How Far Will DraftSight Go?

I often receive briefings from CAD vendors regarding upcoming product announcements, partnerships, etc. Often the contents of these briefings are embargoed till the company issues an official press release on the subject. The logic of doing this is to give people adequate time to write about the subject. I have my own views on that topic, but that is besides the point here.

The other day I found myself in a rather peculiar situation. I inadvertently accepted an embargo whereby I agreed not to write about something that I had already written about. I am referring to DraftSight, the new free 2D CAD offering from Dassault Systemes. When the product was initially announced on June 22nd, Dassault Systemes made no mention of the fact that DraftSight was based on the ARES CAD engine from Graebert. Apparently, someone from Dassault Systemes decided that it would be a good idea to wait for two weeks to make that announcement, the logic of which is way beyond the limits of my comprehension. When I downloaded and installed DraftSight on the 22nd I realized that it was nothing but ARES (see  “Dassault Systemes DraftSight Based On Graebert’s ARES Platform“). Actually, the copyright notice in the DraftSight about box didn’t say much at all. But one look at the files in the DraftSight installation folder was enough to tell me that this was just another installation of ARES.

Just for the fun of it I began sending emails to people at Dassault Systemes, SolidWorks and Graebert asking them to confirm or deny that DraftSight was based on ARES. Nobody was willing to give me an answer and people started pointing me to other people in their respective organizations. I found all this pretty amusing actually. Finally, later in the day Suzanne Locke from SolidWorks, who handles DraftSight PR, sent me an email admitting that DraftSight was indeed based on ARES and asked me whether I wanted to interview Aaron Kelley, the Director of DraftSight, which I did (see “Interview With Aaron Kelley On DraftSight“). Anyways, today two weeks have passed since the announcement of DraftSight and Dassault Systemes is now ready to officially acknowledge that the product is based on ARES. For whatever it is worth, you should be able to read their press release here. It would help if you act surprised as you read it. 😉

Now that the cat is officially out of the bag, I am beginning to wonder how far will Dassault Systemes let DraftSight go. Or rather, I wonder how much will Graebert enhance DraftSight for Dassault Systemes. The thing is that Graebert makes money by selling ARES as a standalone product as well as licensing it to other people to base their applications on. So the more capable DraftSight becomes, the less appealing ARES and other solutions based on it will turn out to be for prospective customers of Graebert. Besides, the idea that has been portrayed by Dassault Systemes is that DraftSight is going to be a community driven product. Aaron said this in my interview with him:

With DraftSight, we hope to create some sort of an analogy to open source by letting the community decide which way the product should head without giving them the hassle of maintaining it.

Common sense dictates that the community will want just about everything to be added to DraftSight. Just how much Dassault Systemes and Grabert will listen to the wishes of the community is left to be seen.

As a plug-in developer I am looking at this with great interest. We just ported one of our DRX plug-ins to work with ARES and are working on porting the others. ARES is built on the ODA Platform for which plug-ins are being created every day, especially plug-ins that previously ran on AutoCAD. Here is a screen shot of today’s build of STL Import for ARES which I could just as well call STL Import for DraftSight.

Notice the STLImport menu added by the plug-in (Click image for larger view)

In its present form, DraftSight has not been allowed to load plug-ins. But I am told that when it comes out of Beta users will be able to change that my paying for API access and support. Oh yeah, contrary to what many think, Dassault Systemes actually intends to make money off DraftSight. Or maybe cut off as much revenue to Autodesk as possible, depending on the way you look at it.

In recent times, Dassault Systemes has been making a tremendous amount of noise around the word “community”. DraftSight is a wonderful opportunity for them to put their money where their mouth is. Whether they actually succeed in doing that is something that I intend to closely keep an eye on.

  • Hmmm. Another acquisition for Dassault in the future?

  • Billmce

    3D CAD just is not the appropriate tool for managing complexity. That job is best done by a 2D tool. You can call it diagraming, flow charting, schematics, or plain old 2D drafting/sketching. I think people who still do 3D design work in 2D need to give their heads a shake but hey they have pretty decent reasons for it when you talk to them. They just don't know what they don't know. I think Dassualt/Solidworks just really missed a huge opportunity on this one. The world does not need another AutoCAD clone. What the world really needs is a good intuitively easy to use 2D tool for managing complexity and if it can do some pretty decent drafting/sketching that would be great to. It would even be worth paying money for. If they want to cut off AutoCAD's revenue well this approach will probably make a dent there but Arron Kelly's thoughts on generating leads, well it might work, but if you want a 2D tool are going to buy something from the copy cat guy or are you going to go back to the source. One would think that a well designed 2D tool might be better for the large numbers of emerging people who don't actually know how to use AutoCAD. Like many of both SolidWorks and Dassaults current customers. If they make them have to learn AtuoCAD to use a 2D tool for 2D jobs then I think their logic is a bit flawed on that one. If they want to evolve DraftSight into something that doesn't look like it was a drafting package developed by a programmer that would be a really useful thing for all concerned. 2D tools are required tools they should not be relegated to the after thought category. How about some innovation on this one? The tools are required. It's nice that it is “free” but it seems to me that it reinforces their competitors position in mind share even if it hits them in the wallet.