List of best-selling CAD/CAM software among the CAD/CAM users and enthusiasts with reviews and rating.
1. AutoCAD LT 2011 for Microsoft Windows 7, XP or Vista (price:
$1,200.00 $700.00 + free shipping offer. Available here)
Overall rating: 4.5/5
by Michael H. Sangree from Mansfield Center, CT
“Wait a minute, someone’s thinking i should drop a grand on a box of software? hello? forgive me if i act a little strange, but since when has green american cash become so worthless?
unless you’re expensing stuff c all-you-can-eat warren buffet, some kind soul needs y’bitch-slap upside da head: nothing you’re doing is worth this kind of dough. get y’self a box of no. 2 pencils and a dog-eared t-square, put your checkbook away, you don’t need no massively parallel sixty-four bit array.
people, it’s time to return to basics, you all know it’s true. our lives are dense with information as bread leavened with wild-caught eunuch spores, there is no poetry left in our lines, we’ve fallen from discovery straight to decadence with nary a whit’s utility in between, we’ve automated an aesthetic guillotine.
cast out cad & cam, take up yon cudgel against enemies seen & unseen. our very motherland’s in jeopardy, bundles of rebar shall be scattered as chaff before the mad saviour’s bitter wind. get thee to a nunnery, and if should light no vacancy’s no this time, lose not all hope, young designer, carry forth your draftsman’s tools, go mad go wild into that abyssmal commercial good night.”
“Great Drafting Program, “The Standard” – Highly Recommended”
by C. F. Hill “CFH” from Blue Ridge Summit, PA USA
“AutoCAD is the industry standard in drafting programs and the “LT 2011″ version is a good choice for those who will not need to work in 3D. While my background is a little weak in this area, my Engineering Major nephew was kind enough to give me some help coming up to speed with this excellent program since he used it both in school and at his intern position, which greatly reduced the learning curve! Here are my observations:
Installation: We loaded this on a fairly powerful Compaq laptop running Windows 7 and had no issues. This was very easy to install and each step of installation had a help tab that led you to the online help center if you had any questions
Intuitiveness of controls: This program makes it very easy to get started with 2D applications and the many useful features and tools are well though out. After learning the basics, it became obvious that there might actually be too many tools (more than are likely to be ever used for my needs)
Tutorials: Includes 3 short video demos that are very basic but help you get your bearings, which I highly recommend novice users take the time to watch
In program help tool: While a nice option to have, they can often be somewhat less than useful if you don’t already understand the basics
Online help center: The real gem of the “Help” options comes from the Online Help Center! It is very helpful with many of the more difficult topics covered, has video aids, and is overall very comprehensive
Honestly this is likely more program than I really need for our small business designing and making molds, but it more than covers what I want it to do. It is very specifically streamlined for making blueprints but is likely useful for many other similar applications.
Highly Recommended! I also bought and recommend Mastering AutoCAD 2011 and AutoCAD LT 2011 to help learn the program when an Engineering student is not readily available.”
“Best AutoCAD Compatibility, Now a Viable Stand-Alone 2D Drafting Product”
by Dave Millman “davemill” from San Jose, CA USA
“Everyone doing mainstream drafting today is familiar with AutoCAD. It is so widely used that there are now several alternate use models for which AutoCAD itself is overkill. AutoCAD LT 2011 perfectly fits several of these:
2D Drafting: AutoCAD LT 2011 is all you need. There is nothing a 2D draftsman needs that this package does not offer. Note however, none of AutoCAD’s 3D capabilities are included.
Home/Laptop/Travel/Sales Office/Customer Meetings: Cheaper than AutoCAD, with perfect compatibility. There’s no better way to review and modify drawings in the field (except AutoCAD). I know of one contractor who keeps a laptop loaded with AutoCAD LT 2010 for use by his biggest customer. They can view anything, make changes, and in general work together better.
As successful as this low-end product has become, it has one flaw: it retains the steep learning curve of its big brother. I am of two minds here. As a powerful stand-alone 2D package, AutoCAD LT 2011 has a depth of capability that few will use completely. That depth deserves some learning (or better yet, professional training). Makers of other high end packages have successfully built low-end tools that are easier to learn: Adobe Photoshop Elements comes to mind. But Elements provides only a small subset of the functionality of Photoshop, unlike AutoCAD LT 2011, which provides virtually the entire AutoCAD feature set (except 3D).
So if you need a 2D drafting package with flawless AutoCAD compatibility, AutoCAD LT 2011 is literally perfect. But if you don’t use AutoCAD already, you will need training, or at the very least a good book!”
