List of CAD Programs

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Here are some open source options for CAD. Because the open-source options for CAD are rather limited (there are currently no good open source parametric 3D CAD programs), significant closed-source programs are also listed at the end.

Open Source

Overview of some key ones -


Tracking of designs by modules, lifecycle product management.

Wings 3D



  • Mesh-based direct modelling. Not parametric.
  • Focused on artistic 3D modelling and animation.
  • No native CAD functionality so it is directly suited to CAD use, though there are: BlenderCAD, and [1] --- though it can be used for very basic prototyping, and is useful for rendering and animation.


  • The most promising open source 3D-CAD software by far, but still has some way to go. The recently (Nov. 2013) added assembly module is a decisive step forward allowing productive work. [2]
  • Focused on mechanical engineering and product design.
  • Feature-based, parametric, with 2D sketch input with constraint solver.
  • Based on OpenCasCade and Coin3D (an implementation of Open Inventor).
  • Windows, Mac OSX and Linux.
  • Supports brep, nurbs, booleans operations or fillets.
  • "A modular architecture that allow plugins (modules) to add functionality to the core application. Those extensions can be as complex as whole new applications or as simple as python scripts or self-recorded macros."
  • Built-in python interpreter for macros and scripts.
  • Import/export to standard formats such as STEP, IGES, OBJ, DXF, SVG, U3D or STL.

Here is an example of FreeCAD v14 in 2015:

Here is an example of FreeCAD v0.15 with Assembly2 module in 2015:


  • 2D garden design
  • GPL

Art of Illusion

  • Focused on animation
  • Import from OBJ STL SVG SVZ export to POV OBJ STL


  • Focused on numerical simulation, but can apparently also edit CAD data.


  • BRL-CAD is a powerful cross-platform open source solid modeling system that includes interactive geometry editing, high-performance ray-tracing for rendering and geometric analysis, image and signal-processing tools, a system performance analysis benchmark suite, libraries for robust geometric representation, with more than 20 years of active development. Operating Systems: All major platforms.
  • Focused on analysis, rather than modelling (specifically ballistics research).
  • CSG-based - models are built via combinations of basic shapes like spheres and cones, rather than extruded from arbitrary sketches.
  • Very old code base.
  • Actively developed.


  • Abandoned since 2008.

QCad Community Edition


  • LibreCAD is a fork of the QCad Community Edition
  • Available for Linux, OSX and Windows
  • The 1.0.0 series is still based on QT3
  • The forthcoming 2.0.0 series is based on QT4


  • Procedural script-based 3D-CAD (there is no editor GUI).
  • Uses CSG (constructive solid geometry) internally and can generate STL but also *import* STL (and use CSG on the resulting model). It also can read 2D designs in DXF and extrude parts of it into the 3rd dimension (extrusion can be linear or on different paths, so you can make, e.g., a torus by extruding a circle on a circular path).
  • Suitable for very simple shapes which benefit from being parametrically defined, e.g. gears, fasteners, wheels, etc.
  • Can be difficult to use for complex models which are not mathematically obvious.


  • Procedural script-based CAD
  • Inspired by OpenSCAD, but uses JavaScript instead of a proprietary language.
  • Browser based. Plays nice with the huge JavaScript open source ecosystem.
  • Suitable for simple shapes which benefit from being parametrically defined, e.g. gears, fasteners, wheels, etc.


  • Procedural script-based 3D-CAD similar to OpenSCAD (there is no editor GUI).
  • Can generate STL and SVG and GCode files
  • Suitable for simple shapes which benefit from being parametrically defined, e.g. gears, fasteners, wheels, etc.
  • better suitable for more complex models than OpenSCAD.


  • Object oriented script-based 3D-CAD (there is an editor GUI).
  • based on Open CASCADE. It can handle STEP (AP203 and AP214), IGES, STL (ascii/binary) and VRML.
  • It has parametric design, extrude/revolve/sweep as well as boolean operations, FE-meshing, rigid body simulation, but no 2D-drawing capability.
  • Operating Systems: Linux, Mac OSX or Windows.
  • The scripting commands are simple and powerful. As in openSCAD and FreeCAD the python scripts would allow for distributed version control to easily organize community collaboration with existing tools (like git or mercurial and free public git-hosting). Draw back is the lack of 2D-drawing capability.


