Enterprise Software

DIY: LibreCAD offers basic CAD tools for free

See why Jack Wallen says the free LibreCAD application is the perfect middle ground between a standard drawing tool and a proprietary CAD system.

After years of dealing with open source, I would have thought the biggest request for software would be games, graphics, or Microsoft Office, but the truth is, the most common request I hear is related to Computer Aided Design (CAD) software.

I'm always shocked when I hear people complain that there are no CAD applications available for shops on a tight budget. Five or so years ago, I would have agreed and said there was a serious black hole for CAD in open source, but that has changed in the last couple of years. Another CAD application to add to this list is LibreCAD, a full-blown CAD application, released under the open source license. LibreCAD is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux, and offers a feature rich CAD application with an ever-growing community of developers.

What this means for DIY IT

Most people see CAD applications as a drafting-only tool used by engineers or architects, but there are many uses for CAD software and users who can benefit from a CAD application. Many of those users and uses don't need the full-blown power of a typical proprietary and costly CAD system.

Hard-core CAD users aren't going to want to bother with LibreCAD — for instance, you won't be drafting at the same level as you would with AutoCAD — but for part-time CAD users, this free application is the perfect middle ground between a standard drawing tool and a proprietary CAD system.

Features

  • 2D-only application similar to QCAD
  • Read and save 2000 ASCII .dxf files
  • Easy to use interface
  • Not much of a learning curve

Windows installation

To install LibreCAD on Windows, download the installer file and walk through the very standardized installation wizard. Once it's installed, you will find the LibreCAD icon on your desktop (or you can find a new Submenu in your Start Menu).

Linux installation

The installation process will depend upon your distribution. As of this writing, LibreCAD is only available for Debian and Ubuntu.

For Ubuntu >= 11.04 LibreCAD will already be included in the standard repositories. Follow these steps:

  1. Open a terminal window.
  2. Issue the command sudo apt-get install librecad.
  3. Enter your sudo password and allow the installation to complete.

For Ubuntu 10.10, follow these steps:

  1. Open a terminal window.
  2. Issue the command sudo add-apt-repository ppa:showard314/ppa.
  3. Enter your sudo password.
  4. Issue the command sudo apt-get update.
  5. Issue the command sudo apt-get install librecad and allow the installation to complete.

For Ubuntu 10.04, follow these steps:

  1. Open a terminal window.
  2. Issue the command sudo add-apt-repository ppa:showard314/librecad.
  3. Enter your sudo password.
  4. Issue the command sudo apt-get update.
  5. Issue the command sudo apt-get install librecad and allow the installation to complete.

For Debian 7.0, follow these steps:

  1. Open a terminal window.
  2. Issue the command apt-get install librecad.

If you're not running Debian 7.0, download the .deb files (save them in ~/Downloads), and follow these steps:

  1. Open a terminal window.
  2. Change to the ~/Downloads directory.
  3. Issue the command dpkg -i librecad_1.0.0~rc3+nolibs-1_i386.deb.
  4. Issue the command dpkg -i /path/to/librecad-data_1.0.0~rc3+nolibs-1_i386.deb.
Note: The commands directly above in step 3 and 4 may vary depending upon the release number.

Mac installation

Download the latest .pkg file and double-click it to begin the installation process. This installation will be as easy as the Windows installer. If you don't find the LibreCAD icon on your Dock, you should find one that is copy-able within the Applications folder.

First run of LibreCAD

When you first run LibreCAD, there is one first-run window that will appear; you only need to choose the three defaults in this window (Figure A). Figure A

There are 20 selections to choose from for Default Unit (even Parsecs).
After the first-run defaults are set, you will find yourself at the main window, where you are ready to begin working (Figure B). Figure B

Here you see a drawing, done with LibreCAD, of an iBE Servo Motor/Drive/Controller. (Click the image to enlarge.)

The not-so-obvious conclusion

You might assume an open source CAD application couldn't possibly stand up to a full-blown proprietary piece of software, but that conclusion would be short-sighted. Based on the community port of QCAD, LibreCAD is a very effective means to get basic to mid-level CAD software into your mix of tools.

About Jack Wallen

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com.

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