User views on cabinet software

Cabinet makers share their opinions and experiences with the major software packages and vendors. September 26, 2000

I am in the process of reviewing the different cabinet design and production softwares available. The products I have been considering are Cabinet Solutions, Cabnetware, Cabinet Pro, CabinetVision and KCDw.

Many of you have used one or more of these products and most likely have an opinion about them. I have not been able to find any articles that review these products and give comparisons. I have had reps demonstrate them and they all seem like good products. I am sure some do certain things better than others. It would be great to get some feedback from the real world.

Many of these products have changed considerably with introductions of newer operating systems; I would like to keep the feedback limited to the newer versions.

Forum Responses
I have tried a few and can offer my thoughts.

I started by purchasing Cabinet Solutions, which I found to be a great little program for the small shop, considering the cost; it was very easy to set up and just as easy to run, the reports were adequate and in order.

The only drawbacks I saw were in the perspective views. I was not able to show mouldings or wood textures on my drawings, nor was I able to create a radius cabinet.

Next I tried Quisine, which I found to be very limited. Since it lacks the power to really customize each cabinet (they do not have a cabinet editor in the program), the graphics looked somewhat cheesy to me. In fact, I had two customers comment on it. As far as the reports were concerned, they seem to be complete and well thought out.

Next I went to Kitchen Builder by CabinetVision. It too is a great little program that is similar to Cabinet Solutions but with much more power and better graphics, however, the reports do seem to need a little help. Still and all, I would rate this program above all those previously mentioned.

I am presently using CabinetVision "Solid Manufacturing," which I find to be the best. The only problem is that the Solid line of Cabinet Vision is somewhat pricy and has a rather steep learning curve, but the power you get for what you pay is well worth it. I have been able to create just about anything my customers have asked me to with this program.

I do some high-end custom homes in both frameless and traditional face frame, and I do commercial work which also presents some tricky situations, and have been able to run them all through this program.

I've got Solid Manufacturing also, although I started with CV's "Solid Lite" program - kinda middle-of-the-road priced. I'd recommend it to anyone starting out. It pretty much does everything you need, and it's easy to step up to more bells and whistles if you want. Then it'll do everything you want.

The more a program does and/or the more you want it to do, the steeper the learning curve. Count on a steep curve unless you get a less expensive program that doesn't do much.

I would strongly suggest that you have details about what YOU build and have the person doing the demo perform tasks as they relate to YOUR business. Have them show you how the setup will go, how the program works, and of course how you get the cabinets from a napkin or post-it note to client renderings, assembly sheets, cutlists, etc.

Too many times a prospective software buyer gets caught up in the glitzy graphics. Any one of the packages will give you decent graphics, but youíre more interested in the nuts and bolts of the thing: will you get accurate info out of it; how long does the design process take; stuff like that.

Each of these packages has its strengths and weaknesses, thatís why I suggest you have details about what you do specifically. If you build boxes and the only difference between the boxes is the length, a 500-buck package may well be all you need. If you do all kinds of goofy curved reception areas, then you may well need to spend 8 to 10 grand on a package that will do what you need it to do.

Another thing to consider is where you might be in the future with this thing, i.e., do you envision adding CNC equipment? Perhaps not tomorrow but what about next year, or three years from now? If thatís something that could possibly be in the future, a 500-dollar package is probably not going to get you there. You can take the cheaper route now, or you can go ahead and spend the bucks with the future in mind. If you opt for the cheaper route keep in mind that most likely when you do get that new router or P2P youíre going to have to learn a new design software as well as the software related to your new equipment, and if/when you do make this leap, the less new stuff thrown into the mix the better, as far as Iím concerned. When you make the leap to automated equipment, youíre going to have your hands full already without having the added burden of learning a new design software.
Brian Personett, technical advisor

From the original questioner:
Your feedback is great; the thing that I appreciate is that everyone who replies can present their particular working environment, shop size and the type of work they do, giving a wider variety of circumstances and uses, which is exactly what I am looking for. I realize not everyone has the same needs as me. I appreciate the different points of view and situations. The more the merrier.

One positive aspect of CabinetVision was the upgradability factor; you can start with Cabinet Builder and work up to the Solid line. You can essentialy trade your way up without spending thousands for new programs. This was very attractive to me.

I have a two-man shop and we build high-end kitchens, paneled libraries, great rooms, entry ways, etc.

We have used Quisine with very little luck, you could not give me that program for free. Next we used Cabinet Solutions. This is a low-cost program, and for the money it's well worth it. The cutlists and assembly sheets are accurate. It does not show mouldings, but a few pencil lines took care of that. Then we looked at Cabnetware and CabinetVision; two good programs, and each have their strong and weak points.

