AutoCAD is a giant in the world of technical CAD and drafting, and it has remained the most popular CAD software for decades since its original release in 1982.
It was the first CAD software to run without needing a mainframe computer and quickly grew to dominate the industry in the 1980s.
Modern releases of AutoCAD run natively on Windows and Mac OS, and like many big CAD software, Linux users get left out. Or do they?
In this article, we will look at your options for using AutoCAD on Linux-based operating systems, and a few alternatives that will offer similar functionality.
So if you are an architect or engineer seeking a 2D drafting solution for Linux, then read on for more details.
AutoCAD on Linux
As mentioned in the intro, AutoCAD does not run natively on Linux. It is purely Windows and Mac software.
However, there are a couple of workarounds to get this popular CAD software running on Linux, should you so desire.
VMs, or virtual machines, are software applications that emulate a physical computer, allowing users to run multiple operating systems on a single physical host machine.
They are often used for testing, developing, and running legacy applications that are not compatible with the host system’s operating system.
Installing a VM on Linux is easy.
All you have to do is install the VM, download a Windows ISO, install Windows into the VM environment, and then install AutoCAD into Windows as you would on a normal Windows machine.
Maybe you prefer another option to go through the chore of installing Windows on a VM.
A compatibility layer is another option. A compatibility layer will allow your computer to run programs designed for a different operating system or architecture.
Take WINE for example, the most popular compatibility layer for Linux.
It translates the instructions and functions of Windows software into a format Linux can understand and execute. It adds the tools to allow the Windows software to communicate with Linux, as opposed to a VM that actually runs Windows in a virtual computer.
Compatibility layers aren’t just for running legacy software or programs only available on other platforms. They also come in handy for testing and developing software that needs to be compatible with multiple operating systems.
They may be older versions of AutoCAD, but that doesn’t matter, because AutoCAD files have backward and forward compatibility with older/newer releases.
To see if your chosen version of AutoCAD will run OK in WINE, head on over to this link.
Cloud-based CAD solutions are becoming increasingly popular, and Autodesk has recently made its own web-based version of AutoCAD available. AutoCAD Web will run in the most popular browsers, including Chrome on Linux.
It offers all of the drafting tools that its locally-hosted version does, enabling drafting from anywhere with an internet connection.
The best part is, that AutoCAD Web is available for just $10 per month or $100 per year.
Of course, the web version comes with some limitations against the full version. You can compare the available features on the picture below:
At that price, one would wonder why anyone would go through the task of installing a VM or compatibility layer. It’s a steal! You can read more about AutoCAD Web at this link.
Best AutoCAD Alternatives for Linux
So those were your options for getting the official version of AutoCAD running on Linux.
You will be pleased to hear that thanks to the highly compatible nature of the industry standard DXF and DWG file, there are alternative solutions that will let you work alongside your professional partners with no issue.
BricsCAD is a CAD software from Belgium-based Bricsys, and it has both 2D and 3D drafting and modeling capabilities.
The software has rich features for 2D drafting, making it a doddle to create detailed floor plans, elevations, and sections for those in architecture and construction.
Another notable feature of BricsCAD is its support for sheet metal design, which is particularly useful for creating designs for metal structures such as ductwork and HVAC systems.
The software also includes tools for building information modeling (BIM) that allow users to collaborate more effectively and work more efficiently on construction projects.
BricsCAD is also compatible with other AutoCAD file formats such as AutoCAD DWG and DXF, making it easy to collaborate with colleagues using different software.
This compatibility also allows users to switch from other CAD software to BricsCAD without headaches.
It comes in a range of options, ranging from the 2D-only BricsCAD Lite (€590 for perpetual license) to BricsCAD Pro (€1,265 forever), which has both 2D and 3D CAD features. There are other specialized packages available, including BricsCAD Mechanical and BricsCAD BIM.
You can see all the pricing information at this link.
QCAD is an open-source CAD software focussing on 2D drafting.
Developed by German company RibbonSoft, QCAD offers a wide range of features and tools that can be used to create and edit 2D designs and technical drawings.
With its intuitive interface and easy-to-use tools, it is easy to create 2D drawings of buildings, machines, and other structures.
Additionally, the software offers support for dimensioning and annotation, making it simple to create detailed and accurate drawings that conform to industry standards.
QCAD is very similar to AutoCAD in its functionality and its goals, and some might say, in appearance also. See the image below and judge for yourselves.
QCAD supports metrics and imperial units, and in addition, the website points out that it can draw in angstrom units, astronomical units, lightyears, and parsecs.
So if you’re planning on designing a Dyson Sphere, then QCAD is probably a good option for you. Of course, AutoCAD also has parsecs, but it isn’t free like QCAD.
LibreCAD is a free and open-source 2D CAD solution in the same vein as AutoCAD.
It has a lot of similarities to QCAD also, largely because it has been derived from the original open-source QCAD platform.
It is used for creating and editing technical drawings, such as architectural plans and mechanical parts.
One of the key features of LibreCAD is its user-friendly interface, which makes it accessible to both professionals and hobbyists.
Like QCAD (and AutoCAD), it includes tools for creating and editing 2D geometric shapes, such as lines, arcs, and circles, as well as dimensioning tools for accurately specifying the size and position of objects.
The software also includes a powerful layer management system, which allows users to organize their drawings and make it easy to edit specific parts of a design.
LibreCAD is actively developed by a team of volunteers, and it continues to receive updates and improvements. Due to its open-source nature, the software can be modified, translated, and customized to fit specific needs.
LibreCAD is available for Windows, macOS, and Linux operating systems.
And as you may be aware, “libre” means “free” in Spanish (and French), so the price for this Linux-based 2D CAD software is exactly zero.
Unlike other CAD programs whose options for running on Linux are limited at best (and clunky/broken at worst), users of AutoCAD looking for a Linux-based solution will be free from similar worries.
There are multiple options both official and unofficial in which an AutoCAD user can do their drafting on Linux.
Be it with the official AutoCAD Web browser version, a VM or a compatibility layer, you can rest assured that there are ways to get your favorite 2D CAD drafting tool running on your chosen OS.
And if you don’t want to run AutoCAD, then there are a number of alternatives available that offer complete compatibility with native AutoCAD DXF and DWG files.
Our recommendation is to use the AutoCAD Web version if you are committed to using the real thing because it’s a great bargain at just $100 per year.
Or if you wish to use an alternative, running directly in a Linux OS, then we recommend LibreCAD. It’s free, and it has more features available than the QCAD from which it was derived.
Happy 2D drafting!