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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello Everyone,
I'm seeing what software everyone is using. I get drawings from General Contracts that don't usually have electrical layout drawings. I take it upon myself to create drawings. The issue is that I don't have a program to do so. I just use PDF Reader and use the comment section of that.
I would like to make some more professional drawings now that the company is getting bigger with some higher quality customers.
 

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Professional Electrical Engineer, construction industry.
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It's not perfect, but Bluebeam works great. You will find it very similar to what you are already doing. It takes some time to set up your own symbols and style. After that initial setup period it is very quick and easy. There are lots of built-in estimation assistance features as well.

If you want something better than that, you are looking at more conventional AutoCAD and similar. Most of the other "electrical design software" packages are pretty gimmicky and don't offer much more than regular Bluebeam / AutoCAD.
 
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Hackenschmidt
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I'd recommend Bluebeam Revu too. It's made for what you're doing, marking up PDF drawing sets, and it's not too hard to learn. There's a free trial.
 

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Chief Flunky
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Hello Everyone,
I'm seeing what software everyone is using. I get drawings from General Contracts that don't usually have electrical layout drawings. I take it upon myself to create drawings. The issue is that I don't have a program to do so. I just use PDF Reader and use the comment section of that.
I would like to make some more professional drawings now that the company is getting bigger with some higher quality customers.
At one end of the spectrum we have true drafting software that basically automated lines on paper. The cheapest is Sketchup which is free. Micro station, Draftsight, and Turbocad fall somewhere in between. Autocad leads the way in price but not features. Key to using these is it makes a nice grid, keeps all your lines straight and neat, and most importantly lets you group things to create objects such as “buttons” and using lots of templates since once you draw one push button, you don’t need to repeat it. I would estimate around 50-80% of shops do things this way. There is a BIG learning curve. This isn’t like using a paint program. Hence starting with say Sketchup to learn then upgrading once you understand may be the best.

But there is a key difference with electrical drawings. Most electrical drawings are really more of an illustration. It is not drawn to scale. I can’t use it to measure if 1 inch equals one foot, THIS is what CAD and drafting is all about…precision drawings. You are “building” in software. A schematic is not to scale. So all the power of drafting software is totally lost in electrical drawings. A conduit schedule may give a diameter if you are lucky. Often it’s just a cable schedule. Only really panel layouts are true technical drawings that are dimensioned. And even if there is a drawing electrical contractors often don’t follow it.

Beyond this electrical “drafting” can go in many directions. For instance in Autocad Electrical the heart of the system is s bill of materials. You do schematics first. Then you can lay out the parts in a panel construction print. Additional drawings are wiring lists for panel builders, panel button layouts, and conduit schedules. You also have full Autocad underneath. The learning curve here is even steeper but this stuff is oriented towards panel shops. If that’s not you, it can still be useful but the price for having all that is high. You can find electrical symbol templates to download for free.

Another extreme is electrical modeling software. Staying within the drafting side we have Ansys that can do electromagnetic simulations useful for say designing cell phones or PSCad useful for designing power distribution systems. Spice and even more powerful EMTP does high end electrical simulation of circuits but the “schematics” are really just a convenient way to feed data into the software. I would never use those drawings in prints. This stuff is very specialized, not something you want to use fair drawings. The closest I’ve seen is using say ETap drawings to show power system single lines.

The other side of the world is programs like Krita. Ok so this is a paint program and a related (vector based) one is Inkscape but hear me out. Remember we are mostly interested in illustrations. So if mostly you are taking a scan or PDF and simply painting/drawing on top of it, this may be a far better option than dealing with fussy drafting software. Anyone who has ever tried to import a line drawing into one of those converters and edit the drawing after that knows that the experience in trying to make nice straight even looking lines is more time consuming than just starting over. Hence programs meant for painting aren’t really that bad if that’s your goal.

With any of these options the learning curve is STEEP. You can drop a line on a page in a couple minutes if playing with it. But to get efficient at doing drawings is usually a one semester college or high school class.

With Autocad by the way they’ve been around since the 1970s. They have the highest prices. Their software was around before even the Mac and Windows systems existed do the way they do things is not intuitive if you are used to 99% of the software out there. Don’t expect the most basic things like drag-and-drop or copy/paste to work as expected. In fact the mouse is for pointing and selecting. Autocad Pros do most things with the keyboard using commands that have been around for 40 years. They probably could make it work more like the rest of the world but they would be severely rebuked in the entire drafting industry since the only way to do it breaks the old ways. They have done some and it is close to the Windows/Mac way but not identical and never will be. Some of this legacy stuff though is terrible. Printing in autocad was created when print shops asked if you want your prints in limestone or sandstone. It is horrible. And their default yellow color is practically invisible.

