What is CAD Software?

CAD software is used for design and design documentation, serving as a replacement for 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. Show more3D 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 CorelCAD, and other recommended solutions in this category.Show less

How was this ranking made?

In order to devise this list of best CAD Software we have evaluated 161 popular tools currently present on the market, analyzing their features, ease of implementation, client support, possible integrations and mobile support with our patented SmartScoreTM rating system. This ranking has been developed by Jenny Chang, our B2B expert dedicated to the CAD Software category.

List of Top 12 CAD Software

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1. 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. It has drawing and drafting tools in both 2D and 3D. It also enables collaboration with its annotation features. What’s more, it can connect with Excel for structure manipulation using formulas.

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2. CorelCAD

Our score: 9.6 User satisfaction: 100%

An affordable and precise computer-aided software used for 3D drawing, design, and printing, and 2D drafting; providing design tools and features that accelerate workflows, improve productivity, and boost collaboration. CorelCAD is also capable of transforming 2D drawings into 3D models. Plus, it is interoperable, which makes it flexible.

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3. SmartDraw

Our score: 9.5 User satisfaction: 100%

An easy-to-use and powerful flowchart maker and diagramming solution which is an alternative to Microsoft Visio; helping companies and organizations document processes, manage projects, plan strategies, and convey ideas. SmartDraw can also integrate with other Microsoft productivity tools like Word and Excel. Additionally, it facilitates collaboration through file-sharing.

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4. ANSYS DesignModeler

Our score: 9.5 User satisfaction: 80%

ANSYS DesignModeler is a comprehensive training platform that familiarizes users with tools related to analysis in ANSYS Workbench. To that end, it features modeling functions with geometry building and editing capabilities. It also has a thorough guide on how to convert 2D sketches to 3D models or vice versa.

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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. With this, you can edit analyses to run on clusters, GPUs, and cloud without overhauling codes. And because of its flexibility, you can do away with big data programming.

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6. SolidWorks Premium

Our score: 9.4 User satisfaction: 95%

SolidWorks Premium is a computer-aided design software that allows users to create, simulate, publish, and manage 3D models. It has features for conceptual design, product layout, structural integrity testing, and more. Additionally, it has robust simulation tools. Using those, you can ensure that your designs are on par with industrial standards.

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Our score: 9.2 User satisfaction: 98%

An industry-leading Building Information Modeling (BIM) platform for urban planners, interior designers, designers, and architects. The platform makes planning and designing simple. This is thanks to its key design features combined with intuitive productivity and workflow tools. It also provides precise construction documentation and accurate cost estimates.

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8. Creo View

Our score: 8.9 User satisfaction: 100%

A simple yet powerful and scalable product lifecycle management solution that allows the viewing and sharing of 3D MCAD product models, assemblies, drawings, images and documents for product design review and visual collaboration. It even has optional adapters, which enable it to support major MCAD file formats.

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9. OpenSCAD

Our score: 7.4 User satisfaction: 94%

A free, script-only 3D modeling suite designed to help engineers create solid 3D CAD objects. Nevertheless, it puts users in complete control. It is a perfect tool for engineers who require highly capable tools but do not want to break the bank.

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10. CAD Pro

Our score: 6.9 User satisfaction: 96%

A powerful, money-saving computer-aided design solution designed for all areas of CAD design and engineering including technical drawing and drafting, home design and improvement, and landscaping design and planning. Because it has a rich and comprehensive feature-set, there is no need for users to employ multiple products for different but similar projects.

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11. ANSYS Discovery SpaceClaim

Our score: 8.4 User satisfaction: 100%

A fast and simple but comprehensive 3D modeling software.

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12. DWG FastView Plus

Our score: 8.0 User satisfaction: N/A

A lightweight and cost-efficient DWG file viewing and drawing software.

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CAD Software Guide

Table of contents

CAD tools are 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 make 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. These include cost, features, and deployment options.

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 make 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 tools reviews.

