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quinntopia

Layout Design Software - Reviews

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quinntopia

Has anyone seen any reviews of the various layout design software programs out there?  I did my original plan using RR-track http://www.rrtrack.com/ which was okay, but now that I'm on a Mac (although I use VMWare and Bootcamp for some windows necessities, but don't like to have boot them up if I don't have to as the communication w/printers is not always good) I was looking at a program called railmodeller http://www.railmodeller.com/ which is nice in that its a native Mac application, and has a good UI, and Kato and Tomix libraries (and many more) which really fits my needs.  However, there does not seem to be any ability to add elevation, grades, terrain, etc... which is a deal breaker in my mind (at least in the demo i have).

 

I've tried to use Xtrakcad on a PC (can't get it to work on my mac) and found the experience and UI really irritating.

 

I was referred to Wintrack http://www.wintrack.de/ but the library misses Tomix, which is the piece I really need right now.  Its also PC only, which I can deal with for the right program I suppose.

 

Does anyone have any suggestions on what they've used, or encouragement to keep up the 'practice' with Xtrakcad?  I've seen some forum members post images of their track plans that look really sharp, and was wondering what they've used.

 

I have to believe someone has done a review of the various offerings and compared them side by side, but can't seem to find it myself.

 

Thanks

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CaptOblivious

I use Railmodeler. I can't be bothered to purchase it, at $40, mostly because I just use it to doodle idly, so I just use it in demo mode. When something needs to be illustrated here, I use Grab.app to take a screenshot and post it here.

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scott

I used Railmodeller, and paid for it--I'm convinced I made the money back in mistakes avoided, extra track not ordered, etc. Admittedly it took a bit of extra fiddling to deal with grades, but it wasn't too bad. Having the accurate measurements of the actual pieces (Unitrack, in my case) made a huge difference. And it's fun to fiddle with.

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Tenorikuma

I used Railmodeller, and paid for it--I'm convinced I made the money back in mistakes avoided, extra track not ordered, etc. Admittedly it took a bit of extra fiddling to deal with grades, but it wasn't too bad. Having the accurate measurements of the actual pieces (Unitrack, in my case) made a huge difference. And it's fun to fiddle with.

 

Thanks for the recommendation. I'm on a Mac too and had no idea what was out there.

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quinntopia

Wow, I'm surprised...2 solid votes for RM right out of the gate..!

 

Pilotfish, I'm glad you responded, as the pictures you posted of your track plan are some of the cleanest and neatest out there  :).  Railmodeller would be a slam dunk for me, but how do you deal with grades and elevations?  Or do you just ignore it (in truth, this isn't that big of a deal if you don't care about the '3-d' views of other products, and since I am not really 'building' a layout with railmodeller versus just building [where planning grades is critical] versus documenting an existing plan, I suppose I shouldn't make it that big of a deal)?

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CaptOblivious

Grades can be a very big deal; I don't know of a way to deal with them with Railmodeler. I think RM's strength is that it is very easy to work with sectional track, and so one can very quickly get a good sense of how to put a particular plan together using sectional track. However, if I were planning a permanent layout, I would only use RM to generate the first draft of the plan; I would then use something else—maybe even pen and paper—to be very careful about grades and elevations.

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cteno4

As my mac is my main machine (only go to the darkside when i have to) and its got the 30" monitor on it i have been using railmodeler for the last year or so. was happy to pay the $40 as its a good little program and seems to being looked after fairly well so i hope it will just continue to improve. i find it great for sectional track planning.

 

I use to use 3rdplanit a long time back on the pc, it went through a major revamp a year or two back and is a very sophisticated program, but i found not too easy to use at times. I did not upgrade as i had started to use Railmodeler. the new version of 3rdplanit sounds very deep with features, but maybe too many!

