Dassault Systemes DraftSight Based On Graebert’s ARES Platform

If I was asked to describe DraftSight, the free 2D CAD system released by Dassault Systemes today, I would probably summarize it as a kick in the nuts for all AutoCAD clone developers and Autodesk as well. Dassault Systems has teamed with Graebert from Germany to offer all 2D CAD users a completely free alternative to AutoCAD as well as free alternative to AutoCAD alternatives. Although nobody from Dassault Systems or Graebert will confirm or deny it, I believe that DraftSight is an AutoCAD clone based upon Graebert’s ARES CAD platform. Notice the copyright statement highlighted in the DraftSight about box shown below.

SolidWorks has been offering its customers a free 2D DWG editor for many years now in order to help them dump AutoCAD and still be able to work with their DWG files. But DraftSight is different because this is available to everyone, not just SolidWorks or Dassault Systemes’ customers. DWG editor was based on the hopelessly outdated and buggy IntellliCAD 6 code. DraftSight is based on the new ARES platform which is based upon the quite recent 3.02 version of DWGdirect by the ODA which supports DWG 2010. Conspicuous by its absence in the about box above is a copyright statement mentioning the ITC. SolidWorks is still listed as a member of the ITC. But I guess it is only a matter of time when their logo disappears from the ITC members page, now that they are getting their DWG technology from Graebert. That also explains why SolidWorks had absolutely no problem renaming DWG editor to SolidWorks 2D Editor as part of a recent settlement with Autodesk because they knew that they were going to put it out of its misery anyways.

In summary DraftSight can be compared to the Standard version of the AutoCAD clones out there, with some differences. For example, the only API supported in DraftSight is LISP. No SDS, DRX or ARX source compatible plug-ins will load into DraftSight. The full list of features can be found here.

I believe Dasssault Systemes’ decision to dump the ITC in favor of Graebert may prove to be a wise on in the long term. Come to think of it, this looks to be a wise decision for the short term as well. I mean, after all these years, the ITC has still not been able to cough up its much talked about IntelliCAD 7, although it has been making betas available to its members for a while now. On the other hand, companies like Bricsys and Graebert have already come up with their own AutoCAD clones based on the ODA’s DWGdirect SDK. Selecting Graebert has another advantage. ARES currently works on Windows and Mac and Linux versions are already in beta. The Dassault Systemes press release stated that support for Mac and Linux will be added by the end of the year which is in sync with what Graebert is saying as well.

But the main point of DraftSight is not to hurt the AutoCAD clones, although they may constitute the bulk of the collateral damage. With DraftSight, Dassault Systemes and SolidWorks want to actually hurt Autodesk by giving their customers a reason not to continue paying high license and subscription costs for something that they are now offering for free, although you need to activate DraftSight every year. Which is probably a good reason why Autodesk is going full steam ahead with adding 3D features to AutoCAD.

The future of 2D DWG CAD is going to be interesting, to say the least.


Update (22-Jun-2010 2:30 PM)

Suzanne Locke of SolidWorks who handles DraftSight PR just confirmed to me that DraftSight is indeed based on the ARES platform from Graebert.

  • Daniel

    It seems lisp is not available, at least not at the command line

  • Daniel

    Actually, I don't see this as being any more a threat to the Acad & clones than Double Cad XT. Everyone knows to get real work done you need APIs and custom solutions. IMO it's a realy nice DWG viewer : )

  • Daniel,

    You may have a point. But then the millions of AutoCAD LT users live their lives without API's, right?

  • Jouellette

    “Which is probably a good reason why Autodesk is going full steam ahead with adding 3D features to AutoCAD.”

    Hasn't AutoCAD had 3D functionality for eons, which they continue to build on (necessary for AutoCAD Architecture, MEP, and Structural Detailing, among other 3rd party AEC add-ons).

    I think you meant AutoCAD LT?

  • No. I meant AutoCAD. The 3D I am referring to is stuff like surfacing, push-pull modeling, etc.

  • Yes, you are right. LISP is not yet added to the Beta. See my interview with Aaron Kelley at http://www.deelip.com/?p=2475

  • David

    In my opinion when ever you use free software, you get what you paid for. Professionals arent interested i free but rather in value for there money.

