Free Drawing Program

Now that Sketchup is no longer free, can anyone recommend a good alternative? Simple enough for students, but capable enough for working engineers who can’t afford commercial software?

It is free… There’s just two versions, a free (Make) version and a Pro version. The free version has almost every tool, just not commercial license. But it’s definitely good enough for students.

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Make is forbidden for commercial use. Pro is way, way, beyond the means of the people we work with.

ah, so you need a free commercial one.
Well I think Free is okay for student use and other than not having Layout, it’s every a student needs.

For commercial, like CAD, has a price. I don’t know any good alternative 3D ones. But there’s a bunch of 2D free ones online if 2D is suitable for the work you need. I assume most engineers still use 2D.

Indeed so. There are lots of 2D and 3D free drawing programs. Which one would you recommend?

You can still use sketchup 8 and prior for commercial use. You can download previous versions of trimble and google sketchup here.

John Bacus, SketchUp Product Manager:

“The new ‘non-commercial’ terms in Sketchup Make are intended to prevent use of that product for commercial work of any kind. Users of Sketchup v.8 are not subject to that term, so obviously you’d be free to continue to use that product for any use, commercial or otherwise.”

This topic has been discussed at length on the forum already here.

The only other quality free program I’m aware of is blender, but I don’t know about their TOS.

Also… you may want to look at this post that helps visualize how affordable sketchup is compared to other software

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We’re a design company. We can easily afford any sort of fancy software. Trouble is that a couple of hundred pounds or dollars can be a year’s income for a welder in Nepal, and those are some of the people we work with.

Sketchup is a superb product. It would be nice if the Nepali welder, and billions like him, could share ideas in the way Sketchup used to allow. That way they could get to earn the couple of hundred.

Necessity, as they say, is the mother of invention, so. I wonder if it is worth developing our own, genuinely free, software?

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Excellent suggestion. But Blender is very, very, very difficult, at least for making dimensioned engineering drawings.

Perhaps we should throw some money at the splendid Blender people and try to encourage some Sketchup-like functions? What do you think?

You’ll probably throw a lot more money than just buying SketchUp Pro.

The money is not a problem. The problem is equipping around sixty thousand people across the world with engineering software they can all share with.

well, i was just comparing to your other suggestion:

which seems far more difficult :smile:

Sorry, I’m probably not explaining well here. We have no problem affording expensive software, and we have staff who can use complicated software, and we know people who can code. What we need is software which is genuinely free of charge and simple enough for anyone, anywhere to create usable engineering drawings. We used to promote Sketchup for that, but clearly can’t any more.

Suggestions are much appreciated.

SketchUp has also a students program and special grants for developing countries and non-profits.

When you mention the ethical aspect (nepalese income, billions of humans) then this brings in yet another meaning of “free” that even SketchUp 8 wouldn’t fulfill.

Disclaimer: Topics about “value” and “for free” tend to attract very strong, ideological opinions ranging from undifferentiated praise to bashing. I don’t see a single best solution and prefer to leave it to the reader to decide what satisfies there requirements. Commercial software, proprietary freeware and opensource softwares vary very much in the way they are funded/motivated, which influences the possibilities for growth, progress, quality, feature completeness. While there are some successful opensource applications (backed by companies that make money just another way), other specialized applications rather emerge from commercial startups. SketchUp is such an example. There is currently no “free” application that feels like SketchUp’s user interaction and is on par with it. There can always be drawbacks on both sides.

If you are curious about non-commercial applications targeted for engineering take a look at LibreCAD. For a more organic and subdivision modeling workflow, see Wings3d. There are more, but not many are established enough to suggest them against commercial solutions.

It would be interesting to have more info about your organization, on one side you want a free or affordable engineering solution for 60000 people, on the other side money (for development) is not a problem. Your organization wants to support/educate people across the world or provide them with tools to start small businesses to earn a living? Or is it about collaboration?

If your organization is serious about it rather than starting an effort from scratch, you could find the most-appropriate opensource project and become a sponsor to advance it in the direction that is needed for your purpose (eg. finance them a user interface/interaction designer, finance a developer to add/improve a feature like inferencing…). This is how companies and public administrations (French gendarmerie, Valencia, Toulouse, München) do it.

I see an additional potential problem: What kind of computers do these people have access to? SketchUp is one of the most demanding applications and a computer to run it costs far more than SketchUp by itself:

  • it requires quite powerful hardware
  • it requires a recent operating system (Windows 8 or 7)

If what is required is mainly 2D drawings, one of the available free 2D CAD applications might be a more feasible choice.


All useful points. We’ve been thinking of working to replicate most of the interactive excellences of Sketchup using FreeCAD. Anyone any experience of this?

The period during which SU was free and completely without strings was something of a fluke of circumstance, arising as an indirect consequence of Google’s then-plan for populating their simulated planet Earth with simulated 3D buildings created by armies of home hobbyists.

Now that those unusual circumstances no longer pertain, we shouldn’t be surprised to see that things have returned to normal, namely, the software you’re looking for doesn’t exist, and you’re faced with tradeoffs and compromises.


You could always just take up a pencil and paper like the old days :wink:

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Indeed! And they crash less often, too. Trouble is, things like 3D printers and laser cutters don’t speak pencil.

We are in a stunningly interconnected world where, for instance, we send drawings made with (paid for) Sketchup by email from England to a company in Mongolia (yes, really) where, untouched by human hand, the file is used to instruct a profiling machine to cut out ironfounding moulds. They also create flat drawings from the files, which go to hand craft workers for final finishing. This sort of thing is not unusual.

I imagine it would be a financial nightmare for a company (that isn’t like Google) to do that on their own. However, one might be able to find a group of programmers to start some kind of open-source project.

But then you run the risk of having a program like Gimp (a free alternative to Photoshop)… which personally gives me a headache when I try to use it.