May 12, 2024

May 12, 2024

May 12, 2024

Top Alternatives to AutoCAD

Top Alternatives to AutoCAD

Top Alternatives to AutoCAD

#Architecture

#Architecture

#Architecture

AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner & Data Science

Autodesk AutoCAD is probably the best-known computer-aided design program in the world, and for good reason. It’s a pretty capable piece of software that countless people have been able to use very successfully.

The only thing is, not everyone wants to use AutoCAD. Maybe it’s the price that scares you away from it and you’re looking for budget CAD tools instead. Or maybe you’re finding it hard to get used to its interface and workflow and you’d prefer to try AutoCAD alternatives. This article will let you in on the best CAD programs you can use instead, whether free or paid.

AutoCAD Alternatives

If you don’t want to use Autodesk AutoCAD, that’s fine. You almost certainly have your reasons for that. In case it’s the pretty hefty price tag that’s stopping you, I’m going to show you some free and open-source options that you can turn to, as well as paid options that can give AutoCAD a run for its money.

Free AutoCAD Alternatives

The options you have for the best CAD programs that are absolutely free are quite limited. When things are free and open-source, it’s very rare that they are able to compete blow for blow with paid products.

FreeCAD 🔗

FreeCAD is one of the few free and open-source CAD options that is available today and highly respected by many. It has support for 3D parametric modeling, which means that you can make design changes on the fly simply by adjusting your parameters. You don’t have to start from scratch. 

It runs on all major desktop operating systems, and you’ll find a sizable community of users around the program.

FreeCAD can do extremely basic 2D drafting, but if that’s the focus of your CAD use, don’t bother with this. It can also be a bit tougher to get the hang of if you’re using it for the first time. Also, keep in mind that it might not be able to handle an extremely complex design the same way AutoCAD might.

LibreCAD 🔗

LibreCAD is another great option for free CAD software, especially if you don’t want to deal with the kind of learning curve that programs like FreeCAD and AutoCAD make you deal with. The interface is a lot easier for beginners, though this may partly be due to LibreCAD being limited to 2D drafting.

Whether you’re using Windows, Mac, or Linux, you’ll be able to get LibreCAD up and running. It also has DWG and DXF file support straight out of the box, so you can work with AutoCAD files in this.

It’s a great option if you don’t need to make anything that’s too complex because this software prides itself on being lightweight, so that means it doesn’t come with a wealth of features like others. It also means that complex endeavors might not be best suited for this.

Paid AutoCAD Alternatives

When you start paying money, you naturally get performance and functionality that’s on a more similar scale to what you get with AutoCAD. So, let’s talk about affordable CAD software that won’t set you back as much.

BricsCAD 🔗

One of the first things that might make BricsCAD a more attractive option to you is the possibility of a one-time purchase as opposed to being forced into monthly or annual subscriptions. The one-time fee to own BricsCAD Pro costs just a bit more than a one-year AutoCAD subscription. Plus, it supports DWG and DXF, which are the industry-standard file formats for CAD.

BricsCAD is a great piece of software to opt for if you’re already used to AutoCAD since they have a pretty similar interface; a lot of the shortcuts and commands are the same. The program also supports both 2D drafting and 3D modeling, just like AutoCAD. In fact, BricsCAD was used in the design of the Port House in Antwerp, Belgium, as well as the Hinckley Leisure Centre in Hinckley, UK.

The only real downside when comparing the two is that BricsCAD doesn’t have as rich a community as AutoCAD for which there’s always plenty of learning material available, and it is only available on Windows machines.

Solidworks 🔗

If all you need is 3D parametric modeling, then Solidworks is one of the best alternatives that you can find to AutoCAD. It does support 2D drafting but it is very basic, and if 2D is a big part of your workflow, you should pass on Solidworks. If you’re building extremely complex assemblies, Solidworks is one of the tools you can depend on to handle things reliably.

Solidworks also comes with built-in features that will help you perform simulations like stress analysis, motion analysis, and fluid flow. There’s no need to grab plugins to add this kind of functionality, so it beats AutoCAD in that regard. Range Aero, an unmanned freight helicopter company, makes use of Solidworks for design and simulation.


Unfortunately, the biggest downside to Solidworks is that it uses a subscription model, and buying a license involves an annoying reseller network. That also means that the price you get depends majorly on where you’re buying the license from and the size of your business.

Solidworks also only works on Windows computers and similar to AutoCAD, it’s got a relatively steep learning curve.

Comparing The Options

So, we’ve walked a bit through the battle of AutoCAD vs other CAD software, whether free or paid, and now, this convenient table will give you a quick glimpse at how each of these software options compares to the others.

AutoCAD

  • Price: Subscription-based

  • Dimensionality: 2D & 3D

  • Learning Curve: Steep

  • File Compatibility: Industry Standard (DWG, DXF)

  • Operating System: Windows, Mac

LibreCAD

  • Price: Free

  • Dimensionality: 2D

  • Learning Curve: Easy

  • File Compatibility: DWG & DXF Import/Export

  • Operating System: Windows, Mac, Linux

FreeCAD

  • Price: Free

  • Dimensionality: 3D Parametric Modeling

  • Learning Curve: Moderate

  • File Compatibility: Limited DWG/DXF support (through plugins)

  • Operating System: Windows, Mac, Linux

Solidworks

  • Price: Subscription-based

  • Dimensionality: 3D Parametric Modeling

  • Learning Curve: Steep

  • File Compatibility: Industry Standard (DWG, DXF)

  • Operating System: Windows

BricsCAD

  • Price: Perpetual license or subscription

  • Dimensionality: 2D & 3D

  • Learning Curve: Moderate

  • File Compatibility: Industry Standard (DWG, DXF)

  • Operating System: Windows

Conclusion

If you’re looking for alternatives to AutoCAD, there are quite a few options out there, both in the free and open-source world and in the paid world. Of course, if you’re planning to use CAD software for business, paid options tend to be capable of handling more complex projects, but free software is perfect for beginners, students, and smaller workflows.

Ultimately, what you choose is best defined by your specific needs, and hopefully, this piece will have made that easier for you to figure out. Dive into these options further, and when it’s time, don’t hesitate to run them on a Vagon cloud rig.

With Vagon’s cloud PCs powered by 48 cores, 4 x 24GB RTX enabled Nvidia GPUs, and 192GB of RAM, you can seamlessly run any design software, including the top AutoCAD alternatives. Experience unmatched performance and flexibility right in your browser. Transfer your workspace and files effortlessly and see the difference for yourself!

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