SoftPlot Version 9: The Wait Is Over
Finally, hands-on with of the latest version of an industry fave.
By Bill Kirby

This month, we give our readers a sneak peek at the newest version of SoftPlot. Shipping at the USITT next month in Phoenix, Version 9 is packed with more power and versatility than ever before. So how does it measure up to the task? Take a look under the hood and see for yourself.

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Easier to use main window

The new toolbar is easier to understand and provides command captions making learning the program much faster. The captions may be switched off if you prefer more screen dedicated to drawing. The main menus have been simplified and standardized for clarity. The outline of the selected drawing sheet is displayed within a contrasting color to easily visualize the finished document. The inventory selection tree list includes a picture of the instrument type for easy recognition and navigation. The quantity available and quantity used for each instrument type is displayed to keep the designer informed of their use of inventory.

“Smart hunting” of drawing items such as lines, text, fixtures etc makes “picking in a crowd” much easier as a rejected item is ignored on the next search until other objects have been considered.

The Title Block may be placed in any of the 4 corners or “floated” to any position on the drawing. Each of the 20 drawings may have its own Title Block position. Each of the up to 20 drawings may also have its own scale and paper size.

"One of New Features of SoftPlot 9 that really hits my cool button is the new Quik Symbol function."

There are times when drafting your plot you come across a situation where you think, “I should just make this bit into a symbol then I can place lots of them on my drawing very easily.” You may have drawn a set piece from scratch or perhaps used a stock symbol and augmented it with additional drafting lines.

With the new Quik Symbol function all you have to do is using the Select Group command select the line items including placed graphic symbols then select the Quik Symbol command located on the Tool Bar and in the Inventory menu.

A window opens where you name the symbol, change the origin and set the visibility of the text attributes. Select the Save command button to save the symbol to the Library the select the Close command button to return to the Lighting Plot window.

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The new symbol is now in the Graphic Symbol Library as a new symbol available to be placed on the current plot or any other plot in the future.

This is also really handy for creating more complex symbols based on several existing symbols.

Instrument Attribute Editor

Visual feedback of a designer’s choices are an integral part of the changes to the Instrument Attribute Editor window.

A photo of the instrument and a preview of the selected graphic symbol are included,

Previewing the selected symbol aids the designer to quickly choose the preferred symbol. SoftPlot9 provides up to 2 symbols per Instrument type allowing for differences such as USITT “slashes” or numeric degree display of an instruments beam angle.
Lighting Instruments may now be assigned with up to 4 gobos, 2 in the gate and 2 in a rotator. The reports are coded so those reading them easily know where the gobo is to be placed in the instrument.
New Accessories, half hat, donut and Glass gobo holder make up the 30 different accessories that may be drawn on a plot and reported in the paperwork reports.
Graphic Symbol Attribute Editor

Once again a Preview window displays the result of the choices being made which in the case of Graphic Symbols for use as set, accessories and tools includes symbol rotation, layer color and the myriad of text and line attributes built into SoftPlot symbols.

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New Settings in the Graphic Symbol Editor include Suppress in 3D, great for excluding symbols used by legends from the 3D viewing window. New commands Select All and Deselect All Accessories and Text Attributes allows fast selection and de-selection of all attribute items,

Reset Text attribute locations is a quick way of resetting to the library version, Explode Symbol basically blows the symbol apart into its separate line and text components. Great for using a symbol as a base to draw something similar and when combined with the new Quik Symbol function it becomes very powerful when you need to get it done NOW!
CAD Drawing Importer

The ability to interface to other CAD programs has long been a requirement for all designers at one time or another. SoftPlot version 9 has blown away its predecessor with its new CAD Drawing Importer. Import formats now include DWG 9 - 2006, DXF, HPGL / HPGL2, SVG and CGM

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Visually place the imported drawing onto the SoftPlot page in Preview, visually determine the scale of the imported CAD document, A user defined grid may be displayed to assist with the determination of import scaling. Select a page scale to accommodate the CAD drawing onto the select page size. Drawing layers may be turned on or off and their color changed as per the user preference.

All in all, SoftPlot delivers a more robust product with a more powerful engine. If you haven't started using SoftPlot yet, or even if you're a long time user, this is definitely the right time to check out SoftPlot all over again.

The new version will start shipping at the start of USITT Phoenix. Get your hands on a copy now!