Even though it’s just 2D, this makes the whole line-by-line drawing space much more interesting. DraftSight brings a full set of 2D drawing features to users and has full .dwg and .dxf compatibility. It can be downloaded now for Windows and will be available later this year for Mac and Linux. Here’s whatcha want to know.

DraftSight is currently in open beta. The full press release explains the focus on building the DraftSight community and how they did this in response to customers, with a SolidWorks customer as the prime example of how DraftSight excels.

What the press release doesn’t tell you is this… It couldn’t be a better time for Dassault to launch an all-out attack against Autodesk. The AutoCAD product has seen a big transformation over the past couple years. A transformation that makes some want a better alternative, any alternative. There’s also a need for SolidWorks to imporve their own 2D .dwg package, which I’ll get to in a moment.

What it also doesn’t tell you is that the program is based on Graebert’s ARES platform, which uses the Open Design Alliance (ODA) DWGdirect SDK. The IntelliCAD Technology Consortium (ITC) and Bricsys are the other two independent entities which use DWGDirect to build their own 2D platforms. And, Bricsys, just so happens to be assisting the ODA in the development of DWGDirect, which is used for ARES…. Phew. So ultimately, this could not only impact the number of AutoCAD seats out there, but also the others trying to take a stab at AutoCAD alternatives.

The DraftSight interface

The interface is simple, much like the 2D drafting clones or circa-2007 AutoCAD, but actually a bit cleaner and wonderfully responsive with all the familiarity you may have picked up using 2D editors. What else can I say, it’s a freakin’ 2D program, so you can draw lines, offset, trim and repeat. You can even use the LISP API commands and Xrefs. One thing that does stand out above the others is the mouse gestures menu. Here’s the complete list of DraftSight features.

Here’s an intro video, with a shocking step-by-step of a gear hub and nice stock image people that are your friends at the DraftSight community. You can view more DraftSight how-to videos on the DraftSight YouTube Channel.

What about SolidWorks 2D Editor (DWGEditor)?

The SolidWorks 2D editor has been dying a long, slow death. For one thing, it sucks. It actually made .DWG’s harder to work with and at best was an ok tool to view a DWG, takes some measurements and convert to older DWG formats. Then Autodesk sued SolidWorks for using “DWG” in the name of the product. Then, to make it all worse, the ITC filed breach of contract against CADopia, the company which uses the ITC CAD platform (developed with the DWGDirect SDK remember?) to help develop the SolidWorks DWGEditor. I’d say that the SolidWorks 2D Editor is on it’s way out. Good-bye.

How long will it be free?

For maximum impact to all things AutoCAD related, I would say indefinitely… at least for the non-commercial version. As stated in the EULA:

You are granted a personal, nonexclusive, nontransferable, royalty-free and temporary license to use the Non-Commercial Release Version of the DraftSight software (the “Product”) during the period from initial delivery of the Non-Commercial Release Version of the Product to you until the release of the next phase version or the availability of a commercial release version of the Product…

So, you may see a commercial version in the future. For SolidWorks users though, especially the ones on subscription, it’s no doubt this will be free and replacing the SolidWorks 2D editor.

Update 1: There is a commercial license actually, or more specifically an option for businesses (and developers). The commercial license costs $250/year (ARES Standard costs $495) and allows access to the API and technical support along with FlexLM licensing for multiple users.

Update 2: Via a SolidWorks VAR: “It will be free, but customers can also purchase a customer service contract for technical support. The support is being handled directly and not thru the VAR channel.” – Now that is interesting. Although support could switch to VARS if it’s released with SolidWorks. This is not only Dassault Systemes expanding beyond 3D, but expanding beyond the VAR model.

You can read up on the .DWG History and for more insight into this and the world of CAD, check out Deelip’s coverage and WorldCAD Access.


Josh is founder and editor at SolidSmack.com, founder at Aimsift Inc., and co-founder of EvD Media. He is involved in engineering, design, visualization, the technology making it happen, and the content developed around it. He is a SolidWorks Certified Professional and excels at falling awkwardly.