Smart Shopping for a Cabinet Drafting Program

Always interrupt the canned sales demo and ask the salesperson to draw something unique from scratch. January 13, 2009

I work for a high end custom cabinet shop. We make everything from small vanities to all the cabinetry in a house as well as trim, sills, countertops, mantles - you name it. If it can be made from wood we have done it.

We have been in business for 25+ years and up until about 8 months ago, when we hired a sales person, all the sales were done by the two owners and the drawings all done by hand. When the sales person started, she was far more comfortable with 20/20 than hand drawings, and we were not ready to spend the money on Cabinet Vision or Microvellum. So we bought 20/20. It works well for what it is, but we need something far more customizable, that produces drawings both for the customer and production, cut lists, door lists, etc.

We gross about $1.3M a year right now, to give you an idea for size. Anybody out there with opinions about other software? I have talked to all the sales reps - I am just looking for some honest opinions.

Forum Responses
(CAD Forum)
From contributor M:
I work with MV and it is maybe the best software for those who have the time to learn it. But from what you wrote, I think the best software for you is KCDw. It has great rendering, easy to learn and cheap. You can also add CNC machining when you're ready (if you're not using CNC yet).

From the original questioner:
We looked at KCDw but found it too simple - it was not customizable enough. We have looked at all a lot of different drawing systems, including KCDw, 20/20, MV, Cabinet Vision, what used to be Pattern Systems, and a few other small guys. It seems to me that MV and CV would be the way to go, just depends which one. What do you do? And how do you like MV?

From contributor M:

I currently work as a custom kitchen cabinet designer but will be starting my own business at the end of the year in commercial casework. I have worked with Keytrix (I don't recommend), Cabinet Vision, and Microvellum. For me Microvellum is the best software out there, but also the most expensive. For my shop I am looking to buy Routercad. I went through the online demo and it looks good, it less expensive than MV, and it is only about $300 to add on another user, but still need to ask many questions.

From contributor J:
I am a commercial casework engineer for a drafting company that supplies shop drawings for many cabinet companies, and as far as construction methods, materials and machining parameters, Microvellum is simple to customize to your standards. For us each company has their own custom setup and we can easily switch from one company profile to another. If by customizable, you mean creating custom cabinets, there is definitely a learning curve, but from what I have seen, anything is possible. I would choose Microvellum over all the other choices out there!

From contributor K:
We tried Microvellum and found it wasn't right for us. The learning curve for MV became an issue for us. You need to have the manpower and money to throw at it. The cost of the program is one thing - make sure your company is aware of the additional costs of that learning curve. In my opinion, the 4 days of training is nothing for this program. Yes, it will get you started with the basics. Beyond that, to do the custom things, more time, more training, more expense.

Also, if you do things other than casework, I suggest you have the sales person demonstrate something that is not casework or a box. A table, chair, stool, challenge them. It will give you a sense of what's involved. I didn't care for MV's spreadsheet interface.

From contributor B:
That is right about the salesman. Always interrupt a canned demo to get the real picture of how complicated the process is. Remember, he's done the demo a thousand times, so nothing ever goes wrong in the demo. Unfortunately, real life is rarely so kind. This is a tough decision, so do your homework.

From contributor K:
I want to echo contributor B's comments. Do your homework! The sales demo... not a good gauge. Make them create a custom product from scratch in the spread sheet. Not from altering a product or parts from the library. From scratch. This is the part of Microvellum that isn't in their sales demo. If you do work other than just casework, and need to create custom products, this part is important. See what is involved in doing that.
Software is not like buying equipment. When you buy machinery, you basically know what it will do. Not so with software. You need to research it out as much as possible. Talk to users or people that have used it. I can't emphasize that enough.

From the original questioner:
Wow, lots of opinions. We have spent the better part of a year looking at different software, not 9 hours a day for the past year. We are basically at the point where we need to decide on which software we think will work best for us. We have seen demos on both CV and MV and I think they would both work well, but obviously they each have their own weaknesses. Thank you all for your opinions. We have decided to go to the IWF show in Atlanta, so we will make a decision there.

The comments below were added after this Forum discussion was archived as a Knowledge Base article (add your comment).

Comment from contributor L:
The choice always comes down to Vision or Microvellum. Microvellum’s Version 7 has gone through a rebuild from 32 bit to 64 bit to take advantage of the 64 bit PC's sold now with 8 gig of RAM. Soon after release it was discovered if your PC is 64 bit, but your MS office is 32 bit then MV wouldn't work. So the programmers at Microvellum went to SQL databases to solve the problem. Now Version 7 is running well and is the only design build software on the market that takes advantage of the RAM available with 64 Bit technology. I am a user of Microvellum and have been since the early versions. What’s really great is you can buy Microvellum and AutoCAD in one package.