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9 of the Best CAD for Mac Software Options

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Update 2/20/18: We found another great CAD software option for Mac since this article was last updated. The list has been expanded to nine options from the original six.

You love your Mac. Perhaps a little too much. Sometimes, Mac lovers can be a bit obsessive. Perhaps you grew up sleeping with a teddy bear, and now you sleep with your MacBook Air. Don’t worry, we don’t judge.

The frustrating thing about Macs is that not everything is designed to work on them. And as a construction manager, it’s aggravating to use Macs for everything else in your life and then have to switch over to a PC when you’re at the job site.

Fear not, however. If you’re looking for some computer-aided design (CAD) software, you are not without options.

Best CAD for Mac Software

CAD software has been used for decades to aid the construction industry. It’s an electronic drafting solution that can produce engineering calculations, create 2D and 3D models, and sometimes includes PMI specifications.

There are plenty of popular CAD software options for Windows; if you look at this list of the top AutoCAD alternatives, though, only a handful offer CAD software for Mac.

But don’t worry, options are out there. I’ve looked through the best software and found the standout Mac options that are popular in the industry, complete with pros, cons, and pricing information. They are listed alphabetically below.

1. ARCHICAD 21

ARCHICAD is a good CAD for Mac software option

An example of ARCHICAD’s virtual building

GRAPHISOFT has a cool CAD software option called ARCHICAD 21, which runs on both Windows and Mac. As any architect knows, it’s a pain designing stairs, and one of the big features offered by ARCHICAD 21 is its “Stair Tool,” which evaluates thousands of design options, then lets you choose from the most optimal designs for the building in question.

ARCHICAD 21 also has a “Railing Tool,” which allows you to do the same thing for railings. They can be created with one click according to predefined rules and standards.

Once you’ve finished your design, ARCHICAD 21 can create a high-quality 3D rendering of your creation with CineRender, which is integrated into the software. This allows you to bring your CAD designs into the BIM (building information modeling) world.

Price: GRAPHISOFT doesn’t list a sale price for ARCHICAD 21. Instead, you enter your zip code to find a sales agent near you to discuss a potential purchase. However, you can download a 30-day trial version that is fully functional and includes the BIM Learning Studio.

Have you used ARCHICAD 21? Leave a review!

2. ARES Commander

ARES Commander is a good CAD for Mac software option

ARES Commander’s interface

ARES Commander doesn’t want to limit you to your Mac, or your iPhone. One license can be activated on a plethora of devices, including Android, Linux, and Windows. Because it’s portable (it works on Windows tablets and iPads too), it’s a great go-to for designers who travel to and from client meetings and the work site.

If you’re familiar with AutoCAD, the software’s design will seem remarkably similar to the industry standard and will be easy to switch over to.

One standout feature is “Quick Input,” which shows up as drafters are working on their projects. This guide gives the user instant information about angles, prompts, options, and dimensions. Users can choose to allow Quick Input to stay on as they’re working, or disable it until it’s needed.

Price: ARES commander is reasonably priced; all options (including team share) cost under $1,000 per year, and the cheapest model is $250 per year.

Have you used ARES Commander? Leave a review!

3. AutoCAD for Mac

AutoCAD for Mac is a good CAD for Mac software option

AutoCAD’s interface

AutoCAD is the dominant option, by far, in the CAD software industry. When marketing, most alternatives focus on whether they can import or export in AutoCAD formats (.dwg) and what options they can offer that AutoCAD doesn’t.

With all that said, AutoCAD for Mac is an industry giant for good reason. The software makes object and layout design simple, with a Photoshop-like interface that’s fairly easy to pick up. Its smart dimensioning tool helps users get all their measurements right, share revision history, and even use it for 3D printing.

Users can customize their display as they see fit in either 2D or 3D. Many users render beautiful models to show their clients and sell their products. Since you’re most likely using a Mac with a Retina or HD display, these images will look gorgeous.

Unfortunately, AutoCAD for Mac is missing some features offered in the Windows version, including advanced rendering settings, a feature finder, and DWF/DGN underlays.

Price: AutoCAD for Mac starts at $185 monthly. The total price scales down with longer contracts; the longest plan (three years) is $4,410.

Have you used AutoCAD for Mac? Leave a review!

4. FreeCAD

FreeCAD is a good CAD for Mac software option

FreeCAD’s design interface

If you’re looking for a free and open source option, FreeCAD is a solid choice. It works on Mac as well as Windows and Linux, and will read many common file formats such as STEP, IGES, STL, SVG, DXF, OBJ, IFC, and DAE.

FreeCAD claims it can help you design “real-life objects of any size,” and with parametric modeling, you can easily modify the design as well as change parameters throughout the design process.

