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The AutoCAD workalike market in 2019 : GraphicSpeak

The AutoCAD workalike market in 2019 : GraphicSpeak

AutoCAD is focused by many workalike software distributors exactly as a result of it is the most profitable common 2D/3D CAD program of all time. With 4, six, eight, twelve million customers of the 35-year-old software, entrepreneurs figure that there needs to be a sure proportion of customers who need one thing that prices less, even if it does much less. AutoCAD is priced about three× more to license annually than it’s to purchase a typical workalike outright.

AutoCAD turned a target after Autodesk made the mistaken individuals indignant, ones who might afford the worth tag it might value to channel their fury in getting back at Autodesk. The strands of history involving these stories are long, but because of them the likes of IntelliCAD, Open Design Alliance, and Graebert are at the moment well-established organizations offering options to the market.

The unique AutoCAD workalike is probably going long forgotten. VDraft from Softsource was in 1996, the very first CAD program to natively learn and write DWG information, AutoCAD’s native format. VDraft also featured a choice of AutoCAD-like commands, and it additionally provided features now thought-about normal, but again then have been novel: copy and paste, an at-cursor menu, and opening greater than just one drawing at a time. Despite the fact that it was priced as low as AutoCAD LT, it failed. At the time, for those who needed a low-cost DWG editor, you’d just get Autodesk’s LT model of AutoCAD to be assured of file change compatibility with AutoCAD.

The second workalike was additionally a failure, IntelliCAD 98 from Visio. When it turned clear in 1999 to the popular diagramming software program company that their CAD program wasn’t selling in enough numbers, it set up a non-profit group it referred to as the IntelliCAD Technical Consortium after which donated the code to them. The offspring succeeded: members of the consortium subsequently launched dozens of workalikes, promoting hundreds of thousands of copies.

The early AutoCAD workalikes failed primarily because the compatibility with DWG was not good. When opening AutoCAD information or outputting information in AutoCAD’s DWG format, there could possibly be anomalies in the information. Strains is perhaps totally different colours, dimensions won’t display appropriately, and so on. Typically information have been unusable after going via the trade course of. The state of affairs led to the formation of the Open Design Alliance, which is dedicated to sustaining compatibility between its version of DWG and that of Autodesk.

On another front, there have been a few workalikes made to compete with MicroStation that worked with DGN information. They failed. The only DGN-workalike to succeed was MicroStation itself: in 1984, it was a less expensive version of Integraph’s mini-computer-based IGDS (Intergraph Graphic Design System). Actually, MicroStation was originally named PseudoStation.

In any other case, I can’t assume some other CAD program that’s faced a challenge from workalikes. You possibly can argue that some CAD techniques copy each other’s fashion of working, akin to Inventor copying Solidworks copying Professional/Engineer, however a workalike has to at the least use the identical file format and supply an identical consumer interface, by my definition. With the current effort by the Open Design Alliance to reverse-engineer Revit’s APIs (software programming interfaces) and file codecs, there might at some point be a Revit workalike.

When workalikes make sense

Immediately, there are three dozen or so AutoCAD workalikes so that you can select from. These packages are referred to as “workalikes” because they work like AutoCAD. They offer an analogous consumer interface, function comparable instructions, and skim and save information to the same DWG file format.

What they don’t supply are all of the commands and consumer interface enhancements found in the newest releases of AutoCAD, nor essentially all the identical choices inside commands. The #1 lacking function is creating and modifying dynamic blocks, though many workalikes can use these distinctive blocks once they are created in AutoCAD.

However, workalikes distinguish themselves by providing additional features not found in AutoCAD, similar to further methods for entity selection, extra methods to draw objects, and enhancements to the consumer interface, such because the interactive (and customizable) Quad cursor offered by BricsCAD.

BricsCAD’s Quadcursor offers a dialog at the cursor level offering possible commands. (Source: Aertworks)

The #1 purpose for selecting a workalike, nevertheless, is that it prices no less than half as much as AutoCAD, and almost all of them supply buy-once, use-forever everlasting licenses. This means you’ll be able to have twice as many workstations for designers for a similar software program value. Speaking of workstations, most workalikes have lower hardware requirements than AutoCAD and a number of other run on the free Linux working system.
Listed here are some extra the reason why you may need to buy a workalike:

  • You’re utilizing pirated software and need to go authorized.
  • You discover AutoCAD too costly and need to save on licensing fees.
  • You don’t like the thought of subscription-only software and prefer to pay a single payment for a permanent license.
  • You discover the AutoCAD function set overkill for the type of work you do.
  • You need to design software program that’s more actively developed than AutoCAD is.

