Draftsight, free 2D CAD software
March 25, 2011 7:29 AM   Subscribe

Interested in CAD but find AutoCAD too expensive? Try Draftsight, a free CAD package from the makers of Solidworks.

It's a 2D program, so you won't get any pretty solid models, but appears to be fully featured for making engineering drawings. Runs on Windows, Mac, and Linux. It will also import older CAD file types and export them as DWG or DXF files for sharing.
posted by backseatpilot (36 comments total) 35 users marked this as a favorite
 
There is little I find more satisfying than executing a perfectly drawn CAD design.
posted by milestogo at 7:31 AM on March 25, 2011


A shame it is only 2D. That's still occasionally useful, but once I started doing 3D work (for my own amusement), there was no going back. At least it works in Linux.
posted by Goofyy at 7:34 AM on March 25, 2011


Downloading now. Thanks! I've been struggling with finding the right tools to draw out an outbuilding I'm hoping to break ground on shortly, and eventually went back to paper and pencil. Its all well and good to have 3d this and that, but eventually I'm going to have to take 2d drawings down to my local planning and building departments, and give them to subcontractors, and even work off them myself. None of the low-end 3d tools I looked at did that very well.

And I've considered buying some of the lower end versions of Solid Works for my own workshop stuff, but somehow when its come to the decision between a new planer, or accessories for the milling machine, and springing for the software, I've ended up back in the territory of buying raw steel. Maybe this'll give me a taste of that other world...
posted by straw at 7:41 AM on March 25, 2011


I'm surprised there aren't any well known open-source CAD packages out there, like blender for general 3D modeling and GIMP for images. I did find BRL-CAD which does let you do 3D cad, and is open source.
posted by delmoi at 7:42 AM on March 25, 2011


I think Draftsight is an update to an older Dassault product DWGeditor, which was free to people with Solidworks licenses.

DWGeditor had a relatively similar UI to AutoCAD and wasn't exactly intuitive for new CAD users. Can anyone comment on the learning curve for Draftsight? (I'm not going to install Draftsight because I have like 1 million different CAD editors installed right now and it's driving me insane)
posted by muddgirl at 7:44 AM on March 25, 2011


Neat! This will probably work a little better than Flash for me for designing pinball playfields. :)
posted by luvcraft at 7:44 AM on March 25, 2011


I've got it downloaded so I can play with CAD like my design folks upstairs but not have to buy a license.
posted by deezil at 7:46 AM on March 25, 2011


Ack! Warning: They're providing 32 bit .deb files. That's very 2005 of them, but the only Intel machines with 32 bit Linux installed on them I've got lying around here have been relegated to special purpose activities. Hmmm.
posted by straw at 7:47 AM on March 25, 2011


I originally learned how to use CAD with a very, very old version of AutoCAD that was 2D only, and honestly I find the 3D implementations like Solidworks or Inventor a lot more intuitive. You do have to sort of hold the 3D interpolation of the part in your mind's eye while you work in isometric views.

That being said, I think the nice advantage of 2D is that you have to do very little to get drawings to look nice (although modern 3D CAD packages are usually pretty smart about making automatic drawings). I found this through the bike framebuilders list; for a relatively planar design (like a bicycle) 2D is really nice.
posted by backseatpilot at 7:49 AM on March 25, 2011


32 bit .debs will run just fine on 64 bit machines. The 64-bitness will only become a benefit if your files are huuuuuuuuge.
posted by LogicalDash at 7:50 AM on March 25, 2011


Thank you, LogicalDash, I've never had to use --force-architecture before.

If ya learn a new thing every day, then I can go back to bed.
posted by straw at 7:55 AM on March 25, 2011



Ack! Warning: They're providing 32 bit .deb files. That's very 2005 of them, but the only Intel machines with 32 bit Linux installed on them I've got lying around here have been relegated to special purpose activities. Hmmm.
aptitude install ia32-libs
and you should be able to run 32-bit stuff on 64-bit kernels.
posted by public at 8:13 AM on March 25, 2011


Google SketchUp, while not real CAD, comes close. The free version is awesome, the $50 version better.
posted by lalochezia at 8:34 AM on March 25, 2011


I'm surprised there aren't any well known open-source CAD packages out there

Sketch-up, which I've recently developed a dysfunctional relationship with, is in the same general vacinity, but it's really an architectural drawing tool, not an engineering one. With a bit of work it could be a good general drafting tool, but it's not there now, at least not in the free version.

Of course, it's just free beer, not free source.
posted by bonehead at 8:57 AM on March 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Google SketchUp, while not real CAD, comes close. The free version is awesome, the $50 version better.

lalochezia, is it possible to specify dimensions from the keyboard in GSU? It looks good, but I'm not interested in click-and-drag-and-redrag-and-fix-and...
posted by IAmBroom at 9:37 AM on March 25, 2011


I'm surprised there aren't any well known open-source CAD packages out there...

There's qcad. But it kind of sucks, IMO. I've been pretty crabby about the missing good OSS CAD for a loooong time. Or maybe all CAD software sucks, OSS or not.

For my recent house "remodel" (moving the furniture around, but a LOT of it) I used SweetHome3d which was awesome.
posted by DU at 9:46 AM on March 25, 2011 [2 favorites]




is it possible to specify dimensions from the keyboard in GSU?

I'm not lalochezia, but yes it is. You start the line (for example) so that SU knows the direction(s) you want, then type the value. You can include units and abbreviations, convenient for dealing with old-style units (6' for 6 feet for example).
posted by bonehead at 9:55 AM on March 25, 2011


I'm frankly amazed it took 30 years or so to reverse engineer AutoCAD, and I think Dassault's motivation for doing so was more about making it easier for potential customers of Solidworks to transition (and undercutting Autodesk's business) than it was about public generosity.

