3 Open Source Alternatives to AutoCad

Computer Aided Drafting or CAD is software use to create plans/blueprints for real world objects.  CAD drawings are used in house plans, specs to build a bridge and even to build a space ship completely made out of Lego.  The best known program for CAD is AutoCad, it has been around forever and lots of engineers and draftsmen swear by it.

Priced at nearly $2,000  AutoCad is expensive!  There are other options on the market that are both open source and proprietary, and significantly less expensive than AutoCAD.  Will the open source products measure up to AutoCAD?  There is no easy answer to that it really depends on the features that you are looking for.

If you’re looking for an exact replica of AutoCAD that has all the exact same functionality without you having to adapt in any way to new software…well that’s not going to happen.  However if you wish to replace more software with open source alternatives there are some good choices out there for you to consider.

Here are some options to have a look at when you’re thinking of replacing AutoCAD:


FreeCAD is the first open source alternative to AutoCAD and it is a parametric program that was built to design “real life objects of any size”.  There’s no reason why it can’t be adapted to be used in architectural type applications.  The software was written in Python and if you’re familiar with Python you’ll be able to extend FreeCad through the Python interface.  There are also plug-ins available that you can use to extend the basic functionality.

FreeCAD is available on GitHub, and it has an LGPL license.


BRL-CAD had been around since 1979, in software terms that is forever, in fact is credited with being the oldest source code repository of an application still being actively developed.  BRL-CAD was developed at the Army Research Laboratory by Mike Muuss and the military have used it for years for modeling weapon systems.  You can use it for more….peaceful tasks including industrial design and health applications.

You can find BRL-CAD over at SourceForge, but bear in mind that with so many tools and apps not everything has the same licenses so check the details.


LibreCAD is designed to work with multiple operating systems so it can be used on Mac, Windows and Linux.  It has an interface that is similar to AutoCAD so parts of it will be familiar to you.  LibreCAD does have limitations…big ones it is only 2D, so if you only need CAD software for a site plan or something similar you’ll be fine.

Here is a video giving you an overview of LibreCAD so you can determine if it will meet your needs.

There are alternative that are free and open source that you can use in place of AutoCAD.  Test them out, you have nothing to lose to see if any of them will work for you.

Top 10 Sites to Find Open Source Software

Top 10 Sites to Find Open Source Software

There are sites all over the internet that offer up lists of open source software for you to download and play around with.  Finding good sites without a lot of malware and viruses is not so easy.  Here is a list of the 10 best sites to find open source software.

These sites fall into two basic categories, the first where projects are hosted like SourceForge where you can get server space to put your project.  The second category is more of a directory where the work of finding software is done for you and the link is provided for you to go and download your software.

Let the downloading commence!

  1. SourceForge

Hands down the best place on the net to find open source projects, with more than 280,000 projects and more than 2 million downloads everyday SourceForge should be your first stop for open source apps and tools.

  1. GitHub

GitHub hosts both private and public projects including many open source projects.  Check it out to see if you can find what you’re looking for.

  1. FOSS

FOSS offers a big selection of open source software and links to a directory of commercial open source software.  It also has a section dedicated to the history and philosophy of the open source movement.

  1. Portable Apps

Portable Apps lets you take open source applications with you wherever you go by downloading the collection to a flash drive.  Ideal for students, but really anyone can take advantage of it.

  1. LaunchPad

Launchpad is a platform for software collaboration primarily targeted at projects that run on Ubuntu, currently they host more than 21,000 projects.

  1. Datamation

While technically Datamation doesn’t host any software on its own it does provide “best of” lists on an almost weekly basis.  Type “open source” into their search bar to see what’s new and save yourself time trying a bunch of software that may not work for you.

  1. Open Source Windows

These guys like Datamation don’t host software but they do list some of the most common apps for Windows and they provide links for you to get them.

  1. Open Source Mac

Does the same thing as Open Source Windows only for Mac users, with apps that work on OS X.

  1. Apache Software Foundation

Many of the open source projects here relate to web based technologies, currently the Apache Software Foundation is sponsoring around 100 projects.

  1. KDE

KDE host many different types of app across all different types of platforms, have a look at the list of KDE applications.