Head of Marketing Zoltán Tóth had been interviewed by upFront.eZine, a prominent journal of the CAD industry. The discussion was focusing on ARCHLine.XP's past, present, future, and the ups and downs of a demanding, and ever changing industry. The article contains traces of BIM.

The below article appeared in Issue #951 of upFront.eZine. Original, unedited article here.

by Ralph Grabowski with Zoltán Tóth For 26 years now, CADLine has produced ARCHLine.XP software for architects. They are headquartered in Budapest, Hungary, the home to other BIM firms, such as Graphisoft and OrthoGraph. (CADLine has no relation to the firm of the same name in England.)

ARCHLine.XP began as CAD software designed to handle renovations. In Italy, there was a major need for renovating old buildings; other software could not handle irregular walls and rooms -- walls that slanted upwards and corners that were not at right-angles. To this day, the bulk of sales are to architects in Italy, as well as in Austria and other German-speaking countries. 

Staircases were a selling point: ARCHLine.XP was unique in the early 1990s in creating irregular staircases that were parametric, and at the same time reporting to the architect whether the staircase was ergonomical. Later, the programmers at CADLine added interior design functions, and so the software was adopted by interior decorators in England and Hungary.

I interviewed CADLine head of marketing Zoltán Tóth by Skype and by email.


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Ralph Grabowski: Why are several AEC firms located in the same part of Budapest?
Zoltán Tóth: Excellent mathematical and engineering backgrounds, and the high quality of education in Budapest, are the main reasons why you find several firms that deal with CAD solutions in the city. Around the late '80s and early '90s there was a surge of companies trying to create better computer based drawing methods. 

Our company, CadLine, was founded in 1991 by four Hungarians who wanted to develop an advanced 3D CAD design software for architects and interior designers -- ARCHLine.XP. Obviously, each company tries to find a special focus on the CAD market. In the first few years for us it was mainly architects using our software for the reconstruction of old buildings in Italy. They found our room concept innovative, which made managing irregular walls of old historical buildings easy. For example, the survey and reconstruction plan of the famous Teatro Massimo opera house in Palermo, Italy was made with ARCHLine.XP. 

Now decades later, some of the other CAD companies that started at the same time as us have merged with others, or else faded into obscurity. We stay competitive, because ARCHLine.XP comes with comprehensive architectural and interior design tools. Our CV2.0-Architecture Export and Import was recently certified by buildingSMART, and so the IFC interface (to export and import IFC files) is fully integrated into ARCHLine.XP 2017. 

Getting back to the close proximity to CAD players, this is a great neighborhood, the home for Hungarian IT companies that are recognized worldwide. They don't all deal with CAD: Logmein is in remote access, Prezi is presentation software, Balabit is for IT security -- just to name a few. 

Grabowski: One of the problems with BIM is that once a region uses one product, all other firms in the area pretty much need to use the same software, in order to be compatible. For instance, Revit and ArchiCAD have lockholds on certain geographic areas. What are you doing to fight against this?
Tóth: Our approach is to keep our program as open to other software platforms as much as possible. For instance, ARCHLine.XP opens Revit files, which means that architects can collaborate with co-designers, even if they are living in the middle of Revit Country. With our certified IFC import/export, there should be no problem or data loss if a project is being tossed back and forth between different software platforms. 

Our target group is those AEC professionals who are still sitting on the fence, and indecisive when it comes to which software to choose, to finally update their game to BIM. We want to make them realize that our product does what they need (at a merciful price structure) but at the same time, it doesn't isolate users from peers using Revit, VectorworksAllplan, or ArchiCAD. We spread awareness with Webinars and case studies, and with the help of local partners and distributors. 

Grabowski: Why would someone want to switch to your software?
Tóth: The fear that people have (who are looking for new software) is of being isolated, so ARCHline.XP includes things like Revit import, on top of DWG, DXF, and IFCs. 

We try to put as many tools as possible inside our software, so that customers don't have to buy any add-ons. We provide parts catalogs, renderings, walkthroughs, imports, and so on, for which we do not charge extra. For instance, our catalogs connect to 3dWarehouse and in September will connect to BIM Objects for free. 

We just signed an agreement with BIMObject, which provides us with direct access to BIMobject's online repository. We are going to publish our BIMObject add-on in September. The industry is changing so fast that it is not possible to update software with large built-in databases, so ARCHLine.XP links to external databases. 

ARCHLine.XP also connects to external programs, like energy calculations and locating models on Google Maps. It even imports terrain from Google Map as a modifiable terrain object. 

Grabowski: Tell me about using the RVT APIs being developed by the Open Design Alliance.
Tóth: We have been working with ODA for many years now. ARCHLine.XP is compatible with AutoCAD DWG and DXF file formats using the Teigha libraries at a high level. This year in January, ODA published the Teigha BIM library and we are one of the first companies developing its implementation of RFA and RVT formats.

Grabowski: What are your future plans?
Tóth: In 2016, ARCHline.XP received IFC certification for both import and export. For 2017, we are adding BIM Object collaboration. Later, we plan to import data from 3D laser scanners.

We want to establish the name more deeply in the BIM market, and we are targeting customers looking for a tool that introduces them to BIM. We find that Revit scares them by its large number of functions and its complexity.

We designed our interface to be friendly to users, whether they come from AutoCAD (where you tend to start a command and then select the object) or Revit and ArchiCAD (where you select an object and then execute a command). Our software works both ways.

We offer commands that are helpful to communicate with other software. For example, our 'Walls on DWG Drawing' tool follows click points (object snaps on geometry) automatically. You just specify the wall width, and then add elements like doors and windows.

Based on their knowledge in other software, new users don't have to learn everything from scratch. 

Grabowski: What does ARCHLine.XP cost?
Tóth: While other companies are flirting with subscription pricing, our customers are looking for the assurance of owning the license. The permanent license price is £1750 (approximately US$2,250) but if that is too much at one time, customers can pay in six installments of £300 (US$390) each. Annual maintenance for support and upgrades is £400 (US$515).