Here is a review I did in late 2010 about a free 2D drawing program "Draftsight", made by Dassault Systems, the same folks who make Solidworks. I was so impressed with the 2D program, that I created a tutorial for it, which is included here.http://www.3ds.com/products/draftsight/free-cad-software/Note: Since Draftsight is so similar to AutoCAD 2D, you can generally use this tutorial to also learn AutoCAD 2D.
I downloaded Draftsight from the Dassault Systems web page and loaded it.
I then loaded the most complicated drawing I could find into it, about a 5 MB drawing, and tried everything I could to make it lock up, but the program operated perfectly.
The screen layout is very good, and no jumpy cursor movement or other annoying things like the cheap programs.
I used it first time no problem without reading any instructions.
I just loaded it and started drawing. No problems whatsoever.
Very intuitive program.
It does ask you for an email address for registration, and then send you an email that you have to respond to just by pressing the link, but nothing else.
I must say, I am very impressed with this 2D product. It is not an el-cheapo. It is obviously a part of a larger very well designed interface.
I did not figure out how to use "press-and-drag" with it, but other than that, it seems to do everything I want, and do it well.
Press and drag eliminates having to click twice to select an object. You just window an object with press and drag and it is automatically selected. Much faster.
It appears that the keyboard shortcuts can be customized easily, which is good since I use custom shortcuts extensively. I draw with two hands drawing, never taking my hands out of position, and never looking away from the screen. I use the left hand on the keyboard with custom keyboard shortcuts such as E for line, D for delete, F for move, C for copy, V for mirror, T for trim, S for save, A for match properties, R for rotate, B for block, X for explode, etc. The idea is to group the commands that are used most frequently under the left hand index finger, otherwise you can end up making some awkward hand movements trying to reach frequently used keys. The worst thing you can do is arrange your shortcuts so that you have to move your left hand out of position to reach a commonly used command, and worst of all, a key stroke that requires you to look away from the screen.
The program seems to have excellent grips, which is what I use constantly, and the thing that I have seen other programs fall short on. The grips seem to match the other commonly used CAD programs, ie: center, midpoint, endpoint, etc. Grips are essential for a good drawing program.
This program also allows you to "save-as" to a wide variety of formats such as version 2000, 2002, 2004, etc., and I think even to PDF, but I did not try the PDF feature.
This program would be a useful conversion tool to change from 2010 drawings to 2000 version drawings.
It also has right click for repeat command, or other selections on a pop-up menu, and pan by holding down the wheel on the mouse.
Draftsight appears to be a good 2D drafting program, and in the past, I have paid $750.00 for a similar 2D program.
Draftsight is very similar to AutoCad 2D, a clone basically.
Here is how I set up the program:
SET UP THE PROGRAM TOOLBARS AND OPTIONS:
1. Turn on the toolbars that you want/need/commonly would use. Drag them around into a position that you prefer.
2. Set all the variables such as units, cursor size and type, and a few other options.
GENERAL PROCEDURES - DRAWINGS:
1. Keep the drawings as simple as possible. Many drafting people are of the opinion that if you are given 10,000 options, then you are a better drafter if you actually use all 10,000 options, and better yet, they mix and match the options randomly so that only they can figure out what they did. I cannot emphasize enough....LESS IS MORE in 2D cad drafting.
Keep your drawings simple and then you and anyone else can use your drawings. Don't force other people to have to reverse engineer your cad setup just to be able to use your drawings. Simple drawings are also much easier to import into other programs, or to change versions within the same program.
Keep it simple, it really pays off in the long run.
2. Consistency is everything in CAD drawings. One should almost always draw a line or entity by snapping to some fixed point on an object that is already in the drawing, or by started from a defined point in space. Never draw "floaters". Floaters are objects that just float around in space, and are not attached to or referenced to any point. You can never have any accuracy with your drawing if you have floaters.
3. Don't draw more than you have to. For most objects, you can draw just 1/4 of the object, and then mirror the remainder into place. The mirrored objects will be exactly identical to the original, and you only have to draw 1/4 of the object.
4. Remember the UNDO button. Many times, if a number of lines have been drawn, and it is realized that the first line is wrong. Don't erase the drawing, just UNDO back to the correct point, and then start again.
