DATACAD White Paper

Why DataCAD?
Choosing an Architectural CADD Program

DataCAD is an affordable, professional-level CADD program for AEC professionals. DataCAD is one of only a few applications that are developed specifically for architectural tasks. Originally developed by an architectural firm more than 30 years ago, DataCAD is one of the stalwarts of the CAD industry.

This white paper provides first-time and experienced CADD users with a general view of DataCAD and its relationship to competitive offerings.

Is DataCAD right for me?
Chances are you already own a CADD program. Architectural CADD solutions for desktop PCs have been available since 1984 when DataCAD was first introduced. Since that time, these programs have matured in many ways. They now provide more capabilities related to production drawing, 3D modeling, and rendering. Today, CADD is much more affordable and takes advantage of modern computer hardware that has become faster and less costly.

Just about any off-the-shelf PC available today is more than adequate to run DataCAD, though you can certainly invest as much as you want in specialized hardware in order to maximize speed and increase data storage capacity.

Along with hardware and software, the communities of specific CADD program users have also grown. Many of our customers cite the support they receive from other DataCAD users. A free Internet forum for DataCAD, DBUG (DataCAD Boston Users' Group), is recognized as one of the most prominent and established sources of this type of support. This means that when you purchase DataCAD, you're also joining a community of users that, on average, have owned DataCAD for ten years or more. In fact, 25% of our customers have owned DataCAD for more than 15 years. Chances are you'll be able to freely interact with other DataCAD users who are applying the program in much the same way that you will. This kind of support can greatly reduce the time required to learn DataCAD.

Should you switch to DataCAD?
You might consider switching to DataCAD if your current CADD program does not provide you with the functionality you need or if you feel that the program's tools are cumbersome to use and not productive. DataCAD users who have switched from other CADD programs have done so primarily to address the lack of comprehensive and efficient production drawing tools.

Some programs that provide comprehensive 3D tools are lacking when it comes to producing documents for construction -- and you don't get paid until the drawings get done! DataCAD serves as the production drawing backbone for thousands of architects and building designers.

Should you add DataCAD to your present CADD solution?
Consider using DataCAD in conjunction with your current CADD program to broaden your capabilities. For example, if creating 3D models for realistic rendering is a prime concern, you might use DataCAD in conjunction with a dedicated rendering program such Artlantis or Thea Render. DataCAD is ideal for fast modeling and conceptual visualization, whereas Artlantis' and Thea Render's focus is on high-end rendering capabilities.

DataCAD is compatible with SketchUp, which is heavily geared toward 3D modeling. As such, SketchUp can be used to develop models for presentation early in the design process then transferred to DataCAD for the production drawing phase.

DataCAD and AutoCAD provide many similar functions, so why would I use these two programs together?
There are two primary differences between DataCAD and AutoCAD. First, DataCAD is optimized for architectural tasks and is ready, "out-of-the-box" to create these kinds of drawings. AutoCAD, by itself, is more generic and does not include architecture-specific tools.

Secondly, DataCAD is much less expensive than AutoCAD. For first-time buyers, a DataCAD license is $1,295 whereas a license of AutoCAD retails for $4,195. On an annual basis, DataCAD can be maintained with support for $300 per year. An AutoCAD subscription with basic support costs $1,680 per year. So it may be cost-prohibitive for your firm to own and maintain multiple copies of AutoCAD.

DataCAD in detail:

Power and Ease-of-Use
DataCAD is a flexible design tool that allows you to draw or model almost anything. It is easy to learn, affordable, and powerful. The drawing and modeling commands are immediately accessible from an icon or single keystroke.

Unlike other CADD programs, there is little that comes between you and the drawing. You don't have to constantly interact with dialog boxes and prompts. Once you learn the basic commands, the program becomes transparent to the drawing or model you are working on.

