CAD for the Macintosh

These are my personal opinions and do not constitute an endorsement of any of the products, by myself, the University, the Institute for a Sustainable Environment or the Department of Landscape Architecture. I am not an expert on CAD systems.

I have used several CAD packages for the Mac, taught one, and had conversations on a few others. My experience with CAD is as follows: I have used AutoCAD R12 on the PC for both 2D and 3D modeling. I am AutoCAD familiar, but by no means fluent. I have used Intergraph/Microstation on the PC. On the Mac, I've used ClarisCAD, BluePrint and MiniCAD. I have taught the Landscape Architecture Department's CAD Workshop for two quarters using Macs and BluePrint. Beyond CAD, I am fluent with Strata StudioPro for 3D modeling and animation. Here are my impressions:

Graphsoft makes two packages that are both excellent performance/price. These are BluePrint and MiniCAD. They are essentially the same program with extra features such as 3D added to MiniCAD. They both support DXF in/out, so can interface with AutoCAD export. They are relatively easy to learn and feature rich. Abilities include layering, classes, precision drawing controls/modifiers, pict import, trace bitmap, multiple scaling/rulers for each layer, alignment and grouping, and many others. Price is inexpensive, compared to other mainline CAD's such as AutoCAD or Microstation/Intergraph. I have taught BluePrint in the Department's CAD Workshop and was pleased with its intuitive interface. MiniCAD has a slick interface for designing 3D houses. (BTW, I am not affiliated with Graphsoft in any way). If interested, check out the MiniCAD users group at Both MiniCAD and BluePrint are Powermac native.

AutoDesk (as of June '95) has not made a commitment to support the Powermac. If they do not, AutoCAD for the Mac will become obsolete in a few years. I have used AutoCAD on the PC and found it to be an excellent, precise tool. Things that I had difficulty doing in other CAD programs could be done in AutoCAD (especially precise, 3D surfaces spanning multiple, non-orthogonal planes.) For more information, I recommend searching on AutoDesk and AutoCAD using Infoseek -- You'll get quite a few "hits". Perhaps check out for an introduction to AutoCAD.

I haven't used Microstation/Intergraph on the Mac, but have spoke with people who have used it extensively on the PC and have given it high recommendations. I've seen work done in Microstation and was pleased with the results. The full package is expensive, but I've been told that it has fully integrated CAD, rendering and animation modules. This would be a real benefit. For more information start at

I've also heard good things about PowerCAD, but again, I've never used it. The rendered output I've seen was clean. It was a finalist along with MiniCAD in the MacUse 1994 Eddy Awards ( -- ArchiCAD won.

While not a CAD package, I've used Strata's StudioPro extensively in my graduate work for developing 3D models. Its interface is spatial and hard for some people to grasp, but it's a powerful tool with fairly sophisticated rendering and animation capabilities. I think it fulfills a different role in our profession than a CAD package -- CAD is typically used to develop construction drawings. 3D modeling and animation packages like StudioPro have their strength in the ability to create photorealistic images of the spaces we're designing and can be part of the design process, much as we use plans and perspectives to "get the feel" of the place. Additionally, the ability of animation packages to show motion processes is unlike anything we can do with a pencil or pen (for more on this, see the next topic). Check out Strata's home page:


Please email me at with comments or questions.

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