Dave Lorenzo is getting into the details of IntelliCAD 7, the entirely rewritten version, the first code refresh since the ITC got the IntelliCAD source code from Visio in 1998.
He's listing the benefits of v7:
It will have improved display fidelity, along with easier DWGdirect integration. Because of the improved code, it will be easier for the ITC to fix bugs, and get new versions to market.
The big change is that it will use DWGdirect to read, write, and display DWG entities. (In v6 and earlier, IntelliCAD actually translates from DWGdirect to its own internal database, amazingly enough.) The DXR API will be exposed, as will an additional API for IntelliCAD internals (these extended DRX functions are called "IRX"). DRX is used to create all IntelliCAD V7 commands internally.
Custom entities are displayed as proxies in IntelliCAD when the related ARX/ARX app is not present (a problem shared by Autodesk).
V7 Programming Progress
Mr Lorenzo is telling us about the progress on coding IntelliCAD V7. For example, command recreation is at around 90%. Roundtripping is very good (open a DWG file, and then save it.) But regression script failures are at 27%, something Mr Lorenzo is unhappy with, but acknowledges that this is normal at this stage of development.
With most of the code in place, the ITC's programmers can now focus on improving performance. Some of the problems include
- Incomplete geometry library
- Poor performance for spatial indexing, vectorization, viewport clipping, and selection'
The point to Mr Lorenzo listing these problems is for the ITC to acknowledge that these issues are being addressed. Don't worry, he tells the assembled third-party programmers, if your alphas of V7 seem painfully slow; the ITC's top priority is to improve performance.
In fact, he notes, that V7 is currently slower than V6. The reason, he explains, is that V7 relies on DWGdirect, and so the ITC needs to optimize its interaction with the "new" API.
New Components in IntelliCAD V7
The following components have been added to V7 (and are not found in V6):
- WiX - new installer.
- Facet modeler - fast, lightweight modeler meant for architectural drawings.
- VSTA - Microsoft's replacement for VBA.
- ADTdirect - object enabler for Autodesk's Architectural Desktop (display only*).
- C3Ddirect - object enabler for Autodesk's Civil 3D (display only*).
- DGNdirect - import and export DGN design files to and from MicroStation (and AutoCAD, heh).
- Redway3D - graphics accelerator, uses the GPU to enhance vectorization of 2D and 3D drawings.
- HOOPS - another graphics accelerator, but the ITC is waiting for the ODA to implement the interface.
(*) It is up to ITC members to use APIs to add the ability to edit object-enabler drawings from ADT and Civil3D.
Mr Lorenzo is showing screen grabs from V7, such as drawings opened from ADT and Civil 3D showing all details. (In v6, the drawings would appear as rectangular boxes.) Now he is listing sample apps that show what's possible with V7, such as AECExtensions that creates and modifies ADT custom objects. Another one is FMapp, which uses the new facet modeler to create custom objects.
IntelliCAD v7 Demo
Mark Barrow is the lead developer at ITC, and he's now showing us features of the to-be-released-next-year IntelliCAD v7. Right now he's showing how custom entities are supported, editable through grips and commands, explodable into native entities, and so on.
(At this point, the user interface looks just like regular IntelliCAD, so I won't post a photo.)
Now we get to see the Redway implementation, which Mark and a couple of others got working at 1:00am this morning. He's showing a complex rendered 4MB 3D model of two sports cars being effortlessly dragged in 3D rotation around inside a window. Eventually, raytracing complete with shadows and reflections will be added to the realtime display.
"What About 3D?" A representative from Great Star Software of China asks what the ITC is doing to improve 3D, because many of their customers are asking for it.
Mr Lorenzo says the ITC is looking for improvements through the new facet modeler (faster than using solid models), expand the use of ACIS, and the faster graphics through Redway and/or HOOPS.
The new business development officer asks how many in attendence are interested in more 3D in IntelliCAD? Just a few uncertain hands go up. When the question is rephrased, no hands go up.
"What about the ribbon?" Deelip Menezes of SYCODE asks if the ribbon will be added. Mr Lorenzo hates the ribbon (as do I), because it is less productive, requires more mouse picks, hides most of itself, and takes up a lot of screen space. But since new users expect it, the ribbon will be addressed after IntelliCAD 7 is done.
"What about Linux?" Some ITC members have spent many man-years porting their IntelliCAD dialect to Linux, but found that very few customers purchased it. So, a waste of time and moneh. Hence, the ITC has no interest in a Linux version, particularly since the ITC uses MFC (Microsoft's programming interface, which doesn't do Linux) to write IntelliCAD.
From his experience at Autodesk, back in the day when the CAD giant used to port to many flavours of Unix, DOS, Windows, and Apple, there were problems in ensuring that all had the same feature set. Probably the best example of the problem today would be OLE.
"What about Multicore?" It is being investigated, but the DWGdirect API does not support multi-core CPUs. In the future, multicore must be implemented in order to get better performance out of IntelliCAD, because CPUs are no longer getting faster -- just getting more cores. But the threading model can make things unstable, and hence difficult to program.
Heh: this sure is a group of programmers. Mr Barrow had problems during his Redway demo. By the end of the Q&A session, the Russian IntelliCAD programmers sitting near the back of the conference room had fixed the problem: it was due to Mr Barrow's mouse.
More in upFront.eZine
I'll provide more coverage of this conference in next Monday's upFront.eZine. More from Arnold van der Weide's keynote address, more on the new IDX API, more on what it's like to visit Athens and Greece.