There is a new 2D CAD application on the market and it's free.
I like free stuff and who doesn’t? Recently I have had the opportunity to check out Dassault Systems’ new DraftSight 2D CAD software and oddly enough, it is free…
That really peaked my interest. "It can’t be that good for that price" and "it has to use some proprietary format that no one else uses" were the first thoughts through my head. However, I was wrong. Not only is the interface like what most CAD drafters are accustomed to, but it also saves to 2010 DWG format by default. The more I played with it, the more it seemed almost natural. Well natural to someone who has had the command line for years and two-hand drafts (one hand on the keyboard and on the mouse). I really dug that the command line put the options in blue, making them really stand out and a nice change from the norm. The menus and toolbars seemed very familiar, placed in an order that let me start using them right away without having any additional training.
I tested DraftSight on my new rig, a 64-bit Windows 7 machine with eight gigabytes of DDR3 ram, an ATI Radeon HD 4870 video card and an over clocked to three GHz AMD Phenom II 4 core processor. I was not lacking any power, but I wanted to see if it plays nice with the next generation of computers. I have noticed that some applications are less than willing to work properly on 64-bit machines. Keep in mind; you don’t need a machine like this to run DraftSight. The minimum requirements are just a Windows XP, with a three GHz processor, one gigabyte of ram and a 16-bit graphics card. I fired up DraftSight after the installation completed and had no errors at all, so I promptly opened up a drawing that was created in AutoCAD to look for any loss and there was none. The only thing that I could see different is that the RomanS font has changed to an ARRomS font, but it looks identical. DDEDIT even works to edit text and dimensions.
I then went through the tasks that I would normally do on a regular day in a production environment. Pan and zoom are flawless, you can use the middle mouse button, or if you feel like being old school. The command line is still your friend with shortcut keys Z then E for zoom extents. Shift/Ctrl + Right click, it’s there with all your snaps and it’s by far one of my favorite features that I would be lost without. It even has Recover, Audit, and Purge features to keep your drawings in order. A neat feature that you can use is to drag and drop drawing files right into DraftSight and it is inserted as a block. It saves all the way back to everyone’s favorite R12 DWG format. If you are working in AutoCAD R12, I love R12 too, but please step away from the digitizer and try this software. It will be okay, there is more to life than the DOS prompt. It’s free, so you can’t use the "expensive" excuse any more.
With all Beta software, as DraftSight is still in Beta, there are some “bugs” in it. That’s to be expected, that’s why it is called Beta. So don’t use it for production work yet. First off, the Fillet command is really buggy, it won’t let you select a second object and will just keep displaying “Cannot fillet an entity with itself”; well duh, I know that. This one is more of a wish list, but Trim command won’t let you select “everything” as a cutting object. It’s a feature I like and saves clicks. Also, there is no support for LISP or VBA, but that’s kind of expected, it will allow you to run Scripts so there is some automation. That’s all that I found wrong or broken in the Beta though, so I can’t wait to see the final version.
Overall, DraftSight is an awesome alternative to some other CAD packages out there for a bunch of reasons, the main being that it is free. If you need the LISP support for takeoffs or other customization you may have acquired over the years, then I would probably stay away from the free version. I did look for LISP support and I guess that you can get it. However, that requires an Enterprise license. For a fee, this gives you support for LISP, technical assistance and some other goodies. There is also a community board for it, so if you are stuck or need help you can ask there. I even saw some of the DraftSight support folks on there, so you can get answers straight from the source.
- DS -
~ Dan has been drafting everything from house plans to water mains with CADD for over ten years. Currently he drafting indoors, because it's hot outside. If you would like to reach Dan, please email him. ~