The other big thing with Autocad is file formats. At one time they were moving towards a universally common file format. But that gave competitors a foothold. So now Autocad uses an “open” format essentially if you put a single straight line on a page with no formatting. Everything else is hidden inside heavily encrypted blocks of data guaranteeing incompatibility. So they try to trap everyone inside the Autocad ecosystem. Plus every version purposely breaks ALL previous versions, forcing you to spend thousands every year buying the latest version. So customers may insist on Autocad files but it’s not a once and done thing. Plus they ship software with purposely pathetic, useless demo libraries and force you into expensive subscriptions if you use anything but “vanilla cad”. Autocad continuously does everything possible to extract money. So if you can avoid it, do so.
 

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Are you getting paid to make drawings? I sure hope so.
CAD software tends to become a full time project.

You might try Fast Cad.
 

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I’ve never used it, but Chief Architect is really inexpensive. There was a guy on here that did pretty impressive stuff with it. Just doing a quick google search, it seems you can import a PDF and draw over it. It’s 3D software, but you don’t have to get crazy. you just need the walls, doors and stairs to look good from plan view. After that, get rid of the PDF, and use the tools to throw in devices and wires.

You didn’t say what type of construction you were laying out, so that’s all I got.
 
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Plus every version (of AutoCad) purposely breaks ALL previous versions, forcing you to spend thousands every year buying the latest version
.

I have never known this to be true. In fact the thing the hinders them moving forward, is keeping it backwards compatible. That’s probably why they were pushing Revit so hard, to get rid of ACA and AMEP. On reason it’s hard for people to switch over is because of the years of custom autolisp routines and other coding that people wrote over the years that still work.

It used to be they had a different file version every three years. So if you were using an older version, and some one sent you a newer file version, you would get warnings and it didn’t open. If it was an issue, have them save it as the older version and send it to you again. They also had a free viewer that you could open the file in and convert it yourself.

All that’s gone now because because they lease the software now. Nobody’s working with the old stuff. They might be going on six years now with the same file version. They found a new way to extract the money out of us.
 
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Hackenschmidt
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I’ve never used it, but Chief Architect is really inexpensive. There was a guy on here that did pretty impressive stuff with it. Just doing a quick google search, it seems you can import a PDF and draw over it. It’s 3D software, but you don’t have to get crazy. you just need the walls, doors and stairs to look good from plan view. After that, get rid of the PDF, and use the tools to throw in devices and wires.

You didn’t say what type of construction you were laying out, so that’s all I got.
Chief Architect would be far better than Revu if you are making drawings from scratch. It's been around a long time.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Thank you everyone for the great responses. I see some people asking a couple of questions that I didn’t specify before. There are PDF drawings of the floor plans from the builder or GC. I than use the PDF drawings and put simple symbols over that. I just find now going forward it’s not the more professional final look.

I will definitely be looking at the programs mentioned and see if there is demos that I could do some testing on.

Also I am not charging for electrical drawings. But my final price for jobs sort of pays for my time
 

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Chief Flunky
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.

I have never known this to be true. In fact the thing the hinders them moving forward, is keeping it backwards compatible. That’s probably why they were pushing Revit so hard, to get rid of ACA and AMEP. On reason it’s hard for people to switch over is because of the years of custom autolisp routines and other coding that people wrote over the years that still work.

It used to be they had a different file version every three years. So if you were using an older version, and some one sent you a newer file version, you would get warnings and it didn’t open. If it was an issue, have them save it as the older version and send it to you again. They also had a free viewer that you could open the file in and convert it yourself.
Still true in AC 2018. So I guess that’s a long time ago. Sure I can save files in older versions but you effectively have to keep track of everyone else’s versions and you can’t just get “handed” a file and expect to open it. And the “open” format is purposely broken.

All that’s gone now because because they lease the software now. Nobody’s working with the old stuff. They might be going on six years now with the same file version. They found a new way to extract the money out of us.
It’s nothing new. So do you buy or rent a car? If you rent, you are getting ripped off. Do you buy or rent software? Same thing. Plus if you rent it and the “free upgrade” turns out to be defective, what do you do to recover? Nothing. You are simply screwed and there is no recourse. How is this better? All that you have done is proven my point.
 

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If you are wanting full blown CAD without the price tag, you might try NanoCad. There is free version that’s plain vanilla, but quite capable.

