Free Drawing Program

Starting a new project is very risky, because it is unattractive to end users as long as it has not yet the essential features that comparable (opensource) applications already have. You would compete for resources with an unfinished project against existing unfinished projects. This is only wise if you plan to offer something significantly new and have enough backing (own developer team) to reach a 1.0 release in foreseeable time.

Indeed, Gimp is very capable, but ever so fiddly to use isn’t it? A nicer model might be Inkscape, which is delightfully simple.

Ah well. Everything started somewhere…

Could you just export and exchange the needed output format (instead of .skp which can only be read by SketchUp or its SDK)? Or does the remote company also need to be able to do edits/adjustments to the source files (like .skp)?
What kind of workflow and features should the desired program fulfill?

if, as a company, you are truly leaning towards being altruistic to a large number of individuals and have financial resources available…
why not apply to Trimble to become resellers but lease the licences to your collaborators, spreading the cost over time…
5yr cost = licence price + 5yr maintenance costs
lease cost = 5yr cost/5 + minimal fee [or free]

they may go for it…

[quote=“glynh2, post:13, topic:4801, full:true”]What we need is software which is genuinely free of charge and simple enough for anyone, anywhere to create usable engineering drawings.

Suggestions are much appreciated.[/quote]

search no longer, Dassaults DraftSight (OEM Graebert) also available as a free edition is the best choice for creating 2D drawings:

Thank you. A useful suggestion.

DraftSight has many capabilities, but we’ve found it to be very system-hungry - it simply won’t work at all on modest computers and its vast size means it can’t be downloaded beyond fast broadband. It also isn’t really free - it requires registration and the passing of information, forbids commercial or institutional use and can’t save without ‘permission’ from the source.

Dassault Systèmes have cleanly acknowledged what the world needs. Well done for that. But I don’t think it is at all there. Yet.

We’re not interested in licences. We need genuinely free.

Indeed. We need to collaborate.

Hi glynh2,

As others have said, you need to look harder on the SU website under products. The “SU MAKE” is what your after. I’ve never liked that badge, it’s confusing, SketchUP Pro & SketchUP Lite would have been worldly instantly recognised in my eyes.

Over & out,

And as he has already responded, he needs a software free for commercial use, which SU Make is not.
Please read the thread.

For your interest, here’s a list of 2D/3D applications:
SketchUp Sage > Resources > Other Modelers > CAD

Hi All,

I’d just like to kick in my 2 cents worth on this. I work with a non-profit that has similar needs and goals to glynh2. We are currently working on an ultra-low-cost housing program in Cameroon. We are starting work with a rural village in the southwest. Average income is around $3/day. Our organization has used Sketchup Pro and Free for a longtime before Trimble took over. We have provided a couple of laptop computers for shared use by the villagers and our local team. These cost under $300/each and are quite capable of working with Sketchup 8, which they are currently using. Sketchup is simple enough to teach quickly to our volunteers and local people. The 3D communication is far better and easier than conventional 2D drawings. Our work is most basically about education. We aim to give information and skills to the villagers that will help them to improve the housing and living conditions of their communities. While this starts as strictly educational, in order to be sustainable people have to be able to earn their living doing this. At some point their work becomes “commercial”. Actually, the sooner the better. But the money they can earn could never justify a $500 fee for each user. (We built a 1000 SF house in Nicaragua for $500 in cash for imported items, the rest being local materials and labor.)

Google used to have a kind of “do good” attitude and it seemed it attracted lots of people interested in contributing to the rather cooperative community of Sketchup users. The fabulous plug-ins that people provide, mostly for free and some cheap, attest to that. To me it is very sad that the rather conventional, strictly commercial and money making approach has taken over now that Trimble owns Sketchup. For me a lot of spirit seems to be lost. As a strictly for profit company I don’t know if Trimble can or wants to step up and contribute to that “do gooder”, shared community spirit. If they can, it would be great. I think the old spirit of Sketchup is responsible for much of its success.

Along with glynh2 I am keeping my eyes open for alternatives.

At the same time, as I am writing this note, I hope that maybe Trimble would give some thought to this. The people I am working with are not going to be customers for Trimble. Giving them copies of Sketchup, which would be extremely cheap for Trimble, would not lose any income for Trimble. On the other side it would create more users who increase the presence of Sketchup and who someday might become paying customers. It might be something like what Apple achieved by giving their computers to schools (a much more expensive contribution on Apple’s part).

In any event, our non-profit is facing a problem similar to what glynh2 seems to be confronting. Information on our project can be seen on our website at

Best regards,


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“System Requirements (Minimum):
• 32bit version: Microsoft Windows XP (SP2), or Windows 7
• 64bit version: Microsoft Windows XP (SP2), Windows 7 or Windows 8
• Intel Pentium 4 processor (2GHz or faster)
• 300 MB free hard disk space depending on accessory applications installed
• 2 GB RAM
• HighColor (16bit) graphics card
• XGA (1024x 768) display”

even the recommended system requirements are modest and typically fulfilled by every system running Windows 7 or a 3D modeler as SketchUp.


  • SketchUp Make 2015 x64 : 109 mb
  • DraftSight 2015 x64 : 181 mb

seems to be no real hurdle even for a slow connection.

"Is DraftSight free for commercial use?
Yes. DraftSight is free* for all users- commercial, professional, students and educators.

  • Standalone License. Activation required."

if providing an email address for getting access to a commercially useable professional CAD system “isn’t really free” you resp. your partners obviously need to look further…


Try Bentley Systems MicroStation. Nose around this site to get more info. Unfortunately, it’s Windows only.

It’s widely used throughout the industry. I haven’t worked with it so I can’t describe it to you, but it’s flexible enough to do some pretty interesting things. The high end modules are expensive, but do wind loads and engineering analyses. I think they are still giving away the basic version. If not, they might be persuaded to for a good cause.



Thank you. I hadn’t heard of that one. But it isn’t free.

Exactly so!

I felt that Google were operating on the principle of ‘make it really useful - we’ll find a way to pay for it later’, which has worked so spectacularly well for them. Trimble would appear to have other plans, leaving Sketchup as just another drawing program among hundreds.

Your project looks most interesting. But I think the CAD thing it goes very much farther that helping people with limited cash.

Across the world there are too many CAD programs to count. No one program dominates, and different industries in different places use different formats, none of which quite speak to each other. With one system open to all, everyone could exchange ideas, in the way we do now with documents and pictures. It could make money too.

AutoCAD is (still) leading the 2D CAD market, the DWG format is the industry standard for exchanging 2D CAD data.

And widely supported by the vast majority of all CAD systems as well as many graphics programs as e.g. Illustrator, Corel or (free) Inscape etc.

I would like SketchUp to do the policy that Unity3D has and offer it for free until the company that holds the free license pulls a profit of a defined amount and then are required to pay for their license (s).

Precisely so, and Sketchup can be made to read and write DXF and DWG particularly well.