Take a look at the discussions on JLC Online's computer solutions forum and you'll find the perennial CAD thread called something like "Chief vs. SoftPlan vs. VectorWorks vs. Cadsoft vs. AutoCAD vs. whatever else." By now, everyone should realize that if you're willing to spend a grand or more, you can purchase a license to a full-featured, professional, architectural-specific 2-D/3-D CAD system.

But what if you do design work only occasionally, or need only basic drafting capability? Simple room additions, decks, built-ins, and the like still require thorough and accurate design, but do they warrant purchasing a high-end CAD system? And what about the claims of "instant material lists"— can you trust any of them?

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