As a civil engineer, I was sceptical about my switch to Linux in the Office environment. Specially as I have to deal with a lot CAD drawings on a daily basis. Most importantly these come in dwg format, the propriety file format used and abused by AutoDesk in their flagship product AutoCAD. A drafts man coming from the Windows environment might find it hard to let go of AutoCAD. It was a daunting task and it was all going uphill until I came across DraftSight.There are lot of open source non-free CAD software for Linux and I expect them to be good. However, I’m not in the position of asking my IT department to include these software in their budget. In the best case scenario, they will completely forget about the request and in the worst case scenario… I’ll come out as a nut case. Therefore these non-free software, while I would adore and welcome, was not really a choice and I was not able to test them.
That left me with 3 options. QCad, which I found out was really not intuitive to a AutoCAD user, is competent and stable but definitely not the easiest to get used to for an ex-AutoCad user. LibreCad, which is based on QCad suffers from the same drawbacks as QCad but it looks nice next to the LibreOffice suite (even though they have no relationships that I know of). It is also promoted by FreeCAD, which at first I thought was a drafts tool. However FreeCAD is a completely different beast that I still need to get my head around.
So that leaves me with DraftSight and it really is a blessing. The learning curve is really smooth and coming to Draftsight from AutoCAD should be no problem at all. The interface is basically the same, dwg drawings from AutoCAD can be opened edited and saved. My list of praises to this software is endless (one really has to draft a lot to appreciate it) so I won’t go over them one by one.
No recommendation is complete without identifying some drawbacks. At the time of writing, only 32 bit version of the software is available. This causes some lags while working in the 64 bit version and is evident in Archlinux AUR package. The good news is from 2015 (3 months away) version will be 64 bit and the 32 bit will most likely be discontinued. That might be bad news for a few users, I presume. Another thing to keep in mind is that Draftsight is advertised as a 2D only software. For 3D I would recommend a mixture of FreeCAD and Blender, so if you are doing some heavy 3D works in AutoCAD, DraftSight alone wouldn’t cut it… for now. I suspect that some 3D functionality is already available in the software as I seen the z coordinate being available in some properties windows. Some forum posts also mention that 3D drawings can be viewed, so definitely worth taking some time off and checking the extent of DraftSight’s 3D capability.
A random post on the internet once said… who ever introduces a fully fledged CAD software for Linux will be a millionaire. If so some one is certainly chasing with DraftSight… which is free for now. I’ll leave the economics of it all to you