Computer-aided design (CAD) involves the process of using computers to create, modify, analyze, or optimize designs.
The CAD software is used by architects, animators, graphic designers, and engineers to create and perfect their design quality, create a database for maintenance, and improve communication via documentation.
There are several free and paid CAD software to choose from and these days both the free and paid ones have the same features.
FreeCAD is a free and open-source multi-platform general-purpose 3D CAD software for parametric modeling and information modeling with support for the finite-element method.
It features both a GUI and a CLI, a workbench concept, constructive solid geometry, a built-in Python console, a built-in scripting framework, etc., and is excellent for creating 3D designs from 2D models (and vice versa) of any size.
FreeCAD is available from Ubuntu repositories and can be installed via the Software Center or with the following command in a terminal:
# sudo apt install freecad
To get the latest release version, please use the following PPA.
$ sudo add-apt-repository ppa:freecad-maintainers/freecad-stable $ sudo apt update $ sudo apt install freecad freecad-doc
Many common Linux distros now include a precompiled FreeCAD as part of the standard packages and can be installed using the package manager as shown.
$ sudo yum install freecad [On RHEL/CentOS/Fedora and Rocky/AlmaLinux] $ sudo emerge -a sys-apps/freecad [On Gentoo Linux] $ sudo apk add freecad [On Alpine Linux] $ sudo pacman -S freecad [On Arch Linux] $ sudo zypper install freecad [On OpenSUSE]
Package names are case-sensitive, so consider trying both FreeCAD and freecad. If neither option works—due to your package manager lacking a precompiled FreeCAD version or the available version being outdated.
You might explore installing via Flatpak or Snap packages, which are compatible with most x86_64 Linux distributions. Alternatively, you can download one of the AppImage releases from the GitHub repository.
LibreCAD is a free and open-source 2D CAD software with a GUI built using Qt4 libraries so that it runs on different platforms in the same way.
It started as a fork of QCAD’s community edition when it was called CADuntu. It is packed with a lot of tools for speedy 2D alterations and is available in 30+ languages.
LibreCAD is available from Ubuntu repositories and can be installed via the Software Center or with the following command in a terminal:
# sudo apt install librecad
To get the latest release version of LibreCAD, please use the following PPA.
$ sudo add-apt-repository ppa:librecad-dev/librecad-stable $ sudo apt update $ sudo apt install librecad
On other Linux distributions, you can install it from the system repositories using the package manager as shown.
$ sudo yum install librecad [On RHEL/CentOS/Fedora and Rocky/AlmaLinux] $ sudo emerge -a sys-apps/librecad [On Gentoo Linux] $ sudo apk add librecad [On Alpine Linux] $ sudo pacman -S librecad [On Arch Linux] $ sudo zypper install librecad [On OpenSUSE]
OpenSCAD is a free and open-source CAD software for creating solid 3D CAD objects and it can run on Windows, macOS, and Linux/UNIX.
OpenSCAD is tagged The Programmers’ Solid 3D CAD Modeller, because of how it places design elements and a code editor side by side; allowing designings to directly initiate changes.
OpenSCAD is available from Ubuntu repositories and can be installed via the Software Center or with the following command in a terminal:
$ sudo apt install openscad
To get the latest release version of OpenSCAD, please use the following PPA.
$ sudo add-apt-repository ppa:openscad/releases $ sudo apt update $ sudo apt install openscad
On other Linux distributions, you can install OpenSCAD from the system repositories using the package manager as shown.
$ sudo yum install openscad [On RHEL/CentOS/Fedora and Rocky/AlmaLinux] $ sudo emerge -a sys-apps/openscad [On Gentoo Linux] $ sudo apk add openscad [On Alpine Linux] $ sudo pacman -S openscad [On Arch Linux] $ sudo zypper install openscad [On OpenSUSE]
BRL-CAD is another free and open-source, cross-platform CAD software that has been around for 30+ years.
Its features include high-performance ray-tracing for rendering, interactive geometry editing, network distributed framebuffer support, a graphical user interface with typical toolbar layouts, and scripting support.
BRL-CAD is available from Ubuntu repositories and can be installed via the Software Center or with the following command in a terminal:
$ sudo apt install brlcad
To get the most recent stable version of BRL-CAD, you need to clone the latest repository and install it as shown.