I use several CAD packages. TurboCad is my favorite for this type of work. Partially because I learned on it, and partially because it has a really nice library and block manager. Once you have a template set up with all of your symbols and get familiar with the software, you can really fly through a simple floor plan layout.
 

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Chief Flunky
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Thank you everyone for the great responses. I see some people asking a couple of questions that I didn’t specify before. There are PDF drawings of the floor plans from the builder or GC. I than use the PDF drawings and put simple symbols over that. I just find now going forward it’s not the more professional final look.

I will definitely be looking at the programs mentioned and see if there is demos that I could do some testing on.

Also I am not charging for electrical drawings. But my final price for jobs sort of pays for my time
There are three reasons for drawings.
1. Your business is drawings (contract engineering firm) or in some way customer pays for it.
2. It’s how you communicate everything like panel shops.
3. It’s a design tool. As in an improvement over hand drawings and graph paper.
 

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Still true in AC 2018. So I guess that’s a long time ago. Sure I can save files in older versions but you effectively have to keep track of everyone else’s versions and you can’t just get “handed” a file and expect to open it. And the “open” format is purposely broken.
I guess we live in different worlds. This was never a big deal for me. When they would change the file versions every three years in the past, occasionally I would get a sub that would ask for the background drawings saved to a previous year. Not a big deal. It's just 2D linework. Nothing lost in the translation. If I ever got something I couldn't open, I would run it through whatever that AutoDesk file viewer was called. I wouldn't bother emailing anyone for a different version. Whatever drawings a sub would send back could be viewed by anything later. Years later, when we had BIM kick off meetings, a file version would be established. It wasn't a problem because everyone was already on a subscription years before it was the only way to get the software. A three year subscription had benefits over simply buying the software. Today, who knows, now that it's the only way to get it? It's all factored into the cost of doing business.


It’s nothing new. So do you buy or rent a car? If you rent, you are getting ripped off. Do you buy or rent software? Same thing. Plus if you rent it and the “free upgrade” turns out to be defective, what do you do to recover? Nothing. You are simply screwed and there is no recourse. How is this better? All that you have done is proven my point.
The point I was making, is that they will always find a way to get money out of their customers. So I guess we agree?

As far as the "free yearly upgrade", I always stay at least a year behind. It takes them at lest six months to get the latest version working right. It's a common complaint. But I just don't need to have the latest and greatest. They're probably wasn't anything significant in the current release anyway? It's a pain in the ass upgrading every year. But being on a subscription of a design suite, does have some advantages. Probably the most significant is the ability to have three different versions on multiple computers with only one license. It used to be called the home user agreement. I have it on three. One in the office, one at home, and another one that's at home now, but goes out to the job trailer if I'm there. Having access to AutoDesk university is probably the only other useful thing, but even at that, they're is so many other sources for learning. The biggest waste is all the software titles that are included. I guess thy jack up the price of the suite, knowing that nobody uses all of it. I've had access to AutoCad Electrical for ten years and never downloaded it.

I still use AMEP 2019 daily. I have 2021 installed, But don't use it. 2023 will probably be out in march of 2022? Revit is a different story. That is not backwards compatible, and we do get jobs using different years. I have several different years of that installed. That I could see being more expensive, if you had to buy a different version, for every different company you work with.

I guess it's easier for me to justify the cost because I'm not the one paying for it. But these software companies are going to find a way to get their costumers money, especially if they are practically a monopoly.
 
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Does any one have any experience with "SkyCad, Electrical" ?
its a free dnld and i immediately got an email offering help in getting started
however i had only dnldd for future use, if i might find a use for it
 

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Industrial Mostly, Panels and drives
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Does any one have any experience with "SkyCad, Electrical" ?
its a free dnld and i immediately got an email offering help in getting started
however i had only dnldd for future use, if i might find a use for it
I actually used it a fair bit last year. If you are a panel shop doing your own drawings, and building your own panels it was great. Outside of that, it has very limited use. Tech support was very helpful too
 

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Hackenschmidt
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Does any one have any experience with "SkyCad, Electrical" ?
its a free dnld and i immediately got an email offering help in getting started
however i had only dnldd for future use, if i might find a use for it
Skycad had some good reviews in this thread not long ago

 

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Does any one have any experience with "SkyCad, Electrical" ?
its a free dnld and i immediately got an email offering help in getting started
however i had only dnldd for future use, if i might find a use for it
I’m rather fond of SkyCAD! But, it’s not for floor plan layouts. It’s for drawing conceptual drawings/wiring diagrams and panel layouts.
 
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