All About CAD for Mac

Overview

Here we explore CAD software designed for the Apple Mac®. We look at its native operating systems as well some CAD software running under Windows® using Parallels®, Bootcamp® or VM-Ware Fusion®. We touch on the pros and cons of choosing an Apple® Mac computer for CAD and list all the current available CAD software for Mac.

This article is an overview of all CAD for Mac software. Use it to help you choose the most appropriate CAD software for your needs.

Be sure to read and answer the 7 Key Questions to Ask When Buying CAD for Mac article. This is  a really important article that will help eliminate the wrong choices.

Background

Choosing the best CAD software for your Apple Mac is much easier once you have some fundamental background knowledge. It is also important to have a brief look at the history of CAD for the Mac as there are several common misconceptions relating to Apple Mac and ‘design’ software.

Most Mac users’ are surprised to learn that CAD has never been ‘strong’ on the Apple Mac platform…. Really !… Relatively few CAD software choices have ever been available for Apple and professional CAD software developers have focused their attention on the Windows PC.

Professional CAD software was originally limited almost entirely to Unix workstations and then migrated to Windows® PC’s, whilst Apple Macintosh® computers dominated desktop publishing. The processors and processes used in Apple Mac machines were designed around handling large flat 2D bitmap images and complex text files but not the world of CAD vectors. Bitmaps and Vectors are different…

Bitmaps are a series of dots that contain data such as hue, color, saturation and transparency whilst vectors are a way of describing the world as a series of linear objects with points in a mathematically defined 3D space. A straight line for instance is described to the computer as two end points and a definition between those two points. As another example an arc is described as four points, one in the center, two at either end and another at some point on the circumference. The advantage of Vectors over Bitmaps is that vectors accurately describe the world in 2D or 3D with dimensional precision. Vectors can also be scaled up or down without compromising the appearance and integrity of the drawing or model. Bitmaps on the other hand simply end up with bigger dots when scaled up and jagged edges as the dots become more visible to the naked eye. They are also totally inaccurate and therefore cannot be relied upon when measuring or scaling. Additionally bitmaps are only 2D flat representations of the world, just like a photograph whilst vectors can be in 2D or 3D space. The processors and processes used in PC’s were particularly adept at handling vector style data.

Blended CAD Technology

In recent times CAD software has married the two technologies, that of Bitmap and Vector graphics into one symbiotic realm, driven in part by the technologies of the lucrative 3D games market. In addition, the Mac and PC are now more similar internally than ever, even to the point of using the same central processor (CPU) chip-sets and being able to run either Windows® or Mac® operating systems. With the increased uptake of the Apple Mac® computer in industry due in part to excellent build quality, sleek, stylish design and the success of Apple’s iPod®, iPhone® and iPad®, more and more technical designers have been switching to Mac and therefore asking for CAD software for their Mac computers. This surge in ‘Apple-centric’ purchasing has meant CAD developers have turned their attention to the production of Mac compatible CAD software. At this point in time however most CAD software for the Mac OS is marginally less functional or less developed than its equivalent Windows® counterpart. The real blend of technology occurs when users deploy Windows alongside their Mac OS so they can use the best of both worlds. Currently there is still a case for running Windows® on the Mac, even if it is just for the sake of using the most appropriate CAD software for a particular need or until that software developer releases a native Mac version.

Choosing the Right CAD Program for Your Mac- 7 Questions

Types Of CAD

CAD software can be categorized to help eliminate products that are definitely not suited to your needs but include those that are.

Types include:

  1. Entry 2D for occasional or non demanding drawing needs. These are usually less featured, slower to operate or lack flexibility but still provide enough tools to create simple drawings. They may lack ability to share drawings using industry standard formats and may have no upgrade path or rapid support or training available.
  2. Professional 2D for production drafting. This is fully featured design software with important features to make the process of drafting faster and as unrestricted as possible. Professional 2D CAD will usually be well supported by the vendor or developer and will have good training materials to assist you in learning.
  3. Professional 3D is for the rapid production of virtual models that can be used to visualise a design and then be sent to downstream activities such as 2D drafting and CNC machining or manufacturing. Some 3D programs offer 2D as an integral part of the software. The 2D drawings are generated directly as views of the 3D model, whilst others rely on additional 2D tools to be added to get the views into a flat documentable form.
  4. Professional 2D with 3D programs are almost the reverse of professional 3D in that they are strong in their 2D documentation ability and offer 3D modeling abilities but without being focussed on the 3D. These are generally best when 3D is a less important aspect of your business design process than 2D documentation is.
  5. Architectural is for those creating our built environment. These programs have specialist tools for generating walls, opening, roofs, stairs and other such features. They are generally dedicated to this task and as such are not a good choice if you are a product designer or engineering detail drafter.
  6. Other Specialized CAD products are designed for very specific industries such aslandscape designinterior designfilm and stage designproduct designindustrial design,engineering, electrical schematics, duct design and more.