$ git clone https://github.com/BRL-CAD/brlcad.git $ mkdir brlcad/build $ cd brlcad/build $ cmake .. -DBRLCAD_BUNDLED_LIBS=ON -DCMAKE_BUILD_TYPE=Release $ make -j4 $ make check $ sudo make install
SOLVESPACE is a free and open-source parametric CAD software for 2D and 3D modeling, which is written in C++ and available for all major PC platforms.
Its features include exporting 3D wireframes as DXF and STEP, toolpath as G code, analysis using STL check, volume measurements, working with dimensions and constraints, value entries using arithmetic expressions, etc.
SolveSpace is available from Ubuntu repositories and can be installed via the Software Center or with the following command in a terminal:
$ sudo apt install solvespace
To get the latest release version of SolveSpace, you need to clone and install it from sources.
$ git clone https://github.com/solvespace/solvespace $ cd solvespace $ git submodule update --init
6. BricsCAD (Paid)
BricsCAD is a paid modern multi-platform CAD software for 2D and 3D modeling. It was developed with the aim of helping users to work faster and smarter while spending fewer resources.
Its features include perpetual licensing, cloud connectivity, network licensing, dynamic blocks, 100% real DWG performance, etc.
The BricsCAD installer includes the BricsCAD Ultimate bundle, granting you access to the comprehensive range of BricsCAD products, such as BricsCAD Shape, Lite, Pro, BIM, and Mechanical.
BricsCAD is available to try for 30 days as a free trial here: Download 30-day free trial. After the 30-day trial, you can continue using BricsCAD Shape at no cost.
LeoCAD is a free cross-platform and open-source CAD software for creating virtual models using LEGO bricks.
LeoCAD is optimized for building large models and you can use it to create building instructions with many steps, and access multiple views at once. You should note that LeoCAD is not sponsored, authorized, or endorsed by the LEGO Group of companies.
LeoCAD is available from Ubuntu repositories and can be installed via the Software Center or with the following command in a terminal:
$ sudo apt install leocad
To get the most recent release version, download the latest LeoCAD AppImage and simply run it from the terminal.
8. Siemens NX (Paid)
Siemens NX is a proprietary flexible and integrative CAD software that aims to speed up the design process while helping its users produce better designs, simulations, engineering models, etc.
It features a tool set capable of completing tasks for different fields and it offers users several task-specific applications like Catchbook, for example, with in-built tutorials to help users along the way.
Siemens NX is neither free nor open-source.
Siemens NX is available to try for 30 days as a free trial here: Download 30-day free trial.
9. DraftSight (Paid)
DraftSight is a free proprietary (closed-source) CAD application for 2D modeling. It features support for several file formats, an interactive GUI that allows you to customize its usability, blocks, import/export support, G-Code append support, etc.
DraftSight’s Individual version is free but it offers professional and enterprise versions for users and companies who require more functionality.
DraftSight is available to try for 30 days as a free trial here: Download 30-day free trial.
QCAD is a free multi-platform open-source CAD software created for 2D design and drafting. It specializes in technical drawing plans for buildings, mechanical schematics, etc.
QCAD’s features include layers, block groups, object snaps, measuring tools, printing to scale, TrueType fonts support, 40+ construction tools, 35 CAD fonts, 20+ modification tools, etc.
QCAD packages include QCAD, paired with a free trial of QCAD Professional, which operates for 15 minutes at a stretch and can be restarted afterward. You can purchase the QCAD Professional complete version. Alternatively, if you opt to remove the trial, you can utilize the more limited QCAD Community Edition for free.
11. VariCAD (Paid)
VariCAD is a freemium multi-platform CAD software for 3D Modelling, Parts and assemblies, 2D modeling, etc. It contains a CAD viewer, converter, and printing software that works with 3D/2D VariCAD, DXF, 2D DWG, and 3D STEP file formats and allows users to convert between several formats with support for batch conversions.
The full version of VariCAD is free to try for 30 days after which the cost is a one-time fee of 699 €. If it is applicable to you, there is a discounted price of 79 € (~$100) for students and universities.
Do you use CAD software professionally or for personal purposes? And are there titles that you would have liked to see included in the list? Drop your comments in the section below.