Dassault had the CAD world talking when it showed a cloud based version of SolidWorks at SolidWorks World 2010. I sat in the audience during the conference and listen to Bernard Charles talk about the Dassault family of products and their mantra of “3d for all”. That’s why I was surprised when I learned the newest software release from Dassault isn’t cloud based and has nothing to do with 3D. Surprisingly, it’s all about 2D and it’s named DraftSight.
DraftSight is not a replacement for the SolidWorks 2D Editor (formerly known as SolidWorks DWG Editor). The two applications have similarities but are based on different technology. Like the SolidWorks 2D Editor, Draftsight reads and writes DWG and DXF files. It functions basically the same as the SolidWorks 2D Editor and other 2D CAD software you’ve previously used. DraftSight is aimed at the 3D CAD customer who needs to keep a seat or two of 2D CAD current to work with legacy data, do some 2D drafting, create schematics and offer other company departments (sales for example) some simple drafting tools. It’s not limited to this type of work however. You could easily use DraftSight to create 2D layout and detail drawings from scratch for any design in a variety of industries. Unlike the Solidworks 2D Editor that was free to all SolidWorks subscription customers, Draftsight is free for everyone. It will also be offered in Mac and Linux flavors later this year.
DraftSight is more than just software. Its also about community. When you activate your free copy of DraftSight you’re also signing up to be part of the DraftSight community. The idea being, in order for the software to grow, mature and be widely adopted it needs to have a supportive user community behind it. The idea is based on the open source software model. With open source software, the source code is freely distributed, upgraded and altered by users to add features and functions. The DraftSight source code will not be distributed but it will be updated and enhanced based on user feedback. This feedback will be collected and voted on by the user community in much the same was as SolidWorks Brainstorm works. This allows you, the user input on the software’s future without actually having to know how to write code.
After using DraftSight for a few hours, trying to dig in and find out what’s under the hood I’ve learned that its really not that much different than other 2D packages. The software downloaded and installed in about 5 minutes (it’s only a 47 meg package). All the features and functions are there, the UI is very familiar, its very stable and it’s performance is good. I’ve had no issues opening dwg files created in AutoCAD 2004 and they write fine as well. It’s really a very functional, feature rich 2D product and best of all it’s free. Overall in my short usage time I like DraftSight. It’s UI is much better than the SolidWorks 2D Editor mainly because the tool icons are much more readable and understandable. It also feels like a more modern interface than the 2D Editor and it has a good amount of customizability. If you prefer to enter commands on the command line you can do that and you’ll find the commands you know from your previous 2D software work in DraftSight. Layers, line styles, hatching, blocks, references, grips, object snaps, patterns, tables, model space, paper space, full help files, etc. It’s all there.
Most of my 2D CAD experience has been with AutoCAD LT. I’ve also used the full version of AutoCAD but honestly LT meets my 2D needs just fine. I don’t run LISP routines or scripting and if I need any 3D capability I go to SolidWorks so, for me LT is all I need. DraftSight will have no issues replacing my seat of AutoCAD LT and in my opinion AutoCAD LT is about the level of product the current release of DraftSight is. I don’t use my seat of AutoCAD LT all that often but the need does arise on occasion and it’s becoming harder and harder to do this as I upgrade my computer and operating systems. My older seat of software isn’t compatible with the newest operating systems but I don’t use the software enough to justify the upgrade costs. This makes DraftSight a very attractive product for me since it can meet all my 2D needs and it costs me nothing.
Later this year the public beta of DraftSight will end and the release version will be available for free to everyone. At that time DraftSight will also offer some add-ins to the product which will be on a purchase basis. The current list of add-ins is small but that will chnage over time as the community grows and requests more capability.
Currently the add-in products available for purchase will be:
API extensions for those users that would like to customize, automate and integrate the product.
Tech support for those users who need help and or training.
Network licensing for those users that would like to be able to manage multiple installs. The network license add-in also includes the API extensions and tech support.
If you have some spare time in the near future and are looking for a very capable 2D drafting application at a very attractive price (free) download DraftSight and give it a try.