atomic_fungus (atomic_fungus) wrote,

#2^8: Atlas Track, RTS Freeware

(For those not into binary and scientific notation, 2 to the 8th power is 256.)

The other day I went on-line looking for some track planning software. I wanted to see if I could fiddle around with some basic track pieces and see what I could do without going too crazy.

I found Right Track Freeware on the Atlas Model Railroad web site. It's a free download, requiring only a basic and quick registration, and the program itself is about 5 MB.

The program comes with track libraries--0 scale, HO scale, and N scale--and has some sample layouts. The advantage of the program is that you can construct a layout and then print out a list of materials, a list of Atlas track part numbers.

The disadvantage is that it's a fricking hack job.

It was immediately obvious how one placed track on the work space. What was not immediately obvious was how one removed track.

Well, look at the help file--except the help file said nothing about how to remove an unwanted piece of track.

After around ten minutes of fiddling and increasing frustration I finally figured out how to remove a piece of track from the diagram. It was not even remotely intuitive:

1) activate and use "disconnect" tool to separate the piece of track you wish to remove
2) activate the "select" tool
3) press CTRL-X or go to the pulldown menu for "CUT"

Could you right-click to remove it? No. Could you right click to do ANYTHING to a piece of track? No. Could you skip any of those steps? No.

If you selected the piece of track without first disconnecting it, it would select everything connected to that piece of track. Forget dragging a box over the elements you wish to delete; that's too much like Windows! And basic Windows editing commands don't work--you can't hold down CTRL to select disparate elements or SHIFT to select every element in a range, because if they're connected, one firkin' click will auto-select them all. That's fine if you want to delete the entire track plan, but if you're just wanting to remove the curve section you accidentally placed where you wanted a straight section, you're out of luck--you're going to have to go through a long and complex process to get rid of that extraneous piece of track.

It wouldn't be so bad if they at least had set up the DEL key to do the actual deleting. Ideally you should be able to select individual pieces of track without doing anything more than switching to the "select" tool, and then DEL to get rid of them.

The other problem was how track was placed. Say you want to put a curve down. The curve piece curves one way--looking from the left of the screen to the right of the screen, it curves up. What if you want to put a curve that goes the other way? select the curve it...move up to the menu bar and press the button which reverses the curve...move back down and place another curve piece...move up to the menu bar again and press the button which reverses the curve again--WTF!

Can you press a button which sets all subsequent curves to go the right way? NO. Can you just place several curve pieces any old way and then fix them all at once with the flip button? NO.

You don't have to orient pieces to get them to connect; that's pretty well-executed. But if you want to stick a bunch of pieces together you must carefully plan your track, because otherwise you will run into the problem I did: I couldn't connect two pieces of track because the ends didn't line up right.

The track pieces don't have descriptions, either.

The idea of using a piece of software to design a model railroad layout is really a good one--there's no reason for a person to use a ruler and graph paper unless that's his preference--but crap like this is worse than useless.

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