CAD software and technical drawing programs are not only indispensable for mechanical engineering, architecture and metal construction. You can also use them to create good 2D and 3D models for your private home design. We tested the best software. CAD software primarily helps drafters, architects, product designers, engineers, and electricians create sketches for their work.
CAD is the abbreviation for computer-aided design. So you digitally build various models in 2D or 3D on the PC. These include, for example, building structures, machine components or circuit diagrams. However, these programs are often either very expensive or incredibly complex. We have selected three CAD applications for you that show both inexpensive and beginner-friendly alternatives.
LibreCAD Is A Free CAD Program For 2D Sketches
The open-source software LibreCAD is the first. This program is a great free alternative for all Windows, Mac and Linux users looking for software to create 2D sketches. The tool is ideal for drawing floor plans – for example, houses – or designing templates for logos. The main menu specializes in essential functions for creating lines, shapes, points and graphs. LibreCAD definitely scores plus points with its high level of compatibility and barrier-free usage options.
Thanks to more than 30 languages, 13 different input and output formats and all kinds of comfort functions for quick rotations or mirroring your works, the work process is pleasantly fast. Even beginners have quickly learned the most important tricks. This accessibility goes further with the units of measurement: You can choose between the metric and the Anglo-American system, among other things.
This is particularly useful in combination with the dimension tool. This runs via an interface to OpenStreetMap and lets you take measurements on the map. Architects in particular benefit from this. The only drawback is that LibreCAD only supports 2D drawings and complex 3D modeling is impossible. Otherwise, we can only advise every beginner and professional among you to give the free tool a chance.
AutoCAD Gives Professionals Dozens Of Tools For 2D Sketches And 3D Models
Far more complex, but all the more extensive, is AutoCAD. With this software, you can not only create 2D sketches but also draw in 3D. This means that plastic models can be realized on the PC. So, among other things, you are no longer limited to the floor plans of buildings but can implement entire floors with different rooms and furnishings. However, without knowledge of technical drawing, you will quickly reach your limits. The only thing that helps here is a lot of practice and one or the other specialist literature.
In addition, the program is anything but cheap, with a four-digit amount for a one-year license. This makes AutoCAD more of an alternative for professional work, such as teaching technical drawing in schools or earning your daily bread as an architect, engineer or product designer. Since the software is constantly updated, you always work according to the latest standards. You can conveniently export your finished CAD sketches in many ways, either as a graphic or printout. You can also drag the draft to compatible smartphones and call it anytime.
In terms of performance, we have nothing to complain about. The editing process with AutoCAD always ran smoothly and quickly in our test. Although AutoCAD is very expensive, it offers all the tools you could ever need with such software. You have to decide whether this is worth the price – after the end of the test phase of 30 days, license costs in the four digits are incurred annually.
DraftSight: Ideal For All Technical Draftsmen And A Fair Price
Our last program, DraftSight, is not cheap either, but thanks to the many different versions, you can choose how expensive your investment will ultimately be. The prices range from a double-digit price for the standard version to a mid-three-digit sum for the most expensive variant. While the standard version only allows 2D sketches, you also get 3D modeling tools in the other versions. In terms of complexity, DraftSight ranks between AutoCAD and LibreCAD.
Although you will also find many functions in an extensive menu, most of them are drawn with clear symbols. So you know immediately which tool you use to insert shapes, create lines and reference points, for example. You can also learn how to rotate objects or use the CSS manager simply by looking at the symbols. However, the execution still requires some practice and, in the best case, some understanding of CAD software. Since almost any sketch can be realized with DraftSight, the software can be used in various work areas, from architects to cutting machine operators.
Even beginners will undoubtedly get along more easily with the technical drawing program than with AutoCAD, for example. DraftSight is also suitable as an ideal assistant for private garden planning. Then there is the question of price. Here you have to weigh whether you are a beginner or a private user. However, in our opinion, the scope is almost as enormous as AutoCAD, but the user-friendliness is a bit higher. We recommend DraftSight when choosing between these two alternatives.
Expensive CAD Software Is Primarily Aimed At Professionals
CAD programs are usually a bit more unique and complex than, for example, 3D and rendering software. Since many professional groups depend on such tools, the manufacturers often charge high prices. Alternatives like LibreCAD are an excellent free alternative for beginners and particular users but mostly lack the complex tools for 3D sketching and plastic modeling.
Especially as an architect or engineer, good work results are essential, sometimes even vital for other people. Therefore, as a professional user, you should not skimp on purchasing essential software for your sketches and at least think about buying a product like DraftSight. At best, it will be provided to you by your employer or your educational institution, or at least subsidized.
However, we recommend that beginners interested in CAD or all those who want to take their first steps in technical drawing on the PC should start with free programs. It is worth looking at paid full versions when you are familiar with the subject and have had fun with technical drawing for a long time. By the way, you can already make simplified sketches with some drawing programs.
The Five Best Apps
All apps in this category can be found at the beginning of the article. If you want to make a quick decision, we recommend one of the following five apps.
- Autodesk SketchBook