That said, I've been using Draftsight to whip up floor plans. It runs like a dog on my Mac (thanks for trying wx), but at least it runs! For more complicated work, I'll stick to Solidworks on my windows box.

I REALLY wish someone would write a proper free parametric 3D CAD program (unfortunately Sketchup and BRL-Cad are not parametric in the sense that you can't define relationships, modify dimensions, and have the geometry solver keep the relationships - aka "design intent"). For now, you can play with the free trials of Autodesk Fusion and Alibre Design
posted by Popular Ethics at 9:57 AM on March 25, 2011


design intent
posted by Popular Ethics at 10:00 AM on March 25, 2011


I'm frankly amazed it took 30 years or so to reverse engineer AutoCAD, and I think Dassault's motivation for doing so was more about making it easier for potential customers of Solidworks to transition (and undercutting Autodesk's business) than it was about public generosity.

Of course it didn't take 30 years - as I said above, this is an update to their previous product, DWGeditor, which was free with a Solidworks license but not to the general public.
posted by muddgirl at 10:22 AM on March 25, 2011


Wow - thanks for this. I just wish you'd posted this three weeks earlier when I was desperately looking for a 2D CAD program for some shop-floor layouts I was working on.
The person who did the intial layouts that needed tweaking used MS Paint - he's a contractor, so I hate to imagine what that jpeg cost us.
posted by YAMWAK at 10:30 AM on March 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm surprised there aren't any well known open-source CAD packages out there.

heekscad

free-cad

OpenSCAD
posted by sebastienbailard at 10:59 AM on March 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Be aware: from their FAQ (pdf!?):

What is involved in downloading and activating DraftSight?
There is no information required to download and install DraftSight. When a user saves or prints a document for the first time, they will be asked to activate the product within 30 days using a valid email address and reactivate after six months and thereafter at 12-month intervals. Users will need an Internet connection to download and activate.
posted by fritley at 11:05 AM on March 25, 2011


Yeah, if it weren't for all the OSS links in this thread, I'd flag this guy. Time-limited, proprietary crippleware is not the best of the web.
posted by DU at 11:11 AM on March 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


they will be asked to activate the product within 30 days using a valid email address and reactivate after six months and thereafter at 12-month intervals. Users will need an Internet connection to download and activate.

whereafter they will receive monthly "what's going on in the Draftsight community" emails (like I have). Thanks for the free product Dassault, but your constant asking whether I like it or not is a little pretentious.
posted by Popular Ethics at 11:12 AM on March 25, 2011


30 days free Weber Systems That'll give ya cutter paths for your CNC machines AND runs on GNU/Linux.
posted by rough ashlar at 2:09 PM on March 25, 2011


I've been struggling with finding the right tools to draw out an outbuilding I'm hoping to break ground on shortly

Blender 3d has support for "buildings". You'll need to work at it tho.
posted by rough ashlar at 2:11 PM on March 25, 2011


rough ashlar: Yeah, I've been good at Blender once or twice, and then lost all those neurons when I spent a week or two away from it. And last time I checked it doesn't have automatic dimensioning, so if I change a wall position I have to go back through and reset all the dimension lines, which is entering data twice, which is against my primary tenet of computer use.

And like Popular Ethics suggests, what I really want is a tool that understands that walls are made from wall assemblies with studs every 12" or 16" or 24" (and corner differences), and that the ends are attached to the sides, and so forth. Because if I don't have something that takes care of that stuff for me it's easier to lay the vellum over the graph paper and draw the damned thing myself.
posted by straw at 2:19 PM on March 25, 2011


"The free version is awesome, the $50 version better."

I was scared away by the Sketchup Pro's $495 price tag. Is there really a $50 version? Maybe something that would allow decent plot/print control?
posted by klarck at 3:05 PM on March 25, 2011


Sketchup works for me. Easy-peasy, draw in 2D, use the push-pull tool to drag objects into 3D. Plotting (printing) is another story, and apparently not a happy one with just the free version.
posted by ecourbanist at 6:03 PM on March 25, 2011


Popular Ethics writes "whereafter they will receive monthly 'what's going on in the Draftsight community' emails (like I have). Thanks for the free product Dassault, but your constant asking whether I like it or not is a little pretentious."

What kind of mail program are you using that it doesn't have a "this sender/domain is a spammer" function?
posted by Mitheral at 7:24 PM on March 25, 2011


What kind of mail program are you using that it doesn't have a "this sender/domain is a spammer" function?

Sure, I do that. But I don't usually go on to rave about how great the spammer's product is on my favourite website. Dassault squanders a lot of the good will they've earned with this approach.
posted by Popular Ethics at 8:15 PM on March 25, 2011


I seem to have maligned OpenSCAD. I had no trouble following these instructions to build it on Ubuntu 10.04. Maybe the problems were on a Debian system with some older libs?
posted by DU at 10:32 AM on March 26, 2011


Draftsight is a re-packaged version of Graebert's Ares Commander, which although not free certainly costs less than AutoCAD. As I've mentioned before I'm very happy AutoDesk is finally getting some reasonable competition.

And also as I've posted before, don't forget Rhinoceros as a fun, easy to learn but very powerful 3d modeler (though it is not feature-based or parametric).
posted by Mei's lost sandal at 1:22 PM on March 26, 2011


Draftsight is a re-packaged version of Graebert's Ares Commander

Wow, you're right! This article says that Draftsight is not a new UI over Dassault's old DwgEditor (Which was itself borrowed from IntelliCAD), but a repackaging of Ares. The fact that there appear to be so many AutoCAD clones around shows how simple and ancient that program is. I can't believe the industry still uses it so extensively. (Mind you, I say the same thing about MS Word).
posted by Popular Ethics at 2:43 PM on March 26, 2011


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