AutoCAD has been available since 1982 and is considered by many the grandfather of computer-aided design (CAD). The software comes with an array of features that make it a versatile tool for many industries, including industry-specific features and toolsets for engineering, architecture, graphic design, city planning, and even project management.
All of these features come at a cost: currently $1,975 per year, to be precise. Autodesk no longer offers perpetual licenses for AutoCAD, so it’s accessible only with a subscription. It’s a significant cost for non-professional users.
Following are the best AutoCAD alternatives.
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Cost: Annual subscriptions from $314 (Lite), One-Time fee from $590(Lite)
BricsCAD is best known for having rich features in both 2D drawing and 3D modeling. There are five BricsCAD editions so you can choose the BricsCAD that suits your needs best. Whether you’re working in 2D, 3D or both, there’s a BricsCAD for you. Choose from BricsCAD® Lite, BricsCAD® Pro, BricsCAD® BIM, BricsCAD® Mechanical or BricsCAD® Ultimate.
It’s fully compatible with templates, blocks, and sheets created within AutoCAD, with the extra advantage of natively supporting LISP routines and dynamic blocks. BricsCAD also claims to apply AI-based tools to recognize user intent and optimize tasks through the Blockify feature.
Direct 3D modeling tools are available with the Pro subscription (and above), with the Lite version only offering 2D drafting tools. The Platinum edition offers more advanced features than even those of AutoCAD, including sheet metal modeling. For those looking to use the software in the long term, BricsCAD also offers perpetual licenses for around double the price of an annual license, plus a small annual maintenance fee to keep your software updated.
Cost: Annual subscriptions from $250 (Professional) or $550 (Premium）
DraftSight is developed by the French company Dassault Systèmes, it provides an easy transition from AutoCAD by offering a familiar user interface. In fact, it shares a similar 2D drafting layer system that facilitates version control and revisions, and it also natively works with AutoCAD’s dynamic blocks. In addition, it can easily compare designs, add hardware symbols, and even append PDF files to the project file.
DraftSight Standard is no longer available since it merged with DraftSight Professional, and the Premium license includes all of the latter’s features and adds full 3D capabilities. Note that DraftSight Profesional does not include 3D modeling tools.
Key features: Familiar interface, dynamic blocks, image tracing
Cost: One-Time Fee $198.00 USD
DWGSee CAD is a software application designed to view, edit, annotate, and manage DWG files. It’s developed by AutoDWG, allowing users to open and interact with DWG files without needing the full AutoCAD software.
DWGSee CAD provides functionalities such as viewing, editing, measuring, markup tools, layer management, and batch printing for DWG files. It’s particularly useful for users who need to review, modify, collaborate, and make annotations on CAD drawings but may not require the full range of design and drafting capabilities offered by AutoCAD.
The software is known for its user-friendly interface, ease of use, and compatibility with various versions of DWG files. DWGSee can be beneficial for professionals across industries such as architecture, engineering, construction, and manufacturing who need to view and analyze DWG files but don’t necessarily need to create or modify them extensively.
FreeCAD is an open-source CAD program best known for its parametric 3D modeling capabilities. Although not directly supported, DWG files can be easily imported and exported via the free ODA Converter plug-in. On the other hand, it does offer BIM support by default.
However, FreeCAD is more of a mechanical engineering tool, with its 2D drafting environment leaning toward technical drawings of parts and components. The parametric associative features automatically update drawings whenever a change is made to the 3D model.
FreeCAD can be extended through plug-ins, though, so it’s possible to shape it for the user’s needs. The software is completely free for any use.
Key features: Parametric 3D modeling tools, extendable with plug-ins
LibreCAD is a free, high-quality open-source 2D modeling program that grew out of QCAD. It’s particularly popular among Linux users who need a free tool to read DWG files. LibreCAD is resource-light and can operate on average hardware.
The interface is similar to AutoCAD’s but is rather uncluttered by comparison, presenting a friendlier alternative for the beginner user.
Cost: annual subscriptions from $249
NanoCAD is a multi-purpose drafting tool developed by Nanosoft, it supports DWG files natively and offers a familiar layout and set of tools for AutoCAD users.
The software offers Excel-style table-editing tools, expediting documentation work by allowing macros and formulas to be embedded in each cell. NanoCAD also has open sets of APIs for building task automation applications, which can be a time saver.
Extra modules can be purchased to add parametric 3D modeling tools and a large library of standard parts, among many features.
Key features: Excel-style table editing
Cost: $400 for Professional version
ProgeCAD is yet another professional CAD program that works natively with DWG files and has a familiar user interface for AutoCAD users. It offers 3D modeling and fully supports BIM objects and dynamic blocks.
There are two primary versions available for Windows: ProgeCAD Professional and ProgeCAD Architecture. A third and somewhat different version is available for MacOS, the ICADMAC, which is general-purpose CAD software. All licenses are perpetual.