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AutoCAD substitute

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Glyn Davies04/03/2019 16:59:33
132 forum posts
46 photos


For about the last eight years I have enjoyed access to AutoCAD 2011 and have used it extensively for creating 2D drawings of parts to make, for importing images at scale and creating 2D drawings of from them and the odd bit of 3D modelling to create photo realistic images and to calculate surface areas to calculate anodising currents.

My access to AutoCAD has now been removed and I need something affordable that ideally is similar to use and at least gets me my 2D capability back. Are all CAD packages now subscription based (autoCAD 2019 is £1700 per annum!) or can I buy one for a one off price? Any help would be much appreciated! Thanks

duncan webster04/03/2019 17:06:06
3527 forum posts
63 photos

Draftsight is free and is very very similar to AutoCad

SillyOldDuffer04/03/2019 17:21:56
7574 forum posts
1681 photos

Depends on how full-featured you need 2D CAD to be but I find QCAD does everything I need. It's not an AutoCAD clone, but is reminiscent of AutoSketch. Although qcad supports isometric drawing, it doesn't do proper 3D. It calculates 2D areas and can import images over which 2d drawings can be placed.

The free/trial version does almost everything but the Pro version has a number of worthwhile improvements - it costs about £30, one off.

Alternatively you might upgrade to 3D. Fusion360 is free for hobby use and Alibre is currently on offer with a MEW tutorial and support thread running on this forum. Both are able to generate 2D drawings from their 3D models. Not sure without checking if either can calculate the surface area of a 3D object, but I wouln't be surprised!


Brian Oldford04/03/2019 17:24:46
686 forum posts
18 photos
Posted by duncan webster on 04/03/2019 17:06:06:

Draftsight is free and is very very similar to AutoCad

Very painless migration path from AutoCAD too. It will accept many AutoCad commands directly Pattern/Array f'instance.

AdrianR04/03/2019 18:05:57
540 forum posts
36 photos

I dont know much about CAD software, so cant recommend one, but do you know about open source software? It is free to use and is written by users for users. Note this is different to free ware, that usually comes full of adverts or malicious code.

If you google for "open source alternative to autocad" you will find quite a few that you can then look at the features to decide what you like the best.

Former Member04/03/2019 18:37:55

[This posting has been removed]

Brian G04/03/2019 18:49:46
786 forum posts
34 photos

Best thing about Draftsight (apart from being free and "feeling" just like AutoCAD) is that although it has its own syntax you can type many AutoCAD commands and it recognises them as well.


John McNamara04/03/2019 21:50:02
1314 forum posts
113 photos

Hi Glyn

I purchased Autocad a long time ago and have kept it updated up to now. At least I own it as it was sold to me under their old licence where you bought the program. Now you can only buy a subscription. They keep asking me to switch. Not a chance there. When I retire and stop updating it I can keep using it. These days they only do cosmetic changes anyway.

Anyway I did a bit of searching and found the following links.

For 3D modeling machinery Fusion360 is worth looking into, I downloaded it (Free to hobby users) The interface is not at all like Autocad, However the built in CAM is very enticing. Compared to Autocad it is in my view totally unsuitable for designing buildings beyond say a dog kennel.






Brian Baker 105/03/2019 08:10:55
167 forum posts
34 photos

Plus one for QCad.

Worth buying the book as well.



mgnbuk05/03/2019 08:32:17
1036 forum posts
69 photos

Another Draftsight user here. I used Autocad LT at my last employment & find I can use Draftsight in the same way & with the same commands & mouse clicks as Autocad. There is a requirement to re-validate your details annually to use it, but this is quick & easy to do if you are on-line.

I recently downloaded DesignSpark Mechanical 3D software from RS Components to have a tentative stab at 3D CAD, but have yet to find time to have a go. This is also free, though you need to set up a DesignSpark account to validate it. My PC doesn't meet the specs for Fusion 360 (32 bit OS), but DesignSpark Mechanical runs fine.

Nigel B

Glyn Davies05/03/2019 08:58:05
132 forum posts
46 photos

Well, as usual with this forum, an absolutely brilliant response to my question. Many thanks for the replies. I've just downloaded Draftsight free and have been having a play. It imports my AutoCAD drawings, so that's a relief, and as has been said, the interface is kind of familiar.

But I sort of feel that having lost autoCAD, my life has taken a slight turn for the worse, so, in desperation, I did an ebay search and, behold! - Autocad 2019 full 3 years subscription for £8.95! I'll give it a go and report back.

Paul Lousick05/03/2019 09:17:26
1862 forum posts
661 photos

£8.95 for a 3 year subscription sounds a bit suspect.   In Australia it costs A$7,000 for a 3 year subscription.

