Real-time constraints engine runs on iPad
ArcSite from Arctuition is the first CAD program for mobile devices that uses real-time shape recognition and constraints to convert hand-drawn sketches into connected lines and arcs. More than any other mobile app, it bridges the gap between the interface of the tablet (which lends itself to freehand drawing) and the precision required of CAD.
Launching ArcSite on an iPad first runs through a few introductory screens, as is common now with iOS and Android software. (See Figure 1.)
Introductory screens highlighting ArcSite's capabilities
After the first launch, ArcSite goes right into the file manager. (See figure 2.)
Starting a new drawing from scratch is not the only way. Tapping the blue + in the upper left corner accesses alternatives: drawing over a PDF or a photograph. (See Figure 3.)
- PDF files can be accessed from the iPad's Dropbox, Mail, and Evernote apps
- For corporate (coordinated) use, PDFs can be uploaded from a desktop computer to the ArcSiteApp.com Web page and then downloaded to the iPad
- Photographs can be taken with the iPad's camera or from images already saved on the iPad
The PDFs and photos are placed into drawings as backgrounds and then we can draw on top of them; we can even dimension items on them. A scaling function lets us size the PDF or image to the correct 1:1 scale, but it requires that we know a dimension in the PDF or image. Photographs can be added later to the drawing through the Camera icon.
Additional options for starting new drawings from existing materials
Drawings are stored locally, and can be optionally uploaded to Arcsiteapp.com. The free version of the software allows us to upload only one project.
To erase or copy a drawing file, select it after tapping Select, and then choose Delete or Copy. File are stored in a proprietary format, but can be exported in DXF, PDF, and PNG formats.
In the Drawing Editor
The drawing editor operates in three modes:
- Control Mode is for drawing individual lines and arcs
- Continue Mode is for drawing connected lines and arcs (aka "polylines")
- Locked Mode is for panning and zooming (tap the padlock icon)
As we draw with a finger, ArcSite keeps our squiggles in Squiggle mode, or else converts them dynamically to lines and arcs in Precision mode. It is in Precision mode that the shape recognition and constraints engines kick in. (See figure 4.)
Dimensions are associative, so that when you edit a value, the associated entity is also changes in size. A small shape (parts) library is included (Appliances, Architecture, Communications, Electrical, Interior Design, Landscape, and Plumbing) and we can add our own shapes to the library.
While drawing and editing, a magnifying loupe appears in the upper left corner to show us what is under the finger. When we select one or more objects, glyphs appear near the object and at the left edge of the screen for accessing editing functions: Resize, Move, Copy, Rotate, Mirror, Erase, and Convert to Shape. (See figure 5.) At this point the only stand-alone editing functions are trim and extend.
Editing commands appearing around a selected object and in the lower left corner;
notice the magnifying loupe in the upper left, showing what is under the finger
The Settings dialog lets us set the scale factor, toggle things like the grid and magnifier, choose object snap modes, and set the page size for PDF exports. (See figure 6.)
Settings dialog box
Properties include eight colors, line weights from 1 to 20 pixels, and three linetypes other than solid. (See figure 7.)
Available properties include color, lineweight, line types, and optional arrowheads
The first time we use a function, a short video shows us how to use it. (See figure 8.) An integrated blog tells us what is new in ArcSite, as well as how to use functions step by step.
Video showing how to use a function
To return to the file manager from the drawing editor, tap Projects. At this point in the development of ArcSite, drawings cannot be printed, except after being exported as PDF files.
As I mentioned, ArcSite is free when you need to store just one drawing on Arctuition's server, but then the following pricing is applied:
- Silver - 100 projects $10/month
- Gold - 500 projects at $20/month
- Platinum - 2000 projects at $50/month
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