10 Best CAD Software For Mac of 2020 For All Levels
In the old days, Macs used to be way behind PCs when it came to CAD software. Nowadays that’s all changed and there are some superb Computer Aided Design packages available for Mac users.
We found that SmartDraw is the best CAD for Mac overall for 2D CAD although professional architects or engineers will need something more powerful with 3D support such as the industry leading AutoCAD.
There are of course still some major titles like Solidworks that still aren’t available for Mac still but there are plenty of alternatives to Solidworks on Mac reviewed here that make excellent replacements.
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Tips On Choosing CAD Software For Macs
In reality, there’s no such thing as the “best” CAD software for everyone.
However, there’s definitely such a thing as the best CAD software for your needs.
Choosing the right CAD software for your specific requirments depends on whether you’re a professional designer, student or simply an amateur looking to do a little bit of home or landscape design.
Professional packages such as AutoCAD are complicated to learn and use as they whereas packages such as TurboCAD are somewhere in the middle, sometimes referred to as “prosumer” CAD software.
Online technical drafting software such as SmartDraw are aimed at those with minimal CAD experience and provide plenty of templates and automated functions to do the hard work for you.
Before you buy, here’s a few important questions and things to consider before deciding which one to choose.
- Are your CAD needs industry specific or general?
If you need CAD software for a specific industry, such as Architecture, then you need software designed specifically for the needs of 3D Architecture and all the components that go into buildings. If it’s mechanical CAD you’re going to be doing on your Mac then the needs are a bit different.
CAD software also covers many other fields including construction, engineering, commercial interiors, light construction, landscaping, interior design, urban planning, game design, film & stage, woodworking and much more.
You should make sure the CAD software you choose supports the specific industry you’re working in.
- Do you need 2D or 3D CAD software?
Again, this depends on what you want to use it for. If you only need to work in the Y and X axis i.e. draw floor plans, elevations and top/front/bottom angles of different objects, then 2D CAD software is all you need.
3D CAD software meanwhile allows you to work in the X,Y and Z axis and is essential for architects, product designers or those that need mechanical CAD software features. Basically, anyone that needs to manipulate a design from every possible angle.
3D software allows you to create both models and wire-frames but it’s more expensive than 2D software and can run into thousands of dollars on Mac.
Note that most professional 3D CAD software such as AutoCAD and ArchiCAD have now been updated to include support for 3D printers.
- Are you looking for paid or free software?
It should be no surprise that free CAD software on Mac is generally nowhere near as powerful as paid software although there are still some pretty decent packages now available which we’ve included in this article.
If you just need 2D design capabilities or don’t need to collaborate in a team with others, you can probably get away with using free CAD software if you’re not working in a professional environment.
3D designing is another matter however and there are few free 3D tools which are worth using.
If you’re intending to use the software for professional work, it’s highly recommended to go for a paid CAD software as you may spend more time fighting with a free option or searching for features that are lacking than actually being productive.
Don’t be caught-out by CAD software that claims to be “free” but actually only offers a free version with limited functionality that requires you to upgrade to unlock features.
The free version of Sketchup is fine for beginners to CAD for example but you’ll need to upgrade to the Pro version to unlock most features.
- Do you need BIM support?
BIM (Building Information Modeling) is the next step in Computer Aided Design and an increasingly important feature of CAD software for professionals.
BIM models are more intelligent than traditional CAD plans because they contain much more information. For instance, BIM models can calculate the knock-on effect that the smallest of changes to modeling plans can have.
In the long run, BIM can help cut down on the amount of errors or reworking that needs to be done to your CAD designs.
Most of the top industry leading packages such as AutoCAD and Vectorworks, include BIM capabilities as standard but cheaper packages usually don’t.
We’ve indicated which packages support BIM in these reviews.
- Do you need CAD or 3D design software?
We have focused here mainly on CAD software, although we have also featured some 3D design or animation software because the line can be often blurred.
