CAD Software Review

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Why Buy CAD Software?

Computer-aided design software can help you turn 2D and 3D designs into useful models and prototypes for a variety of fields. From floor plans and landscaping to kitchen remodels and 3D printing, CAD software has the tools to help you build and customize designs from the ground up. Whether you're a hobbyist beginner, a professional engineer or architectural student, you'll want a CAD software program tailored to your interests.

CAD programs range from professional applications like AutoCAD to consumer-based packages such as TurboCAD Deluxe, DesignCAD 3D Max and SketchUp Pro. These three top our CAD software list due to their affordability and ease of use. Unlike AutoCAD, which is the best and most recognized CAD software for professional users, our top three offer everyday users AutoCAD functionality without the steep learning curve and costly licensing.

If you want to learn more about how CAD software can help you create tangible designs, read some of our latest CAD Software articles. Finding the right CAD program for your unique projects can reduce heavy lifting and leave you free to exercise your creativity.

CAD Software: What to Look For

When shopping for computer-aided design software programs, a few features and tools stand out as key indicators of good software. During our CAD software review research, we found that tools like a command line, house wizard, comprehensive video tutorials and a few others were all included with the best CAD software.

Design Tools
Designing 2D and 3D models is the essence of any good CAD program, so you'll want to be sure your choice has all the right tools. Some programs are only for 2D drawings or 3D modeling, but the best software has a range of feature for both. For architectural designs, look for a wall tool and house wizard to do some of the work for you. Photorealistic rendering is another important feature that enables you to see what your finished designs will really look like.

Interface Features
Easy CAD software might sound like a contradiction, but in truth many programs have resources and features to make the software itself easier to use. The best CAD programs have customizable tool palettes, a command line and the ability to import existing designs. Also, be sure to look for a setup manager and macro recording to save you even more time.

Editing Tools
CAD packages should come with many different editing tools. Point markers and layer managers can keep your designs organized. Text and color editing help you make notes and distinctions between different elements and pieces of your project. A snap tool is absolutely necessary so you can "snap" to specific locations on your models. Many programs also come with 2D and 3D symbols and included models so you won't have to create each small element individually from scratch.

Help & Support
Both 3D and 2D CAD software can be hard to learn, so it’s nice to have a support network to walk you through the process. Email is the main source of direct contact with many CAD software manufacturers, but the best companies will offer phone support as well. Also, some technical support is only included for free for a limited time, so be sure to read the fine print before you install your software. Video tutorials, an in-program manual and community forums are also convenient sources for additional help.

Compatibility
Whether you're working with a team or by yourself, you'll need to be able to present and utilize your designs. File compatibility is one aspect of CAD drawing software you don't want to overlook. DWG, DXF, DWF and DGN are the most important formats to look for if you're working with AutoCAD. For 3D printing, an STL export feature is handy. For printing or emailing read-only files, look for PDF and various image file formats for easy transfer.

The best 3D CAD software not only has a wide range of features but an easy-to-use interface. Whether you're looking for top of the line or cheap CAD software, just be sure the program you choose has the right tools for your line of work.

 
 
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Ratings
9.78
9.45
9.15
8.98
8.58
8.45
7.63
7.40
7.15
7.00
10
9
8
7
6
5
4
3
2
1
10.00
10.00
9.38
10.00
9.38
9.38
10.00
10.00
9.38
6.88
8.75
10.00
10.00
8.13
7.50
7.50
9.38
10.00
10.00
7.50
8.13
8.13
10.00
7.50
8.75
8.13
9.38
6.25
10.00
10.00
5.63
8.75
7.50
9.38
7.50
7.50
8.13
6.25
10.00
4.38
7.50
6.88
7.50
6.25
7.50
5.00
3.75
10.00
10.00
8.13
 
Design Tools
2D Drawing Tools
3D Modeling Tools
Hatching
 
 
Textures
Transparency Options
Lighting Effects
 
Photorealistic Rendering
      
Wall Tool
  
 
House Wizard
    
 
  
Interface Features
Ease of Use Score (%) 100% 95% 100% 90% 80% 80% 75% 80% 80% 75%
Custom Tool Palette
Drag-and-Drop Functionality
Command Line
 
 
Measure Command Tool
 
Import Existing Designs
Macros
 
  
Set Up Manager
 
Editing Tools
2D/3D Symbols 190 10,000 Available for Download 1,500 26,000 800 150 600 11,000 230
Free Models/Components 190 600 450+ 35 50 30 35 35 20 180
Snap Tool/Polar Tracking
Text Editing
Color Editing
Layer Manager
Point Marker
Extrude 3D Models from 2D Designs
 
  
Generate 2D Designs from 3D Models
   
Help & Support
Email
 
Phone
 
 
 
Video Tutorials
 
Forums
 
FAQs
Manual
Download & DVD
Download Download
Download
Free Technical Support Unlimited Unlimited 1 Year 1 Year to Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited 1 Month 1 Year
Compatibility
DWG
DXF
DWF
 
 
DGN
    
  
 
SKP
 
 
 
  
STEP    
   
STL
  
  
PDF
 
 
Image Files
 
  
Mobile App
 
  
  
Operating Systems
Windows 8
Windows 7
Windows Vista
Mac OS X Version Available