ZWCAD 2019 Review: Improving User Performance with New Features
Daniel Dobrzynski posted on October 02, 2018 |

With 20 years in the market, ZWSOFT has a variety of mature and consistent products which have penetrated and established themselves in various areas of the global market.

I have already written several reviews and articles dedicated to ZWSOFT’s products. Moreover, I am a CAD/CAM engineer "veteran," with over 30 years of experience in this specialty through many different applications and with many companies. My start in the exciting world of CAD/CAM was with one of the first commercial versions of AutoCAD in the mid-80s.

Now, as a senior specialist in AutoCAD, I think that, when its users consider migrating to one system (especially in the 2D environment) from another, there will always be some amount of similarity and compatibility between the new system and AutoCAD, in terms of the environment, functions, names/nomenclature, workflow and, of course, compatibility with DWG files.

This was the first thing I quickly checked after installing the new (beta) version of ZWCAD 2019. As already highlighted in my reviews on several previous versions of the software, ZWCAD 2019 does not disappoint at all with respect to its similarity with AutoCAD, from the familiarity of its environment to the names of functions, always maintaining full compatibility with the DWG format. These are fundamental factors that supply great added value to the product, due to the fact that no conversions are needed for legacy files, minimizing training time, adaptation and getting started with production.

If you are not a ZWCAD user, you might be wondering: What main points would convince me to migrate to ZWCAD or choose it as my first system?

The answer is neither simple nor unique. Taking into account that ZWCAD aims primarily at the 2D drawing and design market, this decision is the confluence of several factors with different priorities, depending on the type of user or company, as well as what the software will be used for in the end. Some of those factors include:

  • Compatibility: For DWG files. Similar AutoCAD interface. Compatible APIs.
  • Easy to migrate
  • Accessible price
  • Training and support: ZWSOFT has become a truly global company over the years, which is essential for providing support anywhere in the world, in a number of languages, and for every application.
  • Stable: No or almost-zero failures (or system crashes) in the product.
  • Guarantee of continuity: As mentioned above, ZWCAD’s established place in the market is a very important guarantee that you can invest in its products without risk of discontinuity or losing support. The company, therefore, deploys a logical, continuous and predictable plan of enhancements and new capabilities for future versions.
  • Efficient: Command can reach the goal with minimal interaction and with the best performance.
  • Hardware type (workstation, tablet, smartphone, etc.) and software requirements.

Here, I will review the most outstanding improvements in the latest version of ZWCAD 2019, including: Annotative Objects, Batch Plot, PDF / DWFx Underlay, Layer Palette and Z-Tracking.

Readability Guarantee with New Annotative Objects

I know from first-hand experience the frustration that users feel when their scaled-down drawings do not display properly or become illegible, resulting in time wasted correcting the situation. I am excited to review a new solution to this issue featured in the latest version of ZWCAD: "Annotative Objects." This can be applied to all objects used to add to a drawing.

Among the most important types of entities that can be set as Annotative Objects are dimensions, text, hatches and leaders, as well as blocks and their attributes.

In ZWCAD 2019, traditional objects (like those of previous versions) and new ones can coexist; the difference is that, for non-Annotative objects, the size or scale will be calculated according to the final scale of printing or visualization. For Annotative Objects, that scale will be automatically applied in direct relation to the general scale of the view, resulting in uniform visualization (in size or scale).

The process is very simple. In the example of Figure 3, I have created non-annotative objects (green) and annotative ones (magenta and hatch in yellow). New objects can be made annotative directly by setting the annotative style, or they can be modified from the Annotative option (Yes / No) in the Properties palette. At first, these objects are indivisible (the upper image in Figure 3), but when applying an Annotation Scale (the lower image in Figure 3) all Annotation objects (dimensions, text and hatches) become clearly visible while the non-Annotative (green color) remain illegible.

