High Road for Windows
to life on the High Road - the well-proven and respected MacRoad
software arrives on Windows.
by Geoff Harrod.
for Windows and High Road for Macintosh are the new names for the
established and well-proven product formerly called MacRoad.
Its name has
been changed because it is no longer a Mac-only product. MacRoad
gained a very good reputation, and there was considerable demand
for a Windows version, since the majority of engineering offices
do not use Macintosh computers.
a challenge to its producer, Chris Baker, of Creative Engineering
in Brisbane, because he had written MacRoad using the MacForth programming
system from Megawolf Inc.
Forth is a programming
language that has some very unusual characteristics. It is a language
that never became widely popular and I have never heard of it being
used for programming Windows (but see below). However, Forth's individualistic
features are very much liked by its adherents. So to produce a Windows
version of MacRoad using the commonly-used Windows tools, Chris
would have had to learn a new language and reprogram the entire
system from basics - a monumental task. But he found a tool which
can convert an existing Macintosh program into Windows, and that
is what he did.
The result is
High Road for Windows and High Road for Mac, both identical and
with additional features over the last version of MacRoad. I tried
out the Windows version. I have never run MacRoad myself, not having
a Macintosh, but have observed it in use, and I found that the new
program does appear to reproduce the Macintosh program in its on-screen
style. It creates its own screen environment within a Windows window,
rather than using the whole environment provided by a Windows programming
system, hence its 'different' appearance.
This is not
too much of an issue, however. A habituated Windows user will notice
the cosmetic differences and some different ways of going about
things, and the absence of toolbars and right-click popups, but
it is all mostly obvious and no real impediment.
icon buttons are used in some of the sub-systems, such as Typical
Sections (see illustration). Its most obvious difference
is the general absence of colour.
I did find
the file-finding dialogues rather confusing as they do not follow
Windows navigation methods and were not at all self-evident, unless
you are used to a Mac perhaps.
is the little 'whirly-gig' that replaces the pointer while the screen
display is in the process of being redrawn. This is noticeable because
the system redraws the display line-by-line after something has
affected it, such as a popup dialogue being dismissed. The program
apparently does not cache the blotted-out screen image behind the
dialogue box, so has to redraw the image.
This can be
fascinating, as it draws the raw terrain data and then draws construction
details over it to blot out the affected parts. I found it a bit
of a trap having to wait for the redraws before using menus, but
it is actually very quick. You just can't click a dialogue's OK
button and instantly pick a menu as I am used to. It rarely takes
more than a few seconds. Apart from that, other screen actions are
all extremely fast.
window created in this system is not resizable by the normal Windows
methods. This is apparently a limitation in the Mac-to-Windows translator.
The Minimise and Close buttons do work, however. To counter this
problem, the system installs in the Windows Start menus two High
Road items, one for a full screen display and one smaller. The smaller
option is fixed and only a trifle larger than 640x480.
scheme is a slight annoyance but not a significant problem. Most
users would probably always use it full screen, anyway. You can
minimise it to the task bar or pop other Windows programs over it
and so on. It doesn't block any other Windows activity.
High Road displays within the fixed overall window are resizable
by dragging, but not by normal Windows methods. You drag the blank
bottom-right-corner box - I presume that is the Macintosh method.
of the design processes involve using more than one display
window and new displays normally appear full-size, so you need
to use this resize technique to see more than one at once. That
had me baffled briefly.
I used a Pentium
III 450MHz with 192Mb RAM running Windows 98se. The stated requirements
are a Pentium of preferably over 500MHz, 20Mb RAM and Windows 95,
98, NT4 or 2000. A hardware lock is used, available for either LPT
or USB port. The full installation, including sample data and tutorials,
occupied a mere 5Mb of disk space! That is remarkable by Windows
standards, and may reflect the efficiency of the Forth programming
system compared to current rapid-development but very low-efficiency
Windows programming tools.
