Should I Change from AutoCAD to DraftSight?

   By Mike Walloch on June 12, 2020

For some, working in AutoCAD feels like a comfortable, well-worn glove. The menu layout, the command line, the color scheme and all the customized buttons and LISP routines you’ve painstakingly created over the years combine to form a cozy, familiar environment you’re more than a little reluctant to leave behind. Let me tell you, I’ve been there. For more than twenty-seven years, I used AutoCAD but it was time to change, so I switched to DraftSight and have never looked back. In this article, I’m going to talk about the features I discovered that made me switch from AutoCAD to DraftSight and why I think you should too.

A Familiar Story

Like most people I used AutoCAD primarily for 2D drafting and design work, but also for non-parametric 3D modeling on occasion. Whenever I needed to do 3D CAD work I used SOLIDWORKS. I appreciated the sheer power and capability of parametric modeling in SOLIDWORKS, but never got over my affection for the look and feel of 2D AutoCAD so I stuck to using both sets of software.

One day, the company I was working for at the time needed to change to a software that had the capability of 3D modeling and running LISP routines. They considered abandoning AutoCAD entirely, but this meant that decades worth of 2D drawings which were still in active product lines could be lost. They didn’t have the budget to convert or re-create all the drawings that needed to be maintained, and AutoCAD LT had too many features stripped out of it to be a viable option, so it looked like we were stuck… or so I thought.

Changing from AutoCAD to DraftSight

Imagine a CAD package using the exact same DWG file format as your existing drawings, all the professional quality tools you need, the look and feel you already know, at a fraction of the price?

That’s DraftSight. Really! Open your old AutoCAD files with no need to go through an export-import process. Keep using your old templates and standard layers. Have colleagues still using an ancient version of AutoCAD? You can save files in older DWG or DXF formats for them.

Use a menu layout and command names you already know, including your favorite keyboard aliases. Keep using those same LISP routines you’ve been using for years. Customize it to look and feel the way you like it.

Watch the video below for a quick recap on the 2020 updates for DraftSight.

A Familiar User Interface

It only took me a few minutes to customize DraftSight to my dinosaur-like preferences, with a full-screen cross-hair and toolbars above the graphics area. The Options dialog is easy to navigate and the search field makes it easy for locating the setting you’re looking to put in place. Here’s one of my legacy AutoCAD drawings which opened with no trouble:

DraftSightClick to enlarge

If you prefer the modern ribbon-style menu over the classic toolbars, there’s a pull-down on the upper left to allow you to toggle between the two layouts. You can have both!

DraftSight toolbox optionsClick to enlarge

Like SOLIDWORKS, DraftSight is part of the Dassault Systemes family of products. The benefit being that in addition to offering familiarity for AutoCAD users, it also has some familiarity for SOLIDWORKS users as well:

  • Reverse zoom wheel option
  • Heads-Up toolbar like the Context toolbar
  • 2D sketching tools like Power trim
  • Toolbox
  • Hole wizard
  • Design library
  • Mouse gestures
  • Dimension palette
  • Drawing compare
  • Export tables to Excel

Product Portfolio and Licensing

Since not everyone has the same CAD needs, DraftSight offers five different packages in their portfolio. DraftSight Standard, Professional and Premium are stand-alone yearly subscription models.

DraftSight Enterprise and Enterprise Plus are network licenses allowing the sharing of seats across your organization, a deployment wizard to help with installation and upgrades and technical support services. They’re commonly a one-year subscription model but can be non-subscription with maintenance upgrade options.

DraftSight StandardDraftSight Standard includes basic 2D design and documentation tools, dynamic block support, PDF underlay and makes collaborative community resources available to users. It’s primarily intended for hobbyists, students, educators and individuals with basic 2D CAD needs.

DraftSight ProfessionalDraftSight Professional/Enterprise adds an assortment of productivity tools for drafters, designers, engineers, architects, machinists and anyone needing a fully featured 2D CAD package:

  • Toolbox
  • Power trim
  • DGN import
  • Image tracer
  • Batch printing
  • Drawing compare
  • G-Code generator
  • API’s (like LISP)
  • Table cell formulas
  • Hatch & Gradient trimming

Some items on that list are not included in AutoCAD LT, such as API’s. For my money, that makes DraftSight Professional or Enterprise a better choice based on features alone.

DraftSight PremiumDraftSight Premium/Enterprise Plus has all the above, plus 3D modeling and the ability to use 2D geometric constraints like sketch functionality in SOLIDWORKS. It can handle your 2D drafting, 3D modeling, prototyping, laser cutting and 3D printing needs. If you’re currently using AutoCAD’s more advanced abilities, this is the alternative tool you should explore.

AutoCAD has been around since 1982, with origins going back to 1977. For many of us it’s that old, comfortable, well-worn glove. Nostalgia is a powerful force I’ll admit but considering everything we’ve looked at it would be hard to justify not switching to DraftSight.

DraftSight offers us new tools, which feel surprisingly like the old, and does the same jobs with a more convenient subscription model and cost. In this case, change is very, very good.

Learn more about converting 2D files to 3D in SOLIDWORKS by watching our on-demand webinar. You’ll learn about the tools available and any issues you might encounter over the process.

Related Products

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Mike Walloch

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