FreeCAD appears to be best for hobbyists and home users. It’s also good for people who don’t have hundreds or thousands of dollars to spend on software, but still want to tinker with CAD modeling.

FreeCAD also claims to be useful for experienced CAD users. According to its website: “If you use commercial CAD or BIM modeling software at work, you will find similar tools and workflow among the many workbenches of FreeCAD.”

The software has many modules, including a drawing sheets module that converts 3D models into 2D views, a rendering module that can export 3D objects, and an architecture module for a BIM-like workflow.

Price: Free

Have you used FreeCAD? Leave a review!

5. QCAD

QCAD is a good CAD for Mac software options

QCAD’s dashboard

QCAD is another free and open source software option for construction managers looking for CAD software. QCAD only offers two-dimensional drawings, so it is somewhat limited, but it is a good option for those looking for a quick and easy piece of software that can help them draft plans for buildings and interiors.

QCAD works for Mac, as well as the Windows and Linux operating systems. The source code has been released under GPL version 3, one of the most popular open source licenses.

QCAD aims to be easy to use with “modularity, extensibility, and portability in mind,” according to their website. They claim you don’t need to have any CAD experience at all to use the software, so this option could be ideal for those just getting started in the construction industry—or with CAD in general.

The software has a library with 4,800 CAD parts, and it features layers, grouping blocks, dozens of CAD fonts, printing to scale, and 60 construction and modification tools.

In addition, there is a user forum to help you troubleshoot problems or just figure out how to more effectively use the software.

Price: Free

Have you used QCAD? Leave a review!

6. SketchUp Pro

SketchUp Pro is a good CAD for Mac software option

The interface of SketchUp Pro

Formerly known as Google SketchUp, this is a great option for CAD software for Mac. SketchUp bills itself as easy-to-use CAD software with features such as 3D modeling of common projects such as landscaping and buildings, a customizable interface, and multiple file-import options.

Really, what makes SketchUp Pro is its gorgeous 3D display of your drawings. Look at some of these images:SketchUp Pro is a good CAD for Mac software option

SketchUp Pro is a good CAD for Mac software option

Sketchup pro sc

3D display of drawings in SketchUp Pro

Buyer be warned, though. SketchUp does not offer a wall tool, which is more of a minor inconvenience for architects, but something to be aware of.

Price: $695 for a single user, which includes one year of support. Bulk pricing is available.

Have you used SketchUp Pro? Leave a review!

7. TurboCAD Pro Platinum

TurboCAD is a good CAD for Mac software option

The interface of TurboCAD Pro Platinum

TurboCAD Pro Platinum is an excellent choice for advanced drafters looking for Mac-compatible CAD software. It’s particularly good for those in the construction business because it was created with industry drafting needs in mind.

For example, the software comes with 500 premade floorplans, a huge library of objects, and settings to adjust details such as lighting, shadowing, and environmental effects. Architects can enjoy the plethora of TurboCAD Pro Platinum’s advanced features.

Consider its “House Wizard” tool, which allows you to create room-by-room floor plans with an automated process. “In addition to placing and sizing the specific rooms of your home design the way you want, the House Wizard lets you drop in closets, a garage, entry and passageways, even decking,” the website states.

If you’ve learned how to use other CAD software options, TurboCAD Pro Platinum is easy to pick up—and if you haven’t, a little tinkering with the tools will take you a long way. This program also supports a number of save files, including DWG, DXF, SKP, IFC for BIM, #D, PDF, and STYLE for 3D printing.

Price: $1,499.99 (one-time fee)

Have you used TurboCAD Pro Platinum? Leave a review!

8. TurboFloorPlan 3D Home & Landscape Pro Mac

TurboFloorPlan 3D is a good CAD for Mac software option

A rendering of a home in TurboFloorPlan 3D

TurboFloorPlan is marketed as a solution for someone with no prior knowledge of CAD. From its website: “With no experience required, simply drag and drop to plan every phase of your dream home interior and exterior including cost estimations.”

Most people who use this software will start off with a home template and then retool it to their liking.

The program is particularly good for interior designers and landscapers to present plans for a home remodel. As a built-in bonus, the program offers eco-friendly advice when it comes to home efficiency and materials.

Price: $149.99 (one-time fee)

Have you used TurboFloorPlan 3D? Leave a review!

9. Vectorworks Architect

Vectorworks Architect is a good CAD for Mac software option

The interface of Vectorworks Architect

Vectorworks Architect is specifically designed for construction engineers. It provides BIM functionality, graphical scripting tools, subdivision surface modeling, cloud-based storage, and intelligent objects.

Architect Magazine did a feature on this software when it first came out, and called the program a “watershed release.”

Vectorworks Architect is visually stunning. Their rendered images look lifelike, and even reflect imagery on the glass.

