Other 2D CAD

The Wide World of DWG-Compatible CAD Software

16 Mar, 2016 By: Randall S. Newton

Cadalyst Labs Report: When it comes to 2D drafting, the market has moved far beyond copycats and knockoffs. Today, it offers a variety of mature, thoughtfully designed applications at budget-conscious prices.


This Ghent, Belgium–based software firm has become a leading DWG CAD developer by taking a very different market approach from Graebert. Bricsys develops BricsCAD as a full-featured Auto- CAD alternative, but provides a robust application programming interface (API) and works closely with smaller software developers that want to offer custom CAD solutions.

The BricsCAD Quad cursor provides an intelligent, context-sensitive alternative to using grips to manipulate objects. Image courtesy of Bricsys.

There are now more than 1,500 third-party developers in the Bricsys ecosystem, creating AEC, mechanical, GIS, civil, and other specialized CAD products. Many developers in the Bricsys network stick to one language or region. If you need a civil engineering application in Poland, a building information modeling (BIM) product in Italy, or a GIS solution in Turkey, a BricsCAD-based solution is available. Bricsys prefers to help its third-party army offer local tech support, but also provides direct technical support by contract. Bricsys has a surprisingly robust solution set for 2D/3D mechanical design, and insists its approach to BIM (not yet fully implemented), which uses a mix of wireframe and solid 3D technology, will be a groundbreaking and user-friendly alternative not only to AutoCAD but also Autodesk Revit. It is investing in cloud technology and already offers a cloud-based file management and markup/review platform, Chapoo. Bricsys is available by perpetual license for Windows, Mac, and Linux ($550 Classic, $680 Pro, $1,020 Platinum); an “all-in” subscription is $235 extra per year.

Advanced Computer Solutions
Caddie is one of three CAD software products on the global market today with roots in South Africa. TurboCAD emigrated to the United States; AllyCAD stayed home; Caddie moved to the United Kingdom. Today’s Caddie is DWG-centric drafting software sold in various solutions tailored to the primary professional uses of drafting: AEC, mechanical, civil engineering, steelwork, landscape design, and terrain modeling. Only its budget version (£695.00) is designed for general-purpose 2D drafting. Most sales are in the United Kingdom and South Africa, but it does have a global following; its users are generally enthusiastic about both the company and the toolset.

Caddie sells solution-specific versions of its DWG-centric CAD solution. Image courtesy of Advanced Computer Solutions.

AllyCAD is used primarily in Southern Africa and the UK for civil engineering. It is fine-tuned to handle large image files, as used in cadastre, terrain modeling, and related civil engineering applications. It uses the ODA Teigha kernel for DWG compatibility. Prices range from less than $50 for a home version, to $250 and up for professional versions. AllyCAD is also the engine for Civil Designer, a leading civil engineering software product in Southern Africa.

AllyCAD and its sibling product Civil Designer were used to design the majority of infrastructure projects for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. Image courtesy of KnowledgeBase.

The worst-kept secret in the CAD industry is that almost every vendor employs a team of programmers based in Russia. The Russian university system is renowned for generating PhDs in mathematics — and especially geometry — the way many American universities crank out English Literature doctorates. Most CAD vendors set up a local office; Bricsys bought an existing Russian CAD development firm. Nanosoft is the only Russian company selling a DWG-centric 2D drafting program internationally.

The basic version of NanoCAD is free. It uses the ODA Teigha kernel, adheres closely to an AutoCAD-style user interface, and has an open API. NanoCAD Plus is sold on annual subscription for a single workstation ($180) or as a floating network license including license server ($220).

NanoCAD may have a tiny market footprint outside Russia, but Nanosoft is not a small software developer; it is well known throughout Eastern Europe as a games developer. Customers can choose from various NanoCAD apps to support specific professional tasks. One of the most recent is NanoCAD Mechanica, which comprises tools and a library of parts for creating 2D mechanical designs. It adds a parametric engine to standard 2D CAD (something Bricsys has done as well); the Mechanica user guide is more than 900 pages.

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About the Author: Randall S. Newton

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Re: The Wide World of DWG-Compatible CAD Software
by: VMichl
March 17, 2016 - 12:51am
A .DWG extension doesn't mean DWG compatibility. Try the Budweiser DWG benchmark to prove that none of the AutoCAD clones is truly DWG-compatible. It is fine when you design on your own but very limiting when you cooperate with others via DWG.
Re: The Wide World of DWG-Compatible CAD Software
by: cadcoke5
March 22, 2016 - 9:28am
The DWG format is probably the most robust format to keep your company's design data. This is because of the 3rd-party's effort to bypass AutoDesk's efforts to keep you paying for the privilege of using your own data. And even though most other CAD companies still offer perpetual licenses, remember that many require the software to "phone home" to install the license. So, if your hard drive fails, and the CAD vendor is out of business, your perpetual license is useless. So, the DWG format is fairly unique because it can be widely utilized by many CAD programs. But even DWG compatibility is not perfect. Even withing AutoDesk's own ecosystem, AutoCAD has sometimes does not fully handled their up-scale add-ons with data contained in a DWG. I have done a fair amount of research over the past several years looking for low-cost DWG editors. In particular, I was focused on full Dynamic Block capability. BricsCAD can fully use a pre-existing dynamic block, by tweaking the existing parameters. But, it cannot create them. GstarCAD is the only one I have seen, so far, that can create dynamic blocks. Buy, my company's concern over using software owned by a communist country, killed the idea of using it.
Re: The Wide World of DWG-Compatible CAD Software
by: cadmansol
July 18, 2016 - 7:25pm
Looks like that some of the listed world wide dwg file extension compatible cad software are based on IntelliCAD code that is cooperatively developed by an open group of members. Credits due to ITC co-operative group Mr. Randal Newton.
Re: The Wide World of DWG-Compatible CAD Software
by: Jan Pajerchin
April 6, 2017 - 8:27am
We have tested most of the DWG CAD systems for DWG Compatibility (as an independent supplier all of them) - and the results are published in this video:

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