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HighDesign 2017 Explained—Can a Mac-only App Really Break Into the Windows CAD World?

ILEXSOFT’s co-founder says its expansion into the world of CAD on Windows, with its uniquely flavored Mac-only CAD, HighDesign, is more than just responding to its customers—it’s also about fitting into BIM workflows.

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In recent news Italian software developer, ILEXSOFT announced their unique and special Mac-only 2D CAD product was coming soon to Windows. Such news might seem to some to be rather pointless as the Windows CAD market is rather crowded. Does the Windows CAD market need another player and one with such Mac roots?

Breaking Into the Windows CAD World

It may. In explaining this decision, Andrea Suraci, co-founder of ILEXSOFT said, “we are introducing HighDesign as the alternative CAD solution because it brings its own approach to the design process and workflow.”

Indeed, HighDesign is a very different 2D CAD product and one that may garner more attention in this space than many may first assume. Of course, some may argue that the world of 2D CAD—in particular on Windows—is fast belonging to the broad range of AutoCAD clones with their expanding technological capacities. The firm growth of DWG-based CAD clones operates under its own rubric, satisfying needs and visions that lie largely apart from where HighDesign operates.

01 - ILEXSOFT's HighDesign 2017 is in beta for Windows 10. HighDesign has a rather gorgeous Apple-based user-interface reflecting its Mac-only roots. The app would stand out in the Windows CAD world.

01 – ILEXSOFT’s HighDesign 2017 is in beta for Windows 10. HighDesign has a rather gorgeous Apple-based user-interface reflecting its Mac-only roots. The app would stand out in the Windows CAD world.

HighDesign’s strengths reflect ILEXSOFT’s very Apple-like values, things that seem to be getting echoed by Microsoft of late. “In a professional software,” says Suraci, “we value user interface and user experience [UI/UX] as factors of great importance for efficiency and productivity.” Suraci goes on to say that these things are measured not only by benchmarks and performance but also by usability, learning curves—ideally shallow— and ease of management of complex projects. In other words, a MacDraw or SketchUp philosophy and approach.

Fitting Into a BIM-oriented Workflow

ILEXSOFT notes that many of its customers cooperate with Windows-based professionals or often use virtual machines or Boot Camp to run applications that are not available for the Mac. Such colleagues of HighDesign customers run apps like structural analysis, scheduling, surveying software, etc..

“Over the years we have received an increasing number of requests for a Windows-based version of HighDesign,” says Suraci, “especially from Europe and Asia where the market share of Windows machines among AEC professionals is by far the largest.”

As more CAD users in AEC, in general, migrate to BIM workflows, both upstream and downstream of AEC project leads, many of HighDesign’s customers want a better fit into the BIM workflow. “HighDesign Pro with its architectural elements is naturally affine to the BIM workflow, and its development is following this course,” says Suraci. “In HighDesign 2017,” he adds, “we have begun implementing changes, for the most part not yet visible, aimed at mediating between building information and 2D visualization.”

In this development, we see a larger reflection of where many popular 2D CAD products are starting to find a foothold into the BIM workflow process. In some ways, this reflects how some MCAD 2D products have positioned themselves to serve as great partners to 3D MCAD  or PLM products like Fusion 360 or Onshape.

Assumptions and Context

There are several assumptions at play behind ILEXSOFT’s latest strategies. A key observer would note that the Windows 2D CAD market is a terribly challenging space to gain adherents. However, HighDesign 2017 operates in the ‘entry-level’ professional space (sub $500.USD) and even now as a third super entry level (consumer) LT version. This makes HighDesign a very affordable experiment for those Windows-based professionals would are curious.

Additionally, HighDesign 2017 coming seems to be coming to Windows at an opportune time. Microsoft is clearly sending strong signals it is interested in the creative, technical markets. Suraci noted, “Attractive products like the new Surface Studio are clearly an open invitation to graphics and design pros, a market that has been traditionally dominated by Apple.”

From our analysis then, ILEXSOFT’s current strategies of Windows expansion and moving to embrace BIM workflows seem well-timed; one can easily imagine seeing HighDesign’s beautiful user interface on the large screen of the Microsoft Surface Studio. And yet, at the same time, HighDesign’s BIM functionalities allow its AEC pro base to feel assured their chosen 2D CAD product will adapt to larger changes in their industry.

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