A reader writes:
Can you tell me if it is possible to create new CAD drawings using only touch screens, tablets, pads, etc, as quickly as using a mouse?
The reason I ask is that I still do a little part time teaching introducing CAD to secondary level students and increasing numbers now do all their computer input without using a mouse at all. My first reaction is to tell them they won’t be able be very productive unless they do use a mouse to maximise their input and navigation in a new drawing. Am I wrong?
You are correct. I have used iPad and Android tablets for a couple of years and have owned a 23" touchscreen Windows 8 desktop computer for a year. Touch is not CAD-friendly.
While touch is fine for zooming, panning, and rotating 3D models, it is difficult to edit them, primarily for these reasons:
- The action is occurring under the finger, which is relatively large compared to a crosshair cursor, and so blocks our view of the very area we need to see. (It was a bad day for the world when Steve Jobs decide to dispense with the thin stylus and switch to fat fingers for input.) Thus, things like intersections and grip boxes are hidden from our view.
- Because today's touch screens are designed for use with fingers, their resolution is coarse. Each touch element embedded in the screen is about 0.5 centimeters across.
I see the proof in the unsuitability of touch for CAD in this: no major CAD vendor has released software that is designed for Windows 8 or for touch. Well, there are some tiny outfits who have touchscreen-optimized software; one is named MoI (short for Moment of Inspiration). One major, SpaceClaim, made a big deal a couple of years ago about being friendly to touchscreens, but then dropped the marketing. If touch worked for CAD, they'd be all over it, marketing-wise, but they are not.
Now, there are plenty of free CAD apps for Android and iPad, such as AutoCAD 360, so you and your students can give it a try!