Be sure not to select a product more suited to a different industry or purpose than the one you most desire.

Entry 2D

  • MacDraft – by Microspot is 2D CAD software to produce simple sketches or drawings for mechanical, architectural and engineering designs and technical illustrations. This is an entry level 2D drafting software for the Mac with illustrative ability thrown in for good measure. It has been around for over 25 years and its interface highlights this vintage, however it appears to have a following among less demanding users in particular.
  • PowerCADD – by Engineered Software is another of the ‘old world’ 2D drafting packages designed for the Macintosh PowerPC. It offers enhanced color management capabilities and plug-ins for popular file formats. This product could be considered for inclusion into the professional 2D category except that it is not as actively supported or marketed. It has a good set of features and can be expanded by adding additional tools to make it more useful to more regular users.
  • VersaCAD – by Archway Systems is another 2D drafting program that worked well for mechanical drawings and runs on older Macs. It was taken up extensively in the USA by professional users for many years but lost popularity in favor of more capable products. VersaCAD appears not be in continued developed. We await confirmation from Archway systems.
  • RealCADD – with a double ‘D’ is a basic 2D CAD for Mac program that works something like the old MacDraw with more tools. Written in France by an individual using a programming language known as RealBasic. It appears as more of a University software project and its price reflects this. It may still be useful for some non-demanding users on a tight budget.
    We are surprised that the name used is so similar to the long standing professional CAD software RealCAD (single ‘D’) as they are very different products from very different origins. We hope the use of ‘RealBasic’ programming tools was the inspiration for the name rather than any ‘passing off’ as CAD International‘s better known RealCAD (single ‘D’) software?
  • RealCAD Draft® (Windows) by CAD International has the same interface and tool set found in its professional RealCAD LT offering but without all the extras required by professionals. You can use Draft to complete CAD level 1, CAD Level 2 online Certificate training; CAD International advise that Mac users will be able to switch from the current Windows version to the new Mac OS X version at no cost when released in 2014.
  • HighDesign – 2D CAD and illustration application by Ilexsoft. Not at the high end of the CAD market but may be useful for simple plan and elevation jobs when you want a bit of extra graphical input to make your drawings more colorfull. Developed in Italy it appears not much has been done in the software since 2008.
  • CADintosh – by Lemke Software. Basic 2D shareware. This is a limited ability 2D drafting tool, but for those on a very tight budget and without the need for advanced features this software could be a good choice. It has been around for quite a long time and is occasionally updated by the small team that created it many years ago.

Professional 2D

  • RealCAD LT® – (Windows) by CAD International is a highly evolved and quite simple to use professional 2D CAD program with an upgrade path to RealCAD Pro 3D software. We like RealCAD LT for its simplicity, finesse and feature rich powerful tools. It has a deceptively simple interface but is more capable than other 2D products we trialled so far. There is room for improvement in a few areas related to short-cuts and handling of PDF files (requires an extra tool) but RealCAD LT is currently the best of the 2D CAD software we have used but it is not Mac native OS-X. CAD International advise that current Mac users with RealCAD running on Windows will be able to switch from the Windows version to the new Mac OS-X version at no cost when released mid 2014. This seems generous when you consider the new version will apparently be a completely new rewrite. We guess this is a way of getting Mac users to buy RealCAD now rather than later. After canvassing users we also give it a thumbs-up for the apparently excellent level of support the company provides to its users.
  • AutoCAD LT® for Mac – from Autodesk® is not quite the same as its Windows counterpart and one must be careful to understand that a significant relearning may be required to come up to speed with this well know brand. In reality, although the name is the same the product is different. Autodesk have opted for a very Mac like interface. Like its Windows conterpart you can not run applications with AutoCAD LT and there is no official upgrade path to full AutoCAD.

