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Is CAD for Me?

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Peter G. Shaw08/06/2019 18:49:07
1077 forum posts
44 photos


I am not going to comment on 3D as I cannot, as yet see a use for it for me.

In respect of TurboCad, for what it's worth, I too found it very difficult to use - it simply wasn't intuitive. And from what you are saying, it would seem that it still isn't intuitive. Unfortunately, during my early trawls around the CAD landscape I did come across a forum entry on the DesignCad forum (another CAD program now owned and sold by the same people who own and sell TurboCad) in which it was said that this was a common problem with TurboCad. So don't despair.

If you fancy doing some internet trawling, and possibly having to persuade Windows that you know best, there is a very old 2D CAD program called Draft Choice which has what I found to be an excellent introduction to using, ok Draft Choice (!), a CAD program. From that, I ended up with DesignCad Pro 3D which I then found very easy to use. I was lucky, I found what I now believe was an end of line sell-off at a ridiculously cheap price for a fully functional 2D/3D program. Unfortunately, DesignCad does not seem to be readily available in the UK.

Good luck,

Peter G. Shaw

Bandersnatch08/06/2019 18:53:01
1597 forum posts
58 photos
Posted by David Jupp on 08/06/2019 18:13:15:
Realistically a couple of full days is required to cover all the basics.


When I did mine, the initial course was a week full-time. Maybe 15 or so participants. There were follow-on courses available  for advanced aspects, lasting 1 - 3 days.

When I was a young man and living in the UK there were what we knew as "evening classes" for adult further-education/hobbies available for a fairly nominal sum and run by people who simply had some skills in a particular subject rather than educational qualifications per-se.

I wondered whether they were still around since it would seem (to me) to be ideal for this. After all, there are many people who want to learn CAD for hobbyist activities (particularly 3D-printing) but not to professional levels.

They used to offer such evening (and daytime) courses here (Canada) some years ago (I did a Photoshop course for a very nominal sum) but I suspect that they too have disappeared.

Edited By Bandersnatch on 08/06/2019 18:53:45

Brian H08/06/2019 18:55:39
1582 forum posts
104 photos

Paul the Cad sells DesignCad and I agree, it's very good.


I'm presently struggling with Fusion 360 but it's getting easier.


Peter G. Shaw08/06/2019 19:24:11
1077 forum posts
44 photos


Just as an aside. Do you use DesignCad? If so which version? And under Windows or Linux?

I have v.17.3 which I have managed to get working quite well, say 98% under Linux. I understand that someone has got v24 working under Linux.

Peter G. Shaw

Edited to add a little extra. (Sorry Tesco!)

Edited By Peter G. Shaw on 08/06/2019 19:25:24

Brian H08/06/2019 19:37:56
1582 forum posts
104 photos

Peter, my DesignCad is 2018 64 bit V27 and it's used in Win 10


Nigel Graham 208/06/2019 19:45:44
586 forum posts


I was certainly in my late 50s when I bought TurboCAD, and I have certainly "got stuck in" but you need far more than just the drive. You need aptitude too. You can't learn something too hard for you, no matter how much you try.


Bandersnatch and David -

Good suggestion but I am afraid not practicably. I am retired now but my employer did send me on other computing courses - 'Word', 'Excel' and 'Access'. However, even if any colleges anywhere near me do teach CAD it's likely to be prices industry would think "competitive" (i.e. stiff), and I thought not in TurboCAD or Alibre.

My local college used to teach a range of technical subjects. In fact it was South Dorset Technical College (in Weymouth) back in the 1960s and 70s; but nowadays the nearest you'd get to engineering there might still be car maintenance; and to images, hobby photo-faffing.

However, I looked up "CAD courses in Dorset" on-line, and was surprised to find that Bournemouth & Poole College, only 30 miles away, offers a 9-week evening-class introduction to AutoCAD 2012. Its entry requirement is quite modest, just familiarity with MS Windows applications and no previous CAD experience. Obviously at £350 and no concessions, it's really for industrial trainees.

Which is all very well but if AutoCAD is as different from TurboCAD and Alibre as they are from each other, I would merely dent my pensions!

