On the third day of SolidWorks World 2011 Graebert has announced an Apple AppStore style market for DraftSight at www.graebertmarket.com. DraftSight is the free 2D CAD offering from Dassault Systemes which has been downloaded 300,000 times in the last six months. DraftSight is based on the ARES CAD engine from Graebert and as part of the deal with Dassault Systemes it was agreed that Graebert will own and run the DraftSight market. This should not be confused with the Premium version of DraftSight which Dassault Systemes has been talking about.
This needs some explanation. There will be two versions of DraftSight, the free version that can be downloaded today and a DraftSight Premium version that will have a LISP API. As you may be aware the free version does not have any API and hence cannot be extended using plug-ins or LISP. Dassault Systemes will give away DraftSight for free and charge $250 per year for DraftSight Premium which will include support. I believe that for starters DraftSight Premium will have a LISP API and other API’s like COM and .NET maybe added later. Dassault Systemes hasn’t been forthcoming with details on this. From what I am told these API’s and other DraftSight Premium features are being developed internally by Dassault Systemes and not Graebert.
So if the free Draftsight has no API how can developers built applications for it and sell them on Graebert’s DraftSight Market. Here is the thing. ARES is built over the ODA Platform due to which it can be extended by means of DRX plug-ins. All my eleven ARES plug-ins are DRX DLL’s built using a SDK supplied by Graebert. However, Graebert has blocked normal DRX DLL’s from running inside DraftSight. To build a plug-in for DraftSight you need to get a special DraftSight SDK from Graebert and compile your plug-in with it.
Graebert has borrowed a page from Apple’s AppStore book and will take a 25% cut on each license sold on the DraftSight Market. 30% in case the plug-in needs Spatial’s ACIS solid modeling kernel to run. However, if a developer gets the special SDK from Graebert he will be able to build and sell DraftSight plug-ins left, right and center. To have a tighter control Graebert has instituted a system wherein every developer needs to submit to them his DraftSight plug-in (object code only) to be digitally signed. Only then will it load into DraftSight. After digitally signing the plug-in Graebert then puts it on the DraftSight Market and also sends it back to the developer to distribute it himself. However, the agreement between Graebert and the developer allows the developer to distribute his plug-in but restricts him from selling it. All sales need to happen through the DraftSight Market only. So basically, just like how users are sent to iTunes to purchase apps, the developer needs to send his customers to the DraftSight market to place their orders. The developer also needs to remove any software locking mechanism from his plug-in because that is handled by Graebert at the DraftSight end.
I know all this because I have been working closely with Graebert for some time to port my DRX plug-ins over to DraftSight. The current version of DraftSight is a Beta which does not have the DraftSight Market architecture built into it. I am given to understand that Dassault Systemes is going to end the DraftSight Beta and will release the first version in a week or so. I am not sure whether this first version will be DraftSight Market enabled or not. It doesn’t matter since the DraftSight Store is due to open only in April 2011. This announcement is basically a call to developers to sign up and start developing plug-ins.
To help developers debug their DraftSight plug-ins, Graebert gives them a special version of DraftSight called Graebert Developer Studio which loads DRX plug-ins that need not be signed by Graebert. The image below shows a couple of DraftSight plug-ins that I have been working on.
As you can see the application name in the title bar reads “Graebert Developer Studio”. The “TerrainCAD” and “CAD Converter” menus have been added by my plug-ins. You can expect to find SYCODE products in the DraftSight Market on the day it opens.
I hope to share more information on developing DraftSight plug-ins on this blog. If you have questions about the DraftSight Market or need clarifications please leave a comment. I’ll do my best to answer or get an answer for you from Graebert or Dassault Systemes.