Targeted Businesses

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

  1. Engineers
  2. Architects
  3. Drafters
  4. Marine Engineers and
  5. Naval Architects

On that note, here are a couple of businesses that can benefit from CAD solutions:

  • Architectural firms – These businesses use CAD programs to ensure that their design ideas would render well into reality. They can also utilize these to show clients photorealistic images of designs.
  • Engineering companies – Before they build something, engineers employ CAD to run stress tests and simulate scenarios. Thus, they can make certain that their designs have full structural integrity.

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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:

  1. Wire-frame models. These have become old-fashioned. They create skeleton-like models with arcs and lines.
  2. Surface models. These create models by joining 3D surfaces. The background is not visible, which makes the surface models quite realistic.
  3. 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.

CAD software can also be subdivided into the following classes:

  1. Architectural CAD software
  2. Engineering CAD software

As their names suggest, they have features that are mainly targeted towards architecture or engineering. However, there are certain platforms whose features overlap and either architects or engineers can use them.

Key Features of CAD Software

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

  1. Links to packages that enable you to calculate costs
  2. Libraries of engineering components that can be imported
  3. Robust reflection, rotation, and scaling options
  4. Enables you to view images from any angle
  5. Helps you to create drawings in objects in in 2D, 3D, 2D CAD, and 3D CAD
  6. 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 laypeople. For instance, architects can utilize it to 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. Also, 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 your computer. This enables you to find what you need quickly and easily. Also, 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 an 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.

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 into 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 the 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.

Cost of CAD Software

Nowadays, SaaS CAD software are popular. On that note, they are priced economically on a monthly basis. Some tools have per user per month pricing. Thus, they can range anywhere from $60 to $1,000.

However, it is to be noted that there are CAD software vendors that offer annual pricing packages. Also, some companies that let firms pay for their software use once every two or three years. In this case, businesses can enjoy more savings because of long-term-use discounts.

Meanwhile, on-premise CAD programs are costlier, which can be priced up to $1,000 or more. But there are still examples that cost as little as $300 for a one-time license.

Deployment Options

There are two common deployment options for CAD software: SaaS and on-premise. According to the latest trends though, SMEs will gravitate towards cloud-based CAD solutions. That is because they can access powerful tools at a fraction of the cost.

Still, on-premise CAD programs are still available. They can still be an attractive choice for companies that like to ensure users can access important files only within a closed network.

List of CAD Software Companies

Order by:

  • Newest
  • Score
  • User Score
Product name:
Smart Score:
User Satisf.
User reviews:
Act IntelliCAD reviews

Act IntelliCAD

CAD Software
GstarCAD 2019 reviews

GstarCAD 2019

CAD Software
DemosCAD reviews


CAD Software
ArCADia 11 reviews

ArCADia 11

CAD Software
DWG FastView Plus reviews

DWG FastView Plus

CAD Software
cofaso eSchematic reviews

cofaso eSchematic

CAD Software
By quote
CADMATE reviews


CAD Software
CADopia reviews


CAD Software
HighDesign reviews


CAD Software
ARCHICAD reviews


CAD Software
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FlexSim reviews


CAD Software
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ESPRIT reviews


CAD Software
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CMS IntelliCad reviews

CMS IntelliCad

CAD Software
AxisVM reviews


CAD Software
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Things to consider when you invest in a SaaS

To pick a suitable SaaS solution for your business, start by asking the following questions:

· Is this cloud system the best solution—economically and features-wise?
· Will it be easy to do long-term business with the cloud provider?
· Is the system easy to use and does it simplify technology?
· Can the platform help your organization to manage compliance, security, and operational risks?

Find out if other companies have successfully implemented the software. Get proof about the provider being able to offer the desired business value and ROI. Browse case studies to learn about the user experiences of other buyers. Obtain references from the vendor and find out about the caliber of the software and service provided.