  • Development halted.
  • Use the geometric constraints solver to create accurate drawings from rough sketches
  • Solid modeling is provided by Open CASCADE


  • CAD/CAM application written in Python that can help you produce the NC code for your milling machine.


  • Open CASCADE Technology is software development platform freely available in open source. It includes components for 3D surface and solid modeling, visualization, data exchange and rapid application development. Operating Systems: Linux, Sun Sparc, or Windows.
  • Seems too clunky without a better GUI.


  • CADEMIA is a modern CAD system with a full functionality for civil engineering and architecture.
  • 2D only, focused on architecture.
  • It is written in Java and is available for Windows, Mac and Linux
  • Open source
  • It is available in English and German

Closed Source, Free

PTC Creo Elements Direct Modelling Express 4.0

  • Ridiculous name.
  • Limited to something like 50 parts per assembly. I believe that is the only limitation of the free version.
  • Direct extrusion-based modelling, similar to Sketchup but much more powerful.
  • Probably the best free CAD on Windows.
  • Windows only. Sort of runs in wine, but not usably (crashes often, UI flickers).

Google SketchUp

  • Focused on architectural sketching.
  • Free, but not open source, works in linux under Wine. See Sketchup on Linux for installation notes.
  • Direct modelling. Not parametric, and does not allow changing dimensions to exact values.
  • Better than Blender, but still not really suitable for CAD.


  • Parametric modelling.
  • Modern usable UI.
  • Online tool.
  • Focused on mechanical engineering and product design.
  • Developed by ex-solidworks guys.

Sweet Home 3D

DesignWorkshop Lite

  • Only Windows & Mac versions
  • For home design and visualization of architecture, landscapes, exhibits, urban design, or any kind of spatial design


  • Good AutoCAD compatibility.
  • Focused on 2D drafting, very little 3D support.


  • free but closed sourced 3D CAD/CAM system
  • parametrized, scriptable
  • CNC processor
  • Linux, Windows OS


  • low priced (~600$) full featured 3D/2D CAD
  • free viewer available for VariCAD and STEP files
  • integrated calculation tools for springs, bolt preloading etc.
  • STEP I/O and much more
  • Linux, Windows OS
  • partially applied on GVCS backhoe and trencher (use OSE Wiki search)

Closed Source, Expensive


  • Extremely popular and powerful history-based parametric 3D CAD.
  • Modern usable UI.
  • Price in the £1000-range.
  • Windows only. Can be started in wine, but not usable.
  • Focused on mechanical engineering and product design. Not suited to architecture.

Pro Engineer

  • Main competitor to Solidworks.
  • Used to run on Linux natively, new versions are Windows-only. The last Linux version was Pro/E Wildfire 4
  • Archaic Motif GUI.
  • Modelling paradigm essentially identical to Solidworks.
  • Now known as "Creo Elements/Pro" (I'm unsure if it is based on the same code as Pro/E was).


  • Solidworks competitor from Siemens.
  • Parametric feature-based modelling.
  • Windows only.
  • Has a free 2D drafting option

Autodesk Inventor

  • Another solidworks competitor.
  • Windows only.


  • Originally 2D-only and it shows.
  • More architecturally-focused than Solidworks and Pro/E.
  • Originator of the DXF format.
  • Used to be the industry standard. Much less so today.


  • Super high-end CAD from Siemens.
  • Very similar to Solidworks. If you have used one it will not take long to learn the other.
  • Price is "it doesn't matter if you ask or not - you can't afford it". This is what they use to design nuclear submarines.
  • As a result, Googling for help is no use.
  • Runs on Linux natively.

Electronics CAD

Open Source

Closed Source

  • Eagle. Terrible terrible UI.
  • DesignSpark from RS. Looks much much better than Eagle, KiCAD, and GEDA.

See Also