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, without any prior knowledge of Visio 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

Adding Multiple Components to Symbol

There are times when one symbol consists of multiple parts or components. For example, a Pilot Light symbol which comprises 3 components, namely the Lamp, the Lamp Holder and the Diffuser, each with different brand and pricing etc. How do you first assign multiple components to the symbol in order to display them in BOM?

If you have yet to add the components into the Component Database, refer here to learn on how to do it.
  1. Right-click on your Pilot Light, go to Edit Reference and click on the Component button.
  2. Click on the “+” button to add your component.

  3. Then, search for the component you want to add and click Select. Repeat Step 2 and 3 to add all the components.
  4. Once added, you will see a list of components at the drop down as shown:

After adding the components into the symbol, you can easily generate their layouts or display multiple component information when you generate BOM report. If you want to remove component, just click on the "-" button to delete it.

Error after updating Visio 2016 to Version 1709 and above

On August 2017, Microsoft rolled out updates affecting Electra codes in Visio 2016 version 1709 and above. Due to the update, there’s no intelligence in Electra symbols (i.e., no increment of wire names after page prefix option is enabled).

We’ve done major codes fix to ensure Electra’s features and functionalities continue to work well for you.

To resolve the error at your side, please update your Electra at

Many thanks to Brett Drayton for reporting the error to us, so we’re able to fix the issue right after the update is rolled out.

New in R114: Improved connections and wire links (BONUS: Electra E8!)

We have not updated our users for a while, mainly because we are hard at work at improving Electra and bringing new and exciting features for Electra E8, targeted for the last quarter of this year (2017). Therefore, if you have suggestions for us, and would like to see certain features being built into Electra, please do not hesitate to send us your suggestions.

For this release, we have improved Electra to allow easier connections when you drag a wire to connect to symbols. Previously, when you do so, your symbols will be highlighted and users are allowed to connect the wire to the centre of the symbol. Going forward, when dragging wires, Electra will only allow connection to symbol connection points for easier and faster wiring connections.

We have also added the ability to filter wire locations based on pages. The same applies to wire links where you will be able to sort wire links by pages or by wire name. This allow you to easily view wires and wire links to ensure they get connected to symbols faster.

Many of our new features will be completed and released as they complete full testing but we have to extend our most sincere thanks to our loyal customers for providing many suggestions to improve on Electra. Thank you very much and please keep the feedback coming!

Download error in IE after Windows update on January 14, 2016

Microsoft released a Windows update recently which causes problem in downloading Electra's installer on Internet Explorer.

There are two ways to fix this error.

Solution 1: Download Electra's installer using other browsers (e.g. Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox). 
Solution 2: Follow the steps below if you are using Internet Explorer:

1. When the error message appears, click on "View downloads":

2. In the Download Manager window, right click on Electra's installer and select "Run anyway":

With that, Electra's installer should be able to run.

New in R108: More benefits from your favourite electrical cad software

Dividing electrical schematics into sub panels

When working on larger projects, there may be a need to design circuits for multiple panels, and Electra now comes with an easy way to organize sub panels into a single project.

Sub panel symbol on electrical stencil

One of the first thing you will notice when updating to R108 is the new sub panel symbol in the JIC or IEC stencil. To divide your circuits into sub panels, simply drag the sub panel symbol onto your drawing and drag handles to encapsulate your circuits.

Encapsulated electrical circuits on sub panel

You can choose any name for your sub panels, simply select the sub panel symbol and type away. If you have multiple circuits over multiple pages that makes up a sub panel, you can drop multiple sub panel symbols and name them the same. For example, you can have a sub panel on page 1 called "Remote Panel #1" and also a sub panel symbol on page 3 with the same name. There are no limits to the amount of sub panels you can have in a drawing, so drop in as many as you like.

Choosing a sub panel to automatically generate panel layout

Once you're ready to generate panel layout, the Generate Layout window will show a list of panels that you can select to generate. You may select the default panel or any sub panels, and therefore allow you to generate multiple panels faster and easier than ever before.

Reusing generated reports

Previously, when generating reports inside a drawing, Electra will always ignore reports that is already on your drawing, and produces new reports. With the R108 update, you get a choice to generate new reports, keep or remove old reports, or reuse old reports. This makes it very easy when you have reports on multiple pages that is already sized and formatted, and Electra will let you reuse them without the need for more work.

