Five alternatives for AutoCAD

AutoCAD is a leading product from Autodesk, with a leading role in the global market, and was built to help its users design products and buildings and ultimately their construction.


The sleek and fully equipped AutoCAD program unfortunately has a very high monetary price for its acquisition. Since its release in 1982, its wide range of capabilities and flexibility for use in a variety of industries have made it an indispensable product for professionals, students, hobbyists and construction professionals alike.

However, Autodesk no longer offers unlimited licenses for AutoCAD and has adjusted its price list and cost policy to the annual subscription, forcing users to look for alternatives. The lower version, the LT, costs $ 400 per year of use, while the regular version costs $ 1610.

Although usually for CAD (design) professionals they do not worry about the $ 1610 per year required for AutoCAD, it may be worth trying and possibly changing the design program.

But if you are a simple student or hobbyist working on a low budget, you do not always have to choose AutoCAD. Although most use "broken" AutoCAD (which is widely used), there are some notable candidate programs with similar support infrastructure and functionality.

The five alternatives to AutoCAD are not only affordable, but can read and save in the same file format that AutoCAD uses and are easy to learn. Most have low cost and some of them are completely free.

1. BricsCAD
This CAD platform is known for its wide range of features and has several well-known and similar features to AutoCAD.

Its appearance is very similar to AutoCAD 2008 and has rich features in 2D and 3D design. It can be used with major operating systems such as MacOS, Windows and Linux and works with hundreds of third-party applications around the world, which are based on the .dwg extension (which is the standard AutoCAD file extension).

Although it is a paid software such as AutoCAD, BricsCAD is more affordable, offering three versions: Classic, Pro and Platinum. The latter is equipped with tools that do not exist in AutoCAD, such as Sheet metal, 3D Compare and BIM.

BricsCAD works with the cloud environment, recognizes XREFS (design overlays) and can be customized.


  • Easy to use if you are familiar with AutoCAD
  • Faster LISP execution
  • It has permanent licenses
  • Wide adaptability and development
  • Built-in tools such as: IFC import / export, direct architectural modeler with BIM database and SketchUp SKP
  • Opens complex and large designs faster
  • You can read, edit, save AutoCAD files in .dwg


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

2. DraftSight
Draftsight by 3DS is a professional alternative to AutoCAD, designed for users looking for better ways to read, write and share .dwg files.

It is easy to use and is based on advanced architecture with all the tools you need to create 2D drawing techniques. Although it used to be free today it only comes with a subscription on an annual basis. Works on many operating system platforms, such as Winodws 7/8/10, Mac 10.12 and higher, Ubuntu 16.04LTS, Fedora 27, OpenSUSE 12.2 and above.

With a user-friendly desktop that makes DraftSight easy to use and easy to learn, you can do as many revisions as you want, 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 has a huge drawing library, print to desired part or the whole design and also have access to macro recording.

However, since it only comes in paid version, if you have a low budget, you can go with the cheapest plan which is around $ 99 per year. Probably a good solution for hobbyists. For students, AutoCAD is available for free, Education, for which you will need to provide Autodesk with a certificate of your student status.

For businesses, DraftSight offers three plans: Professional, Premium and Enterprise, with different prices depending on your needs. As you scale, the tool begins to compete with AutoCAD, offering advanced features if you are willing to pay more for these features. It can be combined with Solidworks, the well-known 3D modeling platform of the same manufacturer.


  • It has a wide range of features
  • Good for 2D modeling
  • Works with minimal RAM and hard disk space
  • Easy to learn and use
  • You can save and open DWG and DXF files
  • You can compare designs, add symbols, or add PDFs to your design files


  • Does not perform LISP routines
  • No express tools (quick access to basic tools)
  • Without 3D capability. For 3D you have to go to Solidworks of the same company.
  • Not useful if you want specialized solutions

3. SketchUp (free)
Formerly known as Google SketchUp, it is a great choice for CAD professionals.

It is a 3D modeling program used in a wide range of applications, such as interior and furniture design, architectural design, civil engineering and engineering drawings, video games and movies.

The free version available works with a variety of file types, including DWG, DXF, OBJ, XSI and more. In addition, it can export PDF files and high definition animated graphics. In total it has paid editions, both for individuals and for professionals and teachers. The strange thing is that the version for students is paid, while for teachers it is free.


  • Easier to use with a simple user interface, requiring only one training day
  • Easy import of different file types (eg 3DS files)
  • Large library
  • Good for creating 3D models
  • It integrates with third-party add-ons that you can get from SketchUp Extension Warehouse


  • It does not allow the creation of NURBS. Typically, NURBS surfaces tend to be smoother than polygon surfaces.
  • The designs are less detailed due to the smaller performance possibilities

4. LibreCAD (free)
LibreCAD is a high quality, open source, 2D program developed by QCAD (later known as CADuntu). It comes with plenty of powerful features and is preferred by many designers.

LibreCAD is similar to AutoCAD in features and concepts and is generally easy to use if you are already familiar with AutoCAD. This is the perfect choice if you are using Linux and want a free CAD tool that can read DWG files.

It can also be used with Windows and Apple platforms and is based on the leading Qt application. It is considered one of the best alternative, free programs of AutoCAD


  • Free
  • Open-source with source code to hosted on GitHub (with GPL license)
  • Easy to learn and use, especially if you know how to handle AutoCAD
  • It can read DWG files
  • Writes DXF files
  • Variable desktop at will
  • It does not require a high percentage of resources and generally works on home-sized computers
  • Multilingual (more than forty languages, including Greek)
  • Multi-platform support for Mac, Windows and Linux operating systems
  • It can export to JPG, SVG, PDF, PNG and other file types


  • LibreCAD is 2D only and can only display 2D views (can not work on 3D models and illustrations)

5. nanoCAD (free)
NanoCAD is a free, powerful CW program that is compatible with DWG. In fact, according to Nanosoft CTO Dmitry Popov, nanoCAD is the first complete DWG program available for free.

In addition to the donated version, there are 6 other versions with more and more complete equipment, whose prices start at $ 180 per year of use and reach up to $ 600.


  • It offers many features that AutoCAD does not have.
  • It can import various image formats, including PCX, TIF, BMP, JPG, PNG and JPEG
  • It has a built-in camera that can recognize raster objects such as bows, dots and lines
  • It has several options for cropping and aligning raster images
  • It can import and work with cloud points (including XYZ, LAS, PTS, PCD, PTX and BIN)
  • Can import IFC (Industry Foundation Classes) file formats with BIM (Building Modeling Information)
  • It has an open API for developers that allows them to write custom applications in C ++, COM, NET, or LISP


  • It does not offer functions on 3D objects
  • Windows only

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