I do not like talking to the salesmen of those companies because all they do is put each other's products down. We ended up with Cabnetware. We make a lot of wall panels and we also do interior remodeling. Floor and mechanical plans were more to my liking with Cabnetware. (I hope in the next year to get into CNC.)

The jump from a calculator to a software program is a big one, but I was a little disappointed in the differance between the $2,000 programs and the $7,000 programs. The $2,000 ones were about 75 percent there, so one must ask is $5,000 worth the additional 25 percent?!

We did very well on the last job, so I treated myself to Cabnetware.
I feel that the software companies still have a way to go on perfecting the product.

Bottom line: Any software product that produces accurate cut lists and assembly sheets is worth having.

We have been using KCDw since its first, primitive DOS version. We've cussed it a lot over the years, but we've made a lot of cabinets with it.

The new Windows version is much improved and will serve the purpose for most shops that don't need links to machinery.

We've looked at some more expensive programs, but they don't really seem worth the difference in price, at least to us. The people at KCDw have always tried to be helpful when we run into a problem, and this has gone a long way towards keeping my loyalty.

I don't think that any program will do everything that you'd like it to, so we still find occasional uses for our layout sticks and drafting boards.

You may want to try Kitchen Builder by CabinetVision. An $1,895 program that is quick, easy to learn and upgradable. Complete with all the drawings, reports and renderings you need for a small custom shop doing case goods.

I think your right on track. After getting much feedback I believe CabinetVision is the best all-around product. Cabinet Solutions is a good simple program limited to casework, only with no mouldings. They seem to have reliable reports. No CNC, no upgrades. At last check it was around $1,800 dollars.

KCDw has a good program, includes mouldings, clipped and radiused ends, reliable reports, and from the feedback I have gotten they have great tech support. They also operate a cabinet shop and test drive and use their own product. A solid package with no bells and whistles, but their graphics end at 3D, non-textured renderings. No CNC, no upgades. At $2,700 bucks a middle-of-the-road price.

Cabnetware is just plain expensive. They have converted from DOS rather than re-writing their program for new operating systems, and have brought a lot of the problems that plagued them before with them to the newer versions. They are a high-end product, but many say that they still have to constantly make adjustments to the reports. At six grand plus, it's not an entry-level program.

And now for CabinetVision. When I started looking at CV I only knew about their Solid program and for this cowboy that was more than I could afford. At this point KCDw would have been my choice, but when I requested an information pack from CV it included a "CD brochure" of the Cabinet Builder version. After watching the demonstation I was impressed. It was basically a scaled-down version of the Solid program, and their list price of $2,500 dollars, accompanied by their trade-up policy, grabbed my attention. A small shop could afford this program, it seemed easy to learn, and when they outgrow it they could move up to Solid without throwing their money out the window. They would also be familiar with the way CV operates and not have to learn a new program.

I have had no negative feedback about the newer versions. The Solid program will take you as far as you need to go. You can design virtually any type of cabinetry or furniture. Reports are accurate. It has the most impressive CAD system. It's compatible with 90 percent plus of the CNC equipment available. It just seems to stand out ahead of the pack.

There you have it. Of the programs that I have mentioned all are good programs but most just have limitations. I will say all of the information that I have provided is from word-of-mouth and not hands-on experience. CV just seems to make sense, it's affordable, upgradable and will continue to get better and I believe will be here for the long term.

If anything I have said does not ring true to the users of these programs please feel free to correct me, as I am in the proccess of gathering as much correct information as possible. Please continue to add your input to this forum. Thanks again to the many who have provided their insights.

You said you have had no negative feedback with the newer versions; I am curious about who you are talking to? CV Solid has been discussed ad nauseam at every forum on the Internet. I firmly believe that like someone somewhere said, software is like religion. But I have seen at least as much negative feedback as positive. Don't misconstrue my position, I AM A CV OWNER, and have been for 12 or 13 years. Solid is sitting here on a shelf collecting dust. When I do use CV anymore, I use the old Premium package.

You stated: The Solid program will take you as far as you need to go.

Yes it will sorta, but to go all the way (CNC integration), you will still need other software. In MY OPINION CV is a very poor choice for a front end on an integrated package. There are far better solutions and in some cases cheaper ones than CV.

You stated: It has the most impressive CAD system.

I guess here you need to define impresive. CV's CAD package has a fraction of the power of any 200-buck, generic CAD package. The people at CV themselves will tell you that it is limited, and if you need to draw anything complicated or in large lots, to do it with a stand-alone CAD package and import it to CV.