Reuse existing reports when generating reports in Electra

Automatic propagation of formatting for wires

Users of Electra has enjoyed automatic wire number propagation for a long time, and with this update, automatic propagation also applies to formatting. For example, if you have set a wire to be thicker or to another color of your choice, when a wire is connected, the new wire will automatically get the same formatting applied. This works for line weight, line pattern, line color, font, font color and font size, making it extremely easy to change wires to any formatting and have it automatically propagated without additional work.

Automatically propagated formatting for wires

Renumber LadderZones over multiple pages

When dropping LadderZones on a drawing, users are supposed to renumber them as the electrical circuit design progresses. But sometimes, there is a need to insert pages with more circuits, and with the R108 update, renumbering LadderZones over multiple pages is now a breeze. Click on the Electra tab | Tools | Renumber Ladder Zones and you will be presented with the dialog below:

Renumber electrical circuits on Ladder Zones

Choose which Ladder Zone to start renumbering, and Electra would automatically do the rest. Multiple ladder zones will be renumbered according to pages, and for each page, left to right and top to bottom. For example, if you have 2 Ladder zones on page 1, and another 2 on page 2, they will be renumbered to 100, 200, 300 and 400 respectively according to their page and location on each page.

Once the ladder zones have been renumbered, Electra will also automatically update all symbols and wires on the ladder zones to follow their new numbering. This is extremely powerful in the sense that Electra allows users to renumber electrical ladder circuit diagrams over an entire drawing, with just a few clicks.

Setting wires as jumpers

Also included in R108, is the ability to set wires as jumpers. On a schematic, you may use wires to indicate a connection, but physically, the same wire may be a jumper on your terminals. Select the wires you want to set as jumpers and click on Electra tab | Tools | Set Wires as Jumpers. Once done, you will be able to generate a bill of materials (BOM) with jumpers and can use the Manage Component window to set the brand or the layout symbol to be used as a jumper during panel layout.

Setting wires as jumpers

Adding spacers to rails

On our updated Layout stencil, users may notice a new spacer symbol which is used to space components on rails. For example, you may want to place some contactors and relays on your rail, but separate them with some spacing. With the new spacer symbol, you can now do so easily. As with all our layout symbols, simply drop then on a rail and they will be automatically placed on the rail. To resize the spacer, simply click on it and drag on its handles.

Spacer symbol automatically placed on a rail

Visio shortcuts you may not know about

If you're doing electrical circuits with Electra, chances are, you'll be wanting to get it done real quick. Here's a list of shortcuts that'll help you work even faster.
Mouse wheel Quickly zoom in and out using the mouse wheel
Press CTRL + Mouse wheel to zoom in and out.
Mouse wheel Quickly scroll vertically or horizontally
Just scroll the mouse wheel to scroll vertically, and press SHIFT + mouse wheel to scroll horizontally.
Pointer tool Pointer tool
Press CTRL + 1 to revert to pointer tool.
Text tool Text tool
Press CTRL + 2 to select the text tool.
Text Block tool Text block tool
Press CTRL + SHIFT + 4 to select the text block tool.
Save tool Save document
Press CTRL + S to save your document.
Save As tool Save As
Press F12 to save your document as new.
Duplicate tool Duplicate shapes
Press CTRL + D to duplicate selected shapes, or press CTRL + mouse drag to duplicate and position.
Group tool Grouping shapes
Press CTRL + G to group selected shapes.
UnGroup tool UnGrouping shapes
Press CTRL + SHIFT + U to ungroup selected group.
Send to front tool Send to front
Press CTRL + SHIFT + F to send the selected object forward.
Send to back tool Send to back
Press CTRL + SHIFT + B to send the selected object backward.
Rotate shape clockwise tool Rotate clockwise
Press CTRL + R to rotate the selected object to right.
Rotate shape anti-clockwise tool Rotate anti-clockwise
Press CTRL + L to rotate the selected object to left.
Flip vertical tool Flip vertical
Press CTRL + J to flip the selected object vertical.
Flip horizontal tool Flip horizontal
Press CTRL + H to flip the selected object horizontal.
Undo tool Undo
Press CTRL + Z to undo the last action.
Redo tool Redo
Press CTRL + Y to reverse the last action.
Proudly created with the help of Tammy Wong.