What is CAD Software?

CAD software is used for design and design documentation and it replaces manual drafting with an automated process. Professionals in the structural engineering, MEP, and architecture fields use 2D and 3D CAD programs. These programs help them to explore design ideas, visualize concepts via photorealistic renderings, and simulate the performance of a design in the real world. 3D CAD software tools enable you to render designs from any angle, rotate objects in three dimensions, and apply multiple light sources. AutoCAD software was the first CAD platform and it continues to be the most popular CAD solution. Start by checking our leader SmartDraw, and other recommended solutions in this category.

CAD Software

Top 3 Most Popular CAD Software

Autodesk AutoCAD reviews
Autodesk AutoCAD

Our Score 9.6

User Satisfaction 98%

A 2D and 3D CAD software for product designing, manufacturing planning, building designing, civil infrastructure, and construction teams. Read Reviews

Bentley MicroStation reviews
Bentley MicroStation

Our Score 8.6

User Satisfaction 96%

Bentley MicroStation is a visual modeling service that enables infrastructure professionals to create high quality 3D models and project deliverables. Read Reviews

MATLAB reviews

Our Score 9.4

User Satisfaction 95%

A programming, modeling and simulation platform that merges a desktop environment tuned for iterative analysis and design processes with a programming language that expresses matrix and array mathematics directly. Read Reviews

How To Choose The Best CAD Software

CAD software is used by artists, drafters, engineers, architects, and others to create technical illustrations and precision drawings. There are plenty of high-quality programs in this niche. So how do you do educated comparisons to shortlist the best CAD software for your requirements? We make this process simple for you. This article details the important tools and factors you need to consider while looking for CAD platforms.

Get to know each product with free trial

A good way to start your quest for the best CAD software is by registering for the free trial or demo of top programs. Prominent CAD software providers offer this facility to enable users to understand their application’s key features and also do a general comparison with other products. We recommend you check out the following tools for the possibility of a free trial: Autodesk AutoCADBentley MicroStation, MATLAB, CorelCAD, and SOLIDWORKS Premium. These platforms have received notable rankings in our CAD software reviews.

Targeted Businesses

CAD software is utilized in several fields by users such as:

  • Engineers
  • Architects
  • Drafters
  • Marine Engineers and
  • Naval Architects

Examples of CAD software

  1. Autodesk AutoCAD: A 3D CAD software that is used in construction, civil infrastructure, building designing, manufacturing planning, and product designing. It can be utilized for 3D visualizations and models as well as for making 2D drafts, drawings, and documents. The tool’s 2D features enable you to work with dynamic blocks, link and update data between Excel spreadsheets, and automatically create dimension styles. In addition, you can add lighting and materials to your 3D models to get a realistic appearance.
  2. Bentley MicroStation: A visual modeling solution designed for owner-operators, architects, constructors, and engineers. It provides tools for visualization, modeling, drafting, and object management. The platform accelerates project delivery and enhances the performance and quality of infrastructure assets. It is used for all types of utilities and infrastructure including communication networks, mining, process plants, water networks, rails, bridges, roads, and buildings.  
  3. MATLAB: This program is designed to help you analyze data, develop algorithms, and create models. It combines a desktop environment built for design processes and iterative analysis with a programming language that directly expresses array and matrix mathematics. MATLAB toolboxes are fully documented, rigorously tested, and professionally developed. You can scale your analyses to run on clouds, GPUs, and clusters with only minor code changes.
  4. CorelCAD: CAD software for Windows and Mac. It provides high-quality 2D drafting and 3D design tools. In addition, you get industry-standard file compatibility with .CDR, .PDF, .STL, AND .DWG. You can use it for productive project collaboration and sharing. The platform provides optional automation and customization features.
  5. SOLIDWORKS Premium: A comprehensive 3D design platform that provides reverse engineering capabilities, advanced wire and pipe routing functionality, and robust simulation, motion, and design validation tools. You can utilize the rich simulation features to test product performance against real world forces and motions. In addition, you can use the tolerance stack-up analysis functionality to resolve assembly issues in the design process and ensure manufacturability.

Types of CAD Software

Following are common types of CAD software:

  • 2D CAD tools. These were developed in the early 1970s and rely on basic geometric shapes such as circles, rectangles, lines etc. to create flat drawings.
  • 3D CAD tools. A more advanced software that was developed in the 1980s. It has improved graphic display capabilities that enable you to create realistic 3D images. You need professional training to master this software.

3D CAD software can be further categorized into:

  • Wire-frame models. These have become old-fashioned and they create skeleton-like models with arcs and lines.
  • Surface models. These create models by joining 3D surfaces. Background is not visible which makes the surface models quite realistic.
  • Solid models. The most useful CAD models. They are a step up from surface models as they have added properties such as density, volume, and weight that make them resemble real physical objects. Solid models are utilized as prototypes to work on engineering designs.

