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Ultimate iPad Guide: Mobile CAD Viewers and Collaboration for Architects

Our listing of CAD Viewers and Collaboration for Architects on iPad is quite extensive because this is one of the best categories with a high degree of competition.

CAD Viewers and Collaboration for Architects on iPad

Unlike the CAD Authoring apps for iPad, this category is filled with CAD industry leaders. Most major CAD companies–in both AEC and MCAD–now have companion CAD viewers which in some cases are strictly for viewing proprietary CAD formats which we label “designated viewers” because they are designated to a particular CAD platform.

But as you will see, many excellent CAD viewers work with a wide array of CAD file formats. We want to point out to readers that one of our articles in this guide series will focus exclusively on linking up specific apps with specific CAD file formats. Check our index page on this series for the date.

These days viewers go far beyond just viewing CAD and BIM files but instead provide collaboration features such as “mark-up,” “editing and annotation,” “commenting,” “sharing” and “co-viewing” session functionality. Some also provide remote printing via the cloud.

The first app we want to focus on is eDrawings by SolidWorks Corporation. The app has some impressive features (the screen shots are quite nice!) and does AR (augmented reality). (see image 01).

01 – Solidworks’ eDrawings app supports Augmented Reality (AR), in addition to native AutoCAD files.

02 – IMSI’s TurboViewer Pro has one of the fastest 3D interfaces on iOS and offers users nifty pre-formated rendering models, including x-ray which we think is quite useful. It also supports a vast array of CAD formats.

03 – Bluebeam Revu is the best collaboration and markup tool in the market for reviewing PDF files and Revu brings that power to the iPad. We wish there was a native Mac version though.

IMSI’s TurboViewer Pro is unmatched in native CAD file format viewing and all of IMSI’s mobile iOS apps are very quick and offer very nice pre-built button-based rendering modes including the useful X-ray mode. (see image 02). Finally, Bluebeam’s Revu is the ultimate PDF drawing viewer, markup and collaboration tool. Although the interface is at first quite deep and requires reading the manual or watching videos to master, once mastered you can do so much with it. (see image 03)

The List (17 Apps)

Here is the most complete listing of CAD Viewers and Collaboration apps for Architects on iPad at the time of this writing. Again, if we have somehow missed an app we would sure appreciate your email on the subject. Without further ado:

