Update 10/12/17: This post has been updated with several new alternatives identified over the past 10 months. The list now includes 13 AutoCAD alternatives over the original seven.
Autodesk is a juggernaut in the drafting industry—and they know it. While they tend to produce sleek, full-featured products, they come at a high cost.
In a market filled with terrible AutoCAD knockoffs, it can be tough to distill which products are worth your time—and which aren’t. Luckily, I’ve done the legwork to gather the top 13 AutoCAD alternatives for you.
I chose these alternatives using four criteria:
- They read the same kinds of files that AutoCAD does
- They integrate easily with AutoCAD itself
- They’re intuitive to learn
- They won’t break the bank
By whittling down the options from our comprehensive list of engineering CAD software products, I came up with 13 options that meet all four criteria. They are listed below in alphabetical order.
If you’ve used AutoCAD before, BricsCAD’s interface will seem familiar. It doesn’t have the ribbon, but is otherwise almost identical. The developer claims that it supports “hundreds” of third-party applications.
BricsCAD integrates with the cloud, recognizes XREFS, has a robust rendering engine, and is largely customizable. The functionality is almost identical to AutoCAD; it has 2D drafting (ex: floor plans and technical drawings) and 3D modeling in .dwg format.
The only major drawback to BrisCAD V15 Pro is that its document management tool is difficult, though not impossible, to learn.
Used BricsCAD? Leave a review!
Looking for a building design and architectural tool? Chief Architect is a solid choice.
The software creates 3D models, construction drawings, CAD details, and elevations for residential home design projects.
(Chief Architect’s dashboard)
A niche tool in this segment, Chief Architect offers 3D visualization features, home interior designs, and smart architectural objects like doors, windows, stairs, and roof styles. There’s a steep learning curve, but what you get out of it is definitely worth the time you put in to learn the system.
Used Chief Architect? Leave a review!
Want a CAD program that won’t break the bank? DesignCAD is probably your best option. At a price point of only $99, DesignCAD 3D Max v24—, made by the same people who make TurboCAD—, is a versatile tool that will fit (most) of your CAD needs.
This CAD software is easy to learn and great for 3D and 2D architecture. It allows users to add texture and hatching and it can produce photorealistic models (for example: furniture). It has over 10,000 symbols to choose from and the navigation is easy. DesignCAD is customizable, and when help is needed, their phone and email help team, is available at no cost.
Where DesignCAD lacks is its compatibility. It’s compatible with DWG and DXF files, but does not support STL, DGN, or SKP files. That means that if you want to use your CAD program for 3D printing, you should look elsewhere.
Used DesignCAD? Leave a review!
If you’re a student or individual looking for CAD software, this is your best option (because it’s free!). If you’re using it for a business, DraftSight offers two reasonable options: DraftSight Professional (for small and medium-sized businesses) for $299, and DraftSight Enterprise (prices vary).
DraftSight is good for 2D modeling, but doesn’t run LISP routines and offers no express tools. That said, it can save and open DXF and DWG files, do batch printing, offers macro recording, and a huge design library.
The free version of DraftSight doesn’t offer much—it’s good for quick calculations and drawings. As you scale up, DraftSight begins to compete directly with AutoCAD.
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LibreCAD is an especially good option if (a) you’re a Linux user and (b) you want free CAD software that can read DWG files. If you’re a Windows of OS X user, it works perfectly fine on those systems as well.
In addition to reading DWG files (an option added in 2015), this open-source two-dimensional CAD program has the ability to export SVG files. And if you like open-source software with a large user community, this is the software for you.
The interface and handle concepts used by LibreCAD are the same as in AutoCAD, so it’s a seamless transition for those looking to abandon AutoCAD for a free and open source CAD option.
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A slightly pricier option, at almost $2,500, Bentley’s Microstation PowerDraft is a popular software choice for architects and engineers. You can create traditional drawings as well as 2D and 3D hypermodels.
The software supports various file formats including DWG, DGN, IFC, Esri, and SHP. Improve your drawings by including raster imagery, satellite pictures, and other templates using the software.
PowerDraft creates drawings, schedules, and reports directly from 3D and BIM models. While Microstation offers great 3D capabilities, AutoCAD beats it in 2D drafting. Microstation is also capable of handling large files.
