Can DraftSight REALLY replace other popular CAD systems?

6 min


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During his twenty-year career as a high-tech evangelist Lynn Allen performed in front of more than half a million audience of professionals; she has been a welcome guest at conferences in over 50 countries around the world. Her webinars and videos have been watched by over five million people. Lynn Allen is the author of three books; she has over 21,000 Twitter followers (Lynn_Allen) and over a quarter of a million monthly visitors.

Lynn Allen sometimes jokes that while her job is to encourage people to change, she herself is extremely reluctant to change her habits. Therefore, she perfectly understands how difficult it is for designers to change their software tools for something new, what a lot of concerns they have. She herself has gone from a passionate promoter of classic CAD to a fan DraftSight, a relatively new application in the engineering community. Let’s hear what she says.

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For twenty years I have been doing the same thing: explaining to people what was new in the next version of their good old CAD. During this time, I have written three books, countless articles for Cadalyst Magazine, and hundreds of video tutorials.
But things are changing, and my personal comfort zone is a thing of the past. I realized that for those who do not want to overpay for a promoted name, there are many alternatives. But how good are these alternatives? How friendly are they with the DWG format? What are these clones – cheap fakes, like fake Adidas, or are they real CAD – serious, reliable and high quality? And most importantly, can the new CAD system become a convenient and comfortable environment for the user?

Now that I have moved to Dassault Systèmes and have gotten to know DraftSight, I can confidently answer all these questions “YES!” DraftSight not only records 100% compatible DWG files, with all blocks, dimension styles, layers, etc. You will immediately feel in a familiar environment, and for much less money. User-friendly interface, nice appearance, and even command names sound familiar. You don’t have to remember which commands are different – you can enter the command name the way you are used to, and DraftSight will prompt the correct command. Well, if you (like me) do not like to relearn, then don’t!

For example, you want to clean up a drawing file of unused blocks, unnecessary layers, and the like. In these cases, you are used to typing the PURGE command. In DraftSight, a similar command is called CLEAN (or CL for short). It is not at all necessary to load your head with all these differences. Just start typing PU (or the whole word PURGE) as usual – and DraftSight will offer you the correct CLEAN command!

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Fig. 1. DraftSight understands commands from other CAD systems and translates them into corresponding DraftSight commands.

Here we smoothly move on to the next point. About ten years ago, many CAD developers borrowed the ribbon interface from Microsoft Office and began forcibly transferring users to the ribbon. Sometimes it got to the point that in the latest versions of applications it was impossible to return the classic look of the menu. The DraftSight developers have done much smarter. They made it possible for the users to choose the style of the interface. The meanings of the function keys are familiar; as always, you can go to editing by double-clicking on the object. And, of course, everyone’s favorite command line: you will enter commands in the lower left corner, as it was planned by the founding fathers at the dawn of CAD (however, the command line can be dragged anywhere!). And no one imposes this terrible gray color on you (did anyone really like this gray background?) It has long been proven that black letters and icons on a light background are the most comfortable combination for the eyes. Conversely, seeing a blue icon on a gray background is almost hopeless.

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Fig. 2. Agree, a familiar and pleasant interface?

The only thing I regret is that in DraftSight, you cannot change the icons in the status bar to plain text. However, these icons are few and far between.
One of the most wonderful tools is Constraints; they are at the forefront of DraftSight. Dependencies are the first step to parametric modeling. For those who have mastered the constraints, it is much easier to move to the next level, to SOLIDWORKS or to BIM applications. In DraftSight, dependencies are given a separate tab on the ribbon.

Even before I came to Dassault Systèmes, I envied the white envy of the PowerTrim team, which no other CAD application has except DraftSight. TRIM and EXTEND are traditionally the most commonly used commands, and DraftSight has perfected this functionality. Just look at fig. 3. No unnecessary movements such as selection of cutting edges and borders. You just move the mouse, and the lines are cut or stretched as you need!
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Fig. 3. PowerTrim – these are the same Trim and Extend commands, but without unnecessary clicks.

One of the features of DraftSight, which has no analogues in most competitors – dynamic blocks. Anyone who has felt the benefits of dynamic blocks cannot do without them. Take a look at fig. 4.

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Fig. 4. It is easy to create and insert dynamic blocks in DraftSight.

Can you customize the interface to suit your habits? Of course! You can change toolbars, ribbon, keyboard shortcuts, and so on. In general, we can say that customization of the interface in DraftSight is easier than that of competitors. Can LISP programs be run? Sure! Any AutoLISP files and scripts written for other platforms will run flawlessly in DraftSight.

DraftSight was originally conceived to relieve SOLIDWORKS users of the hassle of reading DWG files created in other applications. Nobody expected that the number of downloads of the new CAD system would be in the millions. Initially, DraftSight developers considered mechanical engineers as their target audience, but gradually, as it gained popularity among designers, architects and civil engineers began to make up a significant proportion of the user base. Naturally, developers began to add specialized teams to DraftSight for different industries, including elements specific to BIM.

DraftSight can also record drawing files up to the DWG versions that were in use back in the early nineties! I know companies that buy DraftSight just to be able to save files securely. Take a look at fig. 5 and appreciate the variety of formats.

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Fig. 5. DraftSight records drawing files in a wide variety of formats.

DraftSight not burdened with 40 years of history, so it is much “lighter” than the rest. It has more modest hardware requirements – graphics capabilities and PC processing power. This is also saving. Are all the commands found in traditional CAD systems in DraftSight? Of course not, and it is not necessary. Who needs 38-year-old features? People need only the best of them, modern teams that help design faster and better. Only the most useful commands are included in DraftSight. Many of the functions that were considered useful 30 years ago have simply lost their meaning today.
DraftSight is offered in a variety of configurations to suit different budgets and needs.

The most modest configuration, DraftSight Standard, costs only $ 99 per year; it cannot run AutoLISP programs, and some other functions are missing, for example, formulas in tables. For comparison, the cheapest configuration of a hyped CAD system costs $ 420 per year.

My personal favorite is the DraftSight Professional configuration; the only thing missing is 3D modeling. There is even an API in this configuration. The price seems reasonable to me: just $ 100 more than the Standard.

If you can’t do without 3D, then you should take a closer look at DraftSight Premium. For $ 499 per year, you will get surface modeling and solid building capabilities. Not bad savings compared to classic CAD, which costs $ 1,690 a year! It also includes a great dependency functionality that will allow you to gradually move on to real parametric modeling.

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Fig. 6. DraftSight is offered in three different configurations.

There is a fourth option: to buy a perpetual license called DraftSight Enterprise – this is for those who prefer to actually own the product. In this era of mass subscriptions, I would prefer annual licenses; I love the low annual fees and the regular automatic updates (developers are constantly adding great new features to DraftSight). However, the choice is yours. Download a free trial version of DraftSight and see for yourself that my words are not empty words.

Learn more about DraftSight at official website

and also on SOLIDWORKS website

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