You stated: It's compatible with 90 percent plus of the CNC equipment available.

Again it doesn't really matter what CNC equipment you are using. CV does not write G-code, all it does is export a DXF file with all the geometry. You will have to have a post-processor write the code, CADCode for instance.

You stated: You can design virtually any type of cabinetry or furniture.

Yes, but eventually you reach a point of diminishing returns.

Let's look at the tea cart you're going to make for Mrs. Deeppockets. Does it really make sense to spend 2 or 3 hours designing this thing in Solid so you can give her a fancy picture, when you can take a pencil and piece of paper and have a sketch and a cutlist in about 5 minutes? If she's willing to pay for the desk time, great -- but unless drawings are your end product, you don't get paid to make drawings. In this case you're getting paid to make the tea cart.
Brian Personett, technical advisor

From the original questioner:
Your comments on the subject are exactly the kind of responses that I am trying to get and are welcomed. My comments again were purely from user feedback and the opinions expressed were based on the handful of products that I mentioned.

I agree that there can be extremes at both ends of the spectrum, but my focus was on finding the best package for the average cabinet shop. I have no desire to automate and produce six million units a year, but I would like a program that will reduce the amount of time and mistakes that can be made when doing everything by hand, and produce nice graphics for use as a sales and verification tool.

I feel that CV has all the right components to make that happen. Again all the products mentioned were good products but for the investment CV seems to make good sense. The subject is still open for discussion.

Your opinions are respected Brian, but I gotta beg to differ.

I, prejudiced as I may be, think CV's got real good options for the front end of their program. CV's CAD allows you to "draw" all your boxes and their individual parts. You can create and save any kind of drawer box, any door style with any kind of inside and outside profile. You can create and save any shape of moulding and nosing.

While you're "drawing," CV intuitively dimensions all the parts to your construction specs and, whether you want pricing, material lists, cutlists, plan views, elevations, or those blasted 3D perspectives everyone wants now, that all becomes available as you "draw." No other program quite cuts the mustard as well as CV, especially those $200 programs you're talking about. When you get done with them, what you see is all you got. Now I'll admit if you're into drawing and building space shuttles there are some other programs better suited, but they still won't even give you a cutlist.

By drawing I mean DRAWING. Not actually detailing or building the cabinets. You stated: Now I'll admit if you're into drawing and building space shuttles there are some other programs better suited, but they still won't even give you a cutlist.

I agree 100 percent: this is what I was talking about when I said the people at CV will tell you themselves that if you are doing a lot of drawing or complicated parts you need another package. Again, however, I'm talking about "drawing," not detailing.

You stated: No other program quite cuts the mustard as well as CV, especially those $200 programs you're talking about. When you get done with them, what you see is all you got.

Yes and no. While I'll agree with you that for the most part that is true, that could be changing in the near future. This very point was the krux of what I was trying to point out in a post I made at the CNC forum a month or so ago. Autodesk's Inventor, a solid modeling package, has the ability to be linked directly to a spreadsheet. Furthermore, it can be driven with a spreadsheet. Do you remember the days when you could lay out a kitchen in CV without a mouse, just entering data? I do, and I want them back. While this technology is maybe a little out of reach for most of us, both moneywise and technologically, it's coming. This stuff is evolving so fast, it's hard to keep up.

Understand I am not trying to beat up on CV here, but the points I've made are my experiences and concerns. Granted I doubt any of us are doing the same things, nor do we expect the same things out of our software. From my perspective CV is way too cumbersome to use for the front end. I can do everything I want to do with a spreadsheet. And I control ALL of the data: How it's handled, all of the formulas, how it's printed, everything. If I need a drawing I can kick it out in CV Premium in very short order.
Brian Personett, technical advisor

How can anyone state that Cabnetware is not in the same price league with the others?

First off, the CV entire package, CNC link, optimizer, photo realistic package and the CAD package come down to $18,000. CW is right in line price-wise, and maybe a few dollars cheaper; $7,800 for the package, $4,500 for the CNC link and $4,500 for the optimization package with the saw link. (These are ballpark figures and the ones that where quoted to me the last time I checked.)

Then again, $18,000 isn't bad to run a $125,000 PTP and a $100,000 CNC beam saw, but few small shops have that sort of equipment. Now both CV and CW have "startup packages" that are a lot cheaper than that, and that do a fine job. But once you spend the initial few grand you are "in bed" with that software manufacturer. You would have invested much more than that in the time you took getting to understand and work the program, so it's then too late to switch. So do your research throughly before jumping.