5. Either use the AUTOSAVE option so that the program automatically saves your drawing every so many minutes, or toggle this command OFF and do a manual save every so often. I toggle off the AUTOSAVE option, but I manually save the drawing after every command is completed using the customized keyboard keystroke "S". Whichever works for you. If you are not religious about saving, then by all means use the AUTOSAVE option. There is nothing worse than working on a drawing for an hour, only to have a power bump, and poof, it is all gone.
6. After every session where major work on a drawing is completed, save the file with a new Rev number, ie: ENGINE-NO-5-Rev-01.dwg, ENGINE-NO-5-Rev-02.dwg, etc. That way, if the file happens to get corrupted (which happens rarely, but does occasionaly happen), then you can drop back to the previous rev number. Or if you realize you have made a massive error as you start into a multi-day drawing, you can just drop back to the drawing created on an earlier day, without loosing the entire drawing.
7. Grids seem to have limited usefulness (grids are a series of tiny dots that you can toggle to show up on the screen), and some find them counterproductive. If you have a specific application that would lend itself to the grid, by all means use grids. If you do use grids, the F7 key toggles them on and off. If you see a bunch of dots appear suddenly that you were not expecting, you may have hit F7 accidently. Just hit it again and toggle the grid off.
8. It is generally helpful to have a text and scale chart, although it is not absolutely necessary to use one.
9. Draw EVERYTHING exactly the size it is in the real world. If you measure a screw 6" long with a ruler, then draw it 6" long. If you have a piston 2" in diameter, then draw it 2" in diameter. If you fail to draw things the same size as they are in the real world, then your will have endless trouble with dimensions, etc., etc.
NEVER SCALE A DRAWING UP OR DOWN. Scaling a drawing up or down creates serious problems. Titleblocks can be scaled up and down without problems.
10. You can start with a series of pre-drawn titleblocks, with one for each of the common scales. If you insert these all at once into your drawing, as a block, then you can pick the one that fits around your drawing. This eliminates having to scale titleblocks up and down. The titleblock that fits around your drawing will determine your scale factor. For small models, it is easy to use standard sheet sizes like 8.5"x11", and plot everything at a ratio of 1:1, ie: a 5" line in CAD plots on the paper 5" long.
If you include correctly scaled text below each titleblock (in the group of titleblocks you insert), then just copy the text that goes with the size titleblock you select, and you eliminate the need for a text and scale chart.
11. Often, it is helpful to draw a horizontal and vertical centerline first, and then use these centerlines for any mirroring. Often, if other lines are used for mirroring, you can get an error in line length, especially if you used a reference line that has been trimmed and is no longer symmetrical.
12. I use shortcut keys for the most frequently used commands such as "C" for COPY, "M" for MOVE, "R" for ROTATE, "T" for TRIM, "S" for SAVE, "M" for MIRROR, "O" for OFFSET, "E" for DELETE, "L" for LINE ( I actually have my own key shortcuts to minimize hand/finger movements, but many people stick with the stock shortcuts that come with the program, since it is easier to remember). Shortcut keys are keys on the keyboard that can be programed to start a particular command using your left hand with a single keystroke.
Remember to hit ESC to stop drawing a line, unless you want to continue to draw segment after segment.
Generally, a fairly consistent shortcut key arrangement will be as follows:
E = DELETE
R = ROTATE (you will have to set this in Draftsight)
T = TEXT (I use T for TRIM)
U = UNDO
I = INSERT BLOCK
O = OFFSET
A = ARC
S = STRETCH (I use S for SAVE)
D = DIMENSION STYLE (I use D for DELETE)
F = FILLET
H = HATCH
L = LINE
X = XPLODE
C = CIRCLE (I use C for COPY) (remember, you can keep selecting additional points and dropping copies all over the drawing once you start the COPY command, ESC to stop copying).
B = BLOCK (makes a block) (Making a block means that you select a number of unrelated lines and objects, and create a single entity such as a "CylinderHead". Once you have created the cylinder head, all of the objects in the cylinder head move as a single object when you select and move the block. Exploding the block returns the items to their original unrelated form.)
