Computer-Aided Design (CAD) Software

Best Computer-Aided Design (CAD) Software include:

Autodesk Inventor, SOLIDWORKS, SketchUp, DraftSight, and AutoCAD.

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.

Computer-Aided Design (CAD) Software Overview

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) Products

(1-25 of 48) Sorted by Most Reviews

DraftSight
379 ratings
205 reviews
Top Rated
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 ease, speed, and e…
AutoCAD
235 ratings
55 reviews
Top Rated
AutoCAD is a CAD product from Autodesk. It allows designers to work in 2D and 3D, and has extensive online collaboration tools.
SOLIDWORKS
148 ratings
40 reviews
Top Rated
Dassault Systemes offers SOLIDWORKS, a computer-aided design (CAD) system for education and manufacturing supporting 2D or 3D design, electrical design, simulations, and product development with collaboration tools.
SketchUp
81 ratings
37 reviews
Top Rated
SketchUp is 3D modeling software with an emphasis on usability. SketchUp is a Trimble product.
Autodesk Inventor
29 ratings
25 reviews
Top Rated
Autodesk Inventor 3D CAD software offers professional-grade 3D mechanical design, documentation, and product simulation tools.
Onshape
9 ratings
21 reviews
Onshape is a next-generation cloud design platform that aims to speed up product development. It’s an all-in-one system that combines CAD, release management, workflow, real-time collaboration tools, and an API with more than 50 engineering applications. Onshape's goal is to help extended design tea…
Siemens PLM Software
15 ratings
12 reviews
Siemens PLM Software (formerly UGS) is a computer software company specializing in 3D & 2D Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) software. The company is a business unit of Siemens Industry Automation division, and is headquartered in Plano, Texas.
Autodesk Fusion 360
27 ratings
11 reviews
Autodesk Fusion 360 is a cloud-based 3D CAD, CAM, and CAE tool which integrates design, modeling, and simulation capabilities.
Siemens Solid Edge
8 ratings
7 reviews
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 to Siemens PLM…
CATIA
11 ratings
7 reviews
CATIA from Dassault Systemes is a 3D product modeling and design tool used across multiple industries.
PTC Creo
14 ratings
5 reviews
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, Creo Schematics a…
Rhinoceros 3D
6 ratings
5 reviews
Robert McNeel and Associates headquartered in Seattle offers Rhinoceros 3D (or Rhino 3D), a 3D modeling and design application.
MicroStation
7 ratings
5 reviews
Bentley Systems offers the MicroStation application and product family as a 3D and 2D modeling and computer-aided design (CAD) solution for engineers and designers.
National Instruments LabVIEW
2 ratings
4 reviews
National Instruments headquartered in Austin offers LabVIEW, a systems engineering software platform and toolkit.
ARCHICAD
1 rating
4 reviews
ARCHICAD is a 3D architectural design application and BIM from Graphisoft, a Nemetschek Group company headquartered in Budapest.
Autodesk Tinkercad
3 ratings
3 reviews
Autodesk offers Tinkercad, a 3D modeling and design tool available free for educational purposes.
PTC Mathcad
6 ratings
3 reviews
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 on role so that wo…
GrabCAD Workbench
13 ratings
2 reviews
GrabCAD Workbench is a CAD collaboration solution that helps designers to manage files and engage partners in the design process.
TurboCAD
5 ratings
2 reviews
TurboCAD is 2D and 3D CAD software sold in many different editions, including Deluxe, Expert, and ProPlatinum.
Vectorworks Fundamentals
3 ratings
2 reviews
Vectorworks headquartered in Columbia offers Fundamentals, a computer-aided design (CAD) application supporting 2D and 3D design and drafting.
Codeware COMPRESS
1 rating
1 review
Codeware, headquartered in Sarasota, offers COMPRESS, a pressure vessel design application.
Altair Inspire
1 rating
1 review
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 increase a product’s…
Vectorworks Landmark
0 ratings
1 review
Vectorkworks, headquartered in Columbia, offers the Landmark BIM design application.
CorelCAD
0 ratings
1 review
CorelCAD is CAD software providing 2D drafting and 3D design tools, industry-standard file compatibility with .DWG, .STL, .PDF, and .CDR, as well as project collaboration and sharing with optional automation and customization. CorelCAD is compatible with all major CAD programs and users can onboard…
Autodesk Civil 3D
5 ratings
1 review
Autodesk's Civil 3D is a computer aided design (CAD) application designed to support a variety of civil infrastructure projects including rail, roads and highways, land development, airports, drainage, storm and sanitary, and civil structures.

Learn More About Computer-Aided Design (CAD) Software

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.

Start a Computer-Aided Design (CAD) software comparison


Pricing Information

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.


Frequently Asked Questions

What is Computer-Aided Design (CAD) used for?

CAD software is used to increase designer efficiency by saving time, increasing precision, and improving quality, improve communication through documentation, and help maintain a production archive. CAD can also be used to create electronic files for printing, machining, or other manufacturing operations.

What are examples of Computer-Aided Design (CAD)?

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.


Who uses Computer-Aided Design (CAD)?

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.