Even in these days of electronic viewers for any flavour of CAD data including simple to use but extremely effective solutions such as SolidWorks eDrawings that allow parts, assemblies or drawing sheets to be manipulated whilst remaining compact files, it can still be reassuring to print or plot a fully annotated drawing and know that what you see is what everyone else will get.
Printing need not be to paper hardcopy however.
HP-GL/2 .PLT files created from HP plotter drivers have long been a means of keeping an electronic snapshot of issued drawings but can be of limited value for distribution.
If you have an archive of PLT files or still wish to use this route, Plot2PDF from www.softcover.com allows them to be converted into the PDF format that can be accessed using Adobe's freely available Acrobat reader.
PLT files can be generated irrespective of access to a plotter by installing an HP driver such as the DesignJet 750C available from the HP web site, and specifying the port as File.
In addition, Plot2PDF can also convert AutoCAD .DWG and .DXF or standard .CGM files without needing a CAD application and output to AutoDesk's DWF Drawing Web Format.
Plot2PDF will convert drawings individually or as a batch and can be used from a command line.
A trial version can be downloaded from Softcover's CAD and design utility web site.
Individual licenses cost £97 and floating licences allowing concurrent use of the number of purchased licenses at any workstation on a network £179.
Licenses include free telephone or email technical support.
In many cases however if the distributable file is to be generated from a live CAD application and data, a PDF file can be generated directly using a utility such as Pdf995.
The product suite includes the Pdf995 publisher itself plus optional modules PdfEdit995 allowing greater control over output and Signature995 for secure transmission of encrypted or signed documents.
Creating a PDF from any windows 95 to XP application is as simple as using the standard print command, selecting the Pdf995 printer then specifying the location for the resultant file in a standard save as dialog.
Pdf995 is based on the well respected Ghostscript technology that converts PostScript datastreams to PDF with support for high level text, font, and vector graphics components.
This allows the resulting PDF file to be searchable, use hyperlinks, and have reduced file size.
PdfEdit995 extends functionality to be able to combine two or more files into one, set preferences for page orientation and naming conventions, specify image resolution, create stationery files, embed fonts, or extract text from PDF files.
Signature995 needs Internet Explorer 6 or Microsoft's high encryption pack to be installed.
The entire suite is available as adware; it can be used free of charge with no restrictions but pdf995 and its sponsor's advertisement web pages will pop up each time one of the products is used.
This can be disabled by licensing Pdf995 for $9.95 or the entire suite for $19.95 with discounts available for site licenses of 25 or more users.
Licensing also entitles users to 24-hour response time e-mail technical support.