Computer-Aided Design (CAD) Software
These products won a Top Rated award for having excellent customer satisfaction ratings. The list is based purely on reviews; there is no paid placement, and analyst opinions do not influence the rankings. Read more about the Top Rated criteria.
Computer-Aided Design (CAD) Software TrustMap
TrustMaps are two-dimensional charts that compare products based on trScore and research frequency by prospective buyers. Products must have 10 or more ratings to appear on this TrustMap.
DraftSight is a feature-rich 2D and 3D CAD solution for architects, engineers and construction service providers, as well as professional CAD users, designers, educators and hobbyists. DraftSight lets users create, edit, view, and markup any kind of 2D and 3D DWG file with greater…
Onshape is a cloud-native product development platform with integrated CAD, data management and analytics. Onshape aims to accelerate time to market and improve innovation by:1) Access: Unlike file-based CAD which is on-premise only, Onshape enables remote access for designers and…
Teamcenter® software is a product lifecycle management (PLM) system that connects people and processes, across functional silos, with a digital thread for innovation. The vendor states the breadth and depth of the Teamcenter portfolio mean that users can solve more of the tough challenges…
PTC offers Creo, the company's line of computer-aided design (CAD) products that support the product lifecycle management (PLM) process with 2D and 3D design kits (Creo Elements and Creo Direct), an augmented reality module, Creo Illustrate for technical illustrations, Creo Sketch,…
Siemens PLM (formerly UGS), a division of Siemens AG, offers Solid Edge. Solid Edge is a 2D/3D CAD modeling, simulation, CAM, and 3D printing suite offered free to students, hobbyists, and learners or at relatively low cost to mid-tier companies. It's capabilities are limited relative…
CATIA from Dassault Systemes is a 3D product modeling and design tool used across multiple industries.
Autodesk offers Tinkercad, a 3D modeling and design tool available free for educational purposes.
PTC offers Mathcad, the company's engineering analytics engine including Mathcad Prime, for managing complex mathematical calculations inherent in solving engineering problems. Additionally the software includes Area Protection and Locking, which limits access to information based…
GrabCAD Workbench is a CAD collaboration solution that helps designers to manage files and engage partners in the design process.
Bentley Systems offers OpenRoads Designer, their civil engineering and design platform which replaces the former GEOPAK Civil Engineering Suite, InRoads, MX, and PowerCivil.
The AEC Collection provides designers, engineers, and contractors a set of BIM and CAD tools supported by a cloud-based common data environment that facilitates project delivery from early-stage design through to construction.The AEC Collection is a bundle of products presented as…
Siemens NX software is an integrated solution that aims to help users deliver better products faster and more efficiently. NX delivers design, simulation, and manufacturing solutions that enable companies to realize the value of the digital twin.Supporting every aspect of product…
TurboCAD is 2D and 3D CAD software sold in many different editions, including Deluxe, Expert, and ProPlatinum.
AutoCAD LT computer-aided design (CAD) software that architects, engineers, construction professionals, and designers rely on to produce solely 2D drawings, drafts, and documentation. AutoCAD LT is a CAD software used for 2D drawing, drafting, and documentation whereas AutoCAD is…
Altair Inspire, developed by SolidThinking which was acquired by Altair, is software for Generative Design/Topology Optimization, and rapid simulation solution for design engineers. It is designed to enhance the concept development process by enabling simulation-driven design to…
What is Computer-Aided Design (CAD) Software?
Computer-Aided Design (CAD) is the use of an application to help create or optimize a design. Therefore, CAD software allows engineers, architects, designers, and others to create precision drawings or technical illustrations in 2D or 3D. This category of software can increase productivity, improve quality, and maximize organization by creating a documentation database for manufacturing.
CAD software has a host of applications, including the design of manufacturing parts, electronic circuit boards, prototypes for 3D printers, and buildings. Typically, this software uses either traditional vector-based graphics or raster graphics which show how finished objects would actually look.
CAD software can also facilitate the flow from the design process to the manufacturing process. This software can simulate the movement of a part through the manufacturing process in three dimensions. As this software becomes ever better at simulating the manufacturing process, specialized software for designing the manufacturing process and controlling machine tools called Computer-Aided Manufacturing (CAM) has become integrated with CAD as a single platform.
Computer-Aided Design (CAD) Features & Capabilities
Professional-level software packages usually have the following features:
- 2D/3D Design
- Electrical design
- CAM integration
- Simulation and analysis, such as simulating real world use of an item to identify areas with a propensity for thermal stress and buckling
- Augmented reality
- Data management
- Additive manufacturing
Computer-Aided Design (CAD) Software Comparison
To compare different CAD programs, consider these factors for each product offering:
2D vs. 3D specialty: Leading CAD software will support both 2D and 3D design, however, some do specialize in one mode of design over the other. Fully investigate reviews of the software you’re considering for what type of design it may excel and/or falter at.
Industry-focus: Some CAD programs are specially designed for specific industries, or have add-on sets to make your CAD experienced tailored to your application. For example, Autodesk tools are really popular within the animation and art industries, whereas SketchUp sees a lot of popularity amongst architects given its tools for building design.
Usage and team size: CAD software can get increasingly expensive the more employees you need to use it simultaneously. Most tools have caps on how many users can use one license, and how many workstations the software can be installed upon. Identifying the number of users and workstations should be one of the first steps of your CAD software buying process.
There is a lot of variance for CAD software pricing. Given that its one of the oldest software categories on the market, there are a sizable amount of viable options available for free, including open-sourced programs. Students and educators in this space also receive discounts on pricing, and in some cases free licenses.
For small business professional use, pricing can be as low as $99/year, but enterprises can expect to pay at least a $1,000/yr to support CAD software usage across teams. Product comparison pages may have more information about specific pricing and how products stack up against one another in terms of budgeting.
The following Computer-Aided Design (CAD) Software offer award-winning customer relationships, feature sets, and value for price. Learn more about our Best Of Awards methodology here.
Frequently Asked Questions
There are a few ways Computer-Aided Design (CAD) can be categorized:
- 2-D design (traditional animation, architectural site maps)
- 3-D design (figures, product design)
- Common roles: engineers, drafters, product designers, etc.
- Common industries: consumer products, architecture, aerospace & aviation, healthcare, etc.
While CAD software has a wide variety of use cases ranging from animation to architectural design, it is most commonly used by, and thus associated with, engineers.
A wide variety of engineers utilize CAD programs such as electrical, manufacturing, mechanical, industrial, and product development engineers. Other common roles are "designers" or "drafters".
CAD software is an incredibly useful tool for anyone who has to create either 2D or 3D designs as a major component of their role.