In the modern era, when engineers, architects, students and other professionals needs to represent anything on a plane using a computer, AutoCAD is the program by excellence. When an engineer needs to draw the detailing of a solution, he needs a tool that allow him to express or communicate graphically that solution, specifying measures and material properties.
When I was a civil engineer student, I enjoyed a lot of time learning with AutoCAD, using it in the academic background on subjects like Topography, Hydrology, Structural concrete/steel Projects, etc.
Of course, it was not nice all the time, learning to use this program could be frustrating in some occasions. As a student, my only computer was a mini laptop from early 2010 decade, not really the best machine to run AutoCAD. RAM consumption, slow computer and limited student licenses were serious obstacles.
The thing with AutoCAD is ¿Do we really need all those complex tools and commands all the time? ¿What if you just need to create a regular draw plan or a simple illustration for academic usage? Yes, AutoCAD can do all that, but it takes several resources of your computer and turns out that exporting quality images is not really the strong side of AutoCAD.
LibreCAD, a “light” Alternative to AutoCAD
Searching alternatives for creating simple schemes for my studies or posts for my blog, I found a good one. It is a software that gather most of the useful tools of AutoCAD on a simple interface and it allows to export high-resolution images in several formats (jpg, bmp, png, svg, etc.).
This software LibreCAD. The RAM consumption of LibreCAD on my computer is about 60 Mb, I think it never rises beyond 100 Mb.
¿What I use LibreCAD for?
I’m using LibreCAD for my Hive articles. I was Teacher Assistant of a subject called “Applied Static” during my studies and I’m sharing all my knowledge of Applied Statics for Civil Engineering on the blockchain. Take a look of some of the illustrations I create with this friendly software:
As you can see, these illustrations have a great quality, taking in consideration that I limited the resolution (less kb’s) so I could upload the image easily on the post editor. I’m using LibreCAD for academic illustrations, but it is only one of the uses you can give to this program. You can use it for technical draws or simple plans.
You can think of LibreCAD as a “lite” version of AutoCAD, since the interface is very similar, but there are not sophisticated tools and settings. You only have what is necessary to create a detailed standard plan or draw. Nevertheless, the results with this program are not the same as in AutoCAD. In terms of computer resources, LibreCAD works better for low RAM computers.
According to their homepage, LibreCAD is a free Open Source CAD application for Windows, Apple and Linux. You can download their source code on a ZIP file from their GitHub page. The language used is C++.
Looking at the image, there is an interface where you can see all the tools you have available. Although this is no the default interface (since it was personalized by me), there is a remarkable simplicity in comparison with AutoCAD, where you have certain amount of tabs on the top and you cannot see all the tools at the same time.
Besides the most obvious and simple tools (line, rectangle, polyline, circle, move, rotate, copy, etc.), there are some things in common with AutoCAD: you can set Layers with different conditions; create blocks and import/export them; fix the trajectory of a line to orthogonal or free; disable/enable reference to the endpoints, middle points or entities; insert text; and some others useful tools.
As it is a relative new software it is no free from bugs or disappointing results. For example, there are a limited number of letter fonts and some of them do not shows correctly when you introduce a symbol or special character. There is a small but noisy bug, every time I close a draw it asks me if I want to save the drawing despite, I just save it manually. Insert an image on the drawing becomes a problem, because it is really hard to move it.
LibreCAD is compatible with DXF and DWG (only 2.0.8 and newer versions) files. As I have said before, the main reason I use this program to create illustrations for my articles is its simplicity and the possibility to export high-resolution images. Of course, when it comes to a professional background, AutoCAD it’s the obvious choice, because it allows me to get the results and complexity I need for an engineering issue.
In conclusion, I think that LibreCAD could be an excellent way to introduce people to the CAD environment before enter into AutoCAD, and maybe a software that everyone can use to create their own illustrations or figures.
Thanks for reading. Have you ever used a CAD program?