  • By that logic, Firefox, the browser used by more than a quarter of the world must be pretty useless, right?

    • bentod

      That isn’t really an apples to apples comparison. Although, for a free AutoCAD-like program, it’s as good as they come.
      However, if I want to do my job, I won’t downgrade to it. The loss in productivity from any version of AutoCAD 2004 and above to DraftSight would cost too much.
      Then again, with as much as many people know about AutoCAD, they might not even notice a difference. I use dynamic blocks and fields like mad, but most of the people I support haven’t got a clue that they exist, let alone how to use them.

      • I get your point. People whose main work is 2D will not downgrade to DraftSight. But those who have moved to 3D and still need a 2D CAD system to open/edit DWG files, DraftSight is perfect.

  • Brad Holtz

    LISP is available with the Enterprise version, which is low-cost, but not free.

  • Joe

    In a lot of cases 3D design still requires a dimensioned 2D drawing which is why you'll find versions of AutoCAD at competitor user sites that do “all” 3D design. As AutoCAD adds more 3D features it becomes more and more important for competitors to displace copies of AutoCAD out of those sites. At some point the customers management will ask; “Why do we have two different 3D CAD systems if the features are comparable?” Offering 2D CAD for free is a good idea if it pushes copies of AutoCAD out of existing customer sites. At the very least it offers a no cost explination of why there is no reason to compare 3D products.

    Autodesk probably already has an AutoCAD LT to full AutoCAD(3D and Lisp) pricing discount for sites using a competitors 3D CAD product.

  • Mike

    I have just downloaded and tried out DraftSight, and am very impressed. It loaded all the Autocad drawings I tried without any problems, including external references. You can even use the Autocad menu files – you don't realise that you are not using that other program.
    I have tried Doublecad in the past but it messes up multitext and layouts, the commands are different and frustrating to use, and plotting just about impossible to get right. Layouts and external references are a completely diferent scale when re-opend with Acad.
    I think that my Autocad LT upgrade problems (mainly cost)have been solved.

  • Its time for Autodesk to show up a new way to Challenge all the AutoCAD based clone softwares (free or paid versions). I'm sure as an educated CAD person, I will always go for the program which satisfies all my needs. The Battle on the 2D CAD World will continue and that depends as to how AutoCAD improves over the next decade or how all the Clone products improve over the next decade and still providing them free.

    • Fredyromero123

      Yes the clones MUST be better in some things at least, otherwise the competition Clones vs. Autocad is not yet began.

    • bentod

      I’ve used several clones over the past decade and really see the same thing: their features always seem to lag about 5 years. The advantage they may gain is if AutoDesk idles too long making “non value add” changes like they did when they came out with 2010.
      If I want something in 3D I use a 3D modeler. If I want 2D I use AutoCAD. If AutoCAD wants to compete in a 3D world, maybe they should make a new product – like Inventor. Oh, they did?

  • Russ Green

    correct, I'm an LT user and this is attractive enough too me yet. It does the basics but is much less polished that the current ACAD release. It would work but would be be like stepping back a few years and the feature set is not 100% comparable. design center; multiline atributes;dynamic blocks;PDF underlays;DGN underlays;fields;annotative scaling;multileaders;per viewport layer properties;

    there also seems to be a bug (I noticed in the ODA libs although I note this software uses AREAS) in that annotative text that exists in an XREF does not display though a viewport.

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  • Abear87

    so which site do I go to? I want to download the free ds draftsite…Any info would help thanks!

  • Myk_kell

    Please help. I cannot add a value on a block component that i made, IT dose not show on the main drawing. thanks

  • Karel Wullaert

    …still, dynamic blocks add a lot of productivity to normal draftsman’s work. The day I find this simular functionality in 3rd CAD systems (which is offered for free) I will not hesitate.

  • Zac Gibson

    well as a linux user im thrilled to see a decent, free, CAD program finally surface. maybe now i can finally use my linux box for all my needs, and hopefully draftsight will continue to evolve and become an equal competitor to AutoCAD.