And AutoCAD 2012 costs...? Prohibitive. AutoDesk itself uses only very expensive subscriptions, but Cadstore is selling off its AutoCAD LT 2016 copies for a mere £349. Plus VAT I expect. This is 2D only, so would I be saving anything? After all, Alibre Atom 3 is £100 less than that, though primarily 3D.

I may as well use the AutoCAD 2000 I already have, accept it is a lot slimmer than more modern CAD packages and try to translate what I know so far with TurboCAD, to that. I have installed it on my spare, off-line computer, running WIN XP for older software and files.

Yet if AutoCAD's even vaguely low-cost software is 2D only anyway, it's far more sensible to stay with TurboCAD, especially given my steam-wagon drawings are TC files. And I have its 3D option if I am brave / daft enough to try again. It's possible my TC 2D level is nearer that AutoCAD introductory course than I think, especially as any engineering or technical drawing knowledge is, oddly, not a stated course pre-requisite.

If the software differences from non-Autodesk products are very large, as likely, I would not gain much from that course. Of AutoDESK, Fusion 360 is a 3D modeller, AutoCAD Inventor is industrial 2D. Fusion is free for private use, but only for 3 years, presumably for standard degree courses.

No-one seems to offer Alibre and TurboCAD courses except their own agents, and then expensively, for professionals and probably a long way from here. I have not investigated SolidWorks but one or two of my model-engineering club members do use it professionally. It is trade/ educational only.

Peter G. Shaw09/06/2019 09:51:59
1077 forum posts
44 photos

Thanks Brian.

No point in taking that any further then.


Roderick Jenkins09/06/2019 12:29:18
1855 forum posts
471 photos

As far as I understand it, Fusion 360 is free to home users and start up companies and there is no time limit. While I understand the suspicions of some that this free availability is just a ruse to drag you in to the Autodesk fold before starting to charge but there is an alternative view that Autodesk know that home users will not stump up the money for a full commercial product so they have nothing to loose.

Fusion 360 is very much based on a 2D drawing model: Draw the plan in 2D and extrude the plan to make the 3D shape. As has been mentioned before, Paul McWhorter takes you through these steps very simply in his YouTube videos **LINK**

Whatever happens to the future of Fusion 360 or Alibre ( it does has a chequered history) I don't think any effort invested in these programs will be wasted since the overall concepts are the same.


Nigel Graham 209/06/2019 13:24:31
586 forum posts

I'd understood it as free to home users too, but when I read its webs-site yesterday it seemed to imply a 3-year limit. I could well have misinterpreted it, but it is a point anyone considering taking up Fusion 360 would want to clarify.

The fact that the browser elicited such questions on this shows that AutoDESK has not made it clear on its own site!

However I take your point about Autodesk having nothing to lose offering for free something it knows few people could afford at full price. I am a bit surprised SolidWorks has not cottoned onto this, but it's probably making enough money from its trade sales not to worry about students and private users.

A lot of software now is becoming sold by a so-called "subscription", which basically means you pay for the retail price and then handsomely more, possibly for software you need only now and then, such as WINzip and Adobe. The latter Adobe appears to be the only software that will convert pdf files from images to editable formats - do you also need it to release docx and xlsx files? I was caught by these sneaky new formats when in preparation for retiring I tried to send documents relating to my pensions home from my works PC. (Oh, and lunch-time "bunnies" like change-wheel calculators and other model-engineering files!)


"Overall concepts are the same..."

To what extent? This is important when trying to choose your "right" make of CAD. The programmes do the same things, at least at code level because computers all work in much the same way. However, what you actually see on the screen is very different.

I tried both Alibre and Fusion, admittedly briefly, and whilst the general appearance of the 3D model itself is superficially similar the controls are presented very differently; and very differently again from TurboCAD. So the natural similarities in concepts are not at all obvious.

I did not explore them deeply enough to find out, but do Alibre and Fusion use the same 3D solids-generating methods as TurboCAD? TC uses 3 (at least) separate forms of "solid": Extrusion, ACIS Solid and TC Solid. I do not know what the abbreviations mean, but they differ significantly in their properties hence reactions to editing. Alibre and Fusion appeared not to use such a system. They might "behind the screen" but with coherent controls working on all types. TurboCAD needs a deep understanding of those solid types, properties and appropriate tools; and this is one of my main obstacles to it.


