Jul 29, 2012

Lost in support:FreeCAD

FreeCAD is a perfect example of a well-supported application under Linux. Also its active community provides excellent documentation and support with lots of tutorials, answers and helpful advices all accessible with a few clicks from the application's homepage.

FreeCAD's main webpage. The perfect place to start exploring its documentation.

Installation/Installation Instructions:

FreeCAD as an open source application comes with a major advantage. It's actually a part of the Linux ecosystem and not just an application that can run on Linux. This is a great advantage that simplifies a lot the installation of FreeCAD on a Linux system and makes it integrating very well with your OS. Except of the existence on the repositories of all major distros, FreeCAD offers various other ways to install it on a Linux system. Stand-alone binaries for stable releases, PPAs with development versions for Ubuntu and compiling from source are some of these options.

Active Bugs/Bug Fixes :

FreeCAD is under heavy development. So you will face bugs or incomplete features. But the community  actually works very well and fixes any possible bugs rapidly or at least provides tips or tricks about how to skip the problem. Also the bug tracker is open to comments so you can see what other people say about your problem and when it will be fixed.

Linux related answers :

Linux is the OS that most of the members of FreeCAD's community use. So it isn't difficult to find answers to your Linux related questions. FreeCAD's official forum is a nice place to ask any question. And you will never take an answer like "Sorry we don't support that".

Help/Command Reference :

For an application that adds new features and improvements almost daily, FreeCAD's help is a state-of-art. Detailed and clear information, well explained and covers anything you can imagine. From the very basics to python scripting and macro recording. Command Reference isn't finished yet and many of the available commands are not properly documented but this is expectable for a product under active development. Also video tutorials that show the latest improvements and an official community blog dedicated to FreeCAD's tutorials are here to help you.

The Command Reference section of FreeCAD's online help.
Development/Improvements/New Features:

FreeCAD's development is really fast and new features and improvements appear almost daily. The past 2 years FreeCAD turned from a basic CSG tool to a powerful feature-based parametric solid modelling application. Probably it isn't ready yet for productive use but it is on the right way. Its modular architecture allows you to use the working features without wondering about the other  -currently incomplete- features.

Summary :

FreeCAD currently gives some lessons to anyone who wants to provide support for a CAD application on Linux. The fact that all of its support and learning resources are entirely work of its active community and not made by paid employees of a company makes the result more impressive.



This post is a part of the Lost in Support series. My main goal is to evaluate, compare and rate the provided support of all the available Linux CAD applications. A new tag named LiS will indicate all the posts of these series.

* Due to some changes to sourceforge.net some of the available FreeCAD's support webpages such as the forum and the wiki may move to new locations from September 2012. So I decided not to post links for these locations. I will update the post with links when the new locations will be available.


  1. Thanks for that nice review! Although you are quite optimistic when you talk about not getting answers like "sorry we don't support that". It does happen, but usually "yet" is added to the sentence. :P

    One such example is that FreeCAD does not support US/Imperial units. The underlying infrastructure is there for it, but no developer has stepped in to implement it. Since none of the current developers are North Americans, this is deemed low priority (with good reason).

    I'd like to add that FreeCAD has been accepted into the Fedora repository. You have to add support for nonfree repo though, because of Open CaSCADE.

    1. I am not talking about a specific unsupported feature but for linux-related answers. So in FreeCAD's official forum anybody who asks for example "How do I install this app on the X exotic 64bit distro" or "The Y feature doesn't work on this X exotic distro" will never get such an answer,that however is a common answer for other CAD applications.
      I'll be away from my computer (and Internet Connection) for the next ~20days so I will not answer to any new comments until August 20. My apologies for that but I really need some vacations.