There is a lot of recent interest in user interface design driven by multiple factors, primarily the pervasive mobile device, but also other factors such as increasing software capabilities. This has me thinking about the user interfaces to CAD software which is important to me for economic reasons. Generally, the CAD software interface is menu driven, although there are examples that try to break this mold, such as a touch-enabled interface by SpaceClaim.

If you watch the video, you’ll see there is nothing innovative there. PCB123, another recent CAD software, also generally sticks within the existing mold. With all of the interface improvements of late, in particular natural user interfaces, would CAD software developed from scratch today be any different from current designs?

This question has occupied my thoughts for much of this long weekend in a mostly futile attempt to solve some problems with CAD software. I’ve mostly been thinking about

  1. how to make CAD software easier to use the first time someone encounters the software, and
  2. how to help users discover advanced functionality.

These address 2 important transitions in software – first introduction and transitioning to an expert – but are both rooted in discovering functionality. Natural user interfaces can function much as an extension to the real world, and in this, they are easy to discover how to use. Can and should this be used for CAD to help with these transitions?

Perhaps I need to think about this more, but as NUIs are currently envisioned, I cannot see how they would help with CAD. The equivalent real world interface for circuit software would be manually wiring a breadboard, which is both inefficient and error prone.

Still, CAD needs a new user interface and I’m hoping I can figure this out!