March 4, 2013

CorelDRAW vs AutoCAD

One thing I never quite understood, is that CorelDRAW is not used more often for creating technical drawings. In The Netherlands companies seem to have an unwavering preference for AutoCAD, which is almost exactly 10 times more expensive than CorelDRAW. Most drawings do not require the complex features of AutoCAD; the drawings' simplicity can be constructed with CorelDRAW considerably faster, allowing to apply more visual options, such as line thickness, style and color, gradient coloring of planes etc. at lower cost.

Years ago I decided to put things to the test while working for a well known Dutch air carrier company by creating an educational drawing to be used for presentations in the classroom for licence training of technicians. It took me 10 hours to draw that image in CorelDRAW and when I attempted to do the same in AutoCAD, I did not even complete one third of the drawing at the 10 hour mark.

Besides the slower performance AutoCAD's output was quite less visually appealing than CorelDRAW's. I am well aware of the fact that hard core drafts persons (I worked among them) consider CorelDRAW an inferior product compared to their cherished tool of choice. But still, in this type of work CorelDRAW far outperformed AutoCAD, both in speed as in visual appearance. Then my co-workers said CorelDRAW wasn't able to draw exact measurements, which is an other biased opinion, since it actually is capable of doing that (with the transform tool).

After that argument was debunked they bragged that AutoCAD allowed to work as accurate as four digits behind the decimal mark. That is of course true, and CorelDRAW is unable to match such accuracy. But then, which production employee is capable of seeing the difference between a 0.001 and a 0.0001 millimeter measure with his bear eyes? Not many I guess. For drawing purposes the drafts person only needs to indicate the actual measurement in the measure indication - the difference is invisible in the drawings made by either of the applications.

CorelDRAW has the same layer-capabilities as AutoCAD, more coloring options and more search and replace options than AutoCAD. Engineers can even replace colors throughout a project, line thicknesses or even basic shapes. It can also read, import and export DXF-format images and a lengthy list of other formats (including PDF). CorelDRAW also has a trace function with which bitmap images can be converted into vectors (not overly accurate, but it works). In addition hardware requirements can be more modest when running CorelDRAW, which is an other cost-saving advantage. Besides Corel matching or exceeding many of AutoCAD's drawing features (and trailing in just a few of those) the price of the application is much more attractive than that of AutoDesk's expensive product.

Another thing at which CorelDRAW is quite good is to draw tables that are editable as if working in Excel (visually that is). Some complex technical drawings would benefit greatly from this feature. Also generating and reading barcodes and QR codes could be useful for the production department; CorelDRAW has these features built-in.

Furthermore importing Excel sheets can be used to instantly create a Bill of Marerials (BOM) and CorelDRAW is well capable of creating templates for the various drawing sizes to ensure consistency. 

When working with Windows 10 CorelDRAW version X6 is disqualified as an alternative for AutoCAD. It is horrifically slow and not fit anymore for production of technical drawings.

An other Note:
With CorelDRAW X8 Corel rehabilitated itself. It's fast again and the renewed measurement method works quite well. They should perhaps drop the annual issuing of a new version, some of which just aren't ready yet (= teeming with bugs). System admins would hugely appreciate a reduced issuance rate of properly working versions as well (particularly since .cdr-files of a newer version cannot be opened by older ones). AutoDesk has a similar update rate and that invariably gives admins a thorough headache too.

Update Nov 26 2017
With its 2017 version CorelDRAW is back in the game again. Many on-the-fly functions that significantly speed up production, an excellent table creation and editing functions and a built-in bar-code generator, all of which Adobe Illustrator and AutoCAD lack. It also converts vector objects into bitmaps easily and fast after which many bitmap editing functions are available inside CorelDRAW, which doesn't require users to leave the program to edit bitmaps in PhotoPaint or Photoshop. Great functionality that other programs simply do not have. On the other hand AutoCAD has incorporated 3D functionality which would be a great plus if it had not been for its insane price strategy.

Given the amount of views of this blog entry, I think I can safely conclude that I'm not the only one considering the possibility to use CorelDRAW (for certain tasks) for technical drawings. For companies that are not into the production of complex high tech products CorelDRAW may be an interesting and much cheaper alternative to AutoCAD. Should the nature of such companies' products over time change towards an increased complexity, CorelDRAW is capable of exporting the DXF-file format which can be opened in AutoCAD.