Based on the same example, but applied on a Drawing Layout with different Viewport Scales (Figure 4), all Annotative objects are consistently readable regardless of the scale of the viewport, which is not the case with non-Annotative objects (those of green color).

Figure 3. Annotative Object application example, with different Annotation Scale.
Figure 3. Annotative Object application example, with different Annotation Scale.
Figure 4. Annotation Object application example on Drawing Layout with different Viewport Scales.
Figure 4. Annotation Object application example on Drawing Layout with different Viewport Scales.

This is a great time and energy-saving solution for all those users who need to present production drawings with views and details in different scales.

Good News about Underlaying References

No one can deny that the PDF format is an extremely popular and universal standard used in digitization, whatever the field of application. On this specific point, the 2019 version of ZWCAD heeded what a lot of its users asked for: the possibility of inserting PDF files and using them as an underlay in reference mode. This feature is called “PDF Underlay.

The procedure of inserting a PDF file is very easy. As seen in the application example in Figure 5, I have a PDF of an existing drawing that was made manually, and I need it as a reference to make my electrical installation plan. Of course, I do not need nor do I want to start from scratch by redrawing it because I only need it as a reference. I just have to insert the PDF with the new command "PDF Underlay," select which layer I want it in, its position, rotation and scale... and that's it!

One of its advantages is that it does not greatly increase the size of the drawing file because the PDF is external and is linked to the drawing only by the path and the name of the file. However, this can also become a disadvantage if the PDF file is not kept, goes missing, or even if the path gets changed or the file gets renamed.

What else can you control from this underlay? You can also Hide/Show through the Layer, Resize, and Clipping, Fade, Contrast and Monochrome options.

Figure 5. Example of electrical concept plan (red) based on an attached house PDF file used as an underlay.
Figure 5. Example of electrical concept plan (red) based on an attached house PDF file used as an underlay.

As well as the PDF, you can also insert as DWF files (Design Web Format, developed by Autodesk) as references.

In summary, I have no doubt that users will be very grateful and relieved with these new features.

Plotting the Smart Way

If you print a lot, then you’ll probably have a new favorite tool in ZWCAD 2019: “Smart Plot.” This feature allows users to plot multiple drawings contained in a single Model viewport, at the same time and in a single operation.

Smart Plot can automatically recognize the plot frame based on the functions of the style, like Layer, Block and Scatter line (closed rectangle lines, as seen in Figure 6). As a result of this improvement, high-volume printing processes are made more efficient.

Figure 6. Smart Plot example.
Figure 6. Smart Plot example.

Last but Not Least in ZWCAD 2019

A new Layer Properties Manager can now be displayed as a palette (Layer Palette), giving it much more flexibility and interactivity. The user can continue working on the design screen while the Layers manager is still open, instantly showing any changes in the properties of the Layers.

The Layer Palette can be Moved, Resized, Closed, Docked, Auto Hid and made Transparent.

And for users who do not prefer these updates, you can configure the software in the style of the previous version of ZWCAD.

Figure 7. New Layer Palette.
Figure 7. New Layer Palette.

A new Z-tracking feature allows users to implement polar and object snap tracking in the Z-axis direction without the changing UCS as in previous versions. Also, ortho mode is available on Z-tracking. This new feature is very useful for quickly adding 3D schemes and objects to 2D drawings.

Bottom Line

ZWCAD 2019 has already reached a level of sufficient maturity through its high quality, productivity and time-saving tools, such as those I have described in this review. These new features impressed me with their ease-of-use, always maintaining the full compatibility and great similarity with the AutoCAD interface, allowing for a smooth migration. Also, because it was so easy to use, it practically eliminates the cost and time of training.

In future updates, I would like to see deeper and more detailed Help options that include practical examples applied to each feature, as well as smart menus.

For more information, visit the ZWSOFT website.

ZWSOFT has sponsored this post. They have had no editorial input to this post. All opinions are mine. — Daniel Dobrzynski

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