The publicity rather suggests Fusion 360 is a 3D modelling capability Autodesk has grafted onto its primary industrial product, the AutoCAD 2D set. Learning AutoCAD itself may help you learn Fusion, but I'm not convinced it would help you learn any other make.

David Jupp09/06/2019 13:59:59
724 forum posts
17 photos

Alibre is similar in approach to Fusion - though user interface and terminologies will differ in places.

Alibre is a 'Solids' modeller. It uses the ACIS geometry kernel (but user never 'sees' that), as do some other products. Most 3D CAD actually combines 'behind the scenes' technology components from more than one provider

Fusion has a lot in common with AutoCAD Inventor - and may even compete with it.

Whilst many 3D CAD packages share the same basic approach to modelling, there are exceptions. Some work very differently. One major division is between 'history based' and 'non-historic', another is Solids Modelling vs Surface Modelling. All have pros and cons.

If access to zero cost training is a prime consideration the options are either on-line videos and user forums, or choose a system that somebody you know already uses.

SillyOldDuffer09/06/2019 17:06:32
5634 forum posts
1159 photos
Posted by Nigel Graham 2 on 09/06/2019 13:24:31:

I'd understood it as free to home users too, but when I read its webs-site yesterday it seemed to imply a 3-year limit. I could well have misinterpreted it, but it is a point anyone considering taking up Fusion 360 would want to clarify.


However I take your point about Autodesk having nothing to lose offering for free something it knows few people could afford at full price...

My theory is different. Fusion 360 isn't a bolt on to AutoCAD, more it seems to be new building on the good and bad experiences of other products. Various advantages to letting the mob use the product for free, all related to establishing a large community of users:

  1. Testing software is hideously expensive and the professionals often miss bleeding obvious problems due to over-familiarity. Letting the public in widens the number of test cases enormously, and the more the better. Feedback improves the Help system, and establishes training needs and clunkers needing attention. A company that does this inspires loyalty because people see them responding to positively to faults and criticism.
  2. Coming up with new features and improvements is also very difficult. Once again, a large user-base will think of things a professional developer might not. The product is improved for free, and again, the engagement inspires loyalty.
  3. Making a high-end product free to students and small users dramatically increases the size of the community, which further improves support, advertising and brand-loyalty.

I think AutoDesk's business strategy might be to nail their rivals by creating an advanced user-friendly product in which many people are enthusiastically proficient. Employers like being able to recruit ready-to-go expertise off the shelf, partly because training is expensive, and partly to deal quickly with urgent manpower shortages. CAD software licenses are cheap compared with people costs and the amount of money an employer can save by adopting popular software is huge. Likewise employers can lose a lot of money by sticking with products that are fading away, in reality, or because the crowd perceive they are on the way out.

If that's AutoDesk's game, likely Fusion360 will stay free for non-professional use.


Nigel Graham 209/06/2019 20:01:17
586 forum posts

DAVE - I see what you mean.

A teacher I know, of "Design and Technology" (who invents this jargon?) says his school uses one leading CAD make's school version written and sold very deliberately with that commercial imperative.

Using the unfortunate users to discover the accidental or merely sloppy mistakes, and attempts to enforce its programmers' tastes, is not new of course - Microsoft acquired that reputation a long time ago. You can't tell 'em though as they live behind a firewall opening only its sales department.

I used MS Excel's graph routines regularly at work. Its Cartesian graphs could be edited to decent quality, but MS never ensured that with its so-called "Radar" (polar) "Charts". I had to plot typically to 5º or even finer intervals but the label and axis editing was a desperate chore. It even made the 0º and 360º points, separate ones.


However, there is far more to it than the programmers' style. That controls ease of use, but for its buyer, succeeding is still by personal ability, plus Machiavellian cunning in deciphering the designer's intentions. However I accept someone who finds one make impossible might manage to learn a comparable rival.



