Free 2-D CAD overview

Related: Install DraftSight on Linux


From 2010 to 2019, Draftsight was a top choice for “free” Linux / Mac / Windows AutoCAD 2D-compatible CAD users. DraftSight 2019 brought a chill by requiring paid licenses for Windows, while introducing substantial 3-D functionality to DraftSight. It’s important to note that DraftSight must peroidically reregister and the DraftSight “free” license can in effect be remotely terminated.

This article focuses on drop-in replacements for 2-D AutoCAD. Numerous even more powerful free CAD programs exist, but they generally require retraining for users coming from AutoCAD.

Libre 2-D AutoCAD-like choices include:

  • QCAD
  • LibreCAD with native DXF.

DWG from QCAD and LibreCAD is via the free Teigha DWG ↔ DXF converter.

I didn’t include FreeCAD here as it’s for 3D / Solidworks (and also cannot open DWG at this time).

Free 2-D CAD comparison

itemDraftsightQCADLibreCAD
Licensefree, NOT libreGPLv3GPLv2
RegistrationperiodicNONO
Download64-bit .debsource or binarysource or PPA
DWGR2018Teigha DXF ↔ DWGread: yes. Write: Teigha DXF ↔ DWG
DXFR2018nativenative

Draftsight

Draftsight is free (but non-libre) and typically “just works” with DWG / DXF files from AutoCAD and other software. DraftSight “free” license can be remotely terminated, so be mindful if doing large deployments where “free” is counted on. Windows is no longer “free”.

  • DXF: native read/write
  • DWG: native read/write

QCAD

QCAD:

  • DXF: native read/write
  • DWG: non-free (paid) library OR use free Teigha DXF ↔ DWG converter.

QCAD paid vs. Community Edition features

LibreCAD

LibreCAD:

DWG ↔ DXF

Free, non-libre Teigha File Converter supports through R2017 DWG/DXF.
Teigha File Converter may be used to convert from DXF to DWG en masse as a first/last step. The OpenDesignAlliance is the same organization where QCad gets its non-free non-libre converter from.