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.


ActCAD Engineering Solutions
From Hyderabad, the Silicon Valley of India, comes ActCAD, a 2D drafting application built from world-class technology, including the ODA Teigha CAD kernel, the ITC’s application interface, the ACIS 3D modeling kernel from Dassault Systèmes Spatial, and raster– vector conversion from Wintopo.

ActCAD is one of the few products in this roundup that supports the DGN file format used by Bentley Systems MicroStation; the technology is in ODA’s Teigha, but not every Teigha developer takes advantage of it.

ActCAD claims to strike a delicate balance between capability and price. It comes in Standard ($149) and Professional ($199) versions. Add-ins available for purchase include a 5,000-block library, image-to-DXF conversion, PDF-to-DXF conversion, block attribute export to Microsoft Excel, and more.

Suzhou Gstarsoft
GStarCAD is one of two 2D products from China available internationally; both have been dogged by legal issues in recent years. GStarCAD launched in 2009, using technology from both ITC and ODA. In 2013 it shed its ITC origins with a new user interface developed internally — but ITC is not so sure the new GStarCAD is a com-pletely original rewrite. In May 2015, ITC sued Suzhou Gstarsoft in U.S. court, seeking an audit and unpaid dues. The case has not been resolved, and both sides claim grievances against the other. GStarCAD has done well in technical reviews. It remains a member in good standing with the Open Design Alliance, so its underlying CAD engine is sound. It’s priced at $549 and up, depending on add-ons.

Despite an ongoing lawsuit with the IntelliCAD Technology Consortium, Suzhou Gstarsoft has released a GStarCAD update for 2016, including DGN underlay. Image courtesy of Suzhou Gstarsoft.

ZWSoft was in the news in 2015, in a way no software company wants to make news. After being hit with Autodesk lawsuits in the Netherlands and the U.S., ZWSoft settled late in 2015, admitting an employee added code taken from AutoCAD into its drafting program ZWCAD. It immediately stopped selling the product and reverted to its previous version, renamed ZWCAD Classic.

Despite the lawsuit, ZWCAD has maintained an aggressive market presence. It uses the ODA Teigha engine, but is known to make further tweaks to fine-tune ZWCAD for increased DWG compatibility. Prices for the English version range from $599–$949 for a perpetual license, depending on feature set. ZWCAD is one of the few vendors in this roundup that offers a computer-aided machining (CAM) add-on.

Founded in 1985 in Chiasso, Switzerland, ProgeCAD is one of the oldest of the original “AutoCAD clones” that survives today. It claims 150,000 users from all CAD-using professions. Its marketing positions ProgeCAD as a competitor to AutoCAD LT. ProgeSoft was a founding member of the IntelliCAD Technology Consortium.

ProgeCAD is sold with add-on modules for architectural (shown) and mechanical design. Image courtesy of ProgeSoft.

ProgeSoft takes great pride in customer service, which is split between the vendor and its network of local dealers, the latter of which is the only means of acquiring the software. Prices vary by locality but are always less than the local price for AutoCAD LT. ProgeCAD is available for both Windows and Mac.

Non–DWG-Based Drafting Software

The products in this section were not created to mimic the user interface or the file format of AutoCAD. But like virtually every CAD program on the market today, they can import and export DWG. Their strengths lie elsewhere: in a large feature set (MicroStation), in simplicity of use (VersaCAD), or in price (TurboCAD). Having been around about three decades, all three products are approximately the same age as AutoCAD.


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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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