Corel introduces CorelCAD, an all-new CAD product

Corel has been steadily building a business around technical drawing; with CorelCAD it takes the next step into design and collaboration.

Does the world need another CAD program? Corel thinks so and today the company is introducing CorelCAD, a new 2D and 3D CAD program for Mac and Windows. The new program is designed for professionals and priced at $699, a price tag well below that of most competing products, most notably AutoCAD and AutoCAD LT.

CorelCAD is based on the ARES engine developed by German company Graebert. Gerard Metrailler, Senior Director and Product Manager, Graphics for Corel, told us the Corel team worked closely with Graebert to create a CAD program that integrated well with the Corel set of tools and that featured an easy to understand interface. CorelCAD includes the features CAD users expect including command line entry, aliases, short cuts, and customization via several approaches including LISP and Visual Studio. The ARES 3D modeler is based on the ACIS engine.

Corel’s customers already include a number of CAD users and/or people working directly with CAD files. For instance, Corel’s tools are used in technical illustration, for sign making, and apparel design. The company’s Designer product is used in publishing and technical illustration. It works with major CAD files from the major vendors (support for advanced CAD file formats is provided by an add-on from Right Hemisphere). Designer lets users work with 2D and 3D CAD files, add elements including dimensioning call-outs, and other details useful for documentation and illustration. Designer is interoperable with document programs and of course it works seamlessly with Corel’s drawing and paint tools, CorelDraw and CorelPhoto. In fact, Designer is sold in a suite with CorelDraw and CorelPhoto for professional documentation and illustration.

All of which brings us back to the new CorelCAD. Corel saw a gap in its product line that called out for CAD. There are many companies working in the AEC fields who want 2D and 3D file compatibility with DWG, the native file format of AutoCAD and AutoCAD LT and also an industry standard. Corel says they can provide professional tools at a much lower cost. They’re also targeting the people working with drawings and models who occasionally need to deal with 2D CAD drafts.

We have tested Graebert’s file exchange capabilities with AutoCAD LT. From our studies we have found that many CAD drafters would be able to exchange DWG files bi-directionally between AutoCAD and CorelCAD without issues. However, there are some cases, such as drawings that contain viewports or employ dynamic blocks, that could get users into trouble.

CorelCAD on the Mac
CorelCAD is a 2D and 3D design and drafting tool with support for Macs and PCs. (Source: Corel)

The new CorelCAD has been developed to work in hybrid environments where people use Macs and PCs. The Mac market is also still pretty fertile territory for CAD. Autodesk reports that AutoCAD for the Mac has been very well received. Corel hopes to net those users who are interested in Autodesk’s products for the Mac, but who might be attracted to a lower price tag.

Klaus Vossen, the product manager for CorelCAD says that the ability to work natively with DWG (as well as the DXF and DWF file exchange formats from Autodesk) means that files don’t have to be imported and exported with the risk of losing fidelity to the original files. Corel says that CorelCAD can be introduced into existing workflows; and that the native format support for DWG tracks AutoCAD up to the AutoCAD 2010 format used by AutoCAD 2010-AutoCAD 2012. In addition to being able to also save out to DWG, the program supports PDF, ACIS 3D, DWF, and other standard CAD file formats.

The obvious question we asked Gerard Metrailler was why is there a need for a CAD program like CorelCAD. After all, DraftSight is free, the Graeberts (the company is a family operation headed by Wilfred and his son Robert Graebert) have developed their own CAD products in ARES and ARES Commander Edition, and IMSI has been out there with its alternative TurboCAD for a very, very long time.

Metrailler is confident that CorelCAD fills a need. First of all, it is an enabling tool for his established customers who are working with a variety of different tools before they bring their work into Designer and or CorelDraw. He points out that DraftSight is a basic 2D offering and if you want support, customization tools like LISP or Visual Studio, and access to the Graebert App Store for DraftSight you have to pay $250  for a subscription. Meanwhile, CorelCAD offers a full range of professional capabilities including a full suite of 3D solid modeling tools (primitives, Boolean operations, extrusion, lofting, and all that), and there will be a full App Store for CAD utilities and add-ons for Corel’s products. IMSI’s TurboCAD has developed along its own lines. It supports DWG but not with the same fidelity claimed by Graebert. Still, this is where Corel has its work cut out for them.

Metrailler believes that he has a solid core of Corel users who will add CorelCAD and, he can’t help but eye the giant installed base of AutoCAD and AutoCAD LT base amassed by Autodesk and figure that even If he gets a small proportion of that market, he’ll be doing very well. As a point of reference, the base price of AutoCAD is $3,995 (no subscription, digital download); AutoCAD LT is $1200.

A point of history, Corel has had a CAD program before. It managed to get some market share but eventually the company felt that pursuing the CAD market would require more resources than the company was willing to give to it. Corel sold its interests in the CAD product to IMSI and the technology formed the base for TurboCAD. The people who are building and marketing this current CorelCAD product were not at Corel in those days and they believe they’re addressing a completely different market.

Pricing and availability

CorelCAD is available now in English, German, French, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese for $699. Versions in Czech, Polish, Russian, Turkish, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, Korean, and Japanese will be available in the summer of 2011. The program works with Intel Macs on OS X 10.5.8 or higher. Commercial and academic volume licenses are also available.

What do we think?

After years of thinking all CAD users would eventually migrate to 3D CAD, the major CAD vendors realized that there is going to be a need for 2D CAD for a very, very long time. It just makes sense for some tasks and, there is a huge legacy of information in CAD drawings and 2D files that will live on with the buildings, products, and systems they describe. When that realization hit the industry, several years ago, Autodesk’s Carl Bass breathed a sigh of relief because he realized that AutoCAD and AutoCAD LT are going to remain in the tool box of most CAD departments for a long time. And, it inspired Graebert in 2005 to revamp their software from the ground up for native DWG support and to compete with Autodesk’s tools. The opportunity train is coming around again especially for CAD on the Mac.

Yes, AutoCAD has finally made its return to the Mac, goosed no doubt by the work done by Graebert. The arrival of AutoCAD for the Mac is actually a bit of an opportunity because potential users can evaluate AutoCAD and the new Mac products head-to-head including Graebert’s ARES and CorelCAD. (Of course, there are also designers and drafters working on the Mac using such established tools as Autodesys’ FormZ, Nemetschek’s VectorWorks, and even Siemens NX if you’re bent that way.)

So, what specifically about CorelCAD? It’s not going to be an easy road for Corel. There is strong competition not the least of which is Graebert. Autodesk is building a strong fabric of support, services, and extended software tools around its subscription model that’s going to protect its position with long-time partners and in large companies. Corel can counter with its own eco-system. Is it a large enough base on which CorelCAD can build and expand? Corel certainly thinks so. – K.M.