If you think that this software is going to do all the work for you, you are sadly mistaken. Think of it as an employee with a lot of potential but no real hands-on talent. You don't really know what he is capable of doing, but after a lot of training he sure he will produce. Software is the same way.

Now as far as CW being an "outdated" program, that is from someone who has not looked into the latest programs from CW. CW has all its data in spreadsheet form (.cvs files), which means it can be exported and TOTALLY manipulated any way a user chooses. Also check out tech support; with CV it is $450 per year including updates, or $1,000 per year with the CNC link. CW is unlimited, lifetime! That is a big difference. (However, to receive all lastest updates it is also $450 per year, but there's no extra charge for support on the CNC link).

I have personally checked into both programs and have pluses and minuses with each, so you have to find the one that best suits your needs. I know more about CW because that is the one I am presently using.

One more comment: It is like buying a car. You negotiate prices and options at your original purchase. It is cheaper to buy a car with air conditioning than it is to add it on as an option later. Make all your negotiations and deals at the point of sale and get future pricing in writing, otherwise you are going to pay full retail now, and full retail at that future time -- and prices are not going to go down.

I may regret commenting but not as much as I regret that there persists certain unsubstantiated disinformation regarding Cabnetware.

As a Cabnetware rep and field tech I have repeatedly been confronted with the characterization that Cabnetware "only converted their DOS program" and "brought a lot of the problems that plagued them before with them to the newer versions." I can't point definitively to the original source of this misleading information but I would strongly suggest you question your source and your source's source.

Firstly, keep in mind that Windows 95/98 and even 2000 is still laden with DOS language and limits. It could be said that Windows is "just a converted DOS program."

Secondly, don't be mislead into mistaking Windows for a programming language. Windows is an operating system. Programs are actually written in computer languages like C++, Visual Basic etc.

Thirdly, it would be more accurate to say that Cabnetware was the first and only cabinet software company to successfully re-write their program as a true "Windows" program. To the program designers' and programmers' credit, existing jobs, parameters and libraried cabinets from the DOS version are automatically "converted" into the Windows format just by opening them -- thereby minimizing the disruption to our existing customers' workflow. It was paramount to Cabnetware that the upgrade to Windows be a linear transition with a minimal added learning curve, not a "start all over from scratch" process.

Fourthly, please elaborate on these "problems that have plagued us." I've set up hundreds of shops and am not aware of any "plagues." Isn't it amazing how powerful a single word can be? There's a strong case for making marketing an art form; don't you just feel the need to avoid a "plague"? Every program has some customers adjusting their reports because every program has some customers who haven't completely set up or learned their program.

Lastly, before you make any decisions based on CNC compatability, check with the machinery reps, not the software salesmen. You'll find that Cabnetware is very successful and held in high regard.

As a CW user since 1985, I can tell you there has been lots of changes in the program. If someone says they canít get an accurate cut list itís only because they havenít taken the time to properly set it up.

I get 100 percent accurate cutlists and have done so for years. CWís tech support is great. I got the saw link and within an hour after loading it was downloading cutlists to my beam saw. Had to call the tech one time and within two minutes they had it working. Iím currently running a Weeke BP-10, to which Iím not able to connect the CW program -- not because of the program, but because of the Weeke. Iím going to get a new P2P sometime after the Atlanta show, and am looking forward to connecting CW to it. CW has a great program for doing this, I've had it demonstrated to me and I was impressed.

Now, having said all that, I also have CV. I have never been able to get accurate cutlists from that program, maybe itís because I havenít taken the time to properly set it up but I donít think so. I got so frustrated with it that I never use it anymore (donít know why anyone would, only my opinion) and think it was a waste of good hard-earned money.

Someone early in the thread said to find out what the software can do with your standards. This is excellent advice!

BUT! Think before you buy. I contacted Ausam Corporation and spoke with a tech there and the first thing he asked me was "What do I want a cabinet design software package to do for me?"

"Everything" was my reply, and he said "O.K., goodbye." After we laughed about that I really had to think about it.

What is more important?

I know how to build cabinets, but my customers can't visualize them --that means I need 3D pictures.

I want to do just sales and have other guys build - that means I need manufacturing reports.

So figure out what is important to you and get software that has that as a strength.

Also, who provides the best support? Are people there when you need them? Can you get info off their web site? Do you deal with a technician or is the sales guy your tech?

How about hefty commissions? My CV rep pulled up in a Lincoln Navigator for his demo. I found out they get about a 50 percent commission.

Hope this helps!

I'm still trying to decide what package I want. No matter what route I go it's going to take time to learn the software.

From the original questioner:
I ended up with Kitchen Builder from CabinetVision after much consideration. I am very pleased with the service I received, not only from my rep but also corporate, and tech support has been great.