Due in part to the fact that DataCAD is so easy to use, it almost seems like lines, shapes, dimensions, and text create themselves. Common, repetitive editing tasks are accessed with a keystroke. The "sticky" nature of the command structure allows you to perform multiple edits using that tool before exiting the function. Powerful add-on macros allow you to extend DataCAD's functionality. Additional tools can be created for specialized building practices like log construction and pre-manufactured homes.

Design Tool
The ability to create construction drawings might be taken for granted in the application of CADD. Recent trends in the CADD industry point toward a "virtual building" model, or "BIM" (Building Information Modeling) by which the building is constructed in its totality in CADD; then, the requisite plans, sections, and elevations are extracted from this model. One of the most powerful benefits of using DataCAD is its ability to quickly construct a three-dimensional design idea and then use this model to generate plans, sections, and elevations.

While DataCAD's parametric modeling technology may not be as robust as other, more-expensive products, its speed and flexibility easily compensate. In fact, one might argue that a separation between 2D and 3D are a decided advantage. One of the most problematic aspects of parametric CADD software is that it does not fare well when the building is not preconceived in its totality. In DataCAD, however, you can use an evolutionary process, starting with simple elements and gradually adding complex relationships. You might draw simple lines, turn these lines into walls, develop and edit the plan, extrude the lines to a height, convert these to three-dimensional elements, and finally complete the project by modeling in the doors, windows, and roofs.

This accretion of data intelligence mirrors the way an architect develops a design idea. It is intuitive and the end result is a comprehensive collection of information that you can use to generate more data. For example, once the model is complete, you can use it to produce the elevations, sections, and details. The resulting drawings are not "connected" to the model. While this may be perceived as a limitation, it again provides the flexibility required by the creation of construction documents. A window shown in plan is keyed to the details that describe it. You do not need to know the detailing before you draw the window.

Easy to Learn
DataCADs command structure gives you at least four ways to access most commands, with each method being progressively faster. Typically, a command such as Move can be invoked by clicking its icon on the toolbar, selecting it from the main menu, pressing its corresponding function key, or using its keyboard shortcut (in the case of Move, the [m] key). This system allows the novice user to get up to speed quickly, then gradually increase productivity by using rapid methods to initiate the command. Eventually, the user comes to rely on single keystrokes that provide rapid command navigation. These shortcuts can also be customized and batched together, allowing even more speed. Because DataCAD's shortcuts are single-letter and don't require typing the whole word (e.g., "move" "copy array"), they are much faster than other CADD programs.

The cost of a CADD solution is a significant consideration for the majority of architectural offices, which tend to be small businesses with 5-10 staff members. Purchasing multiple stations at $5,000 each is typically not a viable option. Moreover, once the software is loaded, there remains the cost of decreased productivity while learning the program. In the case of an affordable program like DataCAD, a firm can still entertain professional training after purchasing the product.

A Comprehensive Solution
DataCAD offers almost everything an architect needs to produce a project right out of the box. Add-ons to the program can also be purchased to provide specialized functionality. These are plentiful and also inexpensive.

DataCAD can be used from the very first design ideas as a visualizer and form modeler. This data can be used for renderings and presentations, then worked through the design phase and contract documents.

The AIA defines five phases of professional practice. DataCAD can be used as a strategic tool for each phase:

  • Schematic Design
  • Design Development
  • Construction Documents
  • Bidding / Negotiation
  • Construction Contract Administration

By Architects and Software Engineers for Architects
DataCAD was created specifically for use as an architectural application. As such, it takes many architectural needs for granted: drawing walls, doors, and windows; dimensioning; and notation. All are straightforward and easy to use. Other programs, which are engineering-based and fitted with an architectural harness, are unwieldy, time-consuming and difficult to learn, and counter-intuitive to the drawing process. DataCAD is easy for an architect to relate to because it is a literal translation of architectural drawing. DataCAD can even display "line-overshoots," a common drafting style used by many architects. Guided primarily by the interests of architects, DataCAD's development team is dedicated to continuous improvement.

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