02 December 2016

Understanding DWG Files and Fixing Them

The native AutoCAD file for saving drawings is ".DWG" (short form extension for "drawing"). The DWG file can be likened to a moveable database, storing tables of information such as geometry, views, layers, configurations, third-party extensions and links to other data sets like XREF or BLOCK. The first .DWG binary format "MC0.0" was implemented in 1982 with the AutoCAD 1.0 release. A user can check any DWG file directly by opening in a binary-text editor (I use vi/vim) and checking the first six characters like we did here:

That's it. Those six characters "hard-code" the rest of the drawings data as to which version protocol it obeys. in this case the file is DWG 2010 format. How do we know? Because AC1024 is code for 2010 DWG. Many of you have probably seen this table somewhere before:

DWG Version "Internal" Version Release Date AutoCAD version(s)
DWG R1.0 MC0.0 April 1983 AutoCAD Release 1.0
DWG R1.2 AC1.2 August  1983 AutoCAD Release 1.2
DWG R1.40 AC1.40 October 1983 AutoCAD Release 1.40
DWG R2.05 AC1.50 October 1984 AutoCAD Release 2.05
DWG R2.10 AC2.10 May 1985 AutoCAD Release 2.10
DWG R2.21 AC2.21 June 1986 AutoCAD Release 2.21
DWG R2.22 AC1001, AC2.22   AutoCAD Release 2.22
DWG R2.50 AC1002 June 1986 AutoCAD Release 2.50
DWG R2.60 AC1003 April 1987 AutoCAD Release 2.60
DWG R9 AC1004 September 1987 AutoCAD Release 9
DWG R10 AC1006 October 1988 AutoCAD Release 10
DWG R11/12 AC1009 October 1990 AutoCAD Release 11 & 12
DWG R13 AC1012 November 1994 AutoCAD Release 13
DWG R14 AC1014 May 1997 AutoCAD Release 14
DWG 2000 AC1015 March 1999 AutoCAD 2000 - AutoCAD 2002
DWG 2004 AC1018 March 2003 AutoCAD 2004 - AutoCAD 2006
DWG 2007 AC1021 March 2006 AutoCAD 2007 - AutoCAD 2009
DWG 2010 AC1024 March 2009 AutoCAD 2010 - AutoCAD 2012
DWG 2013 AC1027 March 2012 AutoCAD 2013 - AutoCAD 2017

AutoCAD configurations can be divided into two groups: global software "Options" and drawing-specific "Settings". The Autodesk DWG files spec includes numerous configuration settings that get stored into the individual DWG file. One way of implementing certain drawing settings across all new drawings is to save those settings into the Drawing Template FIle (".DWT"). With progeCAD 2017, the default .DWT folder is:
%APPDATA%\PSOFT\progeCAD x64\R17\Professional - English\Templates
But the path can be configured in Options -> "Path/Files" tab -> Templates

DWG like many high-precision CAD formats can accumulate erros over time. These errors can originate from geometry, block handling, API errors and many other sources. DWG errors can result in degraded (slow/"glitched") performance, stability issues and even crash incidents.

progeCAD, like AutoCAD, offers several tools for addressing DWG data errors. Main among these tools is the AUDIT command:

Regardless of the drawing origin, when system stability begins to degrade, always check the DWG quality using these tools. Occasional discussions on the CADDIT forum address these incidents directly with a number of good suggestions:

progeCAD offers comprehensive DWG drawing and editing at a fraction of the cost of AutoCAD, as shown above offering similar tools and completely compatible format. For a free progeCAD download visit CADDIT here (link).

03 November 2016

Understanding progeCAD Upgrade Options

Many advances have been made in progeCAD development in recent years. Apart from native 64-bit CAD editing and better OpenGL hardware support for premium graphics cards, progeCAD continues to maintain its highest level of compatibility with recent Windows and AutoCAD updates. For some users, choosing the right progeCAD upgrade can be a bit confusing. This is understandable. Aside from the basic types of upgrades such as floating Network licenses, portable USB or Stand-Alone, there are also several different options for each type.

The first tip is that the latest version of progeCAD supports the same DWG file format as did previous versions. This means that progeCAD will open drawings even if they are created in a version several years earlier. Of course, as with all versions, the DWG format itself should be correct and error-free. As mentioned on the CADDIT forum, regular use of progeCAD tools like "audit", "purge" as well as regular backups can keep drawings safe and free of any format errors.