The two giants of the CAD industry are bound to have their die-hard fans and hard-hitting critics!
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nanoCAD is an entirely free AutoCAD alternative, –and its fully-featured version, nanoCAD Plus, is only $180.
When comparing nanoCAD to AutoCAD, there are some notable differences. nanoCAD doesn’t offer dynamic input, associative hatches, library objects with behavioral properties, or operations with solid 3D objects.
However, it offers many features that AutoCAD doesn’t, including raster manipulations, an Excel-style table editor, and a linetype editor.
Used nanoCAD? Leave a review!
ProgeCAD is for people who want AutoCAD but can’t afford it. Running at $499, ProgeCAD boasts over 11,000 2D symbols and an intuitive interface that’s relatively easy to learn.
Want to make a new file using ProgeCAD? It automatically saves as a DWT file. CAD technicians can also save in DWG or DXF formats, and all three file types sync well with AutoCAD 2012.
Some critics say that ProgeCAD is a direct AutoCAD knockoff. The program also struggles to read 3D geometry because it has to go through a proxy.
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Formerly known as Google Sketchup, this is a great option for CAD professionals. Starting with a very basic version and moving up from there (the construction version is $590), Sketchup is compatible with numerous file types (including DXF, DWG, FBX, OBJ, XSI, and VRML) and it can export images (including PDFs and HD animations).
Sketchup is known for being easy to use—its website boasts, “If you want to be productive after just one day of training, you’ve come to the right place.”
While Sketchup is a great package, it does lack some features. It doesn’t let you use NURBS surfaces, it only supports texture files that are labeled with less than eight characters, and there can be compatibility problems when importing images from other CAD programs. It also lacks wall tools.
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Solidworks 3D CAD software is a popular option for 3D sketchers who want CAD software with multiple features for detailed design work. The software has “intelligent design” tools that let you quickly produce detailed designs and check them for completeness.
Solidworks claims that their software will help designers quickly become proficient in 3D modeling, allowing them to more efficiently create designs and get them to market.
Reviewers on Capterra praise the software for being intuitive and user-friendly, as well as the number of features it offers for those who want to design every single detail.
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While a bit pricier than other AutoCAD alternatives at $1,695, TurboCAD Pro Platinum is a full package with more features than AutoCAD 2014, including a smart dimension tool, 3D terrain modeling, and Ruby scripting.
TurboCAD stands apart from AutoCAD 2014 because it has more 3D modeling features—it excels at creating detailed and complicated images.
Because this behemoth of a software has so many features, some users have noted that it can be difficult to learn. Their support is decent—they have email and phone lines to call—but there isn’t much aid within the application itself.
Used TurboCAD? Leave a review!
Are you a BIM programmer? Vectorworks directly competes with AutoCAD and is particularly popular among Apple users. The program is straightforward to set up and use, and has OpenGL rendering. It is fully compatible with DWF/DXF/DWG files, and can easily exchange files with AutoCAD and Revit. Vectorworks costs $2,945.00
Vectorworks offers the complete package. This intuitive program allows users to move their BIM files around without re-rendering. Vectorworks 2014 and 2015 offer Sketch Mode for simple and conceptual drawings.
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Want something evocative of AutoCAD at a lower price? ZWCAD has a similar interface and is customizable, with pricing starting at $599 (classic version).
ZWCAD 2017 is the most recent version and offers features such as file comparisone, super hatch, tool palettes, and object isolation. The software is compatible with AutoCAD and supports DWG, DXF, DWT, as well as DGN file formats. The commands, linetypes, text styles, and hatch patterns are also similar to AutoCAD.
The software has innovative features such as SmartVoice, SmartMouse, or SmartSelect that make working with the tool easier. The 3D functions are not as advanced as other CAD tools and the software currently only supports Microsoft Windows OS.
Used ZWCAD? Leave a review!
What other great CAD options are out there?
Is there a great CAD program that I missed? What do you use? If you use AutoCAD, why do you prefer it? Let me know in the comments below!
Love these AutoCAD alternatives? Hate them? Let us know either way with a review!
Looking for Construction Management software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Construction Management software solutions.