 

Also used Xtrak cad a lot on the pc and just got it sort of working on the mac. its uses unix x window system so its a bit funky in the mac interface, but i now can use the 30" screen with it. but for free it does a great job and once you get use to its quirks its pretty powerful and its free! what you have to do is learn how to use it, but make sure to create a cheat sheet for yourself as you will forget how to do things w/in a week of non use of it. i think this is where most folks frustration comes from with xtrakcad since its a tad odd in ui and function so takes a bit to learn it then very easy to forget it! once i get working on a project with it, things go pretty smoothly.

 

cheers,

 

jeff

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scott

but how do you deal with grades and elevations? 

 

Well, it wasn't the neatest solution, and you've seen the minor problem I created for myself with clearances, but---I just figured out the horizontal run needed for the elevation gain I needed (if you select several  pieces of track in RM and "get info," it'll tell you their total length). Then I just color-coded that many pieces a different shade of that line's color so I could tell where the inclines went. I was lucky that I could usually make a combination of pieces that came pretty close to the 48" total length I needed in each case.

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serenityFan

I used xtrkcad for my designs. It is free, and once you've got used to the UI, it is actually quite a breeze to use. Flex track layout is very easy to create, sectional takes a little bit more time as you lay piece by piece. It had kato unitrack sections, so it gave me the exact amount of unitrack sections to buy.

 

It also has the ability to calculate the required grades given heights data entered at some points on the layout...

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Martijn Meerts

Been using railmodeller for quite a while and really like it. I tried lots of the windows programs as well, and wintrack is very good, but doesn't have any Tomix track library.

 

As for railmodeller, I paid for it, $40 is well worth it considering you get all the updates (big and small) for free. From what I've read, elevation is something that's planned with the next big upgrade, so it's coming. What I like about railmodeller as well, is that you can real easily add your own tracks, the raileditor is real simple to use.

 

Railmodeller is also going to be able to connect to railplayer (I think it's called that anyway), which means you can export your railmodeller layout plan and use railplayer to run trains on it. Last I tried I couldn't get trainplayer to run either my macbook pro or my mac pro, but a new version is on it's way (if it's not already released)

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quinntopia

I finally went ahead and chose Railmodeller.  Despite its lack of grades, I like the interface and the library choices.  I updated my track plan and posted it on my blog if you're interested.  I did find some things were kind of weird; some of the track libraries are in German was a minor issue, but the biggest problem I had was that it seemed like I either counted the track on my layout incorrectly (which was easy to do) or for some reason the geometry didn't add up.  This only occurred on the 'straight' sections, which was kind of interesting.

 

The other problem is that there is no tolerance for any element of a track piece to be laid outside of the designated layout area.  For example, the Kato power feeder piece could not be placed along the edge because the image of this piece has a little wire symbol line that would extend outside the borders of the layout (same issue with the street crossings).  Kinda funky.

 

Anyway, pleased with how it turned out.

 

Thanks for all the tips that everyone shared!

 

http://quinntopia.blogspot.com/2009/05/layout-design-software.html

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scott

Another thing I liked about Railmodeller is that it's easy to try out variations. When I wanted to add to one of my lines, it was pretty easy to work out how to make it fit:

 

3545966252_189182aba9.jpg

(obviously I haven't built all of the supporting terrain yet....)

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SubwayHypes

LOL i probably should have used something like this, i went in heads first when it came to building my track, i just order pieces off ebay as i "guess" i need them, definately wasted money buying extra track, but whatevs.

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Guest ___

Another vote for XtrakCAD here also. I like it, and it runs fine on both my PC and Linux box. Plus if I ever go DCC I can plug it in to run my trains from my netbook as well.

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CaptOblivious

Are any of the track planning software capable of exporting SVG files? I want to create some trackplans for the Wiki, but I'd really prefer to post those plans in SVG. Indeed, I'd like to create a "house style" for trackplans that we can use on the Wiki and in Tetsudo.

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Tenorikuma

Since this thread is still live and I've been using Rail Modeller for a few weeks, let me do a quick review summary.