The second tip is that - unlike other CAD systems - it is still possible to upgrade from any commercial version of progeCAD without paying the full cost of a new license. For example, even if a user has a 2008 license there is still a discount for "trading in" the old license towards a new 2017 version. Here is how.

To upgrade any version of progeCAD we start on the CADDIT webstore:

If a user prefers to use the webstore categories, all progeCAD upgrades can be found under the "progeCAD Upgrades" category.

It is possible to upgrade from any type of paid progeCAD license to any other type of paid progeCAD license. Under the "progeCAD Upgrades" category, we see several different types of license that can be selected for the upgrade. progeCAD licenses are upgraded on a one for one exchange basis. That is, for one "older" valid license code (which has not been, for example, already upgraded before), a user is entitled to one upgrade price in the license type of their choice. If a company has multiple licenses, there is no requirement to upgrade all of them, but it would be advisable to do so. Of course, the user does not need to change the license type just to upgrade - they are welcome to keep on the same type as the older one they are upgrading from (e.g. Single). The point is, either way works. Any of the upgrade products will activate the latest version of software (currently progeCAD 2017):


For example: we could decide that a floating network license would be more suitable for our company, rather than the single seat license which we had now since, say, 2013-2014. In that case we could begin to order our upgrade by clicking on the "progeCAD 2017 Network License Upgrade" product, even though what we have now is a 2014 Stand-Alone license from three years ago. Clicking on the product title opens the product page - in this example the product page for "progeCAD 2017 Network License Upgrade". A similar process works if a user wishes to change to a USB, or simply to keep their Single license updated. Simply click the product title for the license type you wish to upgrade TO (or, to keep).

The forth tip is to select the correct options for the upgrade. Once on the product page for the type of upgrade we want, we still need to tell the system what we are upgrading from -> which support option that we want, etc. The upgrade options are currently located toward the bottom of each product page. Some options will affect the total price of the upgrade. For our example, we are upgrading a 2014 stand-alone to a 2017 Network license. Looking at the drop down options for "Which CAD System do you currently use?" we see a few different choices. Choosing the right option here will prevent delays when our order is checked. Since progeCAD 2014 Stand-Alone is not specifically listed, the correct option is "Other (Specify ..).." as shown below:

Once the correct options are clicked, we only need to Add to Cart and Check Out per usual. We notice that by upgrading our existing old stand-alone license, we save more than $100 from the cost that buying a new Network License outright. Similar cost savings are available for other types of progeCAD licenses - even very old ones. This upgrade option allows progeCAD users to claim a measure of value back, even after using a license for many years. This upgrade option also helps ensure that users enjoy more productive software while contributing to the development of this powerful AutoCAD alternative. Of course, it would be impossible to cover every upgrade topic in a single article. So, as usual, we would close this post by saying that any questions about progeCAD upgrade offers can be sent to CADDIT through the contact details on the website.

27 October 2016

Batch Printing in progeCAD - Using Publish

progeCAD can be a powerful tool for creating, editing and printing AutoCAD-format DWG files for almost any version of AutoCAD. progeCAD includes multiple tools for vector-PDF import, PDF underlay and PDF printing as well. However, more than once we have been asked at CADDIT how progeCAD manages batch printing and I have agreed to write something on it. This article will offer an overview of progeCAD batch printing using the PUBLISH command.

Batch plotting is a convenient way to print multiple documents and layouts in one run. The origin of batch plotting has its roots in the unsupervised overnight plotting of large numbers of drawings for CAD offices. The PUBLISH command was first introduced in progeCAD with a free update for progeCAD 2013 users several years ago. Since its appearance several years ago, progeCAD's publish command has expanded to embrace full batch-printing functionality, including the in-dialog ability to add and remove drawing files to the batch, as well as selecting specific layouts and workspaces from those files. progeCAD's PUBLISH command is essentially similar to the one offered in AutoCAD (which effectively replaced AutoCAD's older batch plot utility a few years ago). To begin batch plotting jobs in progeCAD, there are several ways to start the PUBLISH command:

..From the "progeCAD Button" (similar to the "Office Button")..
..From the "Output" Ribbon Menu...
..By starting to type "publish" in the progeCAD Command Bar..
Once started, the PUBLISH dialog will display, allowing you many options for plotting multiple documents and workspaces as a single job:
As one can see, there are quite a few options here to work with. The basic idea is to create a list of drawing files - either from the currently opened files in progeCAD or using the "Add Drawing" button (triangle button with the plus, above). Individual workspaces (Layouts, model spaces..) can then be added or removed from the job list using the toggle boxes next to their name in the list. For example, to only print the layout (paperspace) drawings from files above, uncheck everything in the list with name ending in "- Model". You can also re-order the way drawings are printed in the publish job by individually selecting them and using the "Move ..up" and "Move .. down" buttons.
Clicking the "Options" button (top right) allows us to customize the job further:
For batch printing to a PDF or DWF file, the "Default Output Location" folder would be significant. You can also specify a single paper size or allow the job to use various paper sizes as specified by each individual layout. Headers, footers, even DWF security password can be specified in this options box if the user so wishes it. For more detail on the various options available in the PUBLISH command, we can first suggest the progeCAD 2017 "F1" included Help topics, such as "Customizing options when publishing to a file". Users are also free to post specific questions about using this or any other progeCAD command on the CADDIT user forum.

 For more information about how progeCAD's powerful CAD functionality save's companies thousands in CAD software costs, or for a free progeCAD trial, visit the CADDIT website.

05 October 2016

progeCAD 2017 Graphics and GPU Review

Sydney, Australia 05 October 2016 - With the recently available progeCAD 17.0.8 service pack, the CADDIT team has revisited last year's review of CAD hardware. As stated in the update announcement on CADDIT.net, progeCAD is a low-cost general-purpose 2D/3D CAD system with very tight compatibility to recent versions of AutoCAD. Since the landmark progeCAD 2013 release several years ago, our development team has been spending considerable effort to improve our use of OpenGL hardware acceleration commonly employed by CAD software  like AutoCAD and Geomagic. OpenGL is essentially a machine language for sending commands like draw and shade directly (in a process sometimes called "direct rendering") to an OpenGL-speaking graphics card for display on the screen. These commands are often wrapped inside other languages like C++ for callable use by developers to tie into their software - like CAD, games, many video players and other highly-demanding graphics applications.

The inner workings of OpenGL per diagram from Wikipedia

This year we began introducing two significant hardware assets for graphics testing in our labs: Dell XPS Laptops (15 inch series) with Nvidia GTX 960M series GPU, now with a "game-ready" driver update version 372.90 (free update from NVidia.com).  I really like the XPS and have taken one for use myself. Other legacy systems tested are an HP Pavilion running Windows 7 on a Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 2,4GHZ processor with Nvidia Quadro K1200 GPU and a new Asus with Intel i7-3770 @ 3.40 GHz Windows 10 PRO x64 / Nvidia GeForce GTX 550 Ti (working at 1680x1050) - both with updated Nvidia v372 driver updates as well.

This year we again employed the FRAPS graphics utility for our performance analysis. Combined with results from the previous year, average speed on all systems all measured between 20 and 30 refresh frames per second (FPS) with the shaded ISS 3D test drawing, with the Dell XPS and HP Pavilion with the Quadro having slightly higher (smoother) graphics performance than the others. Results were similar when loaded with mid-sized 2D drawings roughly 12 - 14 megabytes in size, with the new progeCAD 2017 64 bit handling of larger files somewhat better than last year's version.

Early year observations of regular crashing on systems using Nvidia Quadro graphics seem to all but completely disappear with updated Quadro drivers from nvidia.com and installing the latest progeCAD update from caddit.net. We also notice the same improvement when updating the Intel business graphics drivers on systems like the Surface Pro 3. Unfortunately we were unable to make similar comparisons with legacy systems equipped with ATI 7470M Radeon graphics because the new ATI driver sent an incompatible signal voltage to the LED backlighting of the screen.  Based on last year's problems and comparatively poor performance of the ATI card, we really didn't feel like buying another one. We have heard remarks that OpenGL support on the ATI FireGL series is somewhat better, however.

In conclusion, we repeat last year's recommendation of intel CPU / NVidia graphics for progeCAD when possible. Using the latest progeCAD service pack (currently 17.0.8) and recent Nvidia device drivers is highly recommended for best results, although users should double check any possible incompatibility that newer drivers might have with their own hardware.