I read an article today in Desktop Engineering on “Wallet-friendly 2D CAD“. It addition to a couple of of low cost programs, they mentioned a couple of free ones. I decided to give them both a try and write a quick blog post about them. My father upgraded his computer recently. He was using AutoCAD LT97 for years and wanted to upgrade rather than reinstalling the old software. He was shocked to learn that the current price is about $1200. A lower price alternative is needed!
DraftSight from Dassault Systèmes is a completely free 2D CAD program. Dassault Systemes makes a lot of high end CAD systems like Catia. I am not sure what they are trying to accomplish with this. It appears that they are trying to create a community of users that they might be able to upgrade in the future. The file was a reasonable download of about 42Meg. There were no registration questions (but they will come). I really liked the general drawing features. It always seemed to know what you wanted to snap to and there were quick ways to override the defaults. The interface is very clean. You can also manually type commands in. I felt right at home with my AutoCAD background. I really liked the fact that you can choose you file format and revision and stick with it. Many times I need a DXF and I want to make quick changes to it. AutoCAD is alway nagging you to go to the DWG format.
DoubleCAD XT v2
DoubleCAD XT V2 is from IMSI/Design. This was a big 152 Meg down load. There were a lot of advanced registration questions to get an emailed link. When you start drawing, a lot goes on. A lot of nice little boxes pop up asking dimensions and angles. It was quite quick to draw the shapes you wanted. The snapping was a little hard to figure out. I wanted to draw a line tangent to two circles and it took me a long time to figure it out. I am sure it is very nice and fast once you figure it all out, but the learning curve does look a little high.
QCAD was not mentioned in the article but it fits the category. QCAD is a program from Ribbon Soft. A lot of the open source community uses this program. There is an GPL open source community version of the program. It has all the basic features you need, but the interface is a little dated and a lot less of the fancy of the other programs. I have used it before, so I did not download it for this review.
If I had to rate the 2D programs I think I would put them in this order.
- DoubleCAD XT V2