Aug 22, 2014

A user's perspective on Linux CAD programs.

BricsCAD V14 versus DraftSight V1R5 comparison
For a long time, CAD users were bind to Windows platform, because there was no Linux or Mac alternative CAD software to AutoCAD or other windows CAD programs. In recent years the situation has changed a lot on Linux platform with the rise of DraftSight, BricsCAD and ARES CE.

When I started my freelance work as a 3D artist and draftsman 3 years ago I didn't have money to spare so I looked into the software situation under Linux when building my workstation. I've been using AutoCAD in my previous job, so open source programs like QCAD or LibreCAD seemed like a too much hustle to get used to plus they were not as feature full, as I needed for production work. When I tried DraftSight, I immediately knew that I could use this software for production work. It was not as feature full as AutoCAD LT, but it's tools and work flow were very similar to to that of AutoCAD, so I wouldn't have to invest a lot of time to learning a new work flow. The bonus thing for me was that it was a freeware.
After 3 years of using DraftSight in production, it serves me well. But from time to time I miss more advanced features and also 3D functionality, both of which DraftSight lacks. That's why I took a look at BricsCAD. At first I was discouraged by some bugs in version V13, but after V14 came out I decided to purchase the Pro version, which includes 3D capabilities. I'd like to share my comparison of these two programs. I am still getting used to BricsCAD, but I already used it in few projects, so I think I know it well enough to post this write up.
Even though I use the Pro version of BricsCAD, I'll try to compare it to DraftSight as if I was using the Classic version. The reason for this is that DraftSight offers no tools for 3D modeling, so it's counterpart is the Classic version of BricsCAD, which lacks 3D capabilities. DraftSight on Linux is for free, single license of BricsCAD Classic costs 485 USD.

BricsCAD is the first CAD Linux program which runs natively on 64bit systems. The installation was trouble free on my Fedora system. DraftSight is only 32bit application (native 64bit version is expected to be released in Autumn 2014) , so when installing it on 64bit system, you have to manually install few 32bit libraries. On Fedora, you also have to force the installation with rpm tool, due to some package collision (this happens even on 32bit systems). Even though I ran into licensing problems with BricsCAD and had to activate my license manually, BricsCAD has better installation process in my opinion.

Both applications have similar interface with model space, re-positionable toolbars, menu bar at the top and command and status bar at the bottom. BricsCAD's workspace is harder to set up and buggier though. I think this comes from the toolkits used – DraftSight uses Qt, whereas BricsCAD uses wxWidgets, which seems to pose more problems in Linux. For instance positioning toolbars is much less irritating in DraftSight. In BricsCAD you can sometimes even move toolbar out of your monitor with no easy way to get it back. When customizing .cui file (editing aliases or other GUI stuff), all toolbars are reset to their original positions in BricsCAD. There are lots of small glitches here and there all around BricsCAD's user interface. DraftSight's interface is not bug free, but it's much more polished than BricsCAD's.

BricsCAD's UI
 DraftSight's UI

Viewport performance
This is where BricsCAD is clear winner. It's viewport performance is superior to DraftSight and it can handle larger files without slowing down. My old laptop (Core 2 Duo with NVIDIA 8600M GS graphics card) was not good enough to handle some of my larger projects – the viewport was so laggy, that it was too irritating to work on those projects. With BricsCAD I can now work on those projects even on my laptop, since the viewport performance is much smoother. The only downside of BricsCAD's viewport performance is the cursor behavior. Sometimes two cursors appear in the viewport, which is very distracting.

BricsCAD is more feature-rich. All of the tools that DraftSight has, BricsCAD has them too (with small exceptions like layer preview) and it has much more. Don't take me wrong, DraftSight has enough tools to use it as production drafting application, but some more advanced are missing. To name a few: batch printing, toolbox, multileader, layer state manager, layer filters, annotative text, dimensions and blocks, command line autocomplete, dynamic input, PDF underlay, eTransmit, parametric modeling – all of these tools are not available in DraftSight.

I don't print on paper straight from CAD application, I create PDFs. With DraftSight I use CUPS-PDF virtual printer without any problems. The native PDF export doesn't work for me – it freezes when exporting bigger projects and exports solid hatches incorrectly. The situation is reversed in BricsCAD. I use native PDF export which works fine. When using CUPS-PDF, few bugs occur – text gets jagged and some colors are exported incorrectly.

Support, forums
Since DraftSight is freeware and has more users thanks to that fact, the forum is more lively, but there's also more noise – threads with no reply, questions which make no sense or newbie questions repeated. Most of the people in BricsCAD's forum seem to be seasoned users who know a lot about the software.
I filed a few bugs in both applications. The response from BricsCAD's developers was always fast and professional so far. This didn't always happen with DraftSight. For instance once after filing a Linux bug, I was advised to use Windows Update and the bug was closed without me having any way to respond. Most of my DraftSight bugs were processed properly though.

Both of these applications are good. If you need a solid 2D drafting, AutoCAD – like software, DraftSight and BricsCAD can serve you well. DraftSight is free, works with .dwg files natively and offers enough functionality to use it as production grade 2D drafting software. BricsCAD offers more functionality and better viewport performance.
From my point of view DraftSight has served me well over the past 3 years. I am happy with my switch to BricsCAD, because I am using some of it's more advanced tool, which make me more productive. I got around or got used to some of BricsCAD's glitches. The main advantage of BricsCAD for me is the 3D functionality, which DraftSight cannot offer.

Article written by Tom Polak


  1. Joab Acevedo MorenoOctober 6, 2015 at 10:17 PM

    Actually I have both programs installed, I'm a civil engeenier student, and i usually used to do my drawings in draftsigth but now i need a little bit more, and by this situation now I'm using Bricscad

  2. There's hardly any comparison to make! Bricscad is the best (by far) CAD under linux. Any linux. Bricscad is a mature (but commercial) software. It's cost-effective and good quality. DraftSight is still in beta under linux. I wouldn't pay a dime for it. It still have troubles (after so many years) with the video drivers (especially ith nVidia cards).