 

1. It may be a Mac app but it's not Mac-like. Toolbars are non-standard and the program is confusing in a number of ways.

 

2. You cannot open more than one track layout at a time. Why one earth this would be I cannot imagine, but it makes it impossible to have two documents open and copy pre-arranged sections from one to another.

 

3. Poor export options — you can't export to a vector format or export with a transparent background, for example.

 

4. "Magnetic" track snapping is half-baked. You cannot move more than one piece of track at a time and have it snap to an existing piece. If you want to move, say, 20 pieces of track over a few millimetres, you have to move each piece separately.

 

5. Lack of finish and bug-testing — the application cannot handle filenames with non-ASCII characters, and you cannot export a file called "layout.psd" if your file is already called "layout" because the app thinks these are the same file. (They aren't.)

 

Final verdict: 2/5

If there was any other alternative, I'd be using that instead.

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disturbman

I don't know if anyone tried this one but I'm using AnyRail. It's a very simple and yet more or less effective Layout Design Software. I think I still need to really learn how to use it but it's definately simpler than Xtrackcad. And yes, it does have Kato's Unitrack in his library.

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alpineaustralia

But which are the programs mentioned run on windows PC?

Everyone (except for me) seems to have a Mac.

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Martijn Meerts

The best one I've seen for PC is wintrack. That one has amazing 3d views which easily allows you to pre-visualize the entire layout.

 

It's not cheap though, and might not have all tracks you want included.

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disturbman

I'm using a PC and Xtrackcad and anyrail works fine with it. The other ones I don't know.

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scott

4. "Magnetic" track snapping is half-baked. You cannot move more than one piece of track at a time and have it snap to an existing piece. If you want to move, say, 20 pieces of track over a few millimetres, you have to move each piece separately.

 

Actually, you can do this, but it took a little searching before I found it. (If I had read the documentation.....  :grin )  But I had the same frustration you did, and thought, "there must be a way," and eventually figured it out.

 

In the menus, there are options to:

 

* select an entire section of linked track pieces

* select an end of a multi-piece section, and then clink an open end to move it to

* automatically find a 1- to 4-piece connection between two open ends

 

There are probably some other useful features I should mention, but I don't have that computer with me right now. I'll see if I can be more specific about where these commands are once I'm back at that computer.

 

FWIW, I was using RailModeller last night, and came up with some easy improvements to my layout, as well as a couple of maniacal expansions.

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cteno4

Since this thread is still live and I've been using Rail Modeller for a few weeks, let me do a quick review summary.

 

1. It may be a Mac app but it's not Mac-like. Toolbars are non-standard and the program is confusing in a number of ways.

Unfortunately most track planning software seem to take some getting use to. I guess its the logic that most track planning programs have as most are not all that intuitive and feel a bit non standard till you use them for a while and get use to them. Railmodeler feels like most track planning programs i have used. it is only a $39 program for a very small market from someone that looks to be doing this on the side so cant expect all that much... track planning software is pretty complicated software, lots to keep track of and calculate. the history of a lot of the track planning softwares out there are pretty shaky. many are done by a lone programmer, not larger software companies with human interface designers, cognitive designers, etc so again you wont get a really slick product thats beautiful. sorry.

 

 

2. You cannot open more than one track layout at a time. Why one earth this would be I cannot imagine, but it makes it impossible to have two documents open and copy pre-arranged sections from one to another.

you can select the track you want (see below) copy it, close the doc, open the other, and paste it. pain, but doable. when i have to do something like this i select a large hunk and copy it to the side of the other document then select the parts i want from it and do the option drag to clone the piece i want out for use in the new plan.

 

3. Poor export options — you can't export to a vector format or export with a transparent background, for example.

xtrakcad cant do this and i dont think 3rdplanit could either. 3rdplanit has some cad export options for moving to a more sophisticated cad program for detailing, printing, etc.

