Computer-Aided Design (CAD) Software

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.

Top Rated Computer-Aided Design (CAD) Products

TrustRadius Top Rated for 2022

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.

Category Videos

Top 5 Free CAD Software of 2021
07:40
CAD software can get very expensive for small businesses or businesses that don't need to use them much. Fortunately, there are lots of free CAD software options available, we discuss them so you can see which is best for you.

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) Products

(1-25 of 84) Sorted by Most Reviews

The list of products below is based purely on reviews (sorted from most to least). There is no paid placement and analyst opinions do not influence their rankings. Here is our Promise to Buyers to ensure information on our site is reliable, useful, and worthy of your trust.

DraftSight
Customer Verified
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…

AutoCAD

AutoCAD is a CAD product from Autodesk. It allows designers to work in 2D and 3D, and has extensive online collaboration tools.

SOLIDWORKS

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

SketchUp is 3D modeling software with an emphasis on usability. SketchUp is a Trimble product.

Onshape
Customer Verified
Top Rated

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…

Autodesk Inventor

Autodesk Inventor 3D CAD software offers professional-grade 3D mechanical design, documentation, and product simulation tools.

Teamcenter
Customer Verified
Top Rated

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…

Autodesk Fusion 360

Autodesk Fusion 360 is a cloud-based 3D CAD, CAM, and CAE tool which integrates design, modeling, and simulation capabilities.

PTC Creo

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 Solid Edge

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

CATIA from Dassault Systemes is a 3D product modeling and design tool used across multiple industries.

Rhinoceros 3D

Robert McNeel and Associates headquartered in Seattle offers Rhinoceros 3D (or Rhino 3D), a 3D modeling and design application.

ARCHICAD

ARCHICAD is a 3D architectural design application and BIM from Graphisoft, a Nemetschek Group company headquartered in Budapest.

MicroStation

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.

Autodesk Civil 3D

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.

Autodesk Tinkercad

Autodesk offers Tinkercad, a 3D modeling and design tool available free for educational purposes.

PTC Mathcad

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…

National Instruments LabVIEW

National Instruments headquartered in Austin offers LabVIEW, a systems engineering software platform and toolkit.

GrabCAD Workbench

GrabCAD Workbench is a CAD collaboration solution that helps designers to manage files and engage partners in the design process.

OpenRoads Designer

Bentley Systems offers OpenRoads Designer, their civil engineering and design platform which replaces the former GEOPAK Civil Engineering Suite, InRoads, MX, and PowerCivil.

Autodesk AEC Collection

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 CAD

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

TurboCAD is 2D and 3D CAD software sold in many different editions, including Deluxe, Expert, and ProPlatinum.

AutoCAD LT

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

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…

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.

Computer-Aided Design (CAD) Software Best Of Awards

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.

Best Computer-Aided Design (CAD) Software

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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.