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 good alternatives to 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.

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