In a couple of past articles I’ve talked about the different options offered for CAD on iPhone and iPad, and how nothing has really impressed anyone yet - bringing great frustration to many design professionals. We’ve transitioned from desktop to laptop quite quickly in the past few years, and now we’ve been aching for someone to create a useful app on the go. The existing apps are either too simplistic or just vector-based drawing systems - which give the impression of an architectural drawing - without any practical use other than creating an image of say a floorplan, which later must be traced over - most times inaccurately - in a proper CAD application to become useful.
So the other day I was very pleased to come by a website which lead me to a very promising iPhone app, called SitePAD. I was even more surprised to find out that one of the creators of the app - Timothy Barnard - was actually a coursemate of mine from Manchester School of Architecture. I had a chance to chat with him over a drink, and it seems Tim and his brother Paul have formed “Fresh Design Base Ltd” and together set out to create the first truly workable app for drawing and viewing CAD files on the iPhone, thus the appropriately named : Pocket Aided Design (PAD).
SitePAD was created to extend one’s range of capabilities while outside the office - mostly on a building site - where a mobile device can provide a great amount of data when necessary. It is most certainly not ready to replace the desktop CAD software, and at this point it’s not meant to at all. Like many on iPhone, it’s an assistive application giving the ability to view CAD drawings from the office and quickly check if everything’s going to plan on site, while drawing accurate layouts without having to measure, sketch, and then recheck measurements at the office - saving a great deal of time. The inevitable missed dimension that forces a trip back to site or the problems associated with trying to interpret sketches by someone else could be a thing of the past. SitePAD is the first app that brings familiar CAD functionality, layout and commands to a touch-based device, including Line, Polyline, Arc, Circle, Rectangle, Freehand, Move, Copy, Rotate, Mirror, Offset, Trim, Extend, Group, Un-group, Snaps, Orthos, Pan, Zoom, Notes tool, Box select, Delete, and Layers.
Along with drawing a floor plan / elevation / section quite precisely on the iPhone, SitePAD offers a service to share the data through an online interface, essentially synchronising all drawings between team members in + out of the office. This is a subscription-based service offering a web management facility with 1GB of space, and will range between £7-15/month ($10-23 USD/month) depending upon requirements/package, after a free 30 day trial for anyone who buys SitePAD from the App Store
As previously mentioned, we’ll also have the ability to view drawings in conventional formats (DXF, DWG,...) after a quick conversion to SitePAD’s native SVG format, for which several conversion tools are due for release in the upcoming weeks - allowing comprehensive integration with desktop CAD packages. The first ones apparently will include DXF, PNG images, and PDF.
SitePAD was created for the iPhone, but works on the iPad as well, with the help of the in-built Pixel Doubling - which essentially magnifies any application x 2 to fit the iPad screen. As it’s still in its early stages it only has a 2D interface, but Tim and Paul are working hard to develop the app further and have a 3D version in the pipeline along with SitePAD Pro, SitePAD Lite, and SitePAD Viewer to suit everyone’s needs. These will each have a different price point but the intention is to keep them all as cheap or as close to free as possible.
The rates for the subscription service vary depending upon volume of users in an account and contract length. There is also a one-off administration fee of £49.99 ($77 USD), including unlimited transfers/downloads, but they’re currently offering to waive this fee to anyone signing up before the end of their free 30 day trial period, as well as a 30% discount on the monthly fees for each additional user that signs up by referral. In the future releases a Pay As You Go option is rumoured to appear, probably more suited to smaller businesses.
“We have some great student rates too, and are keen to cater for all users, so people are encouraged to contact us if they require a more tailored solution. We will do our utmost to cater to peoples needs.”
Exciting stuff, I’m sure we can’t all wait to see how this small but powerful app will evolve and take the CAD world by storm. It is still unknown if Graphisoft or even Autodesk have something up their sleeve for the iPad - as we would have expected - but it’s refreshing to see that even a small company can beat them to the punch and create a working model on how Pocket Aided Design applications should work on a touch-based device and be shared in the cloud.
In the upcoming weeks I’ve got a show in the pipeline exposing all SitePAD has to offer on the iPhone and iPad. Until then show your support and download SiteP.A.D.™ from the App Store and visit Sitepad.co.uk.
Architect - Tech Writer - 3D Artist - 3D printing enthusiast