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  • FreeCAD
    • Operating system: Mac, Windows, Ubuntu
    • Minimum supported version for Mac: Mac OS X 10.11 El Capitan 
    • File Formats supported: STEP, IGES, STL, SVG, DXF, OBJ, IFC, DAE
    • Price: Free
    • Download here
  • QCAD
    • Operating system: Mac, Windows, Linux
    • Minimum supported version for Mac: Mac OS X 10.7
    • File Formats supported: DWG, DXF, DGN, DWF, DXF v. R15, SVG, PDF
    • Price: Free
    • Download here
  • DraftSight
    • Operating system: Mac, Windows, Linux
    • Minimum supported version for Mac: Mac OS X 10.9 Mavericks 
    • File Formats supported: DXF/DWG, PDF, PNG, TIF, SAT and STL
    • Price: Free (beta version)
    • Download here
  • SketchUp
    • Operating system: Mac, Windows
    • Minimum supported version for Mac: Mac OS X 10.11 El Capitan
    • File Formats supported: 3DS, DWG/DXF, DAE, FBX, IFC, OBJ, STL, WRL, XSI
    • Price: Free (web app)
    • Download here

The hard thing about being a Mac user is that not every program is designed to work on your devices. This is especially true for Mac users who are in the construction industry – contractors, site engineers, architects – who have to switch over to industry standard PCs when at work.

The major CAD programs that are being used in the construction industry often have version that work on Macs. However, if you’re a student or a professional who is just starting out and don’t have the money to spend on these big-name programs, you will be hard pressed to find CAD software for MAC that are budget-friendly, let alone free.

You are not without options however. There are computer-aided design programs out there that are free and can be used on Macs.

The criteria used to evaluate whether a program is included on the list is its free price tag, of course, and its capabilities as CAD software. That is, is has to be able to competently and consistently let users produce high-quality electronic drafts, engineering and architectural calculations, 2-D and 3-D electronic models.

Here are some of the best ones we’ve found:

1. FreeCAD

Image Source: FreeCAD website

FreeCAD is a solid CAD option that is not only free, but fully open source. It can work on Windows, Linux, and, of course, Mac. Despite its non-existent price-tag, FreeCAD is far from being labeled as a simple “budget” program with a lot of features missing or inferior to paid CAD programs. In fact, FreeCAD is a versatile enough 3D modeling software that can be used by professionals in many different fields such as architecture, construction, engineering, and industrial design. Its operating system is intuitive enough as well for students, hobbyists, and CAD novices, so you don’t have to worry too much about the learning curve.

FreeCAD gives users the ability to design and model real-life objects regardless of size. That is to say you could design and model the look of a tumbler lid prototype just as well as you could model an actual skyscraper. As a parametric program, you could also change designs by modifying your set geometric parameters in the model history. As is industry standard, FreeCAD users can create 3D geometry from 2D drafts by sketching their desired shapes in 2D and then using these shapes as a base to extrude different volumes or voids.

When using FreeCAD, you’ll have to get used to its wide array of modules, including a rendering module that can export and render your 3D models, a drawing sheet module that can display your 3D geometry in standard orthographic 2D views, and even an architecture module that turns FreeCAD’s workflow akin to other BIM software out there suitable for engineers and architects. One of its more interesting modules is its robot simulation module that lets its users simulate and study the mechanical range and dynamics of robot movements.

  • Operating system: Mac, Windows, Ubuntu
  • Minimum supported version for Mac: Mac OS X 10.11 El Capitan 
  • File Formats supported: STEP, IGES, STL, SVG, DXF, OBJ, IFC, DAE
  • Price: Free
  • Download here

2. QCAD

Image Source: QCAD website

2D drafting and design is QCAD’s claim to fame. This free and open source CAD program can efficiently create technical drafts and 2D models such as schematics for mechanical engineering drawings, electrical plans and layouts, space and building blueprints, and other construction documents. One thing worth noting is QCAD’s user interface being strikingly similar to that of AutoCAD’s. You can even import files to and from the two programs since QCAD’s main file format of choice is DXF. For DWG files, it’s a bit more complicated since you’re going to have to install a commercial plugin so that QCAD can handle the format, but it’s still possible nonetheless. So if you’re a long-term AutoCAD user and you’re looking to make the leap to a more Mac-friendly and affordable option, QCAD is the perfect program for you.

