Mac users my age may remember MacDraw, circa 1985. It was the first popular Mac vector drawing app.
I used it to build newspaper ads (pre-Photoshop days), design floor and furniture layouts for remodeling, and do precise designs. MacDraw also gave me a look into the future of vector drawing. The future? Two words. Expensive. Features. Vector drawing, design, drafting, and 2D CAD is alive and well on the Mac. If you can afford it.
Drafting, CAD, Design, Oh My!
There are two things to note about the latest version of MacDraft, arguably the most popular, most used of Mac drafting and CAD-related apps.
First, MacDraft is loaded with features. Second, MacDraft is not inexpensive.
I don’t remember the price tag on MacDraw back in the 20th century because I received it free from a friend who worked at Apple.
Years later I picked up MacDraft but haven’t had a need to use it in many years. Now I do. Now the surprise. MacDraft is a very powerful, feature-laden 2D drafting, design, and illustration tool.
In typical Mac-like fashion, MacDraft still has the look and feel of the original apps of a few decades ago, yet is far more capable.
Tools abound in floating palettes, similar to Adobe’s Illustrator. Whatever the design requirement, there’s a tool with fine, granular controls—parallel lines, polygon tools, tools for tangents, perpendicular and parallel lines and edges.
MacDraft advances to the 21st century with multiple layers, perfect for floor plans on one layer, electrical schematics on another layer, and design on yet another. Each layer can have different scales.
What attracted me to the original MacDraw, then MacDraft of yesteryear was the accuracy and dimensions of objects. Everything has a size and each dimension gets pinpoint controls. These days, everything is about images and imports. MacDraft pulls in everything from PICT to GIF, from TIFF to JPEG and bit maps. Exports include PDFs, bit maps, JPEGs, PSD files, JPEG, PICT, PNG, and TIFF.
The Times Are Changing
MacDraft is at once familiar for those of us with a longer history using such apps, yet the surprises are comfortable and immediately usable. For example, the Toolbar can be customized (like the Finder or many other Mac apps) so the tools you want are where you want them.
Layers can make a document highly complex, so MacDraft includes a Layers Palette which resembles other Mac apps, giving more control, and quicker accessibility. The Mac is about drag and drop and MacDraft joins the party with a Library Palette for images, including symbol libraries.
The rulers can be adjusted for higher resolution screens. The drawing size is a whopping 14 feet plus. Scales can be customized. And, for those of us who dabble but don’t live in vector drawing, MacDraft comes with plenty of templates for specific projects.
What I like most about my re-acquaintance with MacDraft is familiarity.
And price. PowerCADD is nearly three times the price.
On the other end of the scale is CADintosh, about 1/10th the MacDraft price tag. CADtools is priced similarly but is an Adobe Illustrator plugin, not a standalone app. VectorWorks is a full-fledged 2D and 3D CAD solution with a hefty price tag.
For the budget minded, there’s MacDraft Personal Edition at half the price of the Pro version. I’d go there except I like using layers and MacDraft PE has a limit of five, fewer palettes, no linked dimensions, and a smaller paper size.
Before coughing up the cash make sure you know what problem you need to solve. CAD is an expensive undertaking, and designers often need many years of experience. Still, MacDraft PE is an easy place to start designing and drawing.