Ten Free CAD Software Alternatives to AutoCAD for Students

Due to the wide acceptance of our article on the top free CAD software application available to students in the field of graphics design, architecture and engineering, we thought of providing our readers with alternatives to the first 10 software applications—we wrote about— which includes AutoCAD for students. We came up with a ranking system that will take three major criteria into consideration when analyzing these apps and the criteria are;

  • Pricing: The headline says it all and the most important criteria for today’s list is the pricing. Only CAD applications that come at no cost will be considered and featured on the list.
  • Toolset: And yes, the cheapest applications with the most tools/features on its workspace will be given more prestige that its contemporaries.
  • Learning Curve: for studentsand beginners, the ease of learning how to make use of a design software takes precedence over most criteria including cost. Therefore how difficult or easy it is to use a software’s features is the last criteria.

Free CAD Software


In terms of free alternatives to AutoCAD, BRL stands out as one of the best software application—not minding the fact that it is free— out there. This drafting tool is am open source modeling platform that allows its users design 2D characters that can be exported for use in virtually all file formats.

Pricing: The software is free

Toolset: It is well equipped with modeling and rendering tools to handle even more advanced projects.

Learning Curve: compared to AutoCAD, the learning duration for BRLCAD is negligible and beginners can take advantage of the intuitiveness it provides.


QCAD rovides architects and engineers with a great interface and tool set for drafting 2D drawings with ease. The software provides an intuitive workspace, rendering and modeling tools that make the drawing of technical models easy.

Pricing: The software is free

Toolset: It has all you need for 2D modeling

Learning Curve: A smooth learning curve that makes CAD design fun

3. 3DIVIA Shape

An alternative 3D modeling software application that can be used by students instead of the more advanced apps provided by Autodesk is the 3DIVIA shape. This powerful software combines the use of adequate tools, a unique workspace and features into its free package. It also serves as a mini Building Information Management platform for it allows users share models online with one another.

Pricing: Totally free

Toolset: Its tools and modeling features are quite extensive for a free software

Learning Curve: 3DIVIA Shape is easy to learn and use

4. Creo Elements

With Creo element, 3D modeling has never been easier and this is due to the automated workspace and tool sets that assists the designer in times of need. Creo packs powerful features on its minimalistic interface which makes it a simple tool for beginners. The software also supports DWF and DXG files which makes sharing and editing already designed models easy.

Pricing: Totally free

Toolset: It packs some punch in its simple interface

Learning Curve: Every beginner in 3D design should download Creo element due to its ease of use

5. Medusa4

The Medus4 is a free but advanced CAD application that can be used to handle both 2/3D modeling on its interface. The software which is native to both Windows and Linux operating systems provides amateur designers with a flexible environment for designing their models. It also supports different file formats which makes it a good software for even professional designers.

Pricing: The software is free

Toolset: It is equipped with both 2/3D modelling tools

Learning Curve: The software is quite easy to learn and make use of

6. Archimedes

Personally, I love the Archimedes for its versatility in designing 3D models and its unique name—borrowed from a Greek hero. The Archimedes is an intuitive modeling tool that simplifies the task of designing your characters due to its automated workspace and intelligent tool set. Users can also render and create animations on its interface.

Pricing: Free

Toolset: It has an extensive array of designing tools

Learning Curve: It is moderately easy to use and can be a great tool for both professionals and amateurs.

7. CometDocs

Although designers cannot make use of this CAD software for modeling tasks, they can still take advantage of its viewing, editing and file conversion features for their design projects. CometDocs provides an automated workspace that makes the conversion of DXF, DWG, and PDF etc. file formats among one another quite easy.

Pricing: It is a free app

Toolset: Quite limited to viewing, editing and file conversion

Learning Curve: its minimalistic interface is easy to use

8. P.Con planner

Interior designers and space planners are not left out for this CAD software provides you with a simple interface for trying out designs and arranging models in limited spaces. The software which can also be used to design 3D models, comes with thousands of already designed models in its library. Therefore, amateur Cad users can make use of the library to decorate spaces and share them with their clients.

Pricing: Free

Toolset: Its tools are quite limited but with its extensive library you could achieve much.

9. PythonCAD

This app is quite important to today’s list for a couple of reasons; it is a free app and it was developed solely for use on the Linux operating system to meet the demands of the millions of Linux users out there. Python is a 2/3D Cad software with an extensive tool set and can stand as an alternative to AutoCAD.

Pricing: Free

Toolset: It is quite advanced and comes with multiple 2/3D design tools

Learning Curve: It is moderately easy to use when compared to Maya, 3DMax etc.

10. gCAD3D


Doubles up as a CAD and CAM software that integrates the use of 3D OpenGL viewer and it provides support for the importation of external files. The software supports a majority of file formats and it can be used to design advanced 3D models.

Pricing: Free

Tool sets: An extensive tool set for modeling

Learning Curve: it has a moderate learning curve when compared to its more advanced contemporaries

cad exercises
  • Joe

    Well, Aris, I guess we get the idea that you (all) don’t get the point why AutoCAD got to be “the” student tool for cad. In fact, that happened because we could do coding and create custom LISP routines on top of AutoCAD in order to create tools that simply were not there.

    We all can give credit to Autodesk on that.

    Now, the “major” cad applications are packed with a huge set of tools and advanced APIs for developers that do not give much room for student startup creativity and who drives them usually tends to recommend the “easy path”. Humans instinctively do that I suppose and the reasons why for sure vary. But with that, end up just creating “button click” devoted short-sighted disciples.

    I doubt that your mentioned freebies will ever been used by students when – in fact – AutoCAD is free for education. Still, there’s a bunch of other professional grade CAD software that provide such entry level custom coding tools, and the huge majority is based on https://www.intellicad.org CAD software engine even if not claimed.