Is it the software or just a tutorial/book. If software, check that it is not a pirate copy.



Edited By Paul Lousick on 05/03/2019 09:24:34

SillyOldDuffer05/03/2019 09:24:01
7574 forum posts
1681 photos
Posted by Glyn Davies on 05/03/2019 08:58:05:


But I sort of feel that having lost autoCAD, my life has taken a slight turn for the worse, so, in desperation, I did an ebay search and, behold! - Autocad 2019 full 3 years subscription for £8.95! I'll give it a go and report back.



Could there be anything wrong installing a product on your computer costing £8.95 when the real thing is £4400+VAT?

Given that there are genuinely good alternatives to AutoCAD I wouldn't touch an £8.95 'offer' with a barge-pole. At best it's a pirate copy, at worst it's stuffed with malware. Normally, it's quite hard for the bad guys to get their wickedness installed on the victim's computer. The very best way is to con an administrator to load it. Like as not this is a honeypot.

If you want to try it, don't install it directly. Instead set up a virtual machine like VirtualBox, VMWare or one of the others and install it on that. Then if 'ebay Autocad' craps on you the damage will be contained inside the VM, which can be deleted, and with minimum risk of contaminating your real computer.


Glyn Davies05/03/2019 09:32:03
132 forum posts
46 photos

Hmm.. The ebay listing gets seven glowing five star reviews and one one star review in Spanish that warns that you all get is a link to the free educational version of AutoCAD.

Ah well, as the atomic scientist said..

Glyn Davies05/03/2019 14:08:34
132 forum posts
46 photos

Just in conclusion - the more I play with Draftsight the more capability I find. Things like spline, rotate reference, scale reference, fillet are all there, just not on the main ribbon. So thanks again for the suggestion - life is good once more!

Paul M05/03/2019 14:17:18
69 forum posts
4 photos

I have used QCAD for a few years now. As an ex AutoCad user, I find it similar and very easy to migrate to.

Also starting using Fusion360 for 3D work.

Agree with others not to touch AutoCad at £8.95.

SillyOldDuffer05/03/2019 15:36:33
7574 forum posts
1681 photos

As a QCAD user I wondered what I was missing by not spending five thousand quid on AutoCAD 2019!

The answer is AutoCAD supports a wider range of drawing types plus many time-saving features useful to professionals. For instance there are huge libraries of industry standard parts the draughtsman can drop into his drawings rather than create himself. Also 'workbenches' tuned to particular drawing needs: Architectural, Plant, Electrical, Maps, Mechanical, and a combined 'Mechanical, Electrical, Plumbing' workbench. Each workbench is full featured, including automated drawing processes. A busy drawing office would benefit. An Office Block would be designed far faster in Autocad than, say, QCAD, not because QCAD doesn't have the primitives needed to produce the same drawings manually, but because AutoCAD is thoroughly 'power assisted'.

Apart from the price of AutoCAD, the other downside of high-end packages is the extended learning curve. In contrast, QCAD is moderately well supported with libraries, and although it has all the basic drawing tools needed to produce 2D engineering drawings, it doesn't have complicated extras. I'm happy with QCAD in the sense I don't need GPS, Radar, Air Traffic Control and a Flight Computer to get to my local supermarket! Quite likely a Model Engineer would never use AutoCAD's Plant, Electrical, Architectural, MEP or Mapping capabilities. Most of us I think would be content with a straightforward 2D tool.


Robin05/03/2019 16:40:31
488 forum posts

My old boss had a chum at Autodesk so we got a free copy up to r14 when I departed. I now use AutoCAD look alike ProgeCAD, not free but near enough when you compare prices with the real thing. One excellent feature is you buy it, Not too keen on that rental stuff even if I did buy 2 years for the price of 1 Fusion360.

Brian H05/03/2019 16:49:37
2230 forum posts
113 photos

I'm a newcomer to CAD/CAM and tried Fusion 360 last year but gave up because I couldn'd do anything with it.

Then I read about someone who was learning Fusion 360 with help from Lars Christiansens videos and decided to try again.

After only a short time I have drawn up the axleboxes for my next project and produced the shop drawing for them and the best part for we model engineers is that it is free and contains all the help you could ever need.


Jeff Dayman05/03/2019 17:24:08
2178 forum posts
45 photos

A while ago I was looking for a manual online for a particular machine's transmission, long out of production. I found lots of manuals from the usual US based sources at the $50-$75 price point. Seemed a bit hefty so I looked elsewhere and found a listing for one at $15.95 from one of the auction sites. Ordered it, and a couple of weeks later it arrived. It was a colour photocopy of the cover page of the manual - and no other pages. Total and complete ripoff.

Just mentioning it as a caution to beware the deep discount prices online. You may or may not get what you pay for.

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