Desktop-engineering applications increasingly have their own online social-networking communities. Consider, for example, the new DraftSight application from Dassault Systèmes, which also includes widely used engineering software such as SolidWorks, Catia, Enovia, Simulia, and 3Dvia. DraftSight is a free, professional-grade 2D CAD program currently in public beta and available for download at DraftSight.com. The software is said to give students, educators, and CAD professionals a better way to create, edit, and share DWG files. Part and parcel with it is swym.3ds.com, a Web site which hosts design-focused communities where users can learn, interact, and even wax passionate about CAD.

Resources:
Dassault Systèmes, www.3ds.com
DraftSight, www. DraftSight.com
Online communities for DraftSight, www. swym.3ds.com

Once a user is on the site, it’s a simple matter to quickly navigate between communities or find a new community of interest. There are public areas open to all, private communities to which you must request access, and “secret” communities joined by invitation only.

A good place to start might be SwYmers' Hall, which provides lots of helpful information. For example, it links to a Getting Started PDF document, which teaches DraftSight basic features and commands. Another link lets users give feedback to the software’s developers, as well as view tutorials, videos, and tech tips. In addition, a helpful iQuestions section lets members post problems and answer questions. An online blog hosted by technical experts discusses issues that crop up and have been resolved. There are even You Tube tutorials at http://il.youtube.com/user/DassaultSystemes.

DraftSight itself includes CAD features such as command-line input, polygonal ViewPorts, hatch pattern files, and layers and layer manager. In terms of interoperability, it reads and writes DWG and DXF files, publishes to eDrawings, and can create multi-page PDF documents. Drafting tools include double-click editing, snap & grid, and undo/redo. Edit tools include split & weld, edit blocks in-place or isolate for edit, and the capability to open reference drawings from within the base drawing. The software runs on Microsoft Windows XP, Vista, and 7 (Mac OS and Linux support will be available later this year).