = CIRCLE (I use C for COPY) (remember, you can keep selecting additional points and dropping copies all over the drawing once you start the COPY command, ESC to stop copying).
B = BLOCK (makes a block) (Making a block means that you select a number of unrelated lines and objects, and create a single entity such as a "CylinderHead". Once you have created the cylinder head, all of the objects in the cylinder head move as a single object when you select and move the block. Exploding the block returns the items to their original unrelated form.)

I use custom shortcut keys designed to keep the left hand in place at all times, and to group the most frequently used commands under the left index finger, as mentioned above, but that makes for some odd shortcuts such as F = MOVE. Since most keystrokes seem to be are COPY, MOVE and ROTATE, then I can pick any of these with my left index finger easily using the F, C and R buttons.

13. I use the OFFSET command frequently when drawing engines. Generally I establish a base line, and then offset from that baseline. The effect is to create a copy of the line at the offset distance that you specify. ie: Draw a line, offset it 1", and you have two lines representing a cylinder with the bore of 1". Offset the lines again, and you have the outer cylinder walls, and offset again, and you have the outer flange dimensions.

14. I have seen a number of programs on the forum that calcuate hole layouts and similar things. You don't need most of those programs since you can easily create symmetrical patterns of holes in either a rectangular (rows and colunms) or polar (circular) pattern. For instance, for a cylinder flange, just draw one hole in the flange in the appropriate location, and then array the number of holes you want around a 360 degree pattern.

15. AutoCAD has a very useful tool called DIVIDE. If Draftsight does not have this option, they need to have it. It allow you to draw a line, and then divide it into any number of segments. This is extemely handy in laying out holes in steam chest flanges, etc. where you have placed the holes at either end of the chest, and want for instance 4 holes in between these two. Just draw a line between the centers of the two holes, and use DIVIDE with a quantity of 5 (4 holes have 5 spaces). Remember that if you use the DIVIDE command in AutoCad, it apears as if nothing happens after you finish the command. What AutoCad actually does is insert nodes (nodes are just dots) beneath the line, and you cannot see them. You can carefully select the line only and erase it to see the nodes, or turn on the snap to node option to allow the cursor to snap to the nodes. Most people keep the snap to nodes off, and so they wonder why the heck the line they are trying to draw will not snap to the node.

16. Using the F8 key toggles ORTHO mode on and off. With ORTHO on, the cursor moves only in the X or Y direction. With ORTHO off, the cursor moves in any direction.

17. A nice feature that Draftsight has is if you start a command such as CIRCLE, and pick your first point, you can select the F1 key, and a help screen will pop up and tell you all about how to draw a circle. Seems to work with any command. Close the help screen at any time and continue your command.

18. There are several ways to select an object or objects. One way is to just pick it with the cursor. Another way is to hold down the left mouse button and drag a window around the object from left to right. The objects selected when you window from left to right have to be completely within the window, or they will not be selected. If you draw the same window, but from right to left, you will see a dashed window (called the marching ants), and anything that this window touches, whether it be partially inside the window but hanging outside the window, or completely in the window will be selected. The windowing options between solid window and marching ants are extremely useful when your drawing gets complicated, and you want to select certain items and exclude others.

19. Often people select items using one of the window types, but get more objects selected than they wanted, and thus they hit the ESC (escape) key and start all over. You do not have to hit the ESC key if you have selected too many objects, just hold down the SHIFT key and pick any items you want to remove from the selection set.
Sometimes it is much easier to select a large group, and then deselect a few items with the SHIFT key.

20. When using the COPY command, you first select the object you want to copy (preferably select a grip on the object like the endpoint or midpoint), and then select the location where you want the copy to go. If you want to copy a line over to the right 2" and up 4", use COPY, select any point in the drawing, and then type in @2,4.
The @ symbol means copy the object relative to the first point you picked. I often forget the @ sign, and the copy goes flying off the screen, since it is referencing the 0,0 point in the drawing. No problem, just select UNDO.

21. This is really rule No. 1. If you complete a command, and you do not see the result you anticipated, immediately use the UNDO button. I have seen people use a command which draws an object off the screen, or draws an object exactly under another object. Since they do not see anything happen after the command is complete, then they figure the command did not work, and so they repeat the command a number of times. BIG MISTAKE. Never proceed if a command does not yield the results you are anticipating. Stop for as long as it takes, ask questions, whatever, but figure it out before you move forward with the drawing. One time at work, I saw one object that had been copied on top of itself 255 times, and then that object was copied all over the drawing. "My goodness" I exclaimed after trying to use the drawing. "I erase things and they don't go away, and this little drawing has a huge file size".

22. You can keep repeating the same command by right clicking the mouse and selecting "REPEAT COMMAND" in the pop-up dialog box. The right mouse button can also be used as ENTER. ( I have not completely figured out the mouse button options in Draftsight yet.)

More to follow:

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