Another important element to consider is the free trial. Before you make such a vital decision and shell out your hard-earned money, be sure if the system actually fits your needs. You can do this by signing up for the free trial and trying out the program’s tools. Also, find out if the vendor can help you to pilot the system. You may need to pay for the deployment of the pilot, but the price is worth it as it will give you results and proof points to consider before you make a crucial investment.

Frequently asked questions about CAD Software

What is the best CAD software?

The best CAD software is Autodesk AutoCAD. It offers both 2D and 3D capabilities, which make it advantageous in product design, manufacturing planning, building design, and civil infrastructure design. Because of its wide range of tools, a team with architects, engineers, and professional or technical designers alike can use it.

For years recognized as the leader in the field, Autodesk AutoCAD also makes collaboration with teams, clients, and other involved parties easier as its use is by far the most widespread compared to other similar programs.

What are the benefits of CAD software?

The benefits of CAD software center on the analysis of designs. It also offers other advantages, such as efficient work processes and streamlined collaboration.

  • Design realization. Architects, for example, can show clients their ideas through CAD solutions. This way, they can better explain design elements and help customers understand their design.
  • All-in-one platform. CAD platforms have all the tools you need to create and adjust your blueprints. That is why you can be more efficient, as you do not have to switch between windows to achieve what you want. What’s more, you can reduce errors since you can simply delete a line or undo an action.
  • Faster workflow. With CAD software, you can create templates. This is most beneficial when you have similar projects. Thus, you can hurry the work process along for any undertaking.
  • Smooth collaboration. If you choose a CAD solution that supports interoperability, then you can look forward to seamless teamwork even with people who use different software. Plus, if your CAD tool is in the cloud, you can store files in the cloud and make them easily accessible to your team members.


What are the features of CAD software?

The features of CAD software that you can expect from any platform are the following:

  • Object libraries. These contain elements or objects that users can add to their structure or building designs quickly and easily.
  • Rotation and scaling tools. These allow users to see their designs in different angles to ensure they are up to structural and aesthetic standards.
  • 2D and 3D views. Users can make their designs realistic in the eyes of colleagues and clients using the 3D view. Meanwhile, they can utilize the 2D view for their blueprints. They can also work on 2D when they do not have enough computing resources for 3D.
  • Interoperability. This is now a main feature of any CAD. This allows you to open and edit files created in platforms other than the one you are using.
  • Cloud storage. Some vendors have dedicated cloud storage spaces for your files. If not, they enable you to connect with a cloud storage service for the purpose.
What is the easiest CAD software to use?

The easiest CAD software to use is Autodesk AutoCAD. Its interface makes every tool accessible, thus you can get to work on your design quickly. As with any software, it is not difficult to learn. However, mastering the ins and outs of the solution can take time. In this regard, the user is helped by the proliferation of help materials from various sources all over the internet.

What is a good free CAD software?

A good free CAD software is SketchUp. Its costless version is ideal for beginners. Plus, it is browser-based so there is no need to acquire new hardware to accommodate the program’s specifications. What’s more, it has intuitive tools, including a one-of-a-kind 3D modeling tool.

Jenny Chang

By Jenny Chang

Senior writer at FinancesOnline who writes about a wide range of SaaS and B2B products, including trends and issues on e-commerce, accounting and customer service software. She’s also covered a wide range of topics in business, science, and technology for websites in the U.S., Australia and Singapore, keeping tabs on edge tech like 3D printed health monitoring tattoos and SpaceX’s exploration plans.


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FinancesOnline is available for free for all business professionals interested in an efficient way to find top-notch SaaS solutions. We are able to keep our service free of charge thanks to cooperation with some of the vendors, who are willing to pay us for traffic and sales opportunities provided by our website. Please note, that FinancesOnline lists all vendors, we’re not limited only to the ones that pay us, and all software providers have an equal opportunity to get featured in our rankings and comparisons, win awards, gather user reviews, all in our effort to give you reliable advice that will enable you to make well-informed purchase decisions.

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