Review: eDrawings for Mac
Launched back in 2005, eDrawings for Mac has been around for quite sometime and maybe has fallen a little on the quiet side. Developed by the team at SolidWorks, it brings a native viewer to the Mac platform and gives you a pretty wide range of functionality. For those that haven't come across them before, eDrawings technology allows you to create easily distributable datasets which can contain a mix of 3D and 2D geometry, which you can view, inspect, disassemble - then mark-up, measure and such.
There are eDrawings publishers for the majority of 3D design systems alongside SolidWorks, including Pro/E, NX, Inventor, Solid Edge, Catia and AutoCAD (DWG and DXF). When it comes to actually reading data, the systems supports eDrawings files from these systems as well as DXF/DWG, and native SolidWorks parts and assemblies.
In terms of 3D-based functioanlity, you can pan, zoom and rotate in full 3D (even on a first gen MacBookAir), drag parts out, hide and show or make them transparent and switch quickly (with nicely interpolated animation) between standard views. If the generating system has it stored, it'll auto explode or reassemble an assembly. 3D geometry can be sectioned and inspected.
In terms of drawing support, if the data is output with it in place, an eDrawing can contain both multiple drawing sheets and the underlying geometry, so you can switch between the two to get a real feel for both the form, the assembly as well as inspect dimensions, manufacturing information present.
Drawing views can be worked with and inspected. If the 3D data is present, the two work together very nicely indeed.
One of the interesting things eDrawings gives you is the ability to create mark-up files (which can be stored in the same dataset and redistributed). It has the usual array of redline tools, as well as measurement tools. On that subject, eDrawings publishers will allow you to disable that ability, to protect your IP if that's a concern.
eDrawings has a full range of view, mark-up, redline and inspection tools
Mac limitations: If you look at the base spec sheet for eDrawings and then compare it to the Mac version, then you'll quickly see that there are a number of key things that the system can't do in an Appley-flavour. The big one is the restrictions on data import we've already discussed. If you're working with password protected DWGs, then those won't work at all. The STL out option isn't available (although I would imagine this is something that most people aren't too comfortable with using anyway). Another big one is, if you're working with and passing around simulation data, then while the system can view it, there are none of the specialised tools are available such as Mesh, Legend, etc. Finally, while the original press release claimed otherwise, there is no Professional version of the application.
Final Thoughts: While there are obvious moves across the 3D design technology industry that indicate that there's a rebirth of interest in the Mac platform for design, what is lacking right now, are the tools that allow those involved in the process, but without access to CAD, to involve themselves and participate in the development process. File viewers are few and far between. While eDrawings for Mac doesn't have the full range of file viewing options that its Windows variant does, it does offer some basics and if your organisation is using them, it'll make life much easier. The simple fact that there's a DWG/DXF vieweris intriguing on its own. Oh, and did I mention that this is Free?