Every software program also has strengths and weaknesses relative to others. The goal of this page is to frankly share some opinions of Artifice regarding software for spatial design and communication, to help software buyers in making informed choices.
Artifice provides this information for the same reason that DesignWorkshop is sold with a money-back guarantee. You deserve to have software that really works for you, not software that just sits on the shelf. You deserve to have software that makes you more powerful and productive. We're confident that the more you know about spatial design software, the more you'll appreciate DesignWorkshop.
One good litmus test for whether a CAD program is truly "Mac-like" is whether you need to use a special "Move" function just to move around parts of your model -- or whether you can simply click-and-drag in the classic design-oriented style of MacDraw.
Beware that the "Move" command in some form is required in almost every 3D program on this list, and remember that in DesignWorkshop, there is no Move command -- because it just isn't needed. In DesignWorkshop, the unique 3D crosshair means that you can not only click and drag objects and openings in all three dimensions, but also resize them, reshape them, and extrude shapes too, without needing to make any distracting icon clicks or menu picks along the way.
Form-Z is probably the strongest competitor to DesignWorkshop for architectural modeling software. It costs more than twice as much as DesignWorkshop, and it has a much, much more complex user interface, not to mention hardware copy-protection. For typical architectural modeling tasks Form-Z is not only harder to learn than DesignWorkshop, but also slower and more cumbersome. The big advantage of Form-Z is that it does have probably the most complete set of specialized modeling functions of any 3D software on the Macintosh. In particular, form-Z provides good functions for modeling free-form surfaces, for creating things like streamlined auto bodies or tensile fabric structures.
The fundamental difference between Form-Z and DesignWorkshop is really in the totality of the user experience that makes DesignWorkshop a true 3D design tool. Form-Z is a very powerful program, suitable for use by computer graphics professionals for building accurate models of already-designed concepts. But because of its complex and intricate command structure, Form-Z is not really usable as a 3D design tool by most people. DesignWorkshop is.
Anyone who already owns Form-Z can qualify for a competitive upgrade discount on the purchase of DesignWorkshop.
Compared to FormZ, DesignWorkshop provides a simpler, more elegant tool kit, which is much better suited to actually designing form in 3D on the computer -- as opposed to simply building form which has already been designed using traditional approaches. This more concise and direct design-oriented interface approach makes DesignWorkshop much more productive for most typical architectural modeling projects, and doubly so for people who only use 3D part-time. In addition, DesignWorkshop is much less expensive, in both the professional and academic markets.
ArchiCAD is a very expensive integrated software application for 2D drafting combined with 3D visualization. Aside from its high cost, the main draw-back to ArchiCAD is that the 3D modeling interface is very primitive. With ArchiCAD you do all editing in 2D, like on a drafting table, and the 3D views are strictly look-but-don't-touch.
DesignWorkshop takes the opposite approach. It doesn't provide general drafting functions, but it does provide a very direct and powerful live-3D modeling environment.
If you already own ArchiCAD, you qualify for a competitive upgrade discount on the purchase of DesignWorkshop.
The live 3D immersion modeling interface of DesignWorkshop is light years ahead of ArchiCAD for rapid 3D design and visualization.
As one of the two leading drafting applications on the Mac platform, PowerCADD is not a competitor to DesignWorkshop, but rather, an excellent complementary application. The direct translation capability between DW and PCD, introduced in DesignWorkshop 1.5 and PowerCADD 3.0, allows these two programs to mesh together smoothly. Working together, PowerCADD and DesignWorkshop provide a complete 2D/3D toolset with best-of-breed tools in each category. Whether you start in 2D and then go to modeling, or whether you start designing in live 3D and then export drawings to 2D for detailing, PCD and DW will work together effectively.
DesignWorkshop lets PowerCADD users make the jump into 3D without starting over. Most of the working concepts of the PowerCADD 2D drawing world apply similarly in the live 3D world of DesignWorkshop, and drawings go back and forth smoothly, and as needed.
As the leading drafting application for Windows, AutoCAD is not really a competitor either. Modeling in DesignWorkshop is so much faster and more free than in AutoCAD that DW can be thought of as a great modeling add-on for AutoCAD users. Quality DXF translations make it easy to move drawings and models back and forth.
If you already own AutoCAD, you qualify for a competitive upgrade discount on the purchase of DesignWorkshop.
The fast, direct feature-based modeling found in DesignWorkshop is like a breath of fresh air compared to the cumbersome, rigid modeling approach built into the drafting workhorse. Whether as front end for 3D design, or as a back-end for fast presentation modeling and rendering, DesignWorkshop for Windows makes a powerful and inexpensive addition to the AutoCAD users tool box.
MiniCAD is the other of the two leading drafting applications for Macintosh, which has also recently been introduced for Windows, too. MiniCAD presents a somewhat confusing image in the marketplace, because in addition to solid drawing/drafting functions, it claims to do 3D modeling. However, the modeling functions of MiniCAD are not of the same caliber as the drawing/drafting functions, so many MiniCAD users get the best results by using MiniCAD for 2D, while using DesignWorkshop for modeling and rendering.
If you already own MiniCAD, you qualify for a competitive upgrade discount on the purchase of DesignWorkshop.
Unlike the MiniCAD 3D environment, in DesignWorkshop, everything is editable in the live perspective view. This direct approach, combined with the fastest QuickDraw 3D rendering available, makes DesignWorkshop a 3D power tool that will pay for itself for any MiniCAD owner doing serious work in 3D.
Virtus Walkthrough and Concept CAD
Virtus provides good walkthrough functions -- not surprising considering its origins in 3D game technology -- but a relatively weak approach to modeling, generally resulting in simplistic, toy-like models -- not surprising considering its origins in 3D game technology. It is ironic that in Virtus the live 3D walkthrough is not matched by live 3D modeling. For both, you'll need to go to DesignWorkshop -- and in DesignWorkshop, you'll get presentation-quality rendering, too.
The new Look tool introduced in DesignWorkshop 1.7 provides better architectural walkthrough than Walkthrough, while the DesignWorkshop modeling environment is on a higher level altogether, and the real-time QuickDraw 3D rendering provides the most realism possible on today's Power Macs.
Strata Studio Pro, InfiniD, Ray Dream Designer, Electric Image
Up until DesignWorkshop 1.7 with LightWorks rendering modules, these general-purpose 3D rendering programs provided more rendering features, and were often used to make finished renderings of models built in DesignWorkshop. For architectural-type modeling purposes they are much slower and more cumbersome than DesignWorkshop.
For creating complex professional animations, these applications are a great complement to the fast and creative modeling environment of DesignWorkshop.
For architectural-type modeling, the focused, productive tools in DesignWorkshop will let you build faster, better, and more accurately. For general purpose computer graphics work, excellent translators let you combine high-quality building models from DesignWorkshop with other objects in any of these general-purpose applications.
ModelShop, UpFront, DynaPerspective
These three programs are similar in representing an older generation of conceptual modeling software. In some sense the live immersion modeling interface of DesignWorkshop was inspired by these earlier efforts.
The fully 3D interface of DesignWorkshop simply lets you be more creative and more productive than the 2 1/2D modeling approach provided by the older generation of conceptual modelers. Even these other programs still make you use the un-Mac-like Move command, and DesignWorkshop provides a level of presentation rendering the others just can't match.
Do you think we're all wet? Or maybe we're going soft on the competition? Let us know what you're thinking, by sending us e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.