By Jeffrey Heimgartner
Jeffrey Heimgartner has over 20 years of CAD industry experience, a background in farming and construction. Previously owned an industrial drafting and design company, ATS, he is now working for CapStone and managing the Advanced Technical Services of CapStone’s CAD division. Having a degree in Industrial Technology with an emphasis in Computer Aided Drafting and Design, he is a very sophisticated CAD Designer.
I’ve had the opportunity to evaluate and review different ZWSOFT products in the past, including the mobile CAD application CAD Pockets as well as ZWCAD 2015. Understandably, I was definitely interested when given the opportunity to take a look at the latest release of ZWSOFT’s flagship CAD solution ZWCAD 2017. As a CAD manager, I am always looking into different CAD programs and applications for potential solutions that can deliver the same or perhaps even greater performance, but more economically than the solutions currently in use.
ZWSOFT supplies CAD solutions to the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) and MCAD industries. ZWSOFT announced its latest software version in a press release on Jul. 1, 2016. The press release states that ZWCAD 2017 “is powered by a brand-new hybrid technology and it couples a familiar interface with 64-bit system support so users can do even more, faster, easier and better.” Some of the other claims by ZWSOFT on this new release that I’ll be exploring are:
1.The ability to open drawings more quickly
2.More compatibility and ease of use
3.More stability and fewer flash issues
There are a few other features that aren’t necessarily new to ZWCAD 2017, but are definitely worth mentioning as they add to the overall performance of the software. One is the SmartMouse feature. This feature allows you to use mouse gestures as opposed to using pull-downs or typing into the command line for many common commands, such as new, arc, circle, erase and more. SmartVoice is a very handy feature that lets users leave voice-recorded markups to leave specific instructions.
File Compare is another great feature that I’m glad to see is still available. It can automatically highlight differences between drawings, ensuring you know what has been revised and what has not.
Moving into the evaluation, if the installation process for the 30-day trial is any indication of ease of use, then users can expect good things. I was able to download the 185-MB self-extracting installation file for ZWCAD 2017 and run through the setup wizard and installation in no time flat. From the beginning of that process to actually having the software open and using it, it literally took less than ten minutes.
Screenshot of ZWCAD 2017 user interface.
Opening Drawings Quickly
I decided to start my evaluation by looking into whether ZWCAD 2017 was actually able to open drawing files faster than previous version of the software. So, I grabbed the largest file I had available on my thumb drive, which was just over 17 MB. I first tried the file with the 2015 version of ZWCAD I reviewed a couple years earlier. It opened in just over 13 seconds (13.09 to be exact).
Then, I tried opening the file in the new ZWCAD 2017. I was fairly surprised when the file actually opened in less than eight seconds (7.92 to be exact). That is 39.5 percent more quickly, which definitely jives with ZWSOFT’s claim that ZWCAD 2017 is capable of opening drawings 40.18 percent more quickly on average.
For comparison’s sake, I also tested the file on my versions of DraftSight 2015 and AutoCAD 2017. Both of those programs opened the same file in between eight and nine seconds.
A partial view of the file used for testing drawing open speed.
Compatibility and Ease of Use
In terms of ease of use, ZWCAD 2017 offers the classic interface with drop-down menus, which will be familiar to many users, as well as the newer ribbon and icon interface which seems to be evolving into a standard feature for CAD programs.
You’re easily able to switch between the two, which allows users to jump right in and use the software by utilizing an interface they are used to already. In addition, the majority of the CAD commands and aliases are ones most CAD users are already familiar with, meaning you don’t have to relearn anything. Obviously, this can save both time and money, which are both extremely important when looking at low-cost CAD solutions that still deliver on performance.
As for compatibility, ZWCAD 2017 allows you to open or save DWG drawings from AutoCAD version R12 to version 2017, as well as open or save as DWT or DXF. ZWSOFT performed over 50,000 rigorous drawing tests to ensure its DWG compatibility. The software can also import DGN files, which are exchange drawings for MicroStation®. ZWCAD 2017 will also introduce a different type of compatibility soon in the form of availability on both Linux and Mac platforms, making collaboration even easier.
More Stability and Fewer Flash Issues
Part of ZWCAD 2017’s improved stability comes from an offering that previous versions of the software have lacked: 64-bit support. This new feature takes advantage of the fact that more and more computers are now using 64-bit systems. This not only helps with the ability to open much larger files, like those over 100 MB, but also drastically increases stability compared to previous versions.
In its release, ZWSOFT was bold enough to say that ZWCAD 2017 displays properly when some other software packages can flash annoyingly and bog down your system. Now, I’ve had to shut off video card hardware acceleration and other added features to keep my display from chugging and lagging behind on some other software packages. I can honestly say that ZWCAD had no similar problems during my evaluation, even while manipulating a larger 3D file.
3D building model in ZWCAD 2017.
The Bottom Line
ZWCAD comes in three different levels; Standard and Pro In comparison, Standard rival AutoCAD LT and the comparison matrix for Pro definitely compares to full AutoCAD. With ZWCAD 2017’s budget-friendly pricing, powerful features, absence of mandatory annual upgrades and non-expiring licenses, it’s easy to see how the software’s customer base has grown from 320,000 when I wrote about ZWCAD in 2014 to the over 550,000 it has now in 2016.
At the list price starting at $799 for a permanent license, it’s hard to beat the performance and features you get from ZWCAD 2017 and it continues to develop and add new features all the time. A statement on the website backs the commitment to continuous improvement through research and development, with more than 20 percent of the corporation’s revenue going back into the R&D sector.
ZWSOFT has sponsored ENGINEERING.com to review this product. It has provided no editorial input to this review other than verification of the technical facts. All opinions are mine. —Jeffrey Heimgartner