Being an open source program, one would expect QCAD to be a program with some capabilities lacking. However, you’d be happily surprised that you can actually get a lot more out of the program than you would think. It has extensive 4,800 CAD element library and over 60 modification tools for the program. It also has standard functionalities such group blocks, layering, and to-scale printing.

If you’re looking to do heavy-duty 3-D modeling, QCAD might leave you wanting. However, its appeal isn’t in its power, but its accessibility and ease-of-use. If you need something simple done quickly, QCAD is a no fuss, no muss way to get you your 2D drawings done. It’s easy to use for any user regardless of previous experience with CAD software.

  • Operating system: Mac, Windows, Linux
  • Minimum supported version for Mac: Mac OS X 10.7
  • File Formats supported: DWG, DXF, DGN, DWF, DXF v. R15, SVG, PDF
  • Price: Free
  • Download here

3. DraftSight

Image Source: Ricky Jordan

Dassault Systemes is best known for its SolidWorks CAD program and CATIA, but they also release a more budget-friendly program that can run a Mac – the free software DraftSight. DraftSight is a free to use 2D CAD program based upon an open business model and caters to professional architects, engineers, and draftsmen. It is currently in public beta and can be downloaded at the Dassault’s download page here. The program promises its users a much better way to open, edit, and share DWG files. 

Originally just running on Microsoft Windows PC’s, Mac OS and Linux support was only very recently added, although it’s just for the beta version of the program. Fully ready versions of the programs for Mac will be available soon.

DraftSight is accessible and usable for all users regardless of skill level. This includes certified CAD professionals and draftsmen, students and educators in the academe, and even hobbyists looking to learn how to do some simple CAD-work.  Additionally, the online community surrounding and discuss the product is highly helpful. On the Dessault website, one can find forums and discussions that can provide new users of the program and novice CAD-work operators with some tips, tricks, and insights about using the program and CAD work in general.

As of now, DraftSight is only available as beta for Mac OS. The professional version can only be run on a PC for now. However, even with the limited capabilities of the beta version available on Mac, the program still has a lot of features one can use to help one create simple 2D drafts and documents.

  • Operating system: Mac, Windows, Linux
  • Minimum supported version for Mac: Mac OS X 10.9 Mavericks 
  • File Formats supported: DXF/DWG, PDF, PNG, TIF, SAT and STL
  • Price: Free (beta version)
  • Download here

4. SketchUp

Image Source: SketchUp website

Most veterans of design and CAD software know SketchUp as a household name. A lot of users consider SketchUp to be a classic in the 3D modeling and CAD game. On the onset, the most striking thing about SketchUp is its interface. The ease of use of the program is due to the neat and very tidy way the buttons and functions are arranged on the SketchUp workspace. You can actually customize this simple surface and make things as complicated or as simple as you want. There are a bunch of intuitive tools as well when it comes to working with SketchUp. You can use these tools to effectively navigate around the SketchUp interface, you can accurately and efficiently create and sculpt geometry and models in a fully operable 3-D view, and you can create ready to print 3D models from scratch even as a beginner to the program.

SketchUp is available as a paid program and with good reason. The SketchUp paid version, SketchUp Pro, has a lot of extra functionality built into it. You could even add extra features to the program by installing certain user-made extensions, with a lot of them free of charge, to give you functionalities that could cut some significant time off of your usual workflow. Still, the free software given to the public as a web program still includes effective layout capabilities, quick rendering capabilities through an editable function called “styles”, and even some minor exporting functions in case you want to move your project elsewhere to another program.

The online community for SketchUp support is lively as well. The SketchUp 3D Warehouse is an online library of over 2 million SketchUp models that can be downloaded and open directly in the program. This is the result of the hardwork of the SketchUp community, modeling different products or space and uploading them onto the 3D Warehouse. And with the rise of 3D printing as an industry, SketchUp is slowly being considered one of the best go-to products for the 3D sculpting and printing community.

  • Operating system: Mac, Windows
  • Minimum supported version for Mac: Mac OS X 10.11 El Capitan
  • File Formats supported: 3DS, DWG/DXF, DAE, FBX, IFC, OBJ, STL, WRL, XSI
  • Price: Free (web app)
  • Download here

Andoni Centino

Registered and licensed Architect from the Philippines. I have worked in an established Architectural Design firm, Interior Design firm and Design-Build Architecture company. Aside from independent architectural projects, I work part-time as an associate of Arch. Micaela Benedicto. I am adept at Autodesk Autocad, Autodesk Revit, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, and Sketchup. I am also adept at doing 3D renderings with V-ray.