The manual gives
some advice for existing users of MacRoad who are moving to High
Road on Windows. It uses the same data files but requires you to
add the three-letter filename-extensions required by the Windows
A large ring-bound
manual of 358 pages is supplied. There is no online Help, which
may or may not be considered a deficiency, considering how useless
most people find online help systems. The manual includes a 63-page
step-by-step tutorial and matching work files are included in the
represent the various aspects of use of High Road and include: Survey
Data, Terrain Model, Road Alignment, Building Pads, Typical Sections
(roads, kerbs, drains, batters, pavement), Profiles (grade lines,
IPs, culverts), Transitions (super-elevations and plan transitions),
Cross sections, Cul-de-sacs, Intersections, Quantities (including
earthworks and mass haul diagrams), Perspective Views and drive--throughs,
Rock-fall simulation, Drawing production, Printing & Plotting, Exporting
information (PICT, DXF, civilcad, MOSS, GDL, 3D, tables, data loggers).
The manual concludes with explanations of all commands and advice
animations are actually not available in the initial release on
Windows, but a separate, linked, Windows application will be delivered
within a month to provide that facility.
takes you through the steps of a typical project: creating the terrain
model, designing a road, an intersection and side road, a cul-de-sac,
a building pad and a dam, and printing the final drawings and tables.
of the design functions pop up graphic dialogue boxes that show
a sort of 'pro-forma' of the feature being designed, called
a 'Calculator', for example an intersection (see illustration),
and you fill in the design details you want on the diagram.
button makes the system use your new values and compute any consequent
items. Then, when you click the Create button, the feature you specified
is drawn on the main workspace. This is a quite intuitive and convenient
way of going about these tasks.
is, or used to be, very much a PostScript-oriented system as far
as printing is concerned - one of the things that contributed to
its higher cost. PostScript printers have never been common on Windows,
and are now considered redundant, except in the graphic arts and
So it comes
as a surprise to find that the printing system in High Road for
Windows works only with PostScript printers. It can, however, print
to any normally-installed Windows printer by using the intermediary
of a software PostScript interpreter. Fortunately there is such
as system available at no cost from the Free Software Foundation
Inc, which grew from Unix origins.
High Road for
Windows is supplied with a copy of that system - GNU Ghostscript.
It needs to be installed separately, and provides the fringe benefit
of enabling Post-Script operation from any Windows program. That
is handy if you want to do proof prints from material that will
be sent to a printing house. I have used GNU Ghostscript for that
purpose and it is a very reliable system.
As distinct from its printer output, High Road also has a plotting
function. This works with Hewlett-Packard HPGL and Houston Instruments
DMP plotter output formats. The list of supported devices seems
a bit out-of-date, being pen-oriented, but the HPGL/2 option should
cover all more modern devices including inkjets. The selection list
is: HP Draft-Pro, HP 7580B, HPGL small format (those with corner
origin), HPGL large format (those with centre origin), HPGL/2 compatible,
and Houston DMP compatible.
think the printed and plotted output arrangements for High Road
are slightly backward, but probably perfectly satisfactory.
You can, of course, use DXF to finish off in a general CAD product
as an alternative - a method commonly used in specialised civil
engineering CAD products.
High Road is
already well proven in its MacRoad versions as extremely effective
and capable, and its present overall form and operational logic
are the result of refinement through several versions. Being now
available on Windows will greatly extend its accessibility to designers,
but its differences from normal Windows operational methods might
be a little off-putting to some users.
But, as with
any powerful engineering design system, you need to learn the program
to use it effectively, whether it is a fully conventional Windows
program or a bit individualistic. High Road's Mac-like presentation
and usage is much less of a learning hurdle for those familiar with
Windows than is the case with those engineering programs that replicate
their earlier DOS or Unix environment within Windows.
In any case,
a fully native Windows version is on the way, using the ProForth
compiler. The 3D viewer mentioned above is the first outcome from
this. The conversion of the entire system to ProForth will take
much longer, but those who find High Road does what they want very
nicely, but don't like the 'Mac-ish' environment much, can be assured
that a fully 'Windified' version will come along, probably for the
Even so, High
Road for Windows as it is, seems to be an easy system to learn and
its displays are very clear. If you are designing roads or sub-divisions,
High Road may suit you very well indeed.
© Echo Magazines
Pty Ltd - www.echomags.com.au
Windows Version Launched - 25 March 2001
for Windows - Multi-Cad, May 2001
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