Vectorworks Architect is a good CAD for Mac software option

A rendered image in Vectorworks

Vectorworks Architect is a good CAD for Mac software option

The design process in Vectorworks

Even the design process is beautiful.

One thing to keep in mind is that it requires a heavy computer to make it work, so don’t try using it on your Macbook Air!

Price: New licenses are a one-time fee of $2,945, and upgrades from 2017 are $1,031.

Have you used Vectorworks Architect? Leave a review!

What CAD for Mac software do you like to use?

Haven’t gotten your fix of CAD software for Mac? There are lots of other options, like iCADMac.

What’s your favorite option? Did I miss someone on this list? Let me know in the comments below!

Looking for Construction Management software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Construction Management software solutions.

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About the Author

Dan Taylor

Dan is a content writer at Capterra, specializing in hotel management, construction and real estate. Outside the office, he enjoys spending time with his family and friends, catching up with the latest offering from HBO or paying a visit to a new place.

Comments

I built a plug-in called Plusspec for Sketchup and it works on Mac. I came from a trade background and also run my own building company. We have done a lot of hard work to make PlusSpec suitable for building companies around the world.
Id like to hear your thoughts.

Freecad is actually a really competent parametric soild modeller CAD, and sure it might not quite be as advanced as Autodesk inventor, its free and has a *very* active developer community making plugins of all sorts. Also Autodesk inventor is not on the mac, I *think*

You should be also able to run CMS IntelliCAD 2D 3D Compatible CAD software on MAC OS X using hardware emulation virtualization software.

Do you know what happened to “Digital Architect Software”? It had a great hand-lettering font which I used with my AutoCad for PC. Now I am looking for a version compatible with AutoCad for iMac.

There is also a free CAD software for Mac – BabaCAD. I found it on the App Store.

Shame this article is so limited in its list of programs. RealCAD is one of the biggest CAD for Mac offerings and isn’t here at all? LANDWorksCAD for landscape design is also available on Mac. RealCAD is a direct alternative to AutoCAD at a fair price and is easier to use and manage.

It’s a shame that Autodesk doesn’t invest in the Macos platform with softwares like Revit and 3ds Max

As Mac is a complete different operating system from normal ones. It also need different cad software for it. Generally cad software are not much expensive but when we talk about some advanced and multi functional cad software they are little bit expensive but their features completely worth their value.

I need a simple MAC CAD app to design an outdoor kitchen and the A-frame structure that protects it from the weather. I need to be able to make scale drawings and specify angle cuts in the roof trusses and support beams. What should I get? I don’t want to spend more than $200

I was going to buy TurboCad Deluxe 2D/3D v10 for my Macbook Pro but reviews state that it doesn’t work with High Sierra OS. TurboCad never got back to me with my comments. I draw mechanical parts, mostly 2D. Any suggestions?

I bought TurboCad 8 Pro for Mac couple of years ago. It never worked very well, always some problems. Now with High Sierra it deos not work at all. The say to support it, but the only advice they give is buy new version and “In this case it cannot be resolved do to Apple changing operating system and there is no patch. The complaint is with Apple we did not force you to change your operating system and should have been stated by them that this may effect current software you are using.”

My advice, do nto spend money on TurboCAD.

As a retired architect who never used 2D Cad but worked alongside CAD since the ’80s, I needed CAD for a small architectural project. I first used Google Sketchup (free) and found it amazing compared to the complexity and drudgery I had observed with the old 2D programs (AutoCad and Microstation), you just have to be careful in connecting point in 3D space. I then moved to FormZ pro which is very similar but provides more refinement. I used FormZ for both architectural and a small (20mm size) 3D printed industrial connector project with very fine tolerances, FormZ support is excellent. Many of the CAD systems you mention are basically derivations of the old clunky ‘command driven’ 2D derived programs from the ’80 – ’90’s. I use an iMac but both Sketchup and FormZ work on Win. Both can provide 2D drawings from the 3D program – basically the new modelling programs are fundamentally different from the older 2D programs with bolt on 3D capabilities. If you use a Mac be a little wary of the older Win programs (TurboCad) claiming to be re-written for Mac OS. One 2D program I came across was HighDesign for Mac which looked intuitive and promising.

Used SketchUp for a while but found it intensely irritating in that touching parts acted as single elements; modify one line or part and several others moved or stretched with it! To avoid this you have to make compound groups which as a long-term ACAD/Microstation user I found illogical and time- consuming. Then no ‘fence stretch’ function nor many such common & useful functions. NOT for me!

in my company I use SketchUp Pro. Is the best!

What about Chief Architect?

I use Highdesign by ilexsoft.com A 2D CAD software for Mac and soon also for windows. It is very powerful and has an excellent interface. Works with a native format but supports dxf and dwg, The price of the LT version starts at $ 69.99

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