An strategy taken by some design companies is to retain a number of seats of AutoCAD for guaranteed compatibility (akin to with dynamic blocks), but then go massive on workalikes. Because of the trouble of the Open Design Alliance, reading and writing DWG information is not a problem. The effort has develop into easier as Autodesk has been introducing fewer new features in DWG through the years.

An strategy taken by some design companies is to retain a number of seats of AutoCAD for guaranteed compatibility (resembling with dynamic blocks), however then go huge on workalikes. Because of the trouble of the Open Design Alliance, reading and writing DWG information is not a problem. The effort has grow to be simpler as Autodesk has been introducing fewer new options in DWG through the years.

At the moment’s workalike market

With so many obtainable, which to buy? Luckily, workalikes might be segregated into three teams, which makes it easier to match them, and so toss out ones that is perhaps unsuitable for you. For a lot of corporations, pricing shouldn’t be publicly out there.

  • Group I workalikes are based mostly on IntelliCAD from IntelliCAD Technical Consortium
  • Group A workalikes are based mostly on ARES from Graebert GmbH
  • Group X workalikes are written independently

As for numbers of customers, those are arduous to return by. Vendors boast of it only when the number is beneficial for advertising purposes. Draftsight is the numbers king, at one time boasting 10 million downloads, most of its free model. All others are under one million, and I think most are in the vary of 10,000 to 100,000.

Group I. The largest group of AutoCAD workalikes is predicated on IntelliCAD code from the IntelliCAD Technical Consortium. Programmers employed by ITC add options and repair bugs. Members contribute code enhancements and report bugs. The ITC is run by members, from whom a board is elected annually.

The ITC has 20 members seen on its web site, plus quite a lot of invisible members who use IntelliCAD as a CAD engine for inner tasks. To differentiate themselves, members rebrand IntelliCAD with their colours and logos and add vertical add-ons particular to their geographic area.

You can’t purchase IntelliCAD from the ITC, solely by way of its members. ITC members typically interact in worth wars with each other, and so you could discover some packages on sale for 50% off, as I did.

4M (€125 and up; Greece)—4M runs add-ons for structure, MEP (mechanical, electrical, plumbing) and power analysis on prime of IntelliCAD.

ACCA software (€349/yr and up; Italy)—ACCA adapts IntelliCAD for architectural. landscape, structural evaluation, development costing, thermal calculations, and lots of more; says it has the most important variety of IFC-certified BIM software in the world; bought by subscription only.

ActCAD ($499 and up; India)—ActCAD sells IntelliCAD together with add-ons for railroad monitor design.

ADeko Applied sciences ($200 and up; Turkey)—ADeko specializes in software for inside design and panel furniture. 

ArCADiasoft (€480 and up; Poland)—ArCADiasoft sells into the building design market, with add-ons for architecture, electrical, fuel supply, heating, telecommunications, water, development, and 3D modeling.

BlueLinx (USA)—BlueLinx sells constructing merchandise, however it isn’t clear how they use IntelliCAD.

CAD Projekt (Poland)—CAD Projekt specializes in interior design and kitchen design, together with rendering; presents an internet designer.

CADian (Korea)—CADian sells rebranded IntelliCAD with add-ons for architecture, mechanical design, electrical, plant design, surveying, and nesting (sheet metallic slicing).

Carlson ($595 and up; USA)—Carlson targets its IntelliCAD-based software at surveyors, civil engineering, hydrology, accident investigation, and mining.

CAD-Manufacturing Solutions ($149 and up; Korea)—CMS sells straight-up IntelliCAD, together with quoting software program.

FrameCAD (New Zealand)—FrameCAD specializes in metal body construction design. The firm claims to are compatible with probably the most standards in the world.

GZ Yuan Fang Pc Software Engineering (China)—The company bases its YFCAD inside design software on IntelliCAD.

Keymark Enterprises (USA)—Keymark specializes in metal framing design.

MicroSurvey Software program (CAD$1,145 and up; Canada)—MicroSurvey specializes in software program for surveying utilizing IntelliCAD; additionally sells hardware for surveying.

MULTIPLUS (Brazil)—CADMultiplus presents further software for structure, BIM, concrete design, steel buildings, sanitation, and so on. Makes use of a hardware lock.

ProgeSOFT (Switzerland)—ProgeSoft sells ProgeCAD with an architectural add-on; pricing out there solely from the native distributor, of which they’ve many in the world.

Stabiplan International (€300/yr; Netherlands)—Stabiplan specializes in BIM software program and add-ons; unclear how they use IntelliCAD. Pricing ranges from free to annual subscriptions. The firm was lately purchased by Trimble.

Wrightsoft ($219 per yr and up; USA)—Wrightsoft specializes in HVAC design and makes use of IntelliCAD as the drawing engine.