 

 

4. "Magnetic" track snapping is half-baked. You cannot move more than one piece of track at a time and have it snap to an existing piece. If you want to move, say, 20 pieces of track over a few millimetres, you have to move each piece separately.

you can select multiple pieces of track by holding down the shift key and just keep selecting the track pieces you want. or you can select a contiguous set of track by holding down the option key and double clicking on one of the pieces of the track in the set and all will be selected. this is a trick to also show you where you may have a break in a strip of track.

 

you can have a piece of track (or a set joined together) automatically joined to another piece (or joined set) by choosing Connect Segment To... from the Arrange menu then clicking on the end of track you want to move over and join to another, then click onto the end of the section of track you want it attached to. this is the way to move hunks around w/o the magnetic snap. the magnetic snap is probably meant to be used when just adding one piece of track at a time.

 

5. Lack of finish and bug-testing — the application cannot handle filenames with non-ASCII characters, and you cannot export a file called "layout.psd" if your file is already called "layout" because the app thinks these are the same file. (They aren't.)

just being dumb with the extensions here and safe with the file names. osx is still getting use to how to handle extensions and programs are still doing odd things with showing them, not showing them, limiting your fiddling with them, etc.

 

another trick i do to help around finding stuff and changing track kinds all the time is to make a selection of track pieces at the side of my document that im using for most of the plan. then i just option click drag on the piece i want to make a copy of it and drag it over to my growing track and let the auto snap put it on. i find going back to the pallet and changing the track tool type all the time a drag...

 

 

Final verdict: 2/5

If there was any other alternative, I'd be using that instead.

 

 

There is Xtrakcad you can run on the mac now. its more unmac like than railmodeler as its a pc program ported to run in xwindows. it has its own quirks as well. I actually had a harder time getting going in xtrakcad than railmodeler. once you get going on xtrakcad you  get good at it fast (it is pretty powerful and has more features), but its best to keep a cheat sheet of how to do things as if you dont use it for a few weeks its one of those programs you get really frustrated with as you remember a feature, but only about half of how to do it and it makes you want to put your head through the screen!

 

cheers

 

jeff

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cteno4

But which are the programs mentioned run on windows PC?

Everyone (except for me) seems to have a Mac.

 

also look at 3rdplanit, its a very sophisticated pc track cad program. almost too much it can do! big community using it and good user group.

 

jeff

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Tenorikuma

Thanks for the comments, Jeff. An X-windows-based app kinda scares me, but I'll have a look at Xtrakcad.

 

The thing is, if Rail Modeller fixed the major annoyances, it could be a really nice app. Hopefully the developer puts my $40 to good use. :)

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cteno4

Yeah, it took me like 3 installs and fiddles to get the new xwindows version of xtrak cad working. then its still an odd beast the way it runs, but is functional and has not bombed on me, but i have not pushed it on the mac version. just about to start converting our new layout design from railmodeler to xtrakcad today so i should be able to see how hardy it runs on the mac! doing our final plans in xtrakcad as most of the club is pc therefore xtrakcad is better to share and others to work on it. i was able to quickly and easily throw together our new layout plan easily with railmodeler. a few features in xtrakcad like layers is nice for our multiple track design also as it lets you just work on one loop in exclusion of the others when needed (ie pull the viaduct off to work on the ground level tracks.)

 

i do find railmodeler fine for poking around and trying ideas out quickly. once you get going in it its pretty fast. its not something that i would want to use to do a perfect layout or flex track with or cad level drawings. for that you need something like 3rdplanit.

 

you are stuck between the three worlds here, either its an opensource solution like xtrakcad where updates and mods are going to come in fits and starts from a volunteer basis, something simple and cheap from a home programmer like railmodeler, or something more expensive and professional, but made for as large a market as possible (ie pc and for high end freeform track design) like 3rdplanit.

 

send some polite feedback into the railmodeler developer, im sure they will love it if its constructive, helpful, and upbeat.

 

cheers,

 

jeff

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