  • AutoCAD WS – this app lets you view, edit and share AutoCAD drawings, DXF, DWF and DWG directly from email, as well as remote printing via HP’s ePrint & Share service. (647 reviews, 3 1/2 stars) Free
  • Autodesk 360 Mobile — this app lets you view and annotate drawings stored in our Autodesk 360 account (cloud storage) and supports DWG, DWF, Revit and Navisworks files. (86 reviews, 2 1/2 stars rating) Free
  • Bentley Navigator Mobile one of Bentley’s many iOS apps, this one allows powerful review capabilities for AEC models and drawings. Navigator utilizes mobile i-models which can include content from virtually any common AEC design application. Navigate 3D BIM models, query objects and measure distances and objects. (zero reviews, not rated) Free
  • BIMx this dedicated viewer app is for navigating and viewing ArchiCAD BIM models. It supports basic element selection and query for BIM data display, several rendering modes including Stereo 3D and an innovative joystick navigation method. (15 reviews, 3 1/2 stars) Free
  • Bluebeam Revuthis app is the big brother if Bluebeam Vu and adds redline PDF markup tools, editing of PDF pages, including deletion/addition, chat support in co-review sessions, collaboration sessions with Bluebeam Studio and more. (34 reviews, 3 stars) 9.99.USD
  • Bluebeam Vuthis app is a free professional PDF viewer designed to review CAD drawings in Adobe PDF format. Works with Bluebeam’s cloud-based Bluebeam Studio. (12 reviews, 3 1/2 stars) Free
  • CadFaster – this Architosh award-winning app allows real-time viewing, markup, co-viewing and team commenting on various CAD/BIM formats via a cloud-service. Supports Vectorworks, Revit, MicroStation and SolidWorks. (4 reviews, not rated) Free
  • CADview — this dedicated viewer app allows you to view and print native FastCAD and EasyCAD files. (3 reviews, 3 stars) Free
  • eDrawings – this app by SolidWorks now supports Augmented Reality (AR) in addition to native viewing of DWG/DXF files, and native eDrawings files and native SolidWorks parts assemblies. (45 reviews, not rated) 1.99.USD
  • Glovius — another app that works with file-optimized versions of many standard CAD formats, including SketchUp, 3ds, OBJ and STEP files. Allows viewing, markup, snap shots, cross-sectioning and animations. (1 review, not rated) 0.99.USD
  • iRhino 3D – this app supports the viewing of 3D models made from Rhino and while it doesn’t allow markup built in it does support saved views, exports to email and layer control. (34 reviews, 3 1/2 stars) 3.99.USD
  • Navigator Pano Review — Bentley’s app is part of the company’s ProjectWise iPad apps series. Lets you navigate, view and markup 3D models for design review and coordination with full sync via ProjectWise. Annotations made on iPad can be merged with models at desktop. Works with DGN, Revit, DWG, DXF and Rhino (3DM) and 3DS files. (2 reviews, not rated) Free
  • Nemetschek Vectorworks Nomad – this free app allows you view native Vectorworks CAD files and create markups, take measurements and to view all exported files uploaded to the Vectorworks Cloud Services server. (4 reviews, not rated) Free
  • Sunglass 3D – This app is a 3D model collaboration tool similar to CadFaster that enables viewing and collaborative commenting. Supports markup, images and snapshot feature and works with SketchUp models, Autodesk 3ds, OBJ and STL formats, among others. (zero reviews, not rated) Free
  • TurboViewer Pro — noted for its lightning quick drawing viewing speed, this App was the first mobile DWG viewer that supported both 2D and 3D. Visual styles for viewing 3D files and support for vast array of file formats including PDF, SAT, STEP, OBJ, 3DM, DGN and many others. (10 reviews, not rated)
  • TurboReview – built on the TurboView engine, this app is the first to support mobile support for viewing 3D PDF (U3D) files. Viewing, markup, inquiry tools, screen shots, file sharing and support for all the file formats in TurboViewer Pro (3 reviews, not rated) 29.99.USD
  • vueCAD — this app is a free professional native CAD viewer for the mobile market and supports the iPad camera for Augmented Reality (AR) functionality. Supports mesh formats like  OBJ, Blender, Collada, 3ds Max and DXF, plus neutral CAD formats like STEP, IGES, ACIS and Parasolid. In app purchase adds OEM formats for SolidWorks, CATIA, Unigraphics, ProEngineer and more. (20 reviews, not rated) Free

While we feel that this list is solid we are deliberately not listing all the BIM specific apps for the iPad here. Some apps blur the line between being viewers, collaboration and project management. Some apps we will talk about later are Bentley ProjectWise and Autodesk BIM 360 Field.

The Gem in the Group

There are actually several gems in this crowded and competitive field. For example, we think BIMx by Graphisoft is a very polished and capable BIM or model viewer with some nice new updates in version 2. However, perhaps the most sophisticated app in the group is AutoCAD WS with its ability to view, edit, update and share AutoCAD drawings, in addition to DXF and DWF format.

04 – Autodesk AutoCAD WS is an ambitious app with lots to like and perhaps a bit to wish were better. Regardless, you can markup, share, remote print, collaborate and more with this tool.

What we like is the general user interface, the fact that you can draw objects quite well with this app (you cannot create a drawing from scratch however), it works with Autodesk 360, and supports HP’s innovative ePrint & Share. It also has a collaboration feed tool. In general it is a very ambitious app and with much to like.

next page: Note Taking & Ideas Apps for Architects (23 March published)

Please join us back on 23 March for a continuation of this extensive series of apps for Architects on iPad. Also, during this period look for some in-depth product reviews on several products mentioned in this series.

series index page: Ultimate iPad Guide: Apps for Architects