I recently had a chance to download and then try ZWSOFT's latest release of ZWCAD, named 2009i. I was interested to see what a Chinese implementation of the IntelliCAD engine would look like.
Clearly ZWCAD is no AutoCAD® 2010, what with mesh modeling, database linkages, visual styles, and sheetsets missing from it. But these are high-end features that many users never implement. Instead, ZWSOFT seems to be concentrating on 2D drafters who prefer paying much less for an AutoCAD workalike.
And workalike it is. I don't think I've seen another CAD package look so similar to AutoCAD. Despite the similarities, the programmers at ZWSOFT have added some nice touches you don't see in AutoCAD. I rather like the drawing tabs that let me switch between drawings quickly. Similarly, when more than one palette is open, I can overlay them and then switch between them also using tabs. And of course ZWCAD eschews the ribbon that I find confusing to use in other CAD packages.
The "i" in 2009i means improved, and so the features new to this release are useful improvements, such as being able to lock the position of attribute text.
After you attach externally-referenced drawings, ZWCAD 2009i now alerts you when changes have been made by other users. The alert reminds you to update the reference to make sure you are working with the very latest revision.
Here's another nice touch: after switching to paper space for the first time in a new drawing, ZWCAD 2009i creates a new viewport for you automatically. In addition, you can now customize the way that paper space looks.
When it comes time to plotting, you can now add plotstamps to the edges of plots, so that other engineers can figure out when the plots were made, and from which files. The JPEG and PNG file formats are listed as plotters in the plot dialog box. This makes it easier to output drawings in the two raster formats used by Web pages. And you will find more settings in the CTB plot style that define line end styles, line join styles, and fill styles.
The most important improvement in ZWCAD 2009i is greater stability. ZWSOFT is using an automated test system that checks how ZWCAD does with 20,000 drawings.
You can try out ZWCAD 2009i for yourself for 30 days free by downloading it from: www.zwcad.org/DownFeedback.asp?DownType=1&ID=19 (after registration).