September 25, 2020

AutoCAD vs Electra User Experience

A System Integrator solution provider in New Zealand wants to stay lean by keeping their ongoing cost low. Electra perpetual license was the best solution for him.

" Initially, I started with AutoCAD Electrical (AE) for a couple of reasons;- it was what most of the drawings I had been exposed to create on. It had the electrical specific multi-page features that were not available on free/basic packages which only creates 2D/static single page ‘drawings’ and most parts had to be custom made. I literally spent all of my time butting heads with AutoCAD Electrical (AE), which is a super capable and enormous package. I had the opportunity to evaluate the AE 2014 from someone else laptop, and after spent who knows how long on trying to get the title block setup properly, I managed to create a drawing.

Soon afterwards I dreaded the drawing part of the job or simply omitted drawings all together (well-labelled panels of course) due to the difficulties in creating simple to intermediate drawings, say 3 to 20 pages.

As in __Electra, apart from the experience in related Microsoft products that I’m sure all of us have. I was _able to create a 3-page drawing for a job with NO backwards steps_ on the first afternoon I had it. Important to note that AutoCAD Electrical (AE) is not at fault here, rather the fact that I’m a small business and doing programming, building panels, commissioning etc and just don’t have the time to butt heads with an enormous package. I was using valuable time unproductively. If I was a full-time AE guy and drawings were all I did, then things might be different. For me, drawings are a small part of what I do and here’s the important thing, now I’ll do a drawing and USE Electra without what I call the ‘dread factor’ like working for a difficult client.

" If I was a full-time AE guy and drawings were all I did, then things might be different. "

I’m a no stranger to different software and my entire role now is pretty much writing code; however AutoCAD Electrical (AE) did not work well with me. For example, I’m almost exclusively Omron based but a client requested Rockwell and with pretty much zero prior experience apart from a fairly easy learning curve, I was able to successfully program and commission a working wrapping machine for the dairy industry with entirely new and different software.

On AE, I couldn’t get past how difficult and complicated the entire software package is. Even the older version of Electra was so straightforward. For me, Electra is productive and intuitive for my small to medium project size, and project to drawing time ratio. It is obvious that it can be scaled up to large projects with all the specific macros to create links between connectors, easy cable identification and conductor labelling - PLCs, IO that sort of things. It also shares some great features specific to electrical panels such as active parts, a huge and decent library of industry standard parts, jumpers/linking wires referencing through the pages, bill of materials, generating layouts, multicore breakouts etc, and while admittedly I have not exploited the full capabilities of Electra. The main course for me is that despite the features, it remains easy to use and not compared to AE. Simply put, AutoCAD Electrical would be fine for a dedicated employee, plenty of time and money available in any drawing projects.

Electra is more applicable to a great number of smaller outfits as although Electra suits a great range of scales, I am mostly small to medium design size. So it simply is not economic spending the time required on making a complete set of drawings on AutoCAD Electrical.

After using the trial of Electra and from watching demo videos, I selected Electra for my works. My selection for Electra over AutoCAD Electrical was based on low initial outlay, flexibility in ongoing cost, as at the time I was not needing to create a lot of drawings, and just a simple comparison between what was available at the time.

Electra was very capable and productive without the enormous software size and system requirements of the larger and significantly more expensive packages. It’s just the right one for a small business like me. "

Sharing by __Stewart Thorp __ from Point Electrical New Zealand ( who uses Electra to build a production line for Pic's Peanut Butter new factory.

Here's some sneak peak of Stewart's work:

A new production line in Pic's Peanut Butter

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Thomas Yip

Founder at, created Electra, engineering nerd.

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