AutoCAD is the most
widely used CAD software, but it is expensive, even in the LT version.
And if you are contemplating learning CAD there is a steep learning
curve. So what is the alternative? I have tried a number of these.
Old copy of AutoCAD?
I have an apparently legitimate
copy of AutoCAD 2000i. This will not install on any Windows PC running
Win 7 or 8, except on a virtual drive, which is slow and painful to use.
(2000i is 32bit but the setup.exe is 16bit.) Longbow Software have a
converter available for around $50 that overcomes this problem for most
versions of AutoCAD. They also have software that can do the same for
other "incompatible" software.
I used to have a
copy of IntelliCAD Professional. Version 7.2 appears to be a big step
forward, and Version 8 now includes 64 bit. Generally, if
you need to do things like pasting raster images into drawings, you will
need a Pro version. Prices start at $A200 plus.
There are currently three
retail CAD programs employing the Graebert ARES CAD
engine; Graebert's own retail package ARES Commander, Draftsight,
and CorelCAD. ARES has most of the functions of full-blown AutCAD and
nearly the same commands and synax, but not the same code base. AutoCAD
add-ins will not necessarily work in basic versions, but some
functionality is available in retail paid-for versions, such as LISP
routines and VSTA (Microsoft® Visual Studio Tools for Applications). There are a few add-ins.
Production version available for Windows (XP
onwards), 32 and full 64 bit. There are versions for Mac OS X and Linux
(DEB and RPM installers). Free with registration. IMHO likely to be the
best alternative to full AutoCAD/IntelliCAD for most 2D CAD work, and as yet the
free CAD package worth considering on Linux. Will load/save standard
DWG & DXF, AutoCAD 2.5 to 2013. I have Windows 32 & 64bit and
Linux versions, The Linux version is beta, and is a bit more
likely to crash.
beyond the basic version has improved, in that a single licence for the
Premium version is available. Slightly cheaper than CorelCAD but
with annual updating charge, whereas CorelCAD is more flexible with
upgrades, eg you can miss one or two without loosing
entitlement. I use CorelCAD 2016, while retaining Draftsight
basic and NanoCAD on backup machines.
There is no
free version. The full version is around $A600 - 700 for a single
licence, updates free, more or less annual upgrades for $199. I have the
full version running on two PCs - main workstation and laptop.
Both activated without problems. CorelCAD has the additional ARES
enhancements plus a few more provided by Corel. Versions for Windows and
Mac, but not Linux. Support documents available from Graebert.
BricsCADVery close match with AutoCAD, Linux version, none free but competitively priced, eg "Classic" version around $A475.
only package I have found that is freeware in the sense that you just
download and install, and has a syntax similar to AutoCAD
is LibreCAD. This looks promising,
but has long a way to go.
For free in the sense that you don't have to
pay, there are a few offerings, mostly with a "catch" of some sort. The
best I have found is NanoCAD.
NanoCAD requires registration, has a single advertising screen for the
"plus" version, but there is apparently no problem with installing it on
a number of machines. It is the only CAD package I have found that will
run comfortably on an old laptop with limited graphics. It will allow
raster image inserting and modifying, recognises LISP, VBA scripts and
My current recommendation for anyone learning CAD
or needing to do 2D CAD on a limited budget is to start by downloading a
copy of DraftSight and/or NanoCAD. Once you are up to speed, get
CorelCAD or BricsCAD. Six-figure turnover dependent on CAD? Get AutoCAD :-)
I have attempted to use a tablet for some types of
out-of-office work. Gave up. My solution was to go back to a laptop. Ok
they are harder to keep charged in the field - you usually need 19
volts and 3.5 amps. That can come from a dashboard plug-in or similar,
with a monitor on the vehicle battery so you know when to switch off or
start the engine.
"Dedicated CAD workstations" are expensive - because they are supposed
to be expensive?
1. Buy a gaming machine via EBay. You
don't have to buy one with flames or dragons on the cabinet. It is still
the case that gaming and entertainment is the cutting edge. Back in the
Cold War days, the Russians built their missile control systems using
video game machines, imported from the west, and not classified as
military hardware :-) A decent rig can be obtained for $A600 - $A1100,
even including a few extras.
2. Get all the memory that the model
will hold. Get a decent graphics card if the machine only has on-board
display. 24" LCD monitors can be had for around $A150.
In February 2016 I got fed up with errors and crashes caused
by Windows 10
updates and upgrades, and switched to Linux. Ended up switching back as
there were still a few things I needed WIndows for.
4. If you are only ever going to be
printing to A3, get a Brother MFC - J6910DW or succeeding model. Will
install on Linux (Ubuntu 14.04) with a bit of fiddling. Prints to A3
borderless, is economical with ink, and has a full A3 scanner.
This produces very sharp prints, so you may need to modify line-weight
settings. I print direct from CAD, and print to pdf.
5. If you need
imaging, get a good digital camera. If you have experience with 35mm SLR
cameras, go the extra and get a Canon or Nikon DSLR. Once you venture
outside the "auto" settings, you will find that inside the viewfinder or
screen, the camera is talking about things you already understand. Also,
don't believe all the flim-flam about image density. You don't need 24
megapixels unless you are printing signs the size of a house. 10 - 12
megapixels is more than enough.
Linux:One of my backup systems is a
Dell Optiplex 760, 4GB RAM, purchased from Australian company Reboot-IT
for $32.50 plus carriage. Cleaned off WIndows Vista and
Mint 18, and Draftsight runs fine on this. (I started out with Ubuntu
14.04, but got tired of the proprietary annoyances such as the Unity
desktop.) I had previously tried dual-boot Windows/Linux on my main
workstation, but Windows 10 has a habit of breaking dual boot, and I am
lacking in Grub2 skills so found it difficult to fix the problem.