I have just downloaded and installed the libre open source (GPL) Varkon CAD
for WinXP, and will be testing it for its possible use (at least [ease of
use] for me :) in architecture, in as much as I can test it for this
capacity, since my knowledge of CAD in architecture is limited, and my
memory of more involved CAD has gotten rusty... (although that could change.
That said, the suggestion is warranted to those hereon, especially those who
have a good knowledge of, and/or experience in, architecture (as well as a
sense of adventure, some "hands-on, self-made" optimism for open source CAD,
and some free time ;) to give it a try.
It's a very recent release, which may suggest some healthy development
The release for Windows has also been GPL'd!
VARKON for UNIX and Windows are free software distributed in sourcecode
under the GNU/LGPL license as published by the Free Software Foundation. The
full conditions of the GNU/LGPL license is available at: http:/www.fsf.org.
Varkon used to cost $875 USD for a Windows license.
Clips from the manual:
VARKON is ideally suited for all types of variational design. Wooden
houses, tools for ballbearings, welded steel parts or electrical
installations are some of the products currently designed in VARKON using
VARKON has been available for more than 15 years and the number of users
are steadily increasing with systems installed in many Europeean countries
as well as the USA. Customers range from big companies like SAAB Aircraft to
very small companies with only a few employees. There is also an increasing
number of users all over the world running the free version of VARKON for
UNIX and GNU/Linux.
VARKON is a powerful geometric modeller. Basic 3D entities are points,
lines, arcs, curves, surfaces, coordinate systems and transformations.
Several representations of parametric curves are implemented including
rational polynomial, analytical offset and curves on surfaces so called
UV-curves. Surface representations include rational polynomial, lofted
procedural, analytical offset and a faceted surface for approximations.
Operations include intersects, closest point, silhouette, curvatures,
transformation, trimming, export, import and approximation. Basic
visualization as well as complex rendering based on OpenGL is included in
all versions of the system.
Can it be?
Finally, a libre, open source CAD program that is learnable, usable, does
3D, runs under Windows, and is good enough to do architecture?
Your comments point out why I like VisualCadd so much. The toolbars and
menus are easily customizable with any text editor. Custom commands
(scripts) can easily be built in the same way. You can even create
different menus and toolbars for different types of jobs. They are
loaded on command with two mouse clicks.
Scripting is easy too. For instance, I created a script that will trim
two crossing lines to each other and then join them into a single
polyline. The script has been assigned a two-letter shortcut and I
invoke the command by typing those two letters -- no "Enter" key is
One thing I might suggest to speed up your drawing process is to invest
in a 24 "Function" key keyboard. The Avant Stellar is the best one
around, but it is not cheap ~ $180.00. The thing is built like a brick
s__house and weighs in at about 5 lbs. Assign your regular commands to
a function keys. Only takes one keystroke to get the command up and
With VCadd, I have the snap nearest point command under my left little
finger. I can be drawing with my right hand and snapping to points with
the left. Two-handed drafting -- just like the old days!
Bob Morrison, PE, SE
R L Morrison Engineering Co
Of course - it's OT. Still, I appreciate the point, based on past
As to why it is unlikely that I do that, I must give the same reason as you
have, recently posted, for not switching to another CAD package.
And so, speaking of 'using CAD', do the old doods have other tips? :]
As far as being OT ok yes it is, but Don makes a good point, and its
something I wish I would have done before getting started. It would
really give you a leg up on your job competition.
As far as ACAD, I'm not really an old dude, but I have advice. First of
all you have to slowly but surely get into the habit of using the
keyboard rather than icons on toolbars. The less icons you have, the
more drawing space you have.
I have edited many of my default key binds to keep most of the keyboard
presses on the left hand side since my right hand is usually on my
mouse. Do not be afraid to change things. This is for your benefit.
Simple things like changing the MI for mirroring to something like MM
makes things go a lot faster (if you can type fast without looking,
things will be different for you, I can't type worth a squat).
