Free Software Computer Aided Design (CAD): a summary

Computer Aided Design software is critically important to a variety of industries and professions. It’s also notorious for being poorly catered for by Free Software applications. Here’s a brief summary of the current situation.

The .DWG issue

The standard

DWG (“drawing”) is currently the industry standard file format for CAD: it is also a proprietary file format.

“As frustrating as it is, [these] are the options right now for CAD
on [GNU/Linux]: non-Free Software that supports DWG, or free
software that doesn’t” [From LWN].

Freedom and .DWG

LibreDWG is the Free Software library for converting between DWG and other formats. While progress with LibreDWG is being made for reading DWG files “nothing uses the library, so it is of limited use on its own”. There may be work done this summer as part of Google Summer of Code (GSOC) to implement support for DWG 2000 and DWG 2004, which would presumably be very useful.

Working without DWG

The DWG issue aside, here are some other routes you could take:


The problems with DWG are currently unsolved (above suggestions notwithstanding). However, projects like LibreCAD for 2D, KiCAD for electronics, FreeCAD for 3D, and LibreDWG for conversion may offer solutions in the near future.

What can you do?

Contact as many of the related organisations and projects as possible and tell them about your needs and interests. If nothing else, this will help to demonstrate a continued demand within the community for workable solutions, and open channels of communications for future developments.

This post originated as an email to the Director of ONAWI: “A non-profit organisation that aims to directly contribute to a just transition towards climate change mitigation by making designs of wind turbines freely available to all”.

Thanks for FSFE volunteer Anna Morris for turning it into an article for my blog!