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Until recently, Computer-Aided Design (CAD) had been virtually ignored by all but the biggest contractors. This is because CAD has traditionally been expensive (costly work station hardware) and intimidating (complex software). Small builders are busy enough running projects without paying dearly for the privilege of learning "computerese." Fortunately, CAD is no longer the exclusive territory of those with sixfigure budgets. Today, affordable desktop computers offer processing power that 20 years ago cost upward of $100,000. You may already be using a computer with enough horsepower to run many off-the-shelf CAD programs. If not, consider upgrading your existing system or buying a new or used machine. But hold off on the hardware until you've chosen a suitable program and checked into system requirements. CAD software has