ZWCAD 2010 Professional, an AutoCAD Challenger from China

ZWSoft's ZWCAD 2010 Professional, shown here with the hatch- and color-fill dialog box.

ZWSoft's ZWCAD 2010 Professional, shown here with the hatch- and color-fill dialog box.

This week, on Twitter, ZWSoft from China taunted the long established standard of DWG. “Time to say goodbye to AutoCAD,” it proclaimed, along with a link to a YouTube clip showing the latest release of ZWCAD.

The company also sent me a license of ZWCAD 2010 Professional, which I installed and ran. I found the software to be stable, straightforward, and effective. Those who are familiar with AutoCAD or AutoCAD LT would undoubtedly be able to pick up ZWCAD almost immediately, as many of the icons and commands are nearly identical.

The nested table feature, which lets you embed data from an external Excel worksheet, works without any hiccups. In fact, you can use many of the drawing editing tools (Scale and Move, to name but two) on the embedded table. ZWCAD gives you a text import option, in addition to the option to type in text. The ruler-controlled text formatting pallet provides additional functions to tweak your text (alignment, positioning, re-flowing the text string inside the text box, and so on).

The Record Script function lets you develop a macro of a certain repetitive drawing task (essentially, by writing a short program while you draw); you can then run the script to automatically recreate the same object — a handy tool if you tend to draw the same object or scheme over and over.

The hatch fill and color fill functions are managed in a dialog box that’s easy to understand and follow. The color gradients with customizable fade patterns lend an aesthetic touch to the drawings. The software also supports a healthy list of industry standard file formats.

ZWSoft is currently running a design contest, called “Design the Future,” set to wrap up in April. “You are invited to design anything that might exist in the year 2015 or thereafter,” reads the announcement. “Your design can be of a spacecraft, a conceptual cooking kit, a magnificent stadium, a remarkable power piping/plumbing system, or an elegant interior design.”

Among the honorary judges are two well-known CAD bloggers: Deelip Menezes and Ralph Grabowski. Prizes include iPod Touch and iPod Nano units.

Along with ZWSoft’s ZWCAD, IMSI/Design’s DoubleCAD XT and Graebert’s ARES recently emerged as challengers to AutoCAD. (For more, read “ARES Takes Aim at AutoCAD; DoubleCAD XT Evolves into V2,” Feb 9, 2010.) Each in its own ways departs slightly from AutoCAD in some areas to make drafting and drawing easier.

Two of these three happen to be from offshore companies: Graebert from Germany; ZWSoft from China. They represent a growing number of products from Europe and Asia gaining a foothold in North America, a market previously dominated by local products. Selling for far less than AutoCAD, the new breed of DWG editors are poised to undermine Autodesk’s established authority in the 2D-focus market.

ZWCAD sells for roughly U.S. $500-$800, through www.zwcadusa.com. For more, watch the video report below:

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