Old Production Takes From an Old Guy

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?

4 Comments

  1. iammichaelshort@gmail.com

    I think you mentioned this before. Think that is how i found it. I'm loving it. I need to watch the video's and not just fumble through it.

    I've been using it to do stage layouts, diagrams on wiring for portable system and documenting signal flow for all the systems' that i've worked on. Planning on having a binder for each system with up to date wire diagrams for the next technician. To often i've heard tech say they have no idea how things are wired cause it was before there time.

  2. iammichaelshort@gmail.com

    I think you mentioned this before. Think that is how i found it. I'm loving it. I need to watch the video's and not just fumble through it.

    I've been using it to do stage layouts, diagrams on wiring for portable system and documenting signal flow for all the systems' that i've worked on. Planning on having a binder for each system with up to date wire diagrams for the next technician. To often i've heard tech say they have no idea how things are wired cause it was before there time.

  3. JOEMORETTI@GMAIL.COM

    Thanks for posting this–it is great to find new (to me) low cost tools to help make life easier!

    I've been using OmniGraffle for years (since switching back to mac in 2003) as my alternative to Visio and AutoCAD. It isn't as powerful as either of those programs, and it is quite a bit more expensive than AVSnap ($100-200 depending on the version), but is an oddly addictive diagraming tool that works the way things should work on a mac and adds a nice design flare. I constantly get complements on my diagrams (not something that happened as much on other software). I'd really recommend it to tech using macs who need to diagram their thoughts and/or systems. I've found it to be well worth the investment.

  4. JOEMORETTI@GMAIL.COM

    Thanks for posting this–it is great to find new (to me) low cost tools to help make life easier!

    I've been using OmniGraffle for years (since switching back to mac in 2003) as my alternative to Visio and AutoCAD. It isn't as powerful as either of those programs, and it is quite a bit more expensive than AVSnap ($100-200 depending on the version), but is an oddly addictive diagraming tool that works the way things should work on a mac and adds a nice design flare. I constantly get complements on my diagrams (not something that happened as much on other software). I'd really recommend it to tech using macs who need to diagram their thoughts and/or systems. I've found it to be well worth the investment.

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