ZwCAD Software program (China)—ZwCAD was based mostly on IntelliCAD, then went unbiased, but following a lawsuit from Autodesk, is again underneath the IntelliCAD umbrella. It provides architectural and mechanical add-ons and a separate ZW3D 3D strong modeler that the company purchased from VX. Claims 900,000 users.

Group A. A smaller group of AutoCAD workalikes is predicated on Ares code from Graebert of Germany. Graebert’s personal programmers add features and repair bugs, whereas licensees can add their very own code enhancements and report bugs. Graebert is a family-owned personal agency. Graebert differs from ITC in that it presents licenses for all platforms upon which CAD is run as we speak:

  • ARES Commander—runs on the desktop using Linux, MacOS, and Home windows
  • ARES Kudo—runs in Net browsers
  • ARES Contact—runs on telephones and tablets using Android or iOS

Whereas quite a few workalikes supply cellular viewing, just a few supply modifying on cellular units. Even then, it is just 2D modifying, with 3D viewing.

Graebert has five public licensees and an unknown variety of further personal ones; it’s also used by Graebert for its SiteMaster line of architectural software program. Licensees might rebrand their versions of Ares software program with their colors and logos and prolong features with APIs.

CADopia ($545; USA)—CADopia makes use of inventory Ares; provides courseware and CAD instruments for metal and concrete buildings.

Corel (CAD$900; Canada)—CorelCAD also makes use of stock Ares, apart from a translator for its Corel Designer and Draw software program. Variations out there:

Dassault Systemes ($299 and up; France)—DraftSight was meant to irk Autodesk following a collection of lawsuits between the 2, but now Dassault Systemes sees DraftSight strategic as a flanker brand. Dassault works with Graebert to enormously prolong DraftSight’s MCAD capabilities to the purpose that it ties in with Dassault’s 3DExperience platform. Graebert said in 2017 that ten million copies had been downloaded, although most would have been of the free version; there not is a free model as of v2019.

Graebert ($795 and up; Germany)—Graebert began working on an AutoCAD workalike after Autodesk minimize it off as the exclusive distributor for Germany, first with FelixCAD and now with Ares. The company has also been porting CAD to small units and survey instruments, first with Home windows CE and now with Android and iOS. Versions obtainable:

ProgeSoft (Italy)—ProgeCAD is unusual in that it licenses IntelliCAD for its Windows ProgeCAD package deal, but ARES for its MacOS ICADMAC add-on; pricing out there only from the native distributor.

Group X. The last group of distributors develops their software independently. They have a tendency to have a larger assortment of superior features than packages that rely upon IntelliCAD or ARES. All of them provide APIs for creating add-on purposes.

Bricsys ($635 and up; Belgium)—BricsCAD was originally based mostly on IntelliCAD, however then Bricsys a decade in the past broke away from the ITC to rebuild BricsCAD from the bottom up. The company targets BIM, sheet metallic, and direct modeling by means of its own add-ons, and has as by far the most important third-party add-on collection of any workalike. The software runs on Linux, MacOS, and Home windows. It presents a free 3D model referred to as Form and has probably the most aggressive improve schedule of any CAD package deal. It is now owned by measurement big Hexagon. Claims 250,000 users.

CAXA (China)—As a company specializing in software for Chinese manufacturing corporations, CAXA presents CAD, CAM, EDM, PLM, and manufacturing management software program. The 2D drafting package deal is known as CAXA Draft, whereas the 3D choice is IronCAD from North America, which it owns.

GStar Software program ($399 and up; China)—GStar CAD was initially based mostly on IntelliCAD, but then it went unbiased a couple of years ago, and so boasts about that on its website. In addition to the bottom CAD package deal, it provides architectural and mechanical add-ons. Claims 500,000 customers. 

IMSI/Design ($49 and up; USA)—TurboCAD is nearly as previous as AutoCAD, and for many many years was not suitable with it. This changed, nevertheless, with the TwinCAD initiative, and so now it’s. IMSI/Software gives many ranges of TurboCAD, as well as vertical add-ons for symbols, landscape design, civil, architectural, and mechanical. Variations obtainable:

NanoSoft ($540 and up; Russia)—nanoCAD started as a free AutoCAD workalike, the plan is to earn cash from add-ons. However corporations pivot, and while the free version continues to be out there, it’s a number of releases previous. Right now nanoCAD presents a number of the most advanced features in a primary CAD system, second only to BricsCAD and DraftSight. Examples embrace a particularly superior Table perform, IFC help, and point cloud processing. Whereas it has numerous add-ons, most are in Russian solely.


All types of options exist for producing and modifying drawings in the de facto commonplace DWG format. To determine for yourself which works greatest for you, obtain the 30-day demo variations; all distributors provide one. Slender your decisions with the next criteria:

1. Vertical add-on software program that applies to your area
2. Value versus functionality

You could find that a mixture of decrease and better priced variations is right in your design agency.

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