The program is easy to set up and use and very flexible for a package in this price range. It was very tough weeding through all of the opinions expressed but I feel that the choice I made was the right one. As I pointed out in earlier postings this package can be traded up to the Solid line of products with the purchace price of Kitchen Builder credited to the upgrade. There will be a learning curve for all products but I feel that CV has done a great job on this product in making it easy to learn.

Plan on a minimum 30 hours of playing around to maximize efficiency, but after that you will be able to lay out and design kitchens in a fraction of the time you might be taking to do it by hand. The trick to accuracy is proper construction and material setups (as with every program), but I am very pleased with the accuracy of this program.

There is a nice video tutorial on the CD, and CV schedules a time to patiently walk you through setup and training as well. They try very hard to help you get the program set up properly from the get-go, because their success depends on your success.

I have called tech support three times for some questions that I had and only once had to wait about twenty minutes. The other calls got through in less than ten minutes and the tech guys were very friendly as well as helpful.

The foremost thing I wish they had done differently is to make the reports more customizable -- but they are accurate. There are many other nice features that this program has that I don't have time to get into now. All in all, CV has my vote of confidence on this one.

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

Comment from contributor V:
I noticed there has been no writeup yet about a fairly new cabinet design, cutlist, panel and board layout optimizer, inventory database - and the list goes on - design program. Cabinets Plus! has been around since early 2004, and though limited in some of the flashy items its predecessors flaunt, it has all the basics. I am predjudiced, of course, since I own the company that developed Cabinets Plus!, but that in no way comprimizes my analysis and rating of the program.

It, like CV, produces both 2-D and pannable 3-D renderings of the project. Both programs allow the user to view his project from all angles. With Cabinets Plus!, you may even view it from behind or from underneath the cabinets, though this feature is seldom used. One big advantage to CV over Cabs+ is the photo realism Cabinet Vision can give to its rendering. While Cabinets Plus! is in the process of upgrading to that end, for now its rendering is an exceptionally good wire frame model. Since Cabs+ is geared more from the shop end of the spectrum and not the advertising to clients end, its rendering contains a transparent or Xray view of each and every part in the cabinet. The drawer boxes are easily viewed as well as the spreaders, and every other wood part that makes up a cabinet. The cutlist is concise and accurate for the standard method of cabinet construction. Both CV and Cabs+ are capable of face frame and frameless cabinetry, and both have box dado and rabbet options.

Moldings and miscellaneous crown trim are not in cabs+ realm, though they are with CV. Also, CV can make curved cabinetry and cabs+ cannot. How often do you make a curved cabinet? This does not apply to arched doors, panels, etc. Does CV have a panel and board layout optimizer? I am not sure on this one, but Cabs+ has an excellent one with many, many options regarding grain direction and direction of optimization. You can even tell it you would like to end up with long rips or short but wide boards as drops and it will calc accordingly. Does CV offer free upgrades for three years? Cabinets Plus! does, but only for its first version customers. Version two's release is fast approaching. CNC capabilities? I beleive CV is capable of this, but Cabinets Plus! is in the midst of negotiating with another software company whose specialty is the full CNC software program, including G code production, and the nesting of parts.

With Cabinets Plus!'s low price and Extreme Softwares CNC software coupled also with a low price, this is going to be a difficult merger to beat. The whole program, including design, optimizer, inventory, accounting features, cutlist, material list, and CNC softare make Cabinets Plus!! Extreme one of the top full featured cabinet programs around.

Now for the major difference: Price. You can purchase the complete Cabinets Plus! Extreme with CNC for under a grand, while most of the competition's programs run you 10 thousand and up. I truly hope this analysis/comparison has been accurate and unbiased.

Comment from contributor P:
I recently purchased Cabinet Builder with my CNC machine. I was warned that Cabinet Builder was an older version of CabinetWare with some functionality disabled, and that it would effectively build kitchens, but I would see limitations as I got to know it. I also purchased the add-on for MDF doors.

When set up correctly, the program effectively allows you to design and manufacture basic kitchens. The plan and elevation views (front of cabinets) look acceptable. 3D views are low resolution and have occasional glitches - the kind of graphics I might expect in a $50 program. People come in my shop with 3D designs created by hardware stores selling "boxes" that look better than my printouts. The program comes with a dongle that you have to plug into the computer for the program to work. In the CNC section I can allocate tools for an inside profile, outside profile, and raised panel profile. The door package only allows you to manufacture doors for the cabinets you have designed. You can't send a list of doors only to the CNC machine unless you've designed the cabinets for them.