The difference between the two types of software is subtle but the key difference is that CAD software is specifically for the needs of professional and industrial designers, with all the technical specs and needs they have.
In a nutshell, 3D design software is generally aimed at the more creative side of design – for example animation – whereas CAD programs focus on technical plans and designs.
- Does the developer offer support?
Make sure that the CAD app you choose offers extensive help, training and after sale support. CAD software is very complex and if you’ve never used it before, it can be very daunting to get to grips with.
In particular, the most common problem you will experience with CAD software on Mac that’s been ported from Windows is instability and it can send you insane trying to work out exactly what is causing glitches or bugs with the program.
The most reputable CAD software developers offer free customer support but some charge extra for it so check before buying.
- Other things you may want to consider
Other useful features you might want to check for in professional CAD software on a Mac include:
- A command line (which enables you to search for a tool or object in real-time), design setup wizards, templates and tutorial videos. Particularly if you need to create architecture designs, look for software with house wizards which take the basic information in your design and can whip-up a basic house design in minutes saving hours of work.
- A complete set of editing tools is also important i.e. the ability to use pointer markers, layer editors and color coordinate different elements in your designs. Most CAD software now includes a snap tool to make sure that your designs fit together neatly but it’s still always worth checking.
- If you need to import and export files, check what CAD file types it supports. Common formats are DWG, DXF (Drawing Exchange Format, important for things like CNC cutters, plasma cutters etc), DWF and DGN. If you’re going to be exporting for 3D printing, STL export is important and of course, it’s always handy to be able to export to common document formats such as PDF and image formats such as PNG and JPG.
- Support for your specific industry. In architectural CAD software for example, photo realistic rendering is a useful feature because it allows you and your client see what the final design will actually look like. Although there is CAD software on Mac for almost every conceivable need and area nowadays, there are certain industries such as pipeline, piping and valve architecture that require ISO prints for which there’s no specific software on Mac for yet.
- Support for graphics tablets. If you’re a professional architect or CAD designer and prefer to use a digital pen for sketching blueprints, make sure the software you select supports tablets. Check out our guide for which drawing tablets for Mac work best with macOS.
Once you’ve digested all of this, you’re much better prepared to choose the right drafting software on Mac for you.
We’ve reviewed a lot of different options in this article so if you’re in a hurry and want a quick overview of our top picks, here’s a useful summary of our top 5.
Best CAD Software For Mac Compared
|SmartDraw||AutoCAD LT||AutoCAD||Fusion 360||TurboCAD |
|Works On Mac|
|Mac Desktop Client|
|Easy To Learn|
|Works on iPad|
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Here then is our list of the best CAD software on Mac for 2020 in order of ranking.
1. SmartDraw (Best 2D CAD For Mac)
If you’re looking for something powerful for 2D CAD design but amazingly easy to use and value for money, SmartDraw is the best 2D CAD software for Mac on the market.
SmartDraw is incredibly flexible because it can be used both as a powerful diagramming alternative to Microsoft Visio but also as a powerful but extremely user friendly CAD tool for 2D design.
What we really like about doing 2D CAD with SmartDraw is:
- 40,000+ Quick Start Templates: SmartDraw has more templates than any other CAD tool on Mac with everything from floor plans and office plans to electrical schematics, mechanical and architectural designs.
- CAD Automation: As you add elements, SmartDraw also automatically “snaps” everything together to help keep your designs organized, symmetrical and connected. It basically automates the often annoying fiddly aspects to CAD design and this we find incredibly time saving and stress reducing.
- 34,000 Symbols & Objects: We’ve never seen so many high quality vector symbols and objects in a 2D tool than you can drag and drop into designs.
- Value For Money: Compared to most 2D CAD software on this level, it’s not outrageously expensive plus you’re not only getting a CAD software, you’re getting an entire host of other diagramming tools.
You can also check out our full SmartDraw review for Mac & PC for an in-depth look at everything it can do.