2. Autodesk SketchBook Pro 2010 for Microsoft Windows Vista / XP and Mac OS X platform (price:
$100.00 $89.99 plus free shipping. Available here)
Overall Rating: 4.5/5
“Telecom engineer using SketchBook Pro”
by Victor Blake from Purcellville, NY
“I purchased SketchBook Pro specifically for doing initial (draft) sketches of network diagrams, flow-charts, and other telecom engineering work. In the past I’ve found most drawing programs to either be lacking in features or far too complex to learn and use for simple sketches. What I needed was a program that could allow me to do a mix of vector object placement and drawing as well as free-hand sketching (with a Wacom tablet). Having tried many programs (like Iluustrator and Corel) I found them to be geared towards artists and designers as well they should be. I had resorted to using Microsoft OneNote (which I still use for other purposes) for sketches.
Sketch Book Pro offers the simplicity of doodle/sketching with some of the finer features of a mature drawing application such as pressure sensitive support and controls,support for gestures, flexible placement of pallets, etc.
In addition to these benefits it is a very reasonable price compared to other products. I do not use the painting features, but the pencil, marker, and other features are perfect for sketching and initial concept work. Compared to doing a first draft in Visio, freehand sketching a network design with Sketch Book Pro and the Wacom takes about 1/8th of the time.
I also use it for whiteboarding with engineers using desktop sharing with presentation/conferencing software.”
“Great sketching tool”
by Brent from TN
“This is a great program for drawing on a tablet. I know people have complained about a lack of functions, but you need to remember that this is just a sketchbook. This program is NOT meant to replace Illustrator, Photoshop, or any other graphic design program; however, it is great for just drawing and having fun. I love the way it works on my tablet computer.”
“We bought this software to go with our Bamboo Craft. It is very easy to use and has many wonderful functions. I’ve designed Tshirt designs with this program for our business. It is also fun and easy for the kids to doctor up photos or create their own graphics and drawings. It has been a very useful introduction to digital art for our 11 year old son. We’re very happy with this purchase.”
3. Chief Architect Home Designer Essentials 10 for Microsoft Windows Vista / 7 / XP computer (price: $59.99 + free shipping. Available here)
4. Chief Architect Home Designer 9.0 for Microsoft Windows 7 / XP / Vista computer (price:
$59.99 $48.94 + free shipping. Available here)
Overall Rating: 3.5/5
by Lisa Brown
“I love this program. I spent several hours a day planning a small cabin. I haven’t used the tutorial yet, but was able to create the basics by just using the obvious tools available on the toolbar and the user help index. Best to decide on your default colors, wall, door, window, and cabinet styles for a project before you begin. The roof is a bit tricky, with multi-level ceiling heights and cutting in a roof over the porch, so will need a tutorial on that. Overall it’s a great program with many features for a decent price. Endless productive entertainment!”
“Works great for straighforward designs”
“Was able to draw the plans for a single story house very easily, and visualize in 3-D and dollhouse views. Very intuitive interface (I do have an engineering background, so that helps). Can select flooring, cabinets, paint etc. from a built in library of items. Main downside is when it generates the roof, you cannot change it. Need to upgrade to the more expensive version for that. I don’t know whether you can generate blue prints from this.”
“Somewhat combersome to use”
by T. Wiedman from Columbia City, Ind, USA
“I did not buy the expensive version (Home Designer Pro), and perhaps that is why I have trouble with some functions. As mentioned in another review, roofs are a problem. In one situation, I modeled a two story home with an one story attached garage, and the result was not realistic for the roofs; the software tried to make the roof on the garage the same height as the house and left open spaces. I then detached the garage, and put it to the side of the house. The software continued to treat the two as a single unit and spanned a roof between them. I then eliminated the garage entirely, and the software continued to place a partial roof out from the house to where the garage had been. The only way to get around this was to start all over from scratch and model the house only. It seems the software retains some kind of memory for deleted items. I have since made it a habit of saving my plans before adding new items or features, since I have seen it happen in other situations as well; then I can go back to the older plan if something weird happens. That makes the process slow and I also keep notes of saved plans to indicate what was added from the last. The software also appears flawed in some areas as well. In one plan I used a two story construction, and had a open room on the first floor that was 16 foot across along the entire length of the house, and did the same thing upstairs – making the home very open. When I clicked on the framing camera, it simply used 2X6 for the ceiling of the first floor with no header and only used the single wall in the downstairs length to support the 2X6′s and the entire upstairs. I clicked on the materials list, and sure enough, the largest size of lumber listed was 2X6. However, as anyone who is in the construction business will tell you, 2X6′s will not span a 16 foot length, and the upstairs would collapse into the downstairs. There may be other errors as well, or perhaps this was a result of the first type of problem I discussed. At any rate, it would appear that plans should be taken with a grain of salt before actually using them. There were also features that simply don’t work; then if you save the plan and reload it, they mysteriously work. I have a brand new computer with Windows 7, so it may indicate a memory problem with the software or problems with the software in Windows 7; I couldn’t tell you which, but one or the other.
