This is a review of the free universal file viewer and mark up program eZ version 4.0.85
DISCRIPTION (from the web site http://www.ezmeeting.com/ezfree.shtml )
Simple and easy-to-use, eZ allows you to view SketchUp, PDF, CAD, 3D Models, Excel, Word, PowerPoint, digital photos, graphic files etc. all within the eZ application.
Amazing 3D viewing tools include measure distance, calculate area, dynamic rotation about any axis, section cuts, lighting, color & material controls, and hidden line removal. Cutaway sections can be invisible, ghosted, hidden line removal or a combination of ghosting and hidden line removal. The section plane can be rotated about any axis and moved through the model along any axis.
Sophisticated CAD viewing tools allow you to view and turn DWG and DXF layers on and off, and set foreground and background color for easy viewing of important details. Dynamic zoom, pan and rotate lets you focus on the area you want. Measure distance and calculate the area of any part of a drawing. Tell your clients about eZ so you can distribute your drawings, and they can view them through eZ’s simple interface, without needing to purchase or learn programs such as SketchUp and AutoCAD.
Insert and view digital photos quickly and easily directly from your scanner or camera. Zoom in to any level, rotate and pan. Also, convenient markup tools including add text, pencil, line, ellipse, rectangle, arrow, etc. allow for you to markup on the files without affecting the original, as if you were marking on a transparent overlay.
Organizing information into a compound file (containing more than one file) is a great way to keep track of different kinds of related information. These multi-part documents are easy to distribute for viewing and collaboration. You no longer have to worry about clients and colleagues having the same applications or software versions you do in order to share information.
The program eZ is the file viewing and markup portion of eZmeeting, an internet conferencing and screen sharing program. While eZ is free, eZmeeting charges a monthly, or per meeting charge. This program is from Sigma Design, the company who produces the architectural program Arris CAD.
I was really hoping that I could recommend eZ. I like the concept. It’s just the implementation that I have a problem with.
When you download and install eZ what you are getting is eZmeeting. Every time you start the program you are presented with a log in screen for you to use for online meetings using eZmeeting. You only need to click on the “Start eZ FREE” to start the free file viewing and mark up program. There are no other nag screens. If you ignore the Start and Join Conference buttons and the Share and Join Desktop buttons what you have left is a blank screen area that you can draw on. They call this a “whiteboard”. The real power of this program is that you can open a large variety of different file types and mark on them as well. When these are CAD files, you have a good way to mark-up and share drawing files. With 3D models, you can dynamically rotate the models as well as dynamically cut sections thru them. You can add sketches to any view along with comments and arrows. This can all be saved and sent to your consultants for review. They can add their comments and return them to you, etc.
You can also create a single eZ document that contains several different document types, along with your markups.
Here are some of the problems I have with it:
- It doesn’t install with a help file. That has to be downloaded and installed separately.
- It doesn’t work with the latest version of AutoCAD. The most recent version of AutoCAD drawing (.DWG) file it will load is version 2005.
- It hangs up when trying to open large .pdf or .doc files
- It makes its .pdf printer driver the default printer on your computer. Even if you change back to your preferred printer, the next time you run EZ it changes it back.
- When you try to print you get a “printer not activated” error message and are directed to the Amyuni Technologies web site where you are invited to purvchase their PDF converter. It says on that page “This special offer is only valid to those who have purchased a product with Amyuni PDF Converter built in.” and gives you the choice between the $59.00 PDF Converter or the $79.00 PDF Suite. You can select any other printer you want, but I would expect a free PDF printer to be included in a free product.
- Can’t load a .txt file.
- Can’t mark-up a .doc file. You can open it (with a couple of ““printer not activated” error messages) but can’t mark it up.
- Trying to open a power point presentation without the Amyuni PDF converter activated locks up the program.
- AutoCAD drawings are only viewable in 2D.
- Can’t view AutoCAD drawing layouts, model space only.
- You can’t open an Arris drawing without opening it first in ARRISview and saving it out as a .gts file. Note that you can mark up the drawing in ARRISview without having to use EZ. So, if you are an Arris CAD user, you only need EZ for non-Arris files and for internet collaboration.
I am sure there would be more issues if I tried to use it longer. I have never had a program that I have had to abort more often with Windows Task Manager. I didn’t try out the collaboration function. The $99.00 per month fee seems a little excessive to me. Especially when there are several free screen sharing programs available, such as the excellent Adobe ConnectNow program.
If eZ would work with the most recent versions of AutoCAD I think a lot of people would use it. eZ would need to preserve the different layouts, the way it does pdf file pages, as well as model space and layers.