System Design Software: AVSnap

I’ve been posting pictures of my video system design lately, and each one generates at least 3-4 tweets asking what I’m using to do the drawing. So I figured I would just to a post on it. Spoiler alert, I’m using a piece of free software called AVSnap. AVSnap is a free (yes, free) program produced by Altinex. It’s relatively easy to use and is capable of producing some pretty detailed drawings. 

Image from AVSnap's website. I didn't draw this...

One of the best things about AVSnap is the training videos they have on their website. At first, the software might make no sense at all, especially if you don’t have any experience with system design software. However, spend a little time watching the videos, and you’ll be building components and dragging wires around in no time. Hint: Watch the one on creating libraries. It will save you a lot of time. You can thank me later.

If you build your components correctly, AVSnap will even give you a materials list when your design is done. The caveat is that you have to specify each connection point, which takes about 5 checkboxes in a pop-up. It’s not hard, just tedious. The good thing is, once you design a component, you don’t have to do that again. You can also connect components with virtual cables, then drag those components around the page without loosing connections. Sometimes you have to do some adjusting to keep things neat, but you don't have to re-wire (so to speak). 

It’s not a perfect program, and I’ve encountered a few interface anomalies but overall, it’s a great package. And when you consider that it’s free, it’s really hard to complain much. The only real downside for most of us church tech guys is that it is a Windows only program. I personally run it on my MacBook Pro inside VMWare and it works just fine. And since VMWare maps Mac keyboard shortcuts to Windows ones (CMD-C to CTRL-C for example) it’s actually not bad to use. 

You can export DXF files when you are done, though I wish it were easier to create PDFs. Altinex does provide a link to download PDF Creator from the AVSnap download page, so it’s not impossible; I’m just so spoiled at being able to quickly create PDFs from anything in the Mac OS. 

AVSnap does a whole lot; a lot more than I’ve even explored at this point. They even built in a online meeting module that will enable others to join a conference and collaborate on a design. I haven’t even tried that yet (not that anyone on my staff would need to use that feature). So far, I’ve just been doing fairly simple system layouts, and it works great for helping me see shortcomings in my original thought process, or helping me brainstorm ideas on making a project better.

So if you’re looking for some way to do cable diagrams, system design or just want to learn some additional software (and who among us doesn’t?), check out AVSnap. It’s free; what do you have to loose?

What would you design in AVSnap?