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CAD, Software & Hardware

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. There used to be low-cost AutoCad compliant alternatives, but most have now disappeared.


I used to have a copy of IntelliCAD Professional.The IntelliCAD Technology Consortium (ITC) is a cooperative consisting of a number of  member companies
producing general and specialised software using the IntelliCAD engine, which is AutoCAD compliant.

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 AutoCAD 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. ARES Commander is
available for MacOS, and is the only AutoCAD compliant program that is available for Linux.

I have used all of the above at different times, and all are of industry standard quality. There are no longer any free versions apart from  NanoCAD, a Russian CAD package with substantially the same commands as AutoCAD, that used to have a free version, and may still be reasonably priced. QCAD is available for both Windows and Linux, but does not use the same commands, and I have not yet been able to create a workable "alias" command list. LibreCAD is being developed, and is cross-platform eg runs on Windows, MacOS and Linux. This is making progress. It will load DWG format files up to version AC1015, and can save in DXF format. Commands are closer to AutoCAD commands and there is an alias file that can be edited.

There are other CAD packages, but in my view, anyone likely to be involved in construction work will need to have something that is AutoCAD compliant.
My solution
I have tired of being dependent on Windows, and am gradually transferring everything over to Linux. I purchased the "for life" version of ARES which costs a lot (for me) at ~$1700 aud, but provides industry standard CAD for both Windows and Linux, and one purchase provides the program for 2 devices. So I have ARES on Windows, a Linux desktop and a Linux laptop, with swappable licensing.

"Dedicated CAD workstations" are expensive - because they are supposed to be expensive? I bought a Windows gaming desktop some years ago with 16GB RAM to run CAD at a reasonable level, and surprisingly, it has elevated itself to Windows 11.
My Linux desktop is a Dell Optiplex 9020, 12GB RAM, purchased from a  local pc recycler for $80, and the $200 Lenovo laptop has 8GB RAM. Both  run ARES Commander 2023 fast on Linux Mint 21.  If the Windows desktop becomes a liability I will convert it to Linux.