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 DWG editor was based on the hopelessly outdated and buggy IntellliCAD 6 code.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.