Negatives aside, it does allow you to get a feel for how your home would look after construction, and what certain landscaping features would look like as well; but expect to spend time and, I would recommend that you save a lot of plans along the way. So, in summary, it’s a inexpensive way to plan a new home or an addition, where your trade off is time. If you are in the construction business, you definitely want the expensive version, Home Designer Pro, assuming that eliminates or minimizes these kinds of problems, however, I cannot verify that would be true.”
“Not that good, but the others seem to be worse”
5. Autodesk AutoCAD Freestyle for Microsoft Windows Vista / 7 / XP (price:
$149.00 $63.50 + free shipping. Available here)
Overall Rating: 4/5
“Excellent functionality and features for the price”
by Zeos from Texas
“We just spent a few weeks designing a new home using Freestyle. It was fun and very easy. The new sketch overlay feature allowed us to add conceptual items, but then remove them to see the house layout. We also created a platte, complete with walkways, garden, septic, driveway, etc. Dimensions and measurements are always displayed and can actually be made to appear on the drawing. The precision of the grid system was sometimes a challenge to get just right (I could be a bit smoother and refined on my computer), but it is generally acceptable for a casual user. There is a whole host of m=home design oriented symbols, including electrical, appliances, furniture, lighting, fireplaces, plumbing fixtures, doors, windows, landscape, and decor. I suppose my main criticism is that Freestyle overall is geared toward house design. I would love more symbols and tools for designing more technical things. Some of this can be done with the lines, arcs, and drawing tools, but a more robust library of symbols would be helpful. After the design, we were able to send it to our architect as a dwg file. He was very surprised at what we had created! Overall, a fun program for design enthusiasts, with plenty of tools and sophistication to help you design your home, and possibly some hobby-level projects. Kudos to Autodesk for making an Autocad-compatible program accessible and affordable.”
“Easy to use, very flexible”
by L. M. Tanaka “mauireads” sunny maui
“This CAD software was very easy to use. Also, the templates for sidewalks, trees, etc made plotting out my garden very esy. I’ve tried using AutoCad and it was really hard to get started. Installing it was a breeze and even with my computer’s limited RAM (only 1 GB) it ran easily.
I’ve just played around with designing a room but it was just as easy as doing the garden.”
“Solid but simple software”
by Earl J. Mcgehee “earl49″ from Austin, TX USA
“This tool is simple and easy to learn but it’s capabilities are limited.
Drawing tools include lines, curves, doodling and dimensions. There is a text tool and coloring and erasing tools. You can insert images in a drawing.
It comes with a basic set of symbols including doors & windows, furniture, appliances, kitchen & bath, building components, people, landscape, drawing symbols, electrical symbols, transportation and lighting. There are no plumbing symbols. You cannot create additional symbols.
Layers are supported so you can for example keep the landscape components or wiring components on a separate layer from the floor plan and each layer can be hidden or manipulated as a group.
There is no glue capability to connect lines and objects. Therefore it would not be a good tool for flowcharts or technical diagrams. Objects can snap to a grid to facilitate alignment.
Help is primarily via the four online video tutorials. There is no included searchable help text to quickly tell you how to do something without watching the video.
This is a nice application but I was a little disappointed with its capabilities. The things it can do are done well but it can’t do too much. For example it is suitable for drawing a floor plan to include in a sales brochure but not a floor plan to provide to a builder for an detailed estimate.”
6. IMSI TurboCAD 17 Deluxe 2D/3D for Microsoft Windows Vista / 7 / 2000 / XP (price:
$99.99 $75.54 + free shipping. Available here)
Overall Rating: 4/5
“Better than AutoCAD for Non-Engineers”
by Josh J. Caster Texas
“I have used this version and previous versions for archaeological and geological maps, models and figures and prefer it over AutoCAD lt. The functionality is not much different than AutoCAD, but since it is not command prompt based, it is more intuitive for the professional that doesn’t want a computer science degree. For those that would use this program for mapping (likely not the sole purpose for most), I can export geo-referenced vector data for ArcGIS. I played around with the terrain modeling and, while it is not “Google Sketch Up easy,” it is more simple than other comparable programs I have used. For the price, it is the most usable and complete drafting program I have found.”
