AutoCAD vs Draftsight: Head to Head Comparison

AutoCAD is an all in all suite. It caters to a big user base, an even bigger market and even complex set of domains. Its limitations are its learning curve and complex interface, along with the cumbersome feature set based on its own design. Furthermore, its most prominent domain is the 2D design/draft and documentation capability. This and twenty plus years worth of industry wide acceptance has propelled Autodesk’s AutoCAD’s reputation to an unparalleled high. Or so it seems. AutoCAD is by no means unpopular or unaccepted, but its stardom and celebrity status outshine many other softwares which are competitive and highly advantageous for a number of reasons. All these put together in the same arena would outweigh the rest in one form or the other, but AutoCAD is the heavyweight title holder amongst all the underdogs, so to speak. One such software that rises up to the challenge of competing against AutoCAD is DraftSight.

Check out our thorough review of AutoCAD vs Draftsight.


AutoCAD vs Draftsight: head to head comparison

We have discussed AutoCAD in several other articles (see the AutoCAD vs Inventor comparison) but which company is behind Draftsight. Let’s find out.

Who manages Draftsight?

autocad vs draftsight

Dassault Systems enjoys a reputable claim in the CAD industry with its proprietary software CATIA and SolidWorks. Specific to the aerospace industry and almost invisible in all other, Dassault System’s DraftSight is a one of a kind solution. This software package hosts almost the same 2D designing/drafting features as AutoCAD and is much lighter and less resource intensive. Let’s go through a comparison step-by-step.

Interface, Features, and Price

DraftSight is a freemium software. This means that it’s a premium software offering all kinds of advanced features in comparison to its competition for no cost at all. That’s one humongous difference between this CAD suite and its competition, which is almost always more $1000 to start with.

Moreover, DraftSight is a 2D CAD software so the 3D development domain doesn’t apply here. In that regard, engineers from beginners to pros might see a red flag, but it’s a facet of the designing industry that DraftSight doesn’t venture into and for good reason. DraftSight is only 200 MBs in installation size, a mere 1/8th of the 1.6 GB heavy AutoCAD whilst still offering much the same interface. The size difference means its startup time and the amount of RAM, hard disk space and subsequent miscellaneous resources needed are also just a fraction compared to AutoCAD’s.

The similar interface allows AutoCAD users to feel right at home, where as those who start with DraftSight don’t feel any problems when migrating to any other 3D/AutoCAD look-alike CAD software.

Since this software is free of cost, the need to activate the software arises when a user prints or saves a document for the first time. From then on, the software can be used without activation for 30 days, following activation using a valid email, the license must be renewed after 6 months. The credentials used to activate it once, should remain the same, otherwise instability kicks in and a re-install is due.

 Dassault DraftSightAutodesk AutoCAD
User baseAny 2D developer/designerAny 2D/3D designer/drafter
ScopeGeneral designing, draftingGeneral designing, drafting
DisciplineAll (civil, mechanical, architecture etc.)All (civil, mechanical, architecture etc.)
Design2D oriented2D oriented with 3D enhancements
Specific featuresPlatform independent legacy DWG, DXF support, freemiumCommand prompt, layers, UCSICON
Most prominentFreemiumGeneric feature set
Most dominant2D sketching/development2D/3D designing + documentation
Learning curveShortAny but short

What are the file formats?

With DraftSight, DWG/DXF files can be accessed, viewed and even edited, no matter the originating format or platform. Even saving such files in previous formats (backward compatibility) is available. DXF files can be saved using binary or ASCII base standards. And a number of drawing formats (.bmp, .gif, .jpg, .jpeg, .png, .tif, and .tiff) can be attached for the sake of reference or included as part of the designs. Multiple page PDFs can be exported to and graphical constructs (formats) range from SVG to WMF all under the same roof.

Other features of Draftsight

Apart from export options, publishing to other drawing software is another option and print related features set the standards even higher. The Cartesian coordinate system allows for the same feel as the rest of the most popular interfaces and allows one to easily understand and navigate the interface even if in a bland 2D scene. The command line input maximizes your control over all subsets and allows the tiniest of details to be tweaked in a manner sometimes deemed impossible with the traditional mouse based gestures and actions. Toolbars and context menus allow for a smoother navigation experience and are not much different from many other 2D CAD software.

Mouse controls have been extended to add zoom and pan facilities by default and don’t require a special 3D mouse for additional maneuvering. Layers are an additional feature, even though I myself am not a huge fan of layers, those more adept at using layers would find this an additional plus. The layer manager is simple and sleek just like the one you find in AutoCAD.

The flexibility of viewports in DraftSight is an additional bonus to the software’s portfolio. Viewports can be locked and polygonal viewports can be edited specifically with layer control. If you wish to edit a layer for a specific viewport, no need to tinker with the master model or the base parts’ layers.


Final Thoughts on Draftsight vs AutoCAD

With an online community targeting everybody from beginners to industry professionals, DraftSight is undoubtedly underestimated for its prowess. The online community allows all kinds of people to gather, learn and share. DraftSight is most popular in the aerospace community and hosts most of the features one expects to see in a 2D designing and drafting software. Moreover, due to its free license and ease of use, its best a tool for engineers, architects and all kinds of drawing-related professionals in between.

DraftSight vs AutoCAD – When’s and why’s of usage

DraftSightAutoCAD
Designing/drafting toolDesigning, drafting and documenting tool
General purposeGeneral purpose
Industry specific reputationIndustry-wide reputation
Easy to use due to simple and precise designDifficult to use and master due to generic domain
Comparatively new hence smaller portfolioOlder hence larger portfolio
cad exercises
  • Barkfin

    Draftsight is terrific. I never liked AutoLisp, AutoCad always seemed slow and cumbersome, and it took them about a decade to get the plot dialog operating properly.
    I use AutoCad LT at work, it works well enough I suppose. At home I use Draftsight instead. I cannot afford AutoCad or LT, but I don’t bother pirating it or whatever. Draftsight works at least as well, less resources required (more responsive), and you can’t argue with free.

  • Simon Samuels

    Draftsight does not support dynamic blocks – this renders it useless for the majority of smart design operations. As a vanilla program, it is fine for reading and printing drawings – but for BIM usage, it is too limited to consider as a serious CAD program

    • Nikki Pollard

      I wonder how many acad users actually use dynamic blocks though. Most of the older users only touch the surface of features in complex programs anyway

    • sslavi

      I use AutoCAD extensively at work (mechanical engineering), and I have never had a need to use dynamic blocks. So, I wouldn’t say that dynamic blocks make such a groundbreaking difference between two.