The Best CAD Software of 2021

Our CAD software reviews are the result of over 40 hours of research on 55+ CAD software companies from across the web. These reviews and our CAD software guide help small businesses and startups find the best CAD software for their business.

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The Best CAD Software Companies of 2021

Best CAD Software Badge

How We Chose the Best CAD Software

There are many CAD software companies offering the latest features. And it’s important to ensure when you are choosing CAD software for your business that you’re looking at all of your business needs and wants, and comparing that to what the different software services deliver. We evaluated these companies and their design programs based on several important criteria, including which CAD category it falls into, its software features, and its reporting and analytics capabilities.

CAD Category

There are numerous categories of CAD software based on the user’s project needs, such as 3D printing, PCB design, product development, structural planning and other types of engineering. It’s important for users to have a tool that can produce accurate, practical and realistic drafts of their projects.

Specialized CAD software builds upon a core set of features. Though many CAD programs are suitable for general use, specialized software has features that are essential for productivity in one industry over another. We evaluated CAD software in various categories by examining 2D drawing and 3D modeling capabilities, as well as component libraries, simulations, assemblies and integrations.

Software Features

CAD software should have a range of useful features. We prioritized software with essential capabilities, such as 2D drawing, 3D modeling, team collaborations, data storage and integrations with other design tools. The software should also be flexible enough to accommodate major or minor design changes.

Reporting & Analytics Capabilities

Producing data-driven insights for relevant stakeholders is an important function of CAD software. The software should have robust reporting and analytics capabilities to keep track of key project metrics.

The 15 Best CAD Software of 2021

CompanyPriceFree Trial / DemoVisit
ActCADStarts at $299 (permanent license)Free trialVisit ActCAD
Altium Designer250/month ($2,995/year, one year minimum) for time-limited license $9,890 (or 12 installments of $745) for perpetual license15-day free trialVisit Altium
AnsysCustom quoteFree trialVisit Ansys
BricsCADStarts at $410/year for Classic plan30-day free trialVisit BricsCAD
CADWorxCustom quoteRequest a demoVisit CADWorx
CATIACustom quoteRequest a demoVisit CATIA
CorelCAD$699 (permanent license)
$199 upgrade for owners of previous versions
30-day free trialVisit CorelCAD
CreoStarts at $2,43030-day free trialVisit Creo
DesignSparkFree to use (optional paid add-ons)Free version availableVisit DesignSpark
EnSuite$3,670 for EnSuite full version
$1,045 for EnSuite-Lite
$0 for EnSuite-Cloud
Free version availableVisit EnSuite
GeoHECRASCustom quoteFree trialVisit GeoHECRAS
MATLAB$860/year for annual license
$2,150 for perpetual license
30-day free trialVisit MATLAB
Onshape$1,500/year/user for Standard
$2,100/year/user for Professional
Request quote for Enterprise
Free trial (professional plan only)Visit Onshape
SOLIDWORKSCustom quoteDemoVisit SOLIDWORKS
TinkercadFreeFree version availableVisit Tinkercad

ActCAD

actcad
Developed by Jytra Technology Solutions, ActCAD 2020 Professional is a 2D drafting and 3D modeling CAD software. The software is suitable for a range of engineers, architects and technical consultants. Its features include:

  • Native support for PDFs (opening and editing)
  • Block Editor for simplified block editing
  • Built-in System Variable Manager
  • Tool palettes
  • Batch file converter, units converter and image to DXF converter

ActCAD 2020 Professional has add-ons and productivity tools that can be used across technical domains, such as Block Libraries for civil, mechanical, electrical and other types of engineers. It supports common file formats, such as STL, OBJ, 2D PDF, 3D PDF and SVG.

There are three licensing options available: key-based, dongle-based and network-floating. Users who purchase a key-based license for $299 instantly receive their license key via email, while users who purchase a dongle-based license for $349 are sent a USB drive by mail. Both can be activated online or offline. The network-floating license for $399 allows multiple computers to use ActCAD at one time over a LAN connection.

