The answer depends on how you plan to use them. Let's start by being honest and upfront about something: If you're looking for a drop-in replacement for your existing CAD program that will provide identical functionality and workflow without making any changes to your processes, you're going to be disappointed. But I would argue that the reason for your disappointment has nothing to do with the licensing of the product—drop-in replacements for complex programs with long-time users who have specific needs and expectations for their software are hard.

The trick for deciding whether a replacement piece of software, whether open or closed, is a good choice for you is to tease out exactly what your needs are. The situation is no different than discovering that the person who insists that they "need" Photoshop is just using it to draw a few geometric shapes and remove red-eye from photos; what they really need is a graphics editing tool that can replace those specific functions.

Whether it has all of the bells and whistles of the original is irrelevant if those features sit paid for but unused. My personal journey through open source CAD programs was no different.

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Top 5 CAD Software Available for Linux

I worked with AutoCAD briefly in grad school, so when I wanted to play with drawing three-dimensional plans for something, it was pretty much all I knew. But that alone didn't make AutoCAD the best choice. As I've strived to replace more and more software in my life with open source options, Blender turned out to be just as good for my 3D modeling needs, whether I was playing with models created for a 3D printer or looking at landscapes exported from other programs.

And for the relatively simple task of planning out my home landscaping projects, Sweet Home 3D has been an excellent open source alternative. If your needs are a little more specific and you really need a dedicated CAD program, here are great open source choices to consider:. BRL-CAD is a cross-platform CAD tool that dates back to , although it would take 25 years for the source code to be released under an open source license.

In fact, BRL-CAD is so old that it has been credited with being the oldest source code repository of an application currently in active development. Originally developed by Mike Muuss at the Army Research Laboratory, BRL-CAD is been used for decades by the United States military for modeling weapon systems, but it also has been used for much more everyday design tasks, from academic to industrial design to health applications.

So what does more than 35 years of development bring you? BRL-CAD is made up of more than different constituent tools and applications spread across more than a million lines of source code. FreeCAD is a parametric open source CAD program that was created to be able to design "real-life objects of any size," and although it's clear that many of the showcased examples created by users are smaller objects, there's no specific reason it couldn't be used for architectural applications as well.

FreeCAD can import and export from a variety of common formats for 3D objects, and its modular architecture makes it easy to extend the basic functionality with various plugins. The program has many built-in interface options, from a sketcher to renderer to even a robot simulation ability.

LibreCAD - Free Open Source 2D CAD

Currently in beta, FreeCAD is being actively developed with regular releases, but the developers warn that it may not yet be suitable for production use. LibreCAD is 2D only, though, so it makes more sense if your intended use is a site plan or something similarly, err, flat.

Since we can't include all of the options here, if you have a favorite, let us know in the comments below. Are you interested in reading more articles like this? Sign up for our weekly email newsletter. I think you nailed it.


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The beauty of Linux is Linux itself, and the apparent obsession many users have to also use only OSS on it, is limiting their use of their computer, and is a loyalty of open source, that seems far beyond the philosophy the Linus and the Linux kernel. It even uses most of Autocad's same commands. BricsCAd also has a large community using the product. As a 20 autocad user, it only took minutes for me to get up and running with BricsCAD.

3 open source CAD programs

I would hazard a guess that most readers of opensource. You simply code objects -- after a little bit of a learning curve to remember the basic commands it becomes an incredibly powerful parametric design tool. In general, I have found that students who are not already familiar with some form of visual CAD program pick it up more quickly. What we really need to work on is getting open source CAD programs into schools - so students become familiar with them first rather than getting locked into expensive proprietary packages.

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Starting Tues May 31 You will find out more information. Onshape has a programming language. Actually Onshape is written in FeatureScript. We are publishing all the details of FeatureScript and open sourcing our feature code.. It will be available to any wishing to modify, create and do some very cool things.

Main Features

I think this is something in a slightly different category than the existing opensource CAD tools. This is high end, cloud based open source CAD We are very excited You are going to see some interesting things I think. Runs in the browser, rendering models with WebGL. COMSOL Multiphysics is an engineering, design, and finite element analysis software environment for the modeling and simulation of any physics-based system.

Simulation Add a feature. Toggle navigation. Alternatives 42 Comments 0 Reviews 7. Blender Blender is the free and open-source 3D creation suite. SketchUp SketchUp formerly Google Sketchup is a 3D modeling computer program for a wide range of drawing applications such as architectural, interior design, civil and Construction layers Drawing Portable Add a feature.

Active filters mac, clear and show all alternatives. Of course, if you're looking to put out detailed designs with accurate sizing and tolerances, you'll need to spend some time learning the ins and outs of the program. The SketchUp website offers a really impressive array of video and self-paced training options to help you along the way. Visit SketchUp. FreeCAD is a serious Open Source offering that supports parametric 3D modeling, which means you can modify your design by going back into your model history and changing its parameters.

The target market is mostly mechanical engineers and product design, but it's got a lot of functionality and power that anyone would find attractive. Like many open-source products, it has a loyal base of developers and can compete with some of the commercial heavy hitters because of its ability to create real 3D solids, support for meshes, 2D drafting and lots of other features. Further, it's customizable and is available on multiple platforms, including Windows , Mac, Ubuntu , and Fedora. Visit FreeCAD. It includes lots of powerful features that include snap-to-grid for drawing, layers, and measurements.

Its user interface and concepts are similar to AutoCAD, so if you have experience with that tool, this should be easy to master.


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    This writer brings a unique set of skills to the table for those seeking information on the CAD industry. What We Like Part of the Autodesk family of modeling applications.