I am afraid I do not understand those design aspects, though I can see why shared deep-level software. The mathematics and electronics must be basically similar.

I am limited in training options because I cannot learn from videos, the only available formal training is costly and AutoCAD-only, and no text-books exist for specific software. I have a few bits of printed material for TurboCAD, and do use its Forum, but am not making any 3D progress.

If an employer does see a CAD product is fading away, in reality or not, does he not then risk having to spend a lot of money not only replacing perfectly useable software, but also in re-training his drawing-office staff, plus the consequent temporary dip in productivity?

Neil Wyatt09/06/2019 20:01:36
17730 forum posts
697 photos
77 articles

I've use AutoCAD's Eagle PCB package for a long time.

It's a free hobby version, full featured but hobble in terms of layers (max 2) and PCB area.

AutoCAD are very careful about not promising F360 will stay free, but my guess is that they may hobble it with a limit of some sort down the line, leaving it useful for entry level but frustrating for larger hobby projects as with Eagle.

That said, I shouldn't complain about Eagle - for all it's quirks, it works and it's free.


Paul H 110/06/2019 15:15:08
33 forum posts

Having only seen this thread today I would like to add my experience.

I came to CAD from an industrial conventional manual draughting background. In 1981 I started with Autocad on 8" floppies and never looked back (using it for 2D only) until a few years ago when my laptop with Autocad LT got messed up in a flood. Being already retired, buying Autocad was out of the question and at the time I was not interested in 3D modelling. In the meantime Windows 8 and then 10 came out and I just did not get on with them so made the change to Linux. For draughting I discovered DraftSight, free and for an ex Autocad user, easy to pickup.

What else was available Open Source? Answer FreeCAD. So I downloaded, installed and tried it just to have a try at 3D. From this experience I fully understand the comments about not getting on with 3D. At the time try as I might I just could not get my head round the totally different concepts. So frustrated I eventually I gave up and uninstalled it. As others on this thread point out it is a different way of thinking to do 3D design, compared to 2D.

However I now want to do 3D printing. For this I need to design in 3D. Obviously Alibre came to mind with the MEW series and offer. However it needs Windows and at the end of the trial savings must be parted with to keep using it. In the mean time I found FreeCAD 0.18 had been released to lots of good feedback so I have tried again. This time I have tried to put out of my head my preconceived ways of working and progress through relevant tutorials off the FreeCAD wiki and using tutorial videos and forum posts. Youtube has got loads of good videos, well thought out for FreeCAD. There are also the "expert" who is just showing off his skill but I don't bother with those.

It is taking some determined effort but I am getting somewhere in my learning, so my message to Nigel is don't give up. I am curious as to what problems you, Nigel, find with videos. One method I use is to run the video on the laptop next to my PC's screen, so I can stop, start, "rewind" etc next to the piece of work I am trying to do.

Regarding Fusion 360, I had years of buying Autocad perpetual licences and upgrades from Autodesk for my design team as it expanded, so I would not trust Autodesk to keep F360 completely free. I suspect Neil's opinion of hobbling in some way will happen, since Autodesk will bring out yet more features making the package even more comprehensive than it already is. Probably lots of new features to come will only be available in paid versions.

Nigel Graham 210/06/2019 16:58:14
586 forum posts

Thank you Paul!

Eight-inch floppy discs... I can recall seeing one or two of these about when a new employment in 1989 brought me into contact with these' ere electronic "confusers" for the first time. Generally we used the very latest 5" discs... Previously I'd operated the materials store for a screen-printing machine manufacturer, where my response to anyone suggesting a computer might help my work was,

"Aye, but will it unload full lengths of 3-inch diameter steel bar covered in black grease from a lorry in the pouring rain, and bring through the building to my store?"

Apparently it would not...


I have been accused of trying to see 3D CAD modelling though orthographic glasses, but that was not so. I knew it is an entirely different art; but I am used to seeing 2D mapping of 3D objects, from a mousetrap to a mountain.

Though lacking your luxury of two computers side-by-side, that is not my problem with videos.