PriceFree Trial / DemoFeatures
Starts at $299 (permanent license)Free trial>Windows deployment option
>Webinar and documentation training
>Support available online and during business hours
>More features at ActCAD

Pros & Cons of ActCAD 2020 Professional CAD Software
ActCAD boasts a comparable feature set to some bigger name CAD systems at an affordable price. However, the software lacks third-party integrations, which may be crucial in specialized industries that rely on external platforms.

ProsCons
>Broad feature set
>Affordable
>Lacks third-party integrations

What Customers Are Saying
ActCAD has earned praise for being cost-effective but not too lean on features. One user says, “It offers everything that is much more expensive [from competitors]. Working with drawings is efficient thanks to additional applications or proprietary commands.”

Altium

Altium-Designer
Backed by over 30 years of R&D experience, Altium offers tools that help designers manage complex projects and create functional final products. Its printed circuit board (PCB) design software, Altium Designer, includes features such as:

  • Altium 365 cloud services
  • Assignable user roles and permissions
  • Component library with real-time data
  • Interoperability with leading MCAD suites, including SOLIDWORKS, Inventor and Creo
  • Annual updates

Altium Designer contains all necessary functions to design a PCB, including running simulations. The software has a hierarchical navigation system, with nested levels to navigate through all components. Users can create detailed 3D models and control variables such as surface roughness, etch factor and flex zones.

Altium offers two buying options: a limited-time license for $250 per month/$2,995 per year (one year minimum) and a perpetual license for $9,890 (or 12 installments of $745). A free trial is also available.

PriceFree Trial / DemoFeatures
$250/month ($2,995/year, one-year minimum) for time-limited license
$9,890 (or 12 installments of $745) for perpetual license
15-day free trial>Web-based, cloud and SaaS deployment options
>Webinar and documentation training
>Chat support available
>More features at Altium

Pros & Cons of Altium Designer CAD Software
Altium Designer contains a multitude of PCB and electronics design features, allowing high-quality visualizations of circuit boards and their components that makes library and project management simple. However, the software has a considerable learning curve, and it doesn’t provide some of the in-depth reports found in other CAD software.

ProsCons
>Feature-rich
>High-quality visualizations
>Intuitive library and project management
>Learning curve
>Limited analytics/reporting

What Customers Are Saying
Altium Designer’s feature set has been a game changer for some, with one user saying, “The 3D CAD integration has been an absolutely killer feature for my company. Several projects literally could not have gone to market without it.”

Ansys

Ansys-Discovery-SpaceClaim
Founded in 1970, Ansys develops world-class simulation technology to help users turn design concepts into successful products. Ansys SpaceClaim is a multipurpose modeling software geared toward engineers seeking a more intuitive tool than traditional CAD systems. Its features include:

  • Design and concept modeling
  • Reverse engineering tools
  • Advanced simulation and analysis
  • Model prep for manufacturing
  • 3D printing-optimized files

Designers can create parts, assemblies and drawings to a precise set of technical specifications, and the software has tools to automatically construct surfaces as well as modify and recreate complex geometry. Simplified model simulations allow engineers to quickly validate and analyze design concepts. It also allows them to create, edit and optimize models for 3D printers.

Ansys offers both a free trial and demo of SpaceClaim. For specific pricing, new customers can request a quote.

PriceFree Trial / DemoFeatures
Custom quoteDemo
Free trial
>Windows deployment option
>Live online, webinar, documentation and in-person training
>Support available online and during business hours
>More features at Ansys

Pros & Cons of Ansys SpaceClaim CAD Software
Ansys SpaceClaim provides a more streamlined work experience for designers who aren’t as technically knowledgeable about CAD systems, making it useful for quick, effective modeling. The software struggles with certain complex functions, such as importing large assemblies and numbers of parts.

