To learn what it takes to wean a CAD program away from Windows, I visited two software companies who are nearly finished with the process. Bricsys of Belgium and Graebert of Germany will be releasing their CAD programs for Linux and Macintosh within the next 6-24 months. I found it fascinating that both followed a nearly identical deweaning process, completely independent of each other.
Customize the program for each of the three operating systems. The remaining 2-5% of code is OS-specific, such as the user interface, file operations, and device communications.
At this point, the programming problems that remains differ:
- Linux users are unconcerned with the user interface, so the Windows GUI does not need to change much. Problems specific to Linux include deciding on the installers, and interfacing with printers.
- Mac users are obsessed with the user interface, so the GUI needs an extensive rewrite. The particular problem is in getting the Mac mouse to handle CAD operations. (Installers and printer interfaces present no problem.)
Alpha and beta test, and then ship. In this step, the two companies took different approaches:
Bricsys is concentrating on shipping the Linux version first, because it already has customers demanding it; development of the Mac version will begin after Bricscad/Linux ships early next year.
Graebert is developing all three versions of their new Ares CAD software at the same time: the Windows version this summer, with the Linux and Mac versions later in the year.
- - -
I suppress a chuckle watching this seachange in operating system support. In the early 1990s, many CAD programs ran on many operating systems -- DOS (predecessor to Windows), varieties of Unix (father to Linux) and in some cases, Macintosh, Atari, and other minor segments.
Then, CAD vendors poured expensive resources into converting their programs to Windows, which at the time was dead-slow for running programs as compute-intensive as computer-aided design.
Today, CAD vendors are repouring expensive resources to undo their actions of fifteen years ago.