“Low cost CAD program”
by Sais from Pittsburgh, PA
“OK it’s not AutoCAD, but the price is keen. I’ll be learning to use it for some time to come. Not as intuitive as I would have liked.”
7. IMSI TurboCAD Deluxe V16 for Microsoft Windows Vista / 2000 / XP (price:
$99.99 $32.05 + free shipping. Available here)
Overall Rating: 4/5
“A Good Buy!”
“I purchased TurboCAD as a Christmas present for myself, for the casual drawing of parts and around-the-house projects. I haven’t touched a drafting program since the early ’90s, when I used AutoCAD 12 & 13 for MS-DOS and early versions of SmartCAM for Windows (when it was still owned by Point Control, and the rendering of materials, parts, & cuts was first introduced). With it having been so long since I’ve used a CAD program, and because most of my drafting experience is from two dimensional blue prints for parts to be manufactured in a machine shop, it is taking some effort to “get back in the saddle”. That said, the menu options in TurboCAD are intuitive and the software came with a small (70 page) “Getting Started Guide” which walks you through exercises in some of the basic uses of the application. There is a fairly comprehensive “TurboCAD User Guide” of 682 pages available as a PDF through the “TurboCAD Help Topics” on the Help drown-down menu. The context-sensitive help, available through the F1 key, opens the User Guide to the page which is applicable to the option or feature for which you are requesting help. There are quite a few TurboCAD “tips & tricks” and tutorial type videos available on YouTube, if you search for them. There is also a forum/community available on the TurboCAD website for asking questions. I’ve only had the program installed for a few days and I’m obviously still (re)learning how to navigate & draw, but I am pleased with the program and features. I have not purchased any tutorials (yet); however, such training material is available for purchase on the TurboCAD website and through Amazon. The program and the training materials, together, still come in well below the ~$1,000+ for AutoCAD Lite. This makes it perfect for me, as a DIY’er on a budget.
I’m running TurboCAD on Windows Vista (32 bit) with 1G of RAM and a 3GHz processor. Although the installation requires administrative privileges, I have had no problems running the program as a regular, non-privileged, user. According to the EULA, “IMSI grants to you a personal, worldwide, royalty-free, non-assignable, and non-exclusive license to use the object code of the Software on a single machine and to make a single copy of the Software for backup purposes only.” Based upon that, it would not appear that you can legally have the software installed on a desktop and a laptop at the same time (unlike the old days of dongles). There is a registration process, which utilizes your Internet connection, and provides you with an activation key which must be entered into TurboCAD in order to activate it. The manual does provide an 800 number for activation if you don’t have an Internet connection available. I had no problems activating over the Internet. The program created a ~300mb folder named “IMSIDesign” in Program Files with a full install. At the time of this review, you may also download an evaluation copy of TurboCAD from their website.
Edit (03/25/2010): I’m a little disappointed that the drawing of threads is only available in TurboCAD Pro. If you need threading capabilities, this version does not provide it.”
“Meets expectations BUT”
by CADguy “Pete” Buffalo, NY
“Product works as needed BUT. I have been working with CAD systems since 1985. I have extensively used products including ICEM, Autocad, Pro-engineer & UG. This is what I was paid to do. I am now retired. I wanted something to do some basic layouts, maybe some 3d stuff. The largest drawback to this product, in my estimation, is the documentation. There is PDF doc that explains in detail what commands do works but except for a measly “getting started” manual no procedural stuff even basic tutorials. This is about the first piece of software that I have used that the price for real tutorials is more expensive than the software itself. I am now on a fixed income and so I will have to wait to “maybe” pick up the 2d/3d tutorial package. At this point I am probably not even going to do that.”
by Valgene Raloff “GyroFlyer” by Suburban Chicago
“TurboCAD 16 for the price is powerful. I never used TurboCAD before and it is not intuitive on commands. I fumbled for commands and their usage as well as edits/constraints. It has a manual included in the software but is not convenient for use, 600 pages. A print version is available from an authorized 3 party for about 1/2 the cost of the software. Training manuals with exercises are also available from Amazon, more cost. It will take a while to absorb all it has to offer unless you are already familiar with TurboCAD. Again, I wasn’t. I will persist.”
