Documentation Tools

Whether planning upgrades or capturing the details of maintenance specifics we have come to depend on a variety of software tools.

A 41 foot boat is a complex undertaking, especially if you cruise it heavily, especially if you live on it, especially if you have upgraded most of the systems (i.e. made it more complex). To keep on top of this information curve we have come to depend on various tools which we describe here. None of them are perfect but they are better than nothing.

AppleWorks (for word processing, spread sheets  and drawing)

Word processing goes without saying really. Spread sheets we use for everything from tracking infrequent occurences (e.g. gas or water usage) through to costing out alternatives for a piece of work. The drawing module allowed us to put ideas into drawings for wood shops, plastic shops and metal shops. Without acceptable drawings most of them (understandably) don’t want your work.

Apple retired AppleWorks in 2007 after having not updated it for 3 years. Apple provided Pages and Numbers (both part of iWork) to carry on word processing and spread sheet processing but never did provide a migration path for the drawing tools.

EazyDraw (drawing)

Enter EazyDraw, they have nothing to do with the Apple company as far as we know but they make the definitive drawing package on the Mac today. And they carry a “retro” version which reads in old AppleWorks Drawing files. Needless to say this was a big factor in our decision to evaluate and then purchase the package. We have not been disappointed with the package, it does everything we need and more. Now that we are starting to use FreeCAD we are finding that EazyDraw can interchange DXF files with FreeCAD which is a real bonus.

Photoshop (image file management)

Photoshop is an industry standard. We’ve actually been using it for a long time as it came bundled with an early camera. Our main use is to enhance or correct photos although it does an awful lot more. It is a powerful package and probably the package we use the least of it’s capability – due to our limits not PhotoShop’s.  Prior to EazyDraw it was our only was to superimpose text onto JPG images although with EazyDraw it is now easier and faster to do it within EazyDraw. We sometimes mock things up in PhotoShop – especially when the idea is integrated into existing items. To do this we take a picture from the appropriate angle and insert other objects (drawings or pictures) into the first picture – all within PhotoShop. When the item under consideration is discrete and isolatable we tend to do more of the prototyping with EazyDraw or FreeCAD.

Blue Griffon (HTML editing)

We’ve gone through 3 HTML editors prior to Blue Griffon:

  • Adobe PageMill
  • NVU
  • Kompozer

The main use for Blue Griffon is this website and our operating manual which is written as an eBook for Kindle (that being a variant of HTML).

FreeCAD 2d and 3D drawing

FreeCAD at this point (version 0.14) is a weak competitor for EazyDraw when it comes to 2D drawing. But what it does easily is 3D constructions and based on what is on it’s website, plans to do a lot more in the future. Combining architectural drawing, 3D rendering, piece assembly, 2D drawing with constraints, 3D part modeling, scripting and a tailourable interface – the future looks rosy for FreeCAD if it is able to deliver on all its describes. On the topic of 2D drawing and EazyDraw we have great hopes that the DXF file interchange will be improved between the two and facilitate 2D drawings from EazyDraw being imported into the Sketcher of FreeCAD, getting fitted with consraints and then padded into 3D objects.

It would have been nice if FreeCAD had been around when we did our refit as it would have saved a lot of work. We needed orthogonal and 3D drawings for metal and woodworking and constructed them manually through AppleWorks and subsequently EazyDraw – it would have been a lot easier through FreeCAD. And the drawings would have been dimensioned automatically where as we had to enter all the dimensions manually in AppleWorks while EazyDraw had scaling but it was a bit involved to use.

Probably the weakest point with FreeCAD is the documentation which is a shame as it is a program capable of extreme complexity in the systems it can draw. There is a tutorial page but we find it a bit sparse as many topics are not covered. Also textual descriptions seem a lot more cumbersome when trying to quickly pick up a concept and how to achieve it within the software. That lead us to YouTube where some power users have put up videos of how to achieve various real world goals. These cover various things such as designing a flanged pulley, a race of ball bearings and a birdhouse. Some of the videos are for earlier versions of YouTube and can be misleading so check that the version in the video matches what you have. Also try to get one with sound as it greatly amplifies the amount of information. The videos without sound can be quite confusing as you watch the cursor moving around the screen and can’t always tell when a click has happened. We even watched one in Chinese and even though we had no idea about the words, the intonation helped as we could tell when something important was going to help by the tone of the voice.

We have started on a long term project to maker a 3D model of the HR41 in FreeCAD. We intend to put it on this website as download for whoever is interested but first need to figure out how WordPress handles download files.


Perhaps the easiest way is to copy some artwork from our page on galley cabinetry on the HR 41, here we drop the text but simply comment on the drawings:

AppleWorks now looks like a simplistic package but at the time it was fine. And in retrospect, we could have done all our diagramming with it had it been kept alive. As an integrated package it allowed  you to superimpose spreadsheets over drawings and vice versa. The colour management was not sophisticated but it was adequate. There was no scaling so any dimensioning was simply text on the drawing.

EazyDraw basically the next level up from AppleWorks draw. It uses a meta-language in its source files – this can be manipulated if so desired. The drawing environment is much more object oriented than it was in AppleWorks. As mentioned above, we are very hopeful of the ability to exchange DXF files between EazyDraw and FreeCAD. The colour management is much stronger and the Import/Export posibilities are more extensive.
Our first foray into 3D modeling was with Google’s SketchPad. It was fiddly to use at that time and we decided it wasn’t worth the time at that point for us.
FreeCAD generated the above. It is all to scale, objects can be selectively made transparent so sight lines can be demonstrated into obscured objects. In the curent version of 0.14 the colour management is rather basic. Although with all the features it has for 3D rendering and rotation, complaining about the colour management sounds a bit trite.

Below is a picture of the 3D model we have constructed for the HR41:


We are slowly completing it, something that might never finish because you can always go to a greater level of detail. The hull is chined as this is the simplest in the 3D world (and it’s time consuming enough). Some pieces are simply represented by cubes or cylinders (e.g. the bowsprit is simply a forward facing pole so far). As time permits we will flesh out more details. As mentioned earlier on this page we would like to make it available for download once we figure out how to do that with WordPress.

Some of our findings and ramblings about FreeCAD are available here.

Documentation serves a three fold purpose:

  • it lets you communicate those plans to other people (e.g. metal workers, wood workers)
  • it clarifies what you are presently working with
  • it records what has you have done, including the details that you might need to return to some day but which your memory manages to dispose of

We accumulate documentation constantly, the sources being the points above, we then use it for our own purposes but also put it on this website for other HR41 owners to use  – or nay other boat owner really.

None of the tools are perfect but then neither are we. Probably the biggest shortcoming we notice between them is the rough edges when transferring between tools.

The links to our software tools are parts of the headers on the page.

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