DenebaCAD 2.0

The “point of sale” in architectural design is the moment when the client is suitably dazzled. For modern architects, that moment typically arrives via a QuickTime movie tour of a new structure. DenebaCAD 2.0, Deneba Software’s 2D/3D CAD application, is optimally designed for this purpose – it renders so quickly that even a humble iMac can produce a series of on-the-fly building walk-throughs for a client. DenebaCAD blends basic 2D blueprint drafting with high-end 3D modelling and rendering. In version 2.0, Deneba has polished the rough edges of its previous version – updated formats for AutoCAD 2000 compatibility, and improved lighting effects. DenebaCAD has moved to the head of the class. The interface has three modes: Draft resembles a standard 2D drafting program; Sculpt lets you construct 3D objects directly, or create them by extruding or otherwise manipulating 2D objects; and Render allows for the addition of lighting effects, and makes surfaces realistic. The context-sensitive menus and tool bars keep the screen blessedly uncluttered. Designers more accustomed to 2D will find transferring their design skills to the 3D environment fairly straightforward. DenebaCAD also lets you work in the other direction – modeling fans can work directly in 3D and then generate sets of 2D drawings from their 3D objects. DenebaCAD displays all the surface reflections, transparency, lighting effects, and other photo-realistic details you need for professional architectural design. For example, intuitive lighting controls make it easy to produce simple shadows, as well as ones seen through a transparent section. Lighting effects include not only external sun control, but also simple spotlights and parallel-light settings. Whether you’re watching DenebaCAD generate a tour through a 3D model’s wire-frame rendering or produce a stereoscopic 3D blue-red QuickTime movie, the program’s speed is impressive. In fact, DenebaCAD 2.0’s performance – for rendering and generating QuickTime and QuickTime VR movies – is so speedy that it feels like you’re using a new program. That’s not far off the mark, either. While Deneba ported version 1.5’s code from Windows, version 2.0’s is fully optimized and refined for the Mac. DenebaCAD supports Autodesk release 14.01 standards for DXF and DWG files. But in our tests, it also correctly imported every 3D object in a large AutoCAD 2000 file and exported to AutoCAD a set of Deneba sample files modified to introduce potential problems. That’s the best translation performance we’ve seen from a CAD program since 3D files became ubiquitous. Version 2 lets you export materials fields to Microsoft Excel as tabbed text files. If you’re working on a collaborative project, you can post a DenebaCAD DWF file to the Web along with the materials list as an Excel-based Web page.

OUR VERDICT

DenebaCAD 2.0 has muscled its way into a place where its only real direct competitor is ArchiCAD, which costs five times as much, and takes much longer to master. Deneba Software deserves credit for investing the resources to put DenebaCAD in the top rank of Mac CAD programs.

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