ProsCons
>Easy to use
>Quick designing
>Complex function errors

What Customers Are Saying
SpaceClaim’s combined ease of use and functionality have earned praise from several users, including one who said, “I use SpaceClaim to design everything from simple plastic parts to highly complex mechanical systems. I still consider myself an intermediate user as there is much functionality that I have yet to utilize.”

BricsCAD

BricsCAD
Created by Bricsys NV, BricsCAD is a CAD program that employs modern technologies to make 2D drafting and 3D modeling faster and easier. Its features include:

  • 800 standard 3D model parts
  • 2D and 3D parametric constraints
  • Customizable menus and toolbars
  • In-session collaborative tools, file sharing and change tracking
  • WYSIWYG text editor
  • Ability to export PDF, DWF and SVG files

BricsCAD is powered by machine learning technologies that speed up and automate workflows. BricsCAD AI tools can recognize patterns of user behavior and adjust to optimize 2D drawings and 3D models. The software also integrates with over 400 third-party applications for data exchange, GIS, HVAC design, landscaping and other technical areas.

BricsCAD’s pricing structure is highly flexible. There are six plans — Classic, Pro, Platinum, Mechanical, BIM and Ultimate. The final price of each depends on the subscription length. One-year plans range from $410-$1,500, three-year plans range from $1,100-$4,180 and lifetime plans range from $845-$2,665. The company offers single, volume and network licenses.

PriceFree Trial / DemoFeatures
Starts at $410/year for Classic plan30-day free trial>Mac, Windows, web-based, cloud and SaaS deployment options
>Documentation and in-person training
>Support available online and during business hours
>More features at BricsCAD

Pros & Cons of BricsCAD CAD Software
With hundreds of third-party integrations, BricsCAD boasts a constantly expanding feature set backed by a receptive customer support team. The software can perform large-scale analyses at blazing fast speeds. It lacks a product data management API, and former AutoCAD users may struggle to break old habits where interface similarities exist.

ProsCons
>Fast
>Full-featured
>Responsive customer support
>No API for product data management
>Adjustment period for AutoCAD users

What Customers Are Saying
BricsCAD receives glowing reviews for its continuous development. One user reports, “In 2005 I found the program lacking many features, but the development rate is so fast that every day that goes by I find it harder to find something missing that I would need, hundreds of new things get added in every release.”

CADWorx

cadworx
Hexagon’s CADWorx is a product family of 3D design and visualization solutions for structural modeling and technical analysis. CADWorx Structure is the most design-oriented software option. Its features include:

  • Native support for dimensioning and annotations
  • Industry-standard import/export formats
  • Component libraries in both imperial and metric units
  • Accurate, user-configurable bills for project materials

CADWorx Structure can be run alongside CADWorx Plant, a software solution for plant design and automation. Structure is also compatible with other products in the CADWorx family, such as CAESAR II for piping models, and it provides analytical tools like clash detection to ensure structurally sound models.

Hexagon does not offer a free trial or demo. New customers must request a quote for specific pricing information.

PriceFree Trial / DemoFeatures
Custom quoteRequest a demo>Web-based, cloud and SaaS deployment options
>In-person training
>Support available online and during business hours
>More features at CADWorx

Pros & Cons of CADWorx CAD Software
CADWorx offers scalability and piping spec accuracy, making it useful for a variety of industrial applications. Generating reports can be more time-consuming than with other CAD systems.

ProsCons
>Scalability
>Accuracy
>Cumbersome reporting

What Customers Are Saying
CADWorx has earned a positive reputation for plant design. One user says that it’s “a proven platform with dedicated support and Coade/Hexagon have invested to ensure the piping specs are accurate.”