Instead, I find they don't explain to me what I need to do. They show me someone else using the software, in a single, linear progression. It's even worse when the demonstrator does not move the cursor incisively, but wiggles it in circles around the scenery while talking.

I need step-by-step static instructions, and printed, so I easily can stop at any point and go back to definite steps; much more difficult with a video. I also need to know why I am doing whatever is needed, and what conditions have to have been embedded in the drawing so far for later moves to work, perhaps many steps later.

I might be influenced by accustomed use. At work I spent 20-odd years using a mixture of computers and sophisticated electronic equipment, but it all came with proper manuals I could augment by notes of my own at my own speed, and direct personal help.


Regarding the drawing exercises, I am not sure if drawing a "real" object is a good idea or not. Most of own TurboCAD exercises are simply regular 2D and 3D shapes concentrating on the techniques.

Curiously this is opposite to my trying to learn Mathematics, far easier when the exercises use real-life things rather than being pure technique exercises.


On paying for software, I am happy about an honest, single, all-time purchase. If I can't afford it I go without. If I can, once bought, it's bought.

Unfortunately a lot of software is being moved to so-called "subscriptions" so you soon pay well over its direct-sale price, and are far more subject to commercial whims and entrapment. I wonder if Microsoft, Google, etc. will do that once MS has killed all pre-WIN10 systems; at £several-10 / month.

Paul H 110/06/2019 20:20:17
33 forum posts

Nigel, I know very little about TurboCAD, that coming only from posts I have read on this forum. I have observed however over many years of using different types of software that printed manuals seem to have gone out of fashion, replaced by various on-line versions. These can certainly vary in usability.

Perhaps I have been lucky with FreeCAD in that videos I have used are quite clear and in conjunction with the FreeCAD wiki pages I am making sense, slowly of the package.

Don't be led into the trap that the more expensive the software is, the better it is for your needs. Linux and the Open Source movement have liberated software for me. Quite often the packages are also available on Windows.

Nigel Graham 211/06/2019 16:28:05
586 forum posts

I agree - I think the software is developed so rapidly that it would be very difficult to publish printed manuals that won't be out of date very quickly.

I tried searching a second-hand book shop that takes a lot of technical books (Books Afloat, in Weymouth), and found very few of anything IT-related. The shop-keeper said they are rarely worth him stocking, for that reason.

However, some reasonably comprehensive books on CAD generally would not come amiss.

It would help even more if the manufacturers do issue decent manuals on-line so you can find the information you need, while the publishers can produce relevant version without having to re-write the lot and have it re-printed.

I realise the trap of equating software cost (usually related to contents if nothing else) with personal needs; but that's true of most commercial software. I don't suppose I have ever used more than a fraction of what Word and Excel offer, even when I used them at work; and I expect this would be case with TurboCAD or any other CAD package.

The real costs for anyone will come when everything becomes by subscription-only...

I once had a brush with Open Office, but it was an utter disaster; and I could delete its 150+ files and dense directory-tree, only by DOS command-lines, one at a time. As far as I know, this option is no longer available, or if it is, only to the real OS-editing experts. I don't use Linux because I know nothing about manipulating operating-systems, so dare not risk trying it.

Peter G. Shaw11/06/2019 19:29:59
1077 forum posts
44 photos


I must admit to being somewaht puzzled by your inability to easily delete Open Office. I used to use DOS and could quite easily remove trees. Ok, there were occasional problems caused by certain files being read-only and/or hidden, but I soon learned how to get round them. (From memory I think the command was Attrib *.* -R -H which removed the problem attributes.)

May I recommend Libre Office, the better successor to Open Office, and which can be used in either a Windows flavour or a Linux flavour.

In respect of Linux, I use Linux Mint and it is quite possible to use it in a similar manner to Windows without ever using the command line. For example, Internet Explorer can be replaced by Firefox, Outlook Express (or whatever they call it today) by Thunderbird, Microsoft Office by Libre Office etc. In all the cases mentioned, there is both a Windows version and a Linux version and it is quite easy to use the Windows versions to get an idea of how to use the programs before actually taking the plunge and transferring to Linux.