Learn simple lisp routines. The simplest will save you lots of clicks
and typing. Here is a sample of the ones I use:
(defun c:fz ()
(command "fillet" "radius" 0 "fillet")
These are fairly simple to follow. Pretty much change the c:?? to
whatever you want the function to start with, in this case I type fz to
start the function. Then after the word command, replace what's there
with what you want the function to do. In this case it will type fillet
in the command line (must use quotes for word typing), then it types
radius within the fillet command, then it types the number zero (no
quotes for numbers). At this point the fillet command is done, so it
types fillet again to get me back to doing a fillet at zero radius,
which is what this small lisp does for me. Keep in mind also that you
must type the FULL command in these lisps, and not just the shortcut
letters. SO type fillet, not "f". The princ at the end simply prints
to the command line. All you have to do is add this line to the end of
the autocad2005doc.lsp (could be named differently depending on your
ACAD version) in the support folder.
(defun c:pu ()
(command "purge" "all" "*" "no" )
Purges everything without asking you the stupid question of "are you sure?"
(defun c:zd ()
(command "zoom" "dynamic" )
(defun c:ze ()
(command "zoom" "extents" )
(defun c:zp ()
(command "zoom" "previous" )
(defun c:za ()
(command "zoom" "all" )
I don't really use these much anymore because the mouse scroll wheel has
replaced them, but they were useful in ACAD r14
(defun c:au ()
(command "audit" "y")
audits and fixes without the stupid "are you sure?" question.
(defun c:ra ()
(command "regenauto" "on")
simply turns regenauto on, which for most architectural drawings is fine.
(defun c:pj ()
(command "pedit" pause "j" pause)
here the you'll notice the word pause without quotes. This forces your
function to pause for your input, whatever that input might be. In this
case, I am doing a pline edit and joining lines. So the function runs
pline edit pauses for you to pick a pline, and then runs join and you
add the other lines to that. I actually have two in the same file that
has the pause at the end and one that doesn't, I'm not sure which one is
the one that works. I guess I'll figure that out tonight.
;; Silent load.
The last line of my file just adds the silent load so when your starting
ACAD it doesn't show all these functions loading up.
There are lots of ready made lisps out there, but a lot of them do very
complicated things and are much more complex than mine. If you need
them, go get them, otherwise just make your own simple ones. Keep in
mind that when going for a job, and they want to see how you are in
ACAD, none of your lisps will be loaded, so always keep in the back of
your head the default keys, or be ready to use the icons.
Hope this helps.
Yeah I would have to agree with that. I've often used that very
"glitch" to avoid actually pressing a button I did not mean to press.
What are you doing using icons for fast stuff anyways, nothings faster
than hitting a letter on a keyboard.
Lighten up boys, it's friday. Both you guys are making me laugh about
whose technique is faster. It's like saying my turbocharged 4 cylinder
is faster than your 8 cylinder with headers and a big carb. Unless you
guys can do a caged death match on pay-per-view its just posturing.
Its all in how you learned to use the software IMHO. I'm more of left
hand on the keyboard/a few icons, and I'm pretty f'ing fast, but I know
guys who learned more by icons alone who are fast as well. My ACAD
history is based on the older pre-icon versions, but I also had a
history on Microstation using icons. It's all a matter of how you like
to work that makes you fast.
While we're at it, I'd challenge either of you in building a 3d model
in ACAD, I'll waste the both of you. (As he revs his engine) ;-)
I would like to see that pay-per-view event though. Maybe some of the
warm-up bouts could be between different softwares or even settle that
old PC vs Mac debate. "Let's get ready to Rumble! er I meant Click!"
Well this is what I got from a quick glance at the manual:
"Creating Your Own User Interface:
Basic elements of the interface are menus, toolbars, functionkeys, and
windows. All these are defined in external textfiles called MDF. A standard
setup is of course included in the system but creating your own interface is
important if you want to develop a nice application."
"Editing a MDF-file is a simple way of replacing standard menus for menus of
your own but if you need more detailed control you can also use the MBS
language to manually program a user dialogue. MBS includes a number of high
level routines to create windows buttons, icons and edit fields and to
manage events from these."
"The system was originally developed by a group at the University of
Linkoping in Sweden during 1984-86 under the leadership of Dr. Johan
So Varkon appears about as old as ACAD, and seems to have been in
development since then, so one would guess that it should be more on par
with ACAD than one might think, maybe more powerful in some ways. It seems
Of course, a power it already has over ACAD comes from the fact that it's
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