CATIA

CATIA
CATIA is a product-oriented CAD program offered by Dassault Systèmes. Its features include:

  • 3DEXPERIENCE advanced modeling and simulation
  • Accessible dashboards and collaboration options
  • Integrations with popular design tools and processes

CATIA is designed for use in industries such as construction, systems engineering and product development. Its product styling capabilities include 3D sketching, Class-A modeling to 3D printing, reverse engineering and visualizations. Mechanical engineers can evaluate products in the development phase with insights from digital prototyping, analysis and simulation.

For specific pricing information, prospective customers can contact the sales department or request a quote.

PriceFree Trial / DemoFeatures
Custom quoteRequest a demo>Windows, Mac, web-based, cloud and SaaS deployment options
>Webinar, live online and documentation training
>Support available online and during business hours
>More features at CATIA

Pros & Cons of CATIA CAD Software
Few CAD systems have as robust 3D modeling and 2D drawing capabilities as CATIA, and it also works well with assemblies for highly detailed projects. Unfortunately, the software may be difficult to use compared to other CAD programs.

ProsCons
>Extensive 3D design tools
>Precise 2D drawing tools
>Works well for assemblies
>Complex interface

What Customers Are Saying
CATIA’s 3D modeling frequently receives positive mention. “If one wants to develop 3D models at a rapid pace along with illustrations, then CATIA is a good option,” writes one user. According to another, “CATIA is probably the most preferred 3D modeling tool in the automotive and aerospace industries.”

CorelCAD

CorelCAD
Corel’s CorelCAD 2020 software is a professional yet simplified CAD solution. Its features include:

  • Industry-standard compatibility with DWG, STL, PDF and CDR file formats
  • Collaboration and project-sharing tools
  • Compatibility with major CAD programs
  • CorelCAD Mobile for iOS and Android devices

CorelCAD 2020 contains both 2D drafting and 3D modeling tools. Adaptable 2D drafts enable custom block building using the Block Editor, dimensional constraint creation and object duplication along a specified path. Users can manage components like blocks, styles and images to construct 3D models for specific technological, engineering and manufacturing applications. They can also add annotations, messages or instructions to projects.

CorelCAD 2020 costs $699 to own indefinitely, and owners of previous versions can upgrade for $199. Corel offers a 30-day, fully functional free trial.

PriceFree Trial / DemoFeatures
$699 (permanent license)
$199 upgrade for owners of previous versions
30-day free trial>Windows, Mac, iPhone/iPad and Android deployment options
>Webinar and documentation training
>Support available online and during business hours
>More features at CorelCAD

Pros & Cons of CorelCAD CAD Software
CorelCAD boasts a high degree of interoperability with major CAD programs such as AutoCAD, and it simplifies the process of creating technical sheets and drawings. On the other hand, 3D modeling functionality is somewhat limited.

ProsCons
>Highly interoperable
>Easy creation of technical sheets and drawings
>Limited 3D functionality

What Customers Are Saying
CorelCAD’s 2D drawing functionality is highlighted often, with one user saying, “CorelCAD is ideally suited for creating mechanical 2D drawings for metal parts and assemblies. It is equally suited for architectural drawings.”

Creo

Creo
Created by PTC, Creo 7.0 is an innovative CAD solution for product design and development. Its features include:

  • Sheet metal, mechanism and plastic part design tools
  • Parametric and freestyle surfacing
  • Multi-CAD collaboration
  • Legacy data migration

Creo’s generative design capability can improve the quality of designs by optimizing output based on the user’s engineering and manufacturing criteria, such as weight and durability. The software enables real-time computational fluid dynamics simulations without exiting the Creo environment.

PTC offers five different software packages: Design Essentials, Design Advanced, Design Advanced Plus, Design Premium and Design Premium Plus. Design packages start at $2,430 and can be upgraded at any time. The company offers a 30-day, fully functional free trial.

PriceFree Trial / DemoFeatures
Starts at $2,43030-day free trial>Windows, web-based, cloud and SaaS deployment options
>Live online, webinar, documentation and in-person training
>Support available during business hours
>More features at Creo

Pros & Cons of Creo CAD Software
Creo boasts a highly functional design package for drawing, modeling and simulation, and the ability to create custom templates makes it flexible enough to use across industries. With so many features, the interface can be difficult to navigate.

