I want to start by clarifying that it is not the same to say free CAD as free CAD but both terms are in the most frequent searches of Google associated with the word CAD. Depending on the type of user, the basic drawing will think about its availability without making a license payment or temptation for piracy and hence calling it free CAD; the advanced user or developer looks at LibreCAD for the freedom it has to expand its capabilities.
And it has been recently released the first stable version of LibreCAD. It is one of the first in which we have many expectations, we have seen Open Source as a business model that will break many paradigms in the way knowledge is democratized. In fact, in other fields such as web publishing platforms and Geographic Information Systems, free software has made very important advances, surpassing even proprietary tools with popularized brands, but a basic CAD (outside of Blender that is great but for mechanical design). ) So far we have not seen much.
Development is reusing some of the Qcad, Of which I spoke a while ago, although after various difficulties due to the type of license and some rights, it has almost been rebuilt from scratch, barely taking advantage of the functionality and some of the effort it took while the project was called CADuntu.
To date it is still a fairly basic version, however the trend and acceptance that it is taking in the community, I dare to believe that in three years we will finally have a CAD tool that competes with popularized software. As long as it is integrated into the geospatial ecosystem, LibreCAD can even achieve greater achievements in the GIS environment since many things still need to be done from the CAD side in the style Line / trim / snap
What progress LibreCAD has
For now, the usability of LibreCAD is very practical. The user interface design is quite practical, with adjustable panels.
The handling of layers is quite practical, similar as it is in CorelDraw or MapInfo, with off, on in just one click. In lower panel the space for line commands to the AutoCAD style although the contextual options are in a horizontal bar that can either be up as default or floating anywhere. The following images show what the QCad interface was and how similarity has been maintained in LibreCAD.
I like the logic of the LibreCAD command flow, avoiding so many bars that clog the workspace. The left panel is not really of command but of command menu, to the ethyl Microstation. To give an example:
- Choose the command line
- This causes the icons to be replaced by the line options (from two points, starting from a point (ray), bisector, tangent, etc.)
- And when you choose the line type, the snap
Also in this panel you can activate menus that do not occupy lower from the top bar, such as modify commands, sizing, selection or information commands.
Obviously it is a flow logic very practical, otherwise in other conditions would have to swim across the screen to make a line with a specific snap.
- It is also very practical, that as in Microstation, the used command does not die, unless another is going to be used.
- Similar to AutoCAD, it accepts text commands, with quite similar names and abbreviations. Example, the line can be written: Line, L, ln; parallel can be written or, offset, even, parallel.
- It is very practical, that you can configure the language for both the interface and commands, that is chosen in Edit> App Preferences.
- It has auto-saved, and can be configured every time it happens.
Most of the innovations in LibreCAD are in the interface, although there are interesting commands, such as the selection of all the objects in a layer, and we would have to see if there are any other innovators. And although as a free solution you should redesign the way you do things, in general you have given priority to the commands most used by proprietary programs, then ready a comparison of those that now exist with respect to the ones I used when giving the AutoCAD course based on the most common 32 drawings of construction drawings. While there is a new RC, I am using the last 1.0 stable of the December 15 2011.
Limits of LibreCAD
I am not going to talk about the limitations, since the project is still tender.
For now the interface is quite slow and there are many missing features to the mouse both when selecting objects and on the right mouse button. The snap options are more or less acceptable but the capture functionality still seems poor. It only supports work in 2D, in the short term it will surely implement the isometric as it did qCAD. There is no handling of layouts, the existing ones in a drawing are seen as blocks inserted in the file although they can not be visualized, the printing is quite poor.
Obviously, as a result of being new, there is still no manual.
It also only supports dxf files in 2000 formats, then we expect dwg2000 support.
It will grow to the extent that it is prioritized on the wish list, in what community Will play a good role.
The biggest challenge of LibreCAD
Honestly, I do not look at difficulties in getting a fully functional interface and a good use of the computer resource.
In my opinion, the biggest challenge is that it manages to open dwg / dgn files. While almost any low-cost program, such as those in the IntelliCAD line, Globalmapper, TatukGIS do, very mature programs like QGIS y GvSIG They have been unable to open the door to an agreement. It seems that the doors are not always open for free initiatives. In the case of Bentley Systems, the attempt should be made by means of Open Design Alliance And dealing with the V8 format and I-model that we believe will be about 10 more years, in the case of AutoCAD is more complicated because after what everyone has been able to open (dwg2000) there are at least four new formats including the one that will bring AutoCAD 2013.
It is also a great challenge to think about scalability, since today talking about vectors is already obsolete, the future of CAD is in modeling (BIM), and for this LibreCAD will be a heavy burden if we consider that the majority of contributions are voluntary .
The other challenge is sustainability, which will surely find it as it is internationalized.
For now I get a good impression, than a program with an executable of just 12 MB.