CAD Systems Magazine (June 2000 issue):

Book Review: CADD PRIMER

By David Byrnes:

Vijay Duggal, an architect based in New York, looked at the CADD book market and found it wanting. While there are dozens, if not hundreds, of titles on AutoCAD alone—and a much smaller number of aftermarket books focused on sundry other CAD or CADD programs such as MicroStation, DataCAD and CATIA—what’s been missing has been a general work about CADD, aimed at beginners.

Missing until now, that is. CADD Primer, written by Mr. Duggal, and published by MailMax Publishing, provides a general introduction to the subject of computer-aided drafting and design. His target student is someone with little computer background, but some knowledge of drafting and geometry. The author takes a practical and sensible approach to his subject, covering the topic as conceptually as possible, for as he pointedly notes in his preface, "… time spent learning one [CADD] system may not prove very useful on another".

CADD Primer is available in electronic form as well as in printed form. You can purchase it from MailMax Publishing in soft cover (U$32.95), or you can download the full text with illustrations as an Acrobat PDF file (U$9.95). You can also download the text-only version which is absolutely free! It’s important to note that the free version covers practically all the material in the full versions; the main thing missing is the illustrations.

CADD Primer opens by discussing the reasons that CADD software has overtaken manual drafting; topics such as accuracy, quality of presentation, storage and data sharing are all explained in depth.

The first of the book’s ten chapters covers hardware and networks, and then introduces CADD software by discussing its functions and a typical (AutoCAD R14) user interface. The second chapter discusses drawing with accuracy and coordinate systems. This chapter also has useful coverage of drawing security and file management techniques. The second chapter concludes with a table that compares the different terminology used by AutoCAD, MicroStation and CADKEY for the functions and features of the chapter; similar tables end most of the following chapters.

The third chapter covers drawing commands, including tools for drawing primitive elements like lines, arcs and circles; typical commands for placing drawing text and dimensions; and methods for placing drawing symbols like hatch patterns and section marks. The fourth chapter covers standard display commands—pans, zooms, saving and restoring views.

Chapter 5 covers object selection and editing; following steps in this chapter, you can draw a plan of an office complex. The sixth chapter deals with layers, explaining why you’d use them, and how to control their properties. I’m not sure the layers chapter covers as much ground is it should. Layering systems differ widely from program to program; in fact, 2 of the 3 programs in the end-of-chapter table refer to them as levels rather than layers.

The seventh chapter is the longest, and presents an introduction to 3D. This is one of the strongest chapters and covers both "flat 3D"—2D isometrics similar to the kind you can draw manually—and true 3D, touching lightly on the different types of 3D models. (see figure 2). There’s a deeper discussion of 3D coordinate systems, and examples to follow to create 3D shapes. This chapter concludes with a quick summary on shading and rendering.

The next chapter wraps up "beginner-level" CADD with a discussion on printing and plotting. Thankfully, with Windows and Macintoshes managing the communication between software and output device, this kind of discussion can now concentrate on issues like drawing scale and sheet layout. The ninth chapter is entitled "Maximizing CADD" and covers options for customizing the software program, and more advanced topics like project collaboration and the Internet.

Even the most experienced users will find the last chapter of interest, if not of practical use. Entitled "CADD Industry Resources", this chapter is designed to help you select the software most suited to your own needs. Beginning with a short list of criteria (Which program do your clients use? How customizable is it? What support is available? etc etc), this section then presents a listing of 51 programs broken down into the following categories: AEC, "general purpose", visualization and rendering, facilities management, mechanical, solid modeling, and CAD/CAM/CAE. A second set of listings details CADD resources on the Internet, including the Web sites of organizations, magazines and gateways.


CADD Primer is a fine introduction to the field of computer-aided drafting and design. Its discipline-independent, platform-independent and program-independent coverage has something for everyone, from the prospective Pro/E modeller on her Unix workstation to the prospective FormZ designer on his Macintosh. And if you’re no longer a "prospective" CADD user yourself, you probably know someone who’s starting out in the field. Do them—and maybe yourself—a favor, and give them a copy of CADD Primer.

CADD Primer: A General Guide to Computer-Aided Design and Drafting

By Vijay Duggal

MailMax Publishing, 1999


PDF Download: U$9.95 (free download of text-only version); also available in book form.

David Byrnes is a freelance writer based on Bowen Island, B.C. You can reach him at