Many of the companies we work with at Visimation use Visio as a low cost and more sensible alternative to CAD systems like AutoCAD, MicroStation, ProE, and more. While CAD has its strengths, we find that as many as 80% of CAD users can perform their work more efficiently and at lower cost if they were to use Visio. Of course it all depends on what you need to do with a graphics system. In this article I’ll share our experience regarding why companies choose to use Visio in lieu of CAD. For specific examples of companies that are doing this today, we have a series of case studies on our web site.
Visimation builds visual solutions to real world technical and business problems. Our staff is comprised of professionals with considerable experience using and implementing various CAD and graphics systems over the past 20 years. The work we perform often deals with existing CAD installations, either to supplement or replace them with a Visio solution. We are quite familiar with the business issues that drive our clients’ decisions to select Visio, and we are often asked to discuss the economic benefits of Visio with respect to AutoCAD.
For the great majority of the users we encounter, Visio provides the most economical environment to create, maintain, and deploy diagrams and drawings. A small percentage of potential users have highly technical needs for which CAD systems are better suited. In cases where direct and complete file compatibility is critical, CAD may also be a better choice. For everyone else, Visio has more than enough capability to support the drawing process and integration with corporate data.
For the purposes of this discussion it is more meaningful to compare the two platforms with regard to total cost of use than to compare individual features and functions of Visio vs. AutoCAD. Below, we present a table of comparative costs and then a more expanded description including a list of “myths” that we’ve heard from CAD proponents who don’t take Visio seriously. I hope this will help you make your own informed decisions about which is a more sensible solution for your particular needs.
|Latest Versions||License||Upgrade||Maintenance Subscription||Training Days|
|AutoCAD||$3995||$595||$450||6 – 10|
|AutoCAD Mechanical||$4495||$695||$495||6 – 10|
|AutoCAD Architecture||$4994||$795||$595||6 – 10|
|AutoCAD Electrical||$5295||$795||$595||6 – 10|
Cost of Software
- Visio Standard is $259 and Visio Professional is $559 (retail)
- AutoCAD LT is $1200 and AutoCAD is $3995 (retail)
- Both versions of Visio have the same programmable automation capabilities, while AutoCAD LT programmability is limited.
- Visio provides extensive sets of pre-made symbols and drawing templates that are additional costs with AutoCAD
- Visio produces presentation quality graphics while AutoCAD can do so only with significant add-on programs or customization; therefore, a worker may use Visio for a variety of technical and business tasks with no additional software or training
- Visio integrates seamlessly with Microsoft Office applications without additional software
Cost of Training
- A comprehensive generic Visio training course requires one day, and with a workshop geared towards specific uses the total training is 2 days
- A similar level of generic AutoCAD training requires minimum 4 days plus additional courses for specific applications
- Because Visio is so much simpler to learn, users typically retain their Visio knowledge even if they are casual users.
- AutoCAD users require consistent usage to retain their knowledge while casual users often need refresher courses or ongoing support from additional staff to maintain their skills
- Visio’s user interface is consistent with Microsoft Office products, so it is instantly familiar to most workers who therefore require less training than for AutoCAD’s more complex interface
Cost of Custom Development
- Both Visio and AutoCAD provide Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) to enable the development of custom applications.
- It is easier, less expensive, and quicker to integrate Visio graphics with data to automatically generate valuable drawings
- Visio provides much more control over the user interface, enabling developers to hide functionality that would be distracting to a user’s specific task
- Visio symbols may be easily programmed to behave as real world objects, while AutoCAD geometry consists of basic elements (lines, circles, polygons, etc.) that require significantly more effort to program with intelligent behaviors
CAD vs. Visio and/or CAD Myth Busters
- Visio is not precise enough:
- Visio calculates to 12 decimal places which is precise enough for all but the most demanding uses
- Visio is just for flow charts and organization charts
- Visio is widely used for schematic and detailed technical drawings
- It is ideal for objects that are assembled into systems
- Visio is not for technical drawings
- Visio is the most popular software for network and IT diagrams
- Visio is widely used in the HVAC industry with leaders such as Carrier, Johnson Controls, TAC, and Siemens
- Visio is not compatible with CAD systems
- Visio can import CAD files
- Visio can write to CAD files
- Visio cannot display 3D
- Just like with CAD systems, Visio can display 3D with an add-in product
- Visio is not as widely used as CAD
- Visio has more total users
- Visio is very popular for IT, HVAC, Controls, Security, and other layouts of systems
- Visio does not have layers
- Visio has layers and can import CAD layers
- Visio does not support large format plotters
- Visio does support large plotters
- CAD and Visio produce simple line drawings:
- Visio can produce technical drawings with rich graphics suitable for presentations
- Visio can produce very realistic drawings of any equipment
- Linking drawings to data requires expensive add-ons or custom applications
- Visio provides tools to link with external data
- Data Graphics illustrate those data on drawings
- Pivot Diagrams enable users to generate multiple views of data
- Fact: Visio has more graphic formatting options than CAD
- Fact: Visio can save as XML and SVG
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