Pros / There are plenty of free symbols and models to start out with, and you can import your own existing designs.
Cons / It lacks a command line and macro recording feature, which means you can't take convenient shortcuts to recreate your work.
Verdict / While it’s not the best CAD software on the market, Punch ViaCAD 2D/3D is a great stepping stone for learning more complex CAD programs with included components, good editing tools and decent file compatibility.
Editor’s Note: This product has been removed from our side-by-side comparison because it no longer ranks as a top 10 product. You can still read our original review below, but Top Ten Reviews is no longer updating this product’s information.
Punch ViaCAD 2D/3D is one of the best CAD software programs because of its comparatively simple nature. No CAD software program is without its complexities, but this software is simpler than most and by extension relatively easy to learn. This CAD program might not have all of the advanced features and settings a professional CAD user is looking for, but it has all the necessary tools for modeling and drawing. ViaCAD 2D/3D is very compatible with other file formats and has quality design tools like transparency, hatching and lighting effects. While it’s not quite as intuitive as our top CAD software, it is still quite easy to use.
Included with the software are more than 26,000 symbols and dozens of free models to get you started. If you’re interested in creating floor plans, the software’s repertoire of design tools also includes versatile 2D architectural tools. Fast drafting tools allow you to easily create walls, windows and doors with a single click of your mouse. While it doesn’t have textures, you can assign a material to a 3D model (e.g., steel, wood), and it will calculate weight and volume properties. While there isn’t animation capability, you can extrude 2D drawings from 3D models. The Pro version of Punch ViaCAD 2D/3D has a more advanced rendering engine and additional hatching tools.
This CAD drawing software has a very clean workspace. You can customize the toolbars, but for the most part, the design space is a nice shade of welcoming white. With the toolbars out of the way, you have more room to create. Like with other computer-aided design software, you have a measure command tool, setup manager and the ability to import existing designs. However, there isn't a command line or a macro recording feature, which means you can't take convenient shortcuts to recreate your work. If you want a program that offers a command line and macros, you might be interested in CADopia.
Punch ViaCAD 2D/3D's list of editing tools are what you would expect from the best 3D CAD software. You have your text and color editing tools, point markers, layer manager and snap tools along with many others. There is even a dialog box built into the toolbar that tells you how to use whichever tool you've selected.
Punch ViaCAD 2D/3D is very compatible with other CAD programs and file formats. Popular CAD formats such as DWG and DXF are supported as well as various image files and PDF. The DWG format is designed specifically for 2D and 3D drawing, and you can open, view, create and edit imported DWG files. Using DWG and DXF files, you can import dynamic blocks as simple blocks. Also available are STEP, SKP and STL, the last of which is helpful for 3D printing.
ViaCAD’s manufacturer offers technical support via email, but unfortunately it's hard to find. Only non-support email addresses are listed on the Punch website. Phone numbers for technical support are also very hard to come by. Instead of filling out a support form or contacting a support representative, your best bet is to check out the online support features. Extensive forums, FAQs, video tutorials and in-program manuals are the main source for problem solving. Fortunately, these resources are all very extensive.
Punch ViaCAD 2D/3D is ideal if you are a home user or if you work for a small business with a limited budget. It serves as a good stepping stone for learning how to use more complex 3D applications and is a solid program in its own right. This easy CAD software isn’t as intuitive as some of the other applications we reviewed, but its 2D and 3D functionality prove to be just as good.