Of course, you may have one or more programs for which there is no Linux equivalent, in which case, there is a problem, but even so, there are workarounds involving Wine or Oracle's Virtual Box. In my case, I use a Win32 bit CAD program via Wine, and a DOS based database program via DOSemu.

It's true that the Linux Fanboys will act all dismissively if you mention Windows and Linux in the same sentence in their hearing, but really, those people just need ignoring. (Been there, received the abuse, and now ignore them!) It's also true that a lot of the Linux Fanboys will tell you to use the command line because it's faster, because you can do more, because...... Etc. Again ignore them, use it like Windows.

Frankly, once the transfer to Linux has been made, you will eventually wonder why it took you so long.

Please, please, take it from one who hesitated, who was very careful when transferring, and who successfully transferred without a problem, even to the extent of transferring all the data successfully. (At one point I had two computers, both running identical versions of XP, and both running identical versions of Linux Mint, and all four operating systems accessing the same data.)


Peter G. Shaw

Nigel Graham 211/06/2019 20:20:02
586 forum posts

Thank you Peter.

I didn't find deleting OO difficult, just very laborious thanks to the sets of great long command-lines needed to winkle out even just one file! MS-DOS didn't let you delete a directory plus its files in one go.

At the time I was on various second-hand PCs. OO crippled one computer completely. I replaced that and tried again but spotted things were going wrong early enough to rescue the poor computer. It's this second one that I cleaned out by DOS.

I'm afraid all that OS manipulating and programme-translating you describe would be far beyond my IT knowledge and ability. It would be too risky - even after copying all my data first, I'd end up with an unusable computer, dead programmes and no internet access.



Gary Wooding12/06/2019 08:07:12
669 forum posts
169 photos

My first CAD program was called EasyCAD. It was a DOS based program, distributed on a floppy disk, and was strictly 2D .After using it for a few years I encountered a magazine (can't remember the name) that was giving away a copy of a 3D program called TurboCAD. I tried it, but the 3D facility was very Mickey Mouse and I found it not as intuitive as EasyCAD.

There came a day when I designed something for myself (in EasyCAD) that I subsequently decided to submit for publication. Dimensioning was a pain because EasyCAD didn't have associative dimensions, so when I discovered that TurboCAD did, I switched over and never looked back.

I eventually got a better version of TurboCAD that, although heavily based on a 2D engine, could do pretty good 3D design work, and when somebody demonstrated SolidWorks to me I realised just how primitive TC's 3D was. But there was no way I could afford SolidWorks. I even tried Alibre when it first came out, but was dissuaded by the price.

Then I heard about Fusion, which seemed too good to be true. I downloaded and tried it but, because of the very poor documentation, didn't make much headway. The Remap panel for which I do voluntary work then obtained a 3D printer and I had the first case that required it. I used TC to created an STL for a special mug lid, but it was very slightly too small to fit the mug. Changing the size involved basically redrawing it from scratch, so I decided to use Fusion, with it's parametric facilities. It worked really well, so I gradually switched my work from TC to F360. I still use TC for basic 2D drawings, but now use F360 for everything else. F360's 2D sketching is really excellent, but it's 2D drawing can only truthfully be described as "work in progress".

I found the F360 tutorials sort-of useful, but it wasn't until I had to design a complicated model containing lots of separate parts that I got to think in the F360 way. F360 is now my CAD system of choice. I've even started to use the built-in FEA system that is a very pricey and complicated facility in other systems. When I've got some CNC machinery I'll find another use for F360.

I too prefer to learn from good documentation, and found the TC User Guide rather good. Alas, the F360 documentation is appalling, so I resorted to the numerous YouTube videos. The early ones from NYC CNC (John Saunders) were very useful, as were those from Live Lars, but I found the series from Autodesk Community Philippines particularly useful. It is really the solutions to a series of monthly challenges, each of which is designed to introduce one or more useful techniques. Although the stated main purpose of the series is for the subscribers to eventually gain a certificate for completing all the challenges of that particular year, there is no requirement to do so. I just watched each solution when it appeared. Each challenge is a bite-sized problem, complete in itself, and the solutions are presented in a very clear manner with each step being fully described.

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