Woodworking design tool – what do you really need

Recently I got an email where someone looking at SketchList 3D Pro carpentry software felt her $2.00 eraser was a better buy.  It might be, for her.  BTW I found a better deal – buy the pencil and the eraser is free!


When do you need the software?

But seriously, I mean if you don’t see the worth of the product – perhaps because you don’t have the needs or experience to do so, it’s not worth it no matter the cost.   And that is certainly legitimate.

For example, occasionally I hear from a Pro user reporting winning a job for tens of thousands of dollars, in part, with SketchList 3D generated images. Of course, his/her talent and skill as a woodworker help as well!  Anyway, in these cases, the $850 investment in Pro is more than justified.

If you are doing one project design –  unless it is complex – maybe a new closet storage unit – the pencil and eraser may be a better method. But if you have a tricky one, and do a few projects each year – Hobby is probably justified.  And remember David’s law – every nice project that is successfully done in your shop usually means you’ll be doing one or more soon.  It’s the friends, family, and neighbors rule.

So the number of projects and complexity should guide your choice between nothing, Hobby, or Pro.

Now there is another factor – if you simply enjoy using the woodworking software and puttering around with designs.  I one of our free Tuesday meetings a discussion broke out about how SketchList as a virtual shop enables users to ‘make something’ without the cost of materials, time in the shop, and concern over mistakes.  Over the years I’ve made hundreds of projects [virtually] that never see reality.

Now when to use our Pro or Hobby woodworking software?

The Hobby is for occasional use when the price is the most important factor. Hobby users are willing to spend more time to save money. For example – laying out parts on sheet goods by hand rather than automated. With Hobby, you do them by hand. Related to this is a willingness to accept that your hand ‘optimized’ diagrams may cost you a sheet of plywood or two [depending on the size of the project]. The Pro material layout functions integrate minimizes waste.  More than one user told me he/she saved enough sheets of plywood to save the cost between Pro and Hobby. That difference is $650 and is made up by saving 5 to 10 sheets of plywood over the lifetime of using the product.

Again it gets back to how many designs will you do.

One? Unless it’s complex work, Hobby or even hand-drawn will do for one project.

Our Hobby woodworking software has limitations – for example, a maximum of 10 objects can be saved in the library. Pro places no limits. The Library allows you to standardize your designs to be used over and over again. This saves a good deal of time.

Hobby’s other limits include only two joinery types and two contours. If you are making one project and can ‘imagine’ what it looks like without the details afforded by the Pro version – you’re fine. In terms of detail, Pro allows an unlimited number of materials [and species], plus the ability to import images of anything you may need. For example a photo of your picture window. Hobby support 4 material textures.

The Pro version provides a parts list wizard.  It allows you to generate a report with any information in your database. You can filter by value and or sort in several ways. This is a very powerful feature.

The Pro version woodworking software generates a photo-like 3D image which is critical if one is generating proposals in the hopes of landing business. One of the woodworking magazines about 5 years ago pronounced the days of winning bids with pencils are over

Finally speaking from my experience in my own shop – I have never really saved money by buying a lesser grade tool. In the long run, I end up replacing the first one and giving it to my brother-in-law.

Cabinet Wizard is now available in either version at no charge.


For more information on choices of woodworking software see this.


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