Computer Aided Design (CAD) is an essential part of many engineering currents. CAD is used professionally in architecture, auto part design, space shuttle research, aeronautics, bridge construction, interior design, and even clothing and jewelry.
A number of professional grade CAD programs such as SolidWorks and Autodesk AutoCAD are not natively supported on the Linux platform. So today we’re going to take a look at the best CAD programs available for Linux. Let’s dive into it.
Best CAD software available for Linux
Installation instructions for Linux distributions based on Ubuntu have been provided. You can check the respective websites for the installation procedures of other distributions.
The list is not in a specific order. CAD application at number one should not be considered better than that at number three, and so on.
For 3D modeling, FreeCAD is a great option that is both free (beer and speech) and open source. FreeCAD is built with mechanical engineering and product design as target goals. FreeCAD is cross-platform and is available on Windows and macOS as well as Linux.
Although FreeCAD has been the choice of many Linux users, it should be noted that it is not a full-fledged solution. However, it is good to know that it is actively developed and you can also find the latest versions on GitHub.
FreeCAD does not focus on direct 2D drawings and animating organic shapes, but it is ideal for design related to mechanical engineering. FreeCAD version 0.15 is available in the Ubuntu repositories.
You can therefore install it directly from your software center. If you can’t find it, you can install it by running the following command:
sudo apt install freecad
To get new daily releases (currently on 0.19), simply head over to the GitHub releases page to download them.
LibreCAD is a free and open source 2D CAD solution. Generally, CAD tends to be a resource-intensive task, and if you have rather modest hardware, I suggest going with LibreCAD as it is really light in terms of resource usage. LibreCAD is an excellent tool for geometric constructions.
As a 2D tool, LibreCAD is good but it does not work on 3D models and renderings. It can be unstable at times, but it has a reliable autosave that won’t waste your work.
You can install LibreCAD by running the following command:
sudo apt install librecad
3. Open SCAD
OpenSCAD is a free 3D CAD program. It is very light and flexible. OpenSCAD is not interactive: you must âprogramâ the model and OpenSCAD will interpret this code to render a visual model. In a way, it’s like a compiler. You cannot draw the model – you describe the model.
OpenSCAD is the most complicated tool on this list, but once you get the hang of it, it provides a pleasant working environment.
You can use the following command to install OpenSCAD.
sudo apt-get install openscad
BRL-CAD is one of the oldest CAD tools. It is also a favorite among Linux / UNIX users because it aligns with the * nix philosophies of modularity and freedom.
The BRL-CAD project started in 1979, and it is still actively developed. Now BRL-CAD isn’t AutoCAD, but it’s still a great choice for transport studies such as thermal and ballistic penetration. BRL-CAD uses CSG instead of the boundary representation. You may need to keep this in mind if you opt for BRL-CAD. You can download BRL-CAD from its official website.
QCAD is a commercially available open source CAD program based on the Qt framework.
The free community edition is open-source and its source code is available. The professional version contains add-ons for advanced DXF support, DWG support, and many additional tools and features.
In other words, the Free Community Edition is limited to certain features.
QCAD might not be the best CAD software out there, but the user interface and the options it provides are suitable for many uses. So if you want to try open source CAD software, you can download the trial version to test it.
You can first opt ââfor the trial version, which lasts 15 minutes before you have to restart the session. And if you like to use the trial version, you can consider upgrading it.
6. BricsCAD (not open source)
Another alternative suggested by some of our readers.
It might not be a free and open source solution. However, you will find it available for Linux when you buy it.
It is a feature rich CAD program available for Linux users. If you are curious, there is a comparison chart with AutoCAD on its official website which lists its capabilities and features.
You need to sign up for a 30 day trial to start and buy it later if you like it.
7. VariCAD (not open source)
VariCAD is another decent CAD program for 2D and 3D designs. Even though it’s not free, you do get a 30-day free trial version to test it out.
For Linux, you can download Debian and RPM packages to try it out. It is actively maintained and supports most of the latest Linux distributions. It also offers a free VariCAD viewer, which you can use to convert DWG to DFX and similar tasks.
- With a huge growth in cloud computing technologies, cloud CAD solutions like OnShape are more and more popular every day.
- SolveSpace is another open source project worth mentioning. It supports 3D modeling.
- Siemens NX is an industrial grade CAD solution available on Windows, Mac OS, and Linux, but it’s ridiculously expensive, so we skipped it from this list.
- Then there’s LeoCAD, which is a CAD program in which you use LEGO blocks to build things. What you do with this information is up to you.
CAD on Linux – my review
Although games on Linux have grown, I still tell my gaming enthusiast friends to stick with Windows. Likewise, if you are an engineering student with CAD in your program, I recommend using software prescribed by your college (AutoCAD, SolidEdge, Catia), which generally tends to only work on Windows.
And for advanced professionals, these tools just don’t live up to industry standards.
For those of you who plan to run AutoCAD in WINE, although some older versions of AutoCAD can be installed on WINE, they just don’t work, with issues and crashes that spoil the experience.
That being said, I highly respect the work that has been done by the developers of the above software. They have enriched the world of free and open source software. And it’s great to see a program like FreeCAD developing at an accelerated rate in recent years.
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