A Quick View of CadSoftTools’ ABViewer

2D DGW file in wireframe mode, shown inside CadSoftTools' ABViewer.

Measuring surface area on an IGES model in ABViewer.

Editing tab in ABViewer with drawing tools and text tools.

Even though CadSoftTools calls its software ABViewer, the program is more than a file viewer. Now in its 10th release, ABViewer has a robust authoring environment (the Editor tab) with drawing tools to create detailed drawings from scratch. The crosshair mouse pointer, command line, polyline tools, layering system, and line and text property controls offer a setup that feels familiar to those accustomed to AutoCAD or AutoCAD LT.

In the viewing mode (the Viewer tab), the program supports neutral formats, including STL, IGES, DWG, DXF, and PDF. With detailed DWG files and neutral 3D files, the program’s performance is quite good. The structure window (positioned on the right corner of the viewport by default) gives you a way to turn off or on certain elements and view your assembly components in isolation or together. Measurement tools allow you to select a face and get information on the region, or take your own measure between points with a virtual ruler. Different viewing options let you view the 3D model in shaded mode, wireframe mode, with smooth shading, or with hidden lines.

In my test with a 3D DWG file, the file opens in the 2D wireframe mode by default. In the 2D mode, the rotation options normally available in 3D modes are inactive. That caused some confusions until I realized I could switch to a 3D viewing mode to rotate, tumble, and reposition the model. I think the issue could easily be addressed if the software issues a prompt to switch to 3D mode when it detects the user is trying to rotate a file in 2D mode. At least in one area, there’s evidence of incomplete localization. For example, in the Drawing Statistics dialog box (under the Advanced tab), some column headings are still in a foreign language.

ABViewer is a good, stable viewer. The rich authoring tools within it offsets some of the minor issues with the program. In the viewing and markup market, the program is competing with other programs like SolidWorks eDrawings and AutoCAD WS. The latter two have a head start in capturing market share among mobile device users with iOS and Android versions of the same programs. ABViewer doesn’t seem to offer a mobile companion at the present. The company’s product portfolio includes a Pocket PC CAD Viewer, targeted at the shrinking Pocket PC market.

ABViewer Standard is available for free. The more advanced functions — like file comparison to identify the differences between two versions, editing functions, and redline tools — require a Professional or Enterprise license.

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