AutoCAD to DraftSight, Should you Switch?

Article by Mike Walloch, CSWE updated April 24, 2024

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For some, working in AutoCAD feels like a comfortable, well-worn glove. The menu layout, the command line, the color scheme, customizations, and maybe even LISP routines you’ve painstakingly created over the years are as familiar as the back of your hand. They combine to form a cozy environment you’re more than a little reluctant to leave behind. So why would you ever want to switch to from AutoCAD to DraftSight?

Let me tell you, I’ve been there. I was an AutoCAD user for nearly three decades and a passionate advocate for it. Everywhere I worked I was the go-to AutoCAD expert, the guy people came to when they needed help. But I wound up switching to DraftSight, and don’t regret it. Let me explain why.

A Familiar Story

Like most people, I used AutoCAD for 2D drafting and design work. I also used it for 3D modeling until I got a seat of SOLIDWORKS, but AutoCAD was still my tool of choice for 2D work such as:

  • Site Maps
  • Building Layouts
  • House Foor Plans
  • Electrical Drawings
  • Figures for Documents
  • Updating Legacy 2D Designs

For years my company wanted to abandon AutoCAD entirely to save money since we were creating most new projects with SOLIDWORKS, but we had many thousands of DWG-based designs that were still active product lines. We didn’t have the time or budget to re-create all those drawings and there were still plenty of use cases for 2D CAD. We were stuck paying for AutoCAD… or so we thought.

Changing from AutoCAD to DraftSight

What if there was a CAD package using the same DWG file format as your existing AutoCAD drawings, with all the tools you need, the look and feel you already know, and at a fraction of the price you’re paying now?

That’s DraftSight. Really! Open your old AutoCAD files, no exporting or importing is required. Keep using your old templates and standard layers. Have colleagues still using an ancient version of AutoCAD? You can save files in older DWG or DXF formats for them, all the way back to 1992’s R12!

Use a menu layout and command names you already know, including your favorite keyboard aliases. Keep using those same LISP routines you’ve been using for years. Customize it to look and feel the way you like it.

A Familiar User Interface

It only took a few minutes to customize DraftSight to my dinosaur-like preferences, complete with a full-screen crosshair in place of the standard cursor. The Options dialog is easy to navigate, and the search field makes it easy to find settings. If you prefer classic toolbars over a ribbon-style menu, just change workspaces. You can quickly switch between several menu layouts. And you can choose between light or dark mode.

Should you switch from AutoCAD to DraftSight?

Open any DWG file in DraftSight.

Like SOLIDWORKS, DraftSight is part of the Dassault Systèmes family of products., so, in addition to offering familiarity for AutoCAD users, there’s some familiarity for SOLIDWORKS users as well:

  • Toolbox
  • Power Trim
  • Hole Wizard
  • Design Library
  • Mouse Gestures
  • Drawing Compare
  • Dimension Palette
  • Reverse Zoom Wheel

Product Portfolio and Licensing

Since not everyone has the same needs, DraftSight offers multiple licensing options and performance tiers in their portfolio. This gives you much more flexibility when switching from AutoCAD to DraftSight. 

  • Stand-Alone Licenses
  • Cloud-Based 3DEXPERIENCE Licenses
  • Network Licenses

Stand-alone and cloud-based 3DEXPERIENCE licenses are term-based subscriptions. Stand-alone seats are installed and activated on a particular computer. 3DEXPERIENCE seats are a named-user model, allowing you to install and use DraftSight on multiple different computers. They also expand DraftSight’s abilities by connecting it to the powerful 3DEXPERIENCE platform.

Network licenses (Enterprise and Enterprise Plus) allow a pool of floating seats to be shared by multiple users. They can be term-based, or perpetual licenses with an optional maintenance subscription for support and upgrades. If you also use networked SOLIDWORKS seats, you don’t need a separate server to manage your DraftSight licenses. The same license manager can handle them both.

There are 3 performance tiers:

  1. Professional and Enterprise
  2. Premium and Enterprise Plus
  3. Mechanical

DraftSight Professional and Enterprise come with an assortment of productivity tools for drafters, designers, engineers, architects, machinists, and anyone needing a fully featured 2D CAD package. DraftSight Premium and Enterprise Plus add 3D modeling and other top-notch tools. DraftSight Mechanical adds specialty tools for mechanical drawings.

For a complete list of DraftSight versions and a detailed feature comparison, visit DraftSight.com.

Price Comparison of AutoCAD to DraftSight

  • With so many licensing options, the per-seat cost of DraftSight can vary considerably, but as of this writing, a seat of AutoCAD will cost you about 3.5 times more than an equivalent seat of DraftSight Premium! You can save more than 2/3rds by switching!

  • A seat of AutoCAD LT is much more affordable, but an equivalent seat of DraftSight Professional is about 1/2 the price. If you’re paying for the full version of AutoCAD but not using premium-level features, DraftSight Professional could save you about 7/8ths of what you’re paying now!

Conclusion

AutoCAD has been around since 1982, with origins going back to 1977. For many of us, it’s that old, comfortable, well-worn glove. Nostalgia is a powerful force, but considering everything we’ve looked at it would be hard to justify not switching from AutoCAD to DraftSight.

DraftSight offers us new tools, which feel surprisingly like the old, and does the same job with more convenient licensing options and all at a fraction of the price of AutoCAD. In this case, change is very good.

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Mike Walloch, CSWE

Mike Walloch is a Certified SOLIDWORKS Expert (CSWE) and works as a Process & Training Consultant at TriMech