4 of the Best Alternatives to AutoCAD

Best Autocad Alternatives Featured

AutoCAD is a flagship product by Autodesk, the drafting industry’s juggernaut, designed to help its users with product or building design, manufacturing planning, construction and civil infrastructure.

The sleek, three-dimensional, computer-aided design software is fully-featured but costs a lot more than other programs that match its capabilities. Since 1982, when it was made available, AutoCAD’s wide range of features and versatility for use in several industries make it the go-to product for professionals, students, and hobbyists alike.

However, Autodesk no longer offers perpetual licensing for AutoCAD and switched to a subscription-based licensing instead, which forces users to seek out alternatives. In the long run it may be costlier to make the switch, though for CAD pros who aren’t limited budget-wise, paying more than $1200 may seem worthwhile.

If you’re an average student or hobbyist working on a lean budget, you don’t have to always pick AutoCAD. There are some worthy contenders with similar supporting infrastructure and critical functionality.

The challenge is in deciding which AutoCAD alternatives are worth your time, as the market is awash with ghastly knockoffs. Our four AutoCAD alternatives aren’t just affordable but read similar files to those AutoCAD reads, easily integrate with AutoCAD, and are intuitive to learn.

1. BricsCAD

This CAD platform is known for its reach features and has several familiar features including native .dwg applications.

Best Autocad Alternatives Bricscad

If you’re familiar with AutoCAD’s 2008 version, BricsCAD has a somewhat similar interface, plus rich features in 2D design and 3D direct modeling. You can use it with the major operating systems such as macOS, Windows, and Linux, and hundreds of third-party apps from across the world, which are based on .dwg.

Despite being a paid software like AutoCAD, BricsCAD is more affordable with three editions: Classic, Pro, and Platinum. The latter is feature-packed with tools that aren’t found in AutoCAD such as Sheet metal, 3D Compare, and BIM.

BricsCAD also integrates with cloud, has a robust rendering engine, recognizes XREFS, and is customizable.

What we like

  • Easy to use if you’re familiar with AutoCAD
  • Faster LISP execution
  • Perpetual licenses available
  • Broad customization and development capability
  • Built-in tools such as IFC import/export, architectural direct modeler with BIM database and SketchUp SKP
  • Opens complex drawings faster
  • You can read, edit, save AutoCAD files to .dwg
  • Can use AutoCAD customization
  • AI-enhanced predictive QUAD cursor works faster on large drawings

What we don’t like

  • Has a difficult document management tool (V15 Pro version)
  • Limited scope

2. DraftSight

Draftsight is a professional-grade alternative to AutoCAD, designed for users looking for better ways to read, write, and share .dwg files.

Best Autocad Alternatives Draftsight

The open 2D CAD software is easy to use and is based on advanced architecture with all the tools you need to create technical 2D drawings. From professional CAD users to educators and students, DraftSight is available for a free download and activation in a few minutes. It also runs on multiple OS platforms including Winodws XP/Vista/7.

Through its clear user interface, which makes DraftSight easy to use and learn, you can make accurate revisions as design elements are stored in layers. You can also create G-Code directly in the program and save and open DXF and DWG files. It also has a huge design library from which you can use existing designs, do batch-printing, and also access macro recording.

However, it only comes in a paid version, so if you’re on a low budget, you can go with the cheapest of its pricing plans. This is good for students or hobbyists. For businesses, DraftSight offers three plans: Professional, Premium, and Enterprise, with pricing varying with your needs. As you scale up, the tool begins to compete with AutoCAD, offering advanced capabilities if you’re willing to fork over more for these features.

What we like

  • Has a host of features
  • Good for 2D modeling
  • Easy to run with storage space
  • Easy to learn and use
  • Perpetual license available
  • You can save and open DWG and DXF files
  • You can compare designs, add symbols, or append PDFs to project files

What we don’t like

  • Doesn’t run LISP routines
  • No express tools
  • Lacks 3D capability
  • Not useful if you want specialized solutions
  • Free version only good for quick drawings and calculations

3. SketchUp (Free)

Formerly Google SketchUp, this free tool is an excellent pick for CAD professionals.

Best Autocad Alternatives Sketchup

It is a 3D modeling program used in a wide range of applications from interior design; architectural, civil, and mechanical engineering; video game and film design.

Available as a freeware version, the tool works with several types of files including DWG, DXF, OBJ, XSI, and more, plus can export HD animations and PDFs.

What we like

  • Easy to learn and use
  • Easy to import different types of files
  • Vast library to upload or download drawings
  • Good for creating 3D models
  • Integrates with third-party plugins

What we don’t like

  • Less detailed designs owing to lesser rendering ability
  • Doesn’t let you create NURBS

4. LibreCAD (Free)

This is another free alternative program you can use that is feature-rich and commands a large following of customers and designers.

Best Autocad Alternatives Librecad

LibreCAD is a high-quality open-source 2D-modeling software birthed from QCAD (later known as CADuntu) and resembles AutoCAD in concepts and features.

If you’re familiar with AutoCAD, it’s easier to use LibreCAD, especially for Linux users and those who want a free CAD tool that reads DWG files too. It can also be used with Windows and Apple platforms and is based on Qt, a leading cross-platform application and UI-development framework.

What we like

  • Free
  • Easy to learn and use
  • Can read DWG files and other ytpes
  • Writes DXF files
  • Source code is available on GitHub
  • Seamless transition from AutoCAD
  • Clutter-free interface
  • Not resource-intensive
  • Multi-lingual (more than thirty languages)
  • Cross-platform support for Mac, Windows, and Linux OS
  • Can export JPG, SVG, PDF, PNG, and other file types

What we don’t like

  • 2D only
  • Only displays 2D views
  • Can’t work on 3D models and renderings

Are there other great AutoCAD alternatives you use? Let us know why you prefer them in a comment below.

Image credit: BricsCAD, CHIP, SketchUp, LibreCAD

4 comments

  1. Thank you for including tools for Linux.

  2. I’m a big AutoCAD fan, but progeCad is a very good alternative. It has 2D and 3D capabilities as well as LiSP. Like AutoCad, you can download the VBA enabler.

  3. Dradtsight is not free anymore. Old free subs work till end of 19. After that only paid yearly subs are available…though still pretty cheap.

  4. I’m an instructor at 2 colleges and a professional consultant and from the “cons” above AutoCAD makes up for what the others leave out. If you are a student you get the license for free from K-12 and ALL colleges and universities. That includes ALL Autodesk products like Revit 3D modelingbwhich is becoming the industry standard.

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