ProsCons
>Modeling functionality
>Custom template creation
>Complex interface

What Customers Are Saying
Versatility is one of Creo’s strong points, according to customers like this one: ”PTC Creo is flexible software for part modeling, which helps in solving real-time problems we encounter. Design models can be created more effectively for complex shapes with freestyle capabilities.”

DesignSpark

DesignSpark
DesignSpark is a global platform providing resources for engineers of all kinds — from financially limited startups to bigger businesses. DesignSpark offers Mechanical CAD, a conceptual design program that’s more accessible than traditional CAD software. Features include:

  • Integration with existing workflows
  • Access to components library with 3D models from a variety of suppliers
  • Industry-standard file formats
  • Customizable shortcuts, design views, application color scheme and interface
  • Bill-of-Materials generation using live price and stock information

Mechanical CAD’s development environment is suitable for initial design stages as well as final production. Supplementary resources such as a product data library, community website and ECAD part wizard are available to engineers.

Mechanical CAD is free to download and use, but new users must create a DesignSpark account. There are also premium add-on modules available for extended functionality.

PriceFree Trial / DemoFeatures
Free to use (optional paid add-ons)Free version available>Windows deployment option
>Live online and documentation training
>Support available online and during business hours
>More features at DesignSpark

Pros & Cons of DesignSpark CAD Software
DesignSpark Mechanical CAD is an easy-to-use, fast design solution, which is great for students or independent designers who need capability more than complexity. Free video tutorials and resources are available online. However, it lacks some features of more powerful CAD software.

ProsCons
>User-friendly
>Fast run speed
>Video tutorials and resources
>Limited functionality

What Customers Are Saying
The simplicity and cost-effectiveness of DesignSpark Mechanical CAD are popular with users. One says, “We needed a fast and easy-to-use model-based design system for the early development of an energy storage system. We evaluated a number of products and DesignSpark was the best for our needs.”

EnSuite

EnSuite-View
Offered by CCE, a provider of advanced CAD interoperability technology, EnSuite makes 3D CAD data accessible to a variety of stakeholders, regardless of the CAD system used to create it. Its features include:

  • Viewing support for all major native CAD and standard formats
  • Broad organizational access
  • No specific CAD authoring system required

EnSuite allows users to measure distances and dimensions, compute masses and volumes, compare parts and assemblies and from CAD files without obtaining a license for — and learning how to use — individual CAD systems. It also includes custom productivity apps that allow users to automate purchasing, manufacturing, engineering and other processes using relevant information extracted from CAD files.

A subscription for EnSuite’s full version costs $3,670 per year, while EnSuite-Lite costs $1,045 per year but has fewer features. EnSuite-Cloud, a cloud-based version, is free but has a significantly limited feature set.

PriceFree Trial / DemoFeatures
$3,670 for EnSuite full version
$1,045 for EnSuite-Lite
$0 for EnSuite-Cloud
Free version available>Windows deployment option
>Documentation training
>Support available online
>More features at EnSuite

Pros & Cons of EnSuite CAD Software
EnSuite is a user-friendly program that allows any member of an organization to view and pull data from CAD files, which is useful for managers, executives and personnel unfamiliar with complex CAD software. Beyond the CAD file viewer, much of EnSuite’s functionality is redundant.

ProsCons
>User-friendly
>Ability to open files regardless of format
>Redundant tool set

What Customers Are Saying
EnSuite has received positive reviews for being layman-friendly, with one user saying, “My overall experience with EnSuite is a good one. … The ease of use for a non-CAD professional and the ability to translate multiple CAD file types makes this program very versatile and an extremely useful tool in my business.”