M = MOVE
I use custom shortcut keys designed to keep the left hand in place at all times, and to group the most frequently used commands under the left index finger, as mentioned above, but that makes for some odd shortcuts such as F = MOVE. Since most keystrokes seem to be are COPY, MOVE and ROTATE, then I can pick any of these with my left index finger easily using the F, C and R buttons.
13. I use the OFFSET command frequently when drawing engines. Generally I establish a base line, and then offset from that baseline. The effect is to create a copy of the line at the offset distance that you specify. ie: Draw a line, offset it 1", and you have two lines representing a cylinder with the bore of 1". Offset the lines again, and you have the outer cylinder walls, and offset again, and you have the outer flange dimensions.
14. You can easily create symmetrical patterns of holes in either a rectangular (rows and colunms) or polar (circular) pattern. For instance, for a cylinder flange, just draw one hole in the flange in the appropriate location, and then array the number of holes you want around a 360 degree pattern.
15. AutoCAD has a very useful tool called DIVIDE. If Draftsight does not have this option, they need to have it. It allow you to draw a line, and then divide it into any number of segments. This is extemely handy in laying out holes in steam chest flanges, etc. where you have placed the holes at either end of the chest, and want for instance 4 holes in between these two. Just draw a line between the centers of the two holes, and use DIVIDE with a quantity of 5 (4 holes have 5 spaces). Remember that if you use the DIVIDE command in AutoCad, it apears as if nothing happens after you finish the command. What AutoCad actually does is insert nodes (nodes are just dots) beneath the line, and you cannot see them. You can carefully select the line only and erase it to see the nodes, or turn on the snap to node option to allow the cursor to snap to the nodes.
16. Using the F8 key toggles ORTHO mode on and off. With ORTHO on, the cursor moves only in the X or Y direction. With ORTHO off, the cursor moves in any direction.
17. A nice feature that Draftsight has is if you start a command such as CIRCLE, and pick your first point, you can select the F1 key, and a help screen will pop up and tell you all about how to draw a circle. Seems to work with any command. You can close the help screen at any time and continue the command.
18. There are several ways to select an object or objects. One way is to just pick it with the cursor. Another way is to hold down the left mouse button and drag a window around the object from left to right. The objects selected when you window from left to right have to be completely within the window, or they will not be selected. If you draw the same window, but from right to left, you will see a dashed window (called the marching ants), and anything that this window touches, whether it be partially inside the window but hanging outside the window, or completely in the window will be selected. The windowing options between solid window and marching ants are extremely useful when your drawing gets complicated, and you want to select certain items and exclude others.
19. Often people select items using one of the window types, but get more objects selected than they wanted, and thus they hit the ESC (escape) key and start all over. You do not have to hit the ESC key if you have selected too many objects, just hold down the SHIFT key and pick any items you want to remove from the selection set.
Sometimes it is much easier to select a large group, and then deselect a few items with the SHIFT key.
20. When using the COPY command, you first select the object you want to copy (preferably select a grip on the object like the endpoint or midpoint), and then select the location where you want the copy to go. If you want to copy a line over to the right 2" and up 4", use COPY, select any point in the drawing, and then type in @2,4.
The @ symbol means copy the object relative to the first point you picked. I often forget the @ sign, and the copy goes flying off the screen, since it is referencing the 0,0 point in the drawing. No problem, just select UNDO.
21. Remember that if you complete a command, and you do not see the result you anticipated, immediately use the UNDO button. Some people will use a command which draws an object incorrectly off the screen, or draws an object exactly under another object. Since it appears that nothing happened, then they repeat the command a number of times. If a command does not yield the results you are anticipating, stop for as long as it takes, ask questions, and figure out what the problem is before you continue with the drawing. I have seen objects that have been copied on top of themselves 255 times, and then that object was copied all over the drawing. When I tried to edit the drawing, I would select objects, and erase them, but they would not go away. I suspected something was amiss when I looked at the drawing file size, which was abnormally large for a small drawing.
22. You can repeat the same command multiple times by right clicking the mouse and selecting "REPEAT COMMAND" in the pop-up dialog box. The right mouse button can also be used as ENTER if you program it for that function.