Key Features of CAD Software

CAD software provides all the tools of standard drawing software. In addition, they also offer:  

  • Links to packages that enable you to calculate costs
  • Libraries of engineering components that can be imported
  • Robust reflection, rotation, and scaling options
  • Enables you to view images from any angle
  • Helps you to create drawings in objects in in 2D, 3D, 2D CAD, and 3D CAD
  • Ensures enhanced accuracy (it allows you to work to within 1/72 of an inch)

Benefits of CAD software

  1. View it before you build it. Professionals can use CAD software to provide a realistic view of their design to lay people. For instance, architects can utilize it explain the architecture of a house to home buyers.
  2. Work faster. CAD software provides all the tools, rulers, and measurements you need for your blueprints. Thus, you can work more quickly and will also be able to correct errors faster compared to using paper and pencil. In addition, if you are creating multiple similar blueprints, you can develop an initial template and use it as a base for all other templates. This helps you save time and improve productivity.
  3. Easy storage and sharing. You can store all your blueprints in the cloud, on a USB pen drive, or on your computer. This enables you to find what you need quickly and easily. In addition, you can effortlessly share your blueprints and other designs with your business partners wherever they may be located. It is advisable to take periodical backups of your data to ensure they are safe in case of emergency.
  4. Both simple and complex tools are available. Depending on your skills and proficiency, you can opt to use a simple or complex tool. For instance, AutoCAD software can be used by engineers and architects for technical blueprints, while 3Ds Max or Maya is ideal for realistic 3D renderings and models. You can upgrade your skills by taking online courses that enable you to use even complex CAD software.
  5. CAD is everywhere. CAD software is used in a number of fields including fashion, automotive, cartography, design, engineering, architecture, and others. CAD provides many advantages over conventional design therefore you can invest in a quality CAD software to reap the benefits.

Latest Trends

Cloud-based CAD is becoming popular. The increasing use of remote employees and transnational collaboration is driving the growth of cloud-based CAD solutions. The adoption of these systems by businesses is predicted to grow by 164% over the next five years. Cloud-based CAD offers advantages such as lower expenses for setup and IT, and reduced onboarding time for new employees. In addition, these platforms can be easily accessed on any internet-enabled device anywhere, anytime, making them a handy option for international teams and remote workers.

3D printing is becoming widespread in many industries. Multiple industries and sectors are recognizing the advantages of 3D printing and are integrating it in their processes. For example, MIT researchers recently designed a strong yet light 3D-printed material called graphene that could improve the design of airplanes, cars, and other vehicles. Medical institutions are using 3D design and printing for faster and easier customization of medical devices. Other sectors like the auto, aerospace, and manufacturing industries are also widely employing 3D design and printing as they help to reduce production time and greenhouse gas emissions.

Potential Issues

Following are common issues faced in using CAD software:

  1. Conversion problems. It can be difficult to transfer files from one format or program to another.
  2. Default tolerances. Many designers do not change then default tolerance of the CAD program while creating drawings. This laziness can be expensive as more money is needed to produce more precise tolerances.
  3. Revision control. Large companies have the deep pockets to invest in the latest CAD software. However, small companies make do with older versions of drawings and models as they cannot afford the buy the latest software.
  4. Steep learning curve. Complex CAD software programs are difficult to master and you need extensive training to be able to utilize their full potential.
  5. High cost. The best tools cost big money to set up and implement. Therefore, only companies with adequate finances can afford to invest in high-quality CAD software programs.

List of CAD Software Companies

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Our Score Read More

Our site employs our special SmartScore™ algorithm to test all the products in the CAD Software category so that we can help you select the best possible service. It pays attention to the following metrics: essential components, collaboration elements, custom elements, integration, intuitiveness, customer support, security, support for smartphones and tablets, general media ratings. Currently, SmartDraw is the leader in this category and is recommended by our experts. After detailed examination it received the best results among its competitors and our experts strongly suggest that you consider it as one of the options for your business.

User Satisfaction Read More

An overview of total user satisfaction with the products in our CAD Software category based on our unique algorythm that finds user reviews, comments and opinions across a broad set of social media sites to help you make an educated purchase decision.











Pricing Read More

Every vendor in the CAD Software category will have a different set of pricing packages for its product and each package will include a unique group of features. Below we list the general pricing for the most affordable package available for each product. Please note that advanced features may have an extra cost.




By quote


By quote


By quote


By quote

Devices Supported Read More

A summary of what type of devices and operating systems are supported by the listed B2B services in the CAD Software category, including mobile platforms and web-based solutions.






Laguages Supported Read More

Learn which languages and geographies are supported by the popular B2B apps in the CAD Software category, including apps aimed at international markets and created for multi-cultural teams of employees.

Pricing Model Read More

Find out which pricing models are provided by the vendors in the CAD Software category to see which one suits your business needs and expenses best. Note that certain software can offer free or freemium accounts for you to try out first.


Monthly payment

One-time payment

Annual Subscription


Customer Types Read More

An overview of what groups of customers a specific B2B software in the CAD Software category is designed for, from small businesses and non-profits to big enterprises.

Small Business

Large Enterprises

Medium Business


Deployment Read More

An overview of what kinds of product deployement are supported by every B2B vendor in the CAD Software category. While almost all modern SaaS solutions are cloud-hosted there are services may offer an on-site deployment model too.

Cloud Hosted

On Premise

Open API