GeoHECRAS

GeoHECRAS
GeoHECRAS is a hydrologic modeling and visualization program developed by software engineering company CivilGEO, Inc. Its features include:

  • AutoCAD, MicroStation and ESRI ArcGIS compatibility
  • Existing data import
  • Simultaneous project display using the Multiple Document Interface (MDI)
  • Unlimited undo and redo
  • Integrations with cloud-based mapping services

GeoHECRAS users can click and drag to manipulate all model elements, such as cross sections, roadway crossings and ineffective flow areas. The software works with source material from Google or Bing online maps as well as high-resolution aerial imagery files, and completed HEC-RAS models can be exported to CAD and GIS systems. Cross section plots, cross section tables, profile plots, profile tables, time series graphs and other reporting functions are available and updated with changes to the model.

Customers must request a quote for specific pricing, but the company does provide a downloadable free trial as well as several licensing options: Single, Concurrent and Enterprise.

PriceFree Trial / DemoFeatures
Custom quoteFree trial>Windows deployment option
>Documentation, webinar and live online training
>Support available online and during business hours
>More features at GeoHECRAS

Pros & Cons of GeoHECRAS CAD Software
GeoHECRAS saves hydraulic engineers time by allowing them to import maps, photographs and other topographical data from online sources, including Google and Bing. CivilGEO’s customer service is also helpful. Conversely, the software can’t generate a Bill of Materials, and the annual maintenance fee is costly.

ProsCons
>Time-saving
>Combined GIS and CAD functionality
>Helpful customer support
>Can't generate a BoM
>High annual maintenance fee

What Customers Are Saying
Many users are satisfied with the time and effort saved by using GeoHECRAS. One notes, “The software has allowed our company to provide more detail data for our clients in a more timely and efficient manner.”

MATLAB

MATLAB
MATLAB is provided by MathWorks, an American corporation specializing in mathematical computing software. MATLAB can be used to analyze data, develop algorithms and create models. Features include:

  • Professionally developed toolboxes
  • Scalable analyses
  • Production-ready code output
  • Integration with Simulink’s Model-Based Design

For advanced visualizations, MATLAB can be used in conjunction with the Simulink product family, which includes programs like Simscape Multibody, a comprehensive mechanical design environment that enables engineers to model systems using blocks to represent essential components — e.g., bodies, joints and sensors — or import entire CAD assemblies.

MathWorks offers a 30-day free trial of MATLAB as well as its other products. Customers can purchase an annual license for $860 per year or perpetual license for $2,150. They can also request a quote or contact the sales department if unsure which products are appropriate for their needs.

PriceFree Trial / DemoFeatures
$860/year for annual license
$2,150 for perpetual license
30-day free trial>Windows and Mac deployment options
>Live online, webinar and documentation training
>Support available online and during business hours
>More features at MATLAB

Pros & Cons of MATLAB CAD Software
MATLAB boasts an extremely high level of functionality — about any mathematical function necessary can be performed using the software, and help documentation outlines how to use these functions correctly. The learning curve is steep, and Simulink products, as well as many downloadable modules, come at an additional cost.

ProsCons
>Extremely high functionality
>Help documentation
>Separate licensing fee for Simulink products

What Customers Are Saying
MATLAB users express appreciation for the software’s vast analytical abilities. “MATLAB has a long list of useful commands,” one user says. “With these commands, one can edit text, solve complicated math problems, process images, and many more applications. Basically, any problem that is in some way related to numbers can be implemented in MATLAB.”

Onshape

Onshape
Onshape is a web-based CAD software system. It’s optimized for product design and relies on cloud computing technology. Features include:

  • Standard content libraries
  • Import/export support in industry-standard file formats
  • Intelligent customization options
  • Product data management
  • Multiplatform accessibility

Onshape’s Parametric Modeling 2.0 offers tools like multipart and in-context design absent from older CAD systems. Designers can manage configuration via small separate tables instead of a single one containing all parameter data. The software allows real-time design review, simultaneous editing and other collaboration options, and it can run on Windows, Mac, iOS and Android devices with a modern browser.

