Design and create with nanoCAD, a totally free CAD solution

nanoCAD is a free, full-featured 3D CAD solution for all your CAD needs. Designed to replace the big name retail CAD programs, it stands out among free CAD programs as one of the best.

CAD programs are some of my favorites to mess around with, without actually producing anything useful from them necessarily.

I’ve always been fascinated by the concept of creating or re-creating objects in three dimensions on the computer, ever since I saw my first example of a vector graphic in the early 80s.

I enjoy just messing around with them, seeing what I can come up with, but I also know a few people who use them on a regular basis for work and other endeavors. It is therefore always of interest to me to find a new CAD program that is both full-featured as well as free.

nanoCAD Screenshot

nanoCAD is both of those things and it’s definitely one of the more impressive CAD tools I have seen, never mind the fact that it costs nothing to use or download and the wide online community and support on the home page.

nanoCAD Screen 1nanoCAD Screen 7

The install process is bereft of toolbars and junkware, which is always preferable. In order to use the program, you will need to get a serial number and register a license. but this costs nothing but time to fill out the forms. You’ll need to provide an email address, which they send a link to which allows you to download the product. Then you will also get an email containing your login information and after installing the program itself a registration wizard will lead you through the process of getting that free license number. It’s a bit complex, with all those steps just to get the program running for the first time, but the end result is worth it and the whole process is an indicator of what using the program is like all around. From beginning to end, it is easy and user-friendly, but with many steps along every way. This is to be expected, however, when using a CAD program, really, since the whole idea is to create 3D objects from digital nothingness.

nanoCAD Screen 3nanoCAD Screen 2

Once up and running, you will have a couple of graphic options asked of you at the start up and you will be ready to begin using the various functions of the program. While I admit that many of the functions are beyond my skill level and understanding, it is worth noting that the sheer amount of options, features, tools and functions is pretty impressive and almost overwhelming. This is especially true when comparing nanoCAD to a few different free CAD tools I have used in the past. Specifically, nanoCAD uses the .dwg format so you can be sure of compatibility, as well as a number of key features that go above and beyond what you might expect from a free CAD utility. nanoCAD is really an ultimate 3D CAD solution, not just a tool to manage or manipulate. The drawing tools are exceptionally robust, and the interface is easy and familiar for anyone who has used some of the more popular retail programs for CAD, like AutoCAD. Additionally, since the program is an open API project, it is possible to develop or modify it for your own needs, if you should decide to. You can use the open coding, essentially, to develop you own applications and programs built around or with the nanoCAD system itself. I was also impressed with the ability to modify the right button context menu based on the current environment, as well as the auto-complete features that make everything faster and easier.

nanoCAD Screen 4nanoCAD Screen 5

Overall, after my exploration of nanoCAD, I sort of think of it as the gimp of the CAD world. Whereas gimp is to replace Photoshop, nanoCAD can easily replace AutoCAD in most respects. There are too many tools and functions to go into all of them, and unless you are a regular user of 3D CAD programs, you wouldn’t know what to do with them anyway, but I can reliably state that nanoCAD is a decent replacement or free alternative to any of the retail cost CAD programs out there now. I would put it in the same category of quality and expectations for future usability with programs like OpenOffice.org. So, if you have need of a free CAD solution, or just want to see what the alternative to using an expensive program has to offer, check out nanoCAD, you won’t be disappointed.

[Thanks go to reader Panzer for the tip about this great program].

Get nanoCAD here (registration with a valid email required).


 
 
 
B.C. Tietjens

B.C. Tietjens

Born and raised overseas in a military family, B.C. Tietjens visited and lived in many places all over the world. He has worked on a number of publications and enjoys writing for different audiences, on such diverse subjects as relationships, technology, prestidigitation, self-improvement, entertaining children, and biographical stories. He currently writes primarily for Freewaregenius and enjoys the heck out of it.
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  • Murphy

    Do you know any free cad that would allow to design and try the mechanics like defining a nodes, limits and then manipulate the created device?

  • B.C. Tietjens

    Murphy,

    Not being an engineer or having experience enough to know what criteria would be needed, the best I can suggest would be try nanoCAD. It’s free so if it won’t do what you need it to, you haven’t lost anything but time. Thanks for reading!

  • Andreas

    Being an engineer and mentioning that i already have worked 7 years on Autocad professionally. I can say that nanoCAD looks very promising.

    Most important of all, the files are compatible with Autocad (2012 and below). So i had the chance to work my last company project with nanoCAD and felt like working on Autocad. I had some difficulties founding the similarities on the commands (most are just the same), but after this, all was there. No big difference.

    My company owns a lot of Autocad and Civil 3D licenses, so i am pretty sure nothing will chance in the near future.

    But if i was starting a new engineering based company, i bet i could totally live with nanoCAD and LibreOffice alone :) Imagine if nanoCAD was also supported in Linux so as my plotters.
    I could easily build a productive company with zero money spend on software ^^

    Thank you for this review

  • PeeJay

    A bit more, from the nanoCAD FAQ page, on registration for nanoCAD, and the license you get:

    “nanoCAD has demo mode and you are able to download the software from our own or third party resources and use it without registration or having to obtain a serial number. In this mode nanoCAD is fully functional. Technical limitations of a demo mode are rudimentary – “Demo version” stamp will appear on your printed page.

    However, user should register nanoCAD to use it for commercial, professional, educational and other purposes. Terms of use of nanoCAD are stipulated in the License agreement. You get computer-locked license for your copy of nanoCAD during registration. It is a one-year renewable license.”

  • TinCan

    While waiting for the app to download [275 MB], I read some of the forum posts and feature descriptions on the nanoCAD site. They seem to say that although nanoCAD will display 3-D files, it is only a 2-D editor and is not capable of creating or editing 3-D objects. Can anyone confirm this?

  • Anatoly Nechaev

    Murphy,
    on their russian site they offer some specialized CAD tools with same “free for personal use” license. Look at the nanoCAD Mechanics:
    http://nanocad.ru/products/detail.php?ID=374

    I didn’t do enough research to definitely say that it’s what you need, or even that there is a english version.But it’s a start.

  • AYer

    Murphy,

    Try T-FLEX CAD Student Edition (http://tflex.com/student/)
    It is free for non-commercial purposes parametric 3D CAD system.

  • Cassandra

    Try out DraftSight:
    http://www.3ds.com/products/draftsight/download-draftsight/

    It comes from Dassault Systemes — the same company that produces SolidWorks *and* works in the aerospace industry (among others).

    DraftSight is a very capable CAD application, and only requires an e-mail address for activation.

  • B.C. Tietjens

    Wow! Now that’s what I call a helpful and intelligent comments section! Thanks, everyone!

  • nichm
  • http://www.nanocad.com dimpop

    Hi!
    I’m from the nanoCAD Team. It is nice that you are so positive about nanoCAD. Couple of words about 3D in nanoCAD. It has 3D as point coordinates (3D polylines, 3D faces), but there is not 3D modelling… yet. To implement 3D modelling we have to use 3D engine, like ACIS in AutoCAD, Parasolid in Solidworks and in T-Flex or OpenCASCADE in FreeCAD. All of them except OpenCASCADE are not free.
    BTW free DraftSight also has no 3D modelling.