8. IMSI DesignCAD Max V19 for Microsoft Windows Vista / 2000 / XP computer (price:
$69.99 $18.95. Available here)
Overall Rating: 4/5
“It kills me that this isn’t more popular”
by C. M. Evans from Los Lunas, NM United States
“This is like the Corel Photopaint of the Cad world, It’ll do what 90% of Photoshop users need for an insanely low price, but get’s little or no respect. That’s how I feel about designcad.
It’s the best package no one knows about. I’ve been using it for object and house scale projects for 10 years and if you know it’s secrets , it’s awesome. I was able to export designs directly to DWG for one boss that read perfectly into Autocad with no problem, layers and all. For ease of use, get to know the keyboard commands and write them down on a post-it and put it on your monitor. It use to come with an awsomely thick manual with tutorials and a reference section, but sadly now has what amounts to a pamphlet and you have to rely on the help file. It’s weakness is in rendering, if your expecting photo-realism, you’ll be out of luck. If you plan on exporting to another modeler for rendering , no problem.
Other points that I can think of: lots of import/export formats, including autocad; cool “paper space” mode for creating formatted outputs for printing your drawings in a specified way; very customizable in terms of hot keys; has all the standard operations including spin(with offsets for things like screw threads) and extrude, boolean ops, real time pan and rotate in the 3D window. It does have a selection of built-in texture and lighting options, so you can do architecture type renders and simple walk-around type videos, but nothing you’ll confuse with pixar.
I could go on and on but for a lousy $70 this is a hell of a deal. Another thought: This is an awesome add-on for something like Blender 3D or other modeler, because you can make a precisely dimensioned object and export it to your modeler texturing and rendering.”
“Quirky, but the price is right”
by Big Ed from US
“I used AutoCAD for so long this was a change. DesignCAD is a good product. It is similar to AutoCAD. It is not a whole new learning curve, but it is NEW and DIFFERENT. It will take you some time, and the documentation is minimal. If you know AutoCAD, ARCview, or Sketch-up, you will pick it up. For my needs; home, small projects, general drawing, rasters, viewing AutoCAD, etc. it is great. It is perfect for the home office on a budget. If you are a designer, small contractor, artist, or inventor it is worth the investment. It’s not ESRI or AutoCAD Map, or Civil 3D. Those products are $1000s. It is better than AutoCAD LT. It is better then Benty Micro-station for what I do. I like it better than Sketch-up as well. Sketch-up is 3D, it is fun. DesignCAD is 2D or 3D, not as much fun, more for work. Everybody needs a CAD program at home, this is an excellent one for the price. It is about the same as IntelliCAD. Autodesk and ESRI are the “rock stars”, but they hold you hostage, they are monopolies. You can get others (e.g. IntelliCAD, DAZ, Blender, Proge). This is good enough for what I do. I gave it 3-stars just because the documentation could be better.”
“Review of DesignCAD 3D MAX, V19″
by James M. Callaghan from Herndon, Virginia USA
“Outstanding CAD program! I first bought DesignCAD when it was in floppy format. There are over 400 commands in version 19. Unfortunately, there is very little documentation that comes with the package for new or intermediate users to fully appreciate how to use the program. I made a spreadsheet sorting on the commands and showing the menus and submenus where each command resides in order to better use the program by finding the commands faster. Most commands, in version 19, have a small icon beside them illustrating the function of each command. This is a great feature for a CAD program. I wish there was a new and up-to-date ‘DesignCAD Inside and Out’ type of book out showing how to use version 19 in CAD projects, but I doubt it will happen.”
9. AutoCAD LT 2011 Upgrade from AutoCAD LT 2008 – 2010 for Microsoft Windows Vista / 7 / XP (price:
$595.00 $549.99 + free shipping. Available here)
10. Autodesk AutoSketch 10 for Microsoft Windows Vista / XP computer (price:
$250.00 $209.99 + free shipping. Available here)
Overall Rating: 4/5
“Substandard features for the price”
by Gregory P. Poulsen
“I used Autocad LT for several years and then moved to Turbocad when the ongoing upgrades became too expensive for the amount of use that I had (upgrades were necessary to update operating systems). There were things about the Autocad interface that I have missed, however, so decided to try AutoSketch, hoping for a reasonably complete 2D application. It falls well short of the interface and capabilities of LT. I have reverted to the (less than perfect) TurboCad.”
“Easy to use”
by Hermon A. Boyd
“I got it for home use. This one is a work horse. It’s stable. And I keep discovering new ways to make the drawing process easier. Don’t waste time downloading trials of the less expensive 2-D drawing programs. They are not as intuitive and in my experience, tend to lock up the computer just about when you think you got a useful drawing.”