There are three pricing plans available: Standard, Professional and Enterprise. The Standard and Professional plans cost $1,500 and $2,100 annually per user, respectively. For Enterprise pricing, customers must request a quote. They can also request a free trial of the Professional plan.

PriceFree Trial / DemoFeatures
$1,500/year/user for Standard
$2,100/year/user for Professional
Request quote for Enterprise
Free trial (professional plan only)>Web-based, cloud and SaaS deployment options
>Live online, webinar and documentation training
>Support available online and during business hours
>More features at Onshape

Pros & Cons of Onshape CAD Software
Onshape boasts a cloud-powered CAD platform that’s accessible by any member of an organization, from anywhere with an internet connection. Its collaborative tools make distributed workflows easy to manage. However, it lacks some of the features of traditional CAD software, and there’s no trial version for Enterprise clients.

ProsCons
>No installation
>Remote and mobile device access
>Easy collaboration
>No Enterprise trial

What Customers Are Saying
Onshape users often cite the benefits of working on a cloud-based platform. “Onshape is very good for collaborating with others outside of your organization,” one user remarks. “If you are a small company, Onshape is about the only game in town for team based development.”

SOLIDWORKS

Solidworks
SOLIDWORKS is a versatile software suite offered by Dassault Systèmes. The 2D and 3D CAD products feature:

  • Extensive drafting and modeling capabilities
  • Support for any kind of 2D or 3D DWG file
  • Familiar interface for transitioning AutoCAD users
  • Community resources and learning tools

SOLIDWORKS enables product designers to progress from drafting to modeling using a highly customizable interface. Users can create, share, validate and modify projects to prepare for end-stage production with SOLIDWORKS CAM or another manufacturing solution.

Dassault Systèmes offers a free demo of its software. For specific pricing information, prospective customers can contact the sales department or request a quote.

PriceFree Trial / DemoFeatures
Custom quoteDemo>Windows, Mac, web-based, cloud and SaaS deployment options
>Webinar, documentation and in-person training
>Support available online and during business hours
>More features at SOLIDWORKS

Pros & Cons of SOLIDWORKS CAD Software
SOLIDWORKS is good for fast, high-quality 3D design creation, with photorealistic rendering of final products. The software is extensible and integrates well with other tools for fluid dynamics, stress testing, 3D printing and other applications. However, there’s no free trial available.

ProsCons
>Fast 3D design creation
>Excellent photorealistic rendering
>Many third-party integrations
>No free trial

What Customers Are Saying
SOLIDWORKS is recognized as one of the CAD industry’s leading software solutions, and users such as this one agree: “SOLIDWORKS has become the industry standard from what I can tell from the tech jobs I have worked at. It is pretty easy to get acquainted with and has lots of functionality.”

Tinkercad

TinkerCAD
Created with ease of use in mind, Autodesk, Inc.’s Tinkercad is a browser-based CAD program. Its features include:

  • Simple web interface
  • Drag-and-drop 3D design
  • Free classes and lesson plans

Tinkercad users can sign up for an account to access, and add to, its library of community-generated 3D designs. Designers, makers, hobbyists, teachers and kids use the platform to create prototypes, home décor, jewelry, toys and other products. Users can also have their designs manufactured through Tinkercad’s partnership with the 3D printing company Shapeways.

Tinkercad is free to use and works with any modern web browser.

PriceFree Trial / DemoFeatures
Free to useFree version available>Web-based deployment option
>Online training resources
>Email support available
>More features at Tinkercad

Pros & Cons of Tinkercad CAD Software
Fun, free and sporting an easy-to-use interface, Tinkercad can be used for adults’ creative projects and as a STEM teaching tool for kids. It’s compatible with 3D printing and 3D printing services, allowing designs to be brought to life. As a web-based platform, it lacks much of the functionality of full-fledged CAD software.

ProsCons
>Free to use
>Compatible with 3D printing
>Good for beginners
>Limited functionality

What Customers Are Saying
Tinkercad earns praise for being a great introductory tool to 3D design and modeling. “I would recommend the program to anyone who wants an introduction to a simple CAD program,” one user states. “I have had students start with me in Tinkercad and eventually work their way up in skill and purchase other Autodesk products because of the enjoyment and opportunity that Tinkercad provided.”

What Is CAD Software?

Computer-aided design, or CAD, software allows architects, engineers, manufacturers and other designers to create technical drawings, schematics and 3D models of projects. It helps designers work out mechanical or planning kinks ahead of time, which also makes upholding industry-wide standards much easier.

CAD software can be used by a single person, or by an entire organization to collaborate on large-scale projects. The CAD programs we’ve ranked are versatile enough to be used by both individuals and bigger companies with more demanding needs.

Although used across many different industries, CAD software has features that make workflow easier for a variety of highly detailed projects. It can simplify projects that involve multidimensional images, computer animation and advanced geometric modeling. Accurately drawing multidimensional images by hand requires art training that some people may lack.

Designers who use CAD software can be more confident about the consistency and quality of their modeling work, all while saving time and money compared to other methods.

Benefits of Using CAD Software

All types of engineers, architects, manufacturers, product designers and project managers can benefit in many ways from using CAD software:

  • Increased productivity:By helping the designer (or design team) visualize the final product, its parts and even its dimensions, CAD software speeds up the production process. It also allows users to make modifications and create example animations of how products will work.
  • Improved design quality:The number of design tools offered by the software improves accuracy and makes it easier to analyze and fix flaws in earlier drafts. These analytical tools reduce waste from faulty designs, leading to cleaner final products.
  • Better communication:The collaborative tools CAD software provides ensure everyone is on the same page throughout a project. Sharing files between individuals or organizations makes standardizing design elements simple and straightforward.
  • Easy documentation:CAD software gives users the ability to create convenient documentation about important design elements of a project, such as product dimensions, specs, schematics for individual components and more.
  • Recycling data:All design data can be saved and used for future reference, making redesigning components or subassemblies unnecessary. Standardized drawings or models can be printed, distributed and modified with ease.

Must-Have Features for CAD Software

Although users will have varying design needs, there are some features that virtually every CAD program should offer, such as:

  • Flexible modeling options:Whether laying out a basic 2D sketch or complex 3D object, designers should be able create clear, detailed drafts and edit them as needed. Being able to use both parametric and free-form modeling tools is also essential.
  • Animations and simulations:Designers all require a way to test out their drafts and see if they work beforehand, whether working on a product prototype or an in-progress construction project needing structural analysis. It should offer expanded and disassembled views as well.
  • Collaboration tools:The ability to collaborate online is essential for designers who need to share their work, even for single-person projects. The software should enable comments and reviews from third parties and have some degree of interoperability.
  • Automation tools: Time-consuming functions should be configurable to improve workflow. Look for software that allows designers to automate repetitive parts of the design process.

The Cost of CAD Software

The cost and pricing structure for CAD software vary widely, with prices ranging from $180 to over $7,000 per year. Some companies offer a monthly subscription, while others charge an annual fee. Some charge a one-time fee, but regardless of the company you choose, it’s important to know if you’re purchasing a license for a single or multiple users.

Many companies also have several versions of their software available for sale. The most expensive versions are tailored to professional settings, where reducing errors, cutting costs and improving design quality are urgent priorities. Casual users, such as those doing home 3D printing or DIY projects, may not require the powerful capabilities of the advanced versions.

Before you purchase CAD software for yourself or your business, consider what your goals are and how the software could help achieve them. With that in mind, you can get the most out of a free trial or demo and make the best decision when the time finally comes to purchase the software.