Professional 3D

  • Rhino3D® – is NURBs surface modeling for Mac by Robert McNeel Inc. The Mac version is still in Beta mode at this stage but if it’s anything like its Windows brother, when released it too will be very popular. Rhinoceros 3D for Windows is a powerful 3D modeler that is particularly good for complex surfaces and is used extensively in the product design, industrial design, ship design and jewelry design industries. It is not as capable as solidThinking, as SolidThinking relates to changing the model parametrically but Rhino is well priced, extremely popular and well supported. Rhino3D has almost become a default standard when it comes to curvaceous modelling for manufacturing and other downstream product design operations.
  • SolidThinking® – is advanced 3D NURBS modeling CAD for the Mac by solidThing who are owned by Altair Engineering. SolidThinking Evolve® is the modeling module and brings high-level parametrically controlled Non Uniform Rational B-Spline (NURB) curve ability into play!. What this means is that you can accurately model and subsequently control complex surfaces at any time in the modelling process by adjusting the dimensional and constraint parameters of the model or by visual dragging of control points. This is probably the best Mac based modeling tool for accurate creation of curvaceous and mechanical forms and is particularly useful in product design, jewellery design and curvaceous architectural building design. Model files from solidThinking can be output to regular CAD programs for the creation of 2D documentation. In the same family of products also exists solidThinking Inspire that takes models and applies optimization algorithms to create lighter, stronger, more rigid or more flexible shapes to the design. solidThinking is sold via channel partners of Altair.
  • CobaltArgonXenon and Graphite by Ashlar-Vellum are a range of modular CAD programs designed for Mac and Windows and typically used in product design. We are unable to give a great deal of information on this software directly but their site is informative. Cobalt is the flagship product whilst the others appear to be sub-sets of this program.
  • Bonzai® and Form Z® by AutoDeSys. Bonzai is a 3D sketch modelling tool for Mac OS-X and Windows. At one level it is similar to SketchUp but Bonzai provides more advanced modeling because the underlying software has a true solids engine and not just a mesh of triangulated surfaces. Bonzai contains a subset of Form-Z which has been around for many years and still has a strong following among product designers who were early adopters of the Macintosh platform. These days Form-Z and Bonzai also extend their abilities into the Architectural arena for concept modelling in particular.
  • SketchUp® – isn’t traditional 3D CAD as we know it but is included here because it is a very popular 3D sketch modeler. There is a free version and a Pro version. The Pro version also has some 2D drafting tools to compliment the 3D modelling environment for the production of documentation and may be used commercially whilst the free version is only for non-commercial, personal use and has no ability to exchange files with other CAD software. Ultimately, SketchUp for Mac is a fast and fairly easy 3D modeler, and should be considered for many design applications. It is best for initial concept design, for fleshing out ideas and for making client presentations. It should not be considered for fast accurate 2D drafting and documentation however. SketchUp can be used in conjunction with other more accurate CAD software such as RealCAD® or AutoCAD® and in many cases combining SketchUp with a good 2D CAD product is a terrific and inexpensive solution. (The current owners of SketchUp, Trimble Inc. recently purchased SketchUp from Google® Inc. who bought it from the original developers @last software). SketchUp is particularly useful for landscape architecture, building design, set and stage design, games development, interior design, cabinet making and many other applications where accurate curves or accurate surfaces are not required. It is best used in conjunction with plug-in applications that manage or automate some of the modeling processes as it is easy to otherwise inadvertently damage your model’s integrity. We particularly like Driving Dimensions for SketchUp. Like many products, used well SketchUp is a great tool, used poorly it can be seen as a bit of a toy.

Professional 2D with 3D

  • TurboCAD® – for the Mac by IMSI/Design is a relatively new player in the Mac market, leveraging its well-known retail CAD product brand name to slip into the general purpose CAD for Mac market. Aimed mostly at the consumer, hobbyist and entry level professional market it is well priced and well optioned. The product is very different from its Windows® PC counterpart so if you know the PC version you will still have to relearn this one. It has a dedicated Mac oriented interface and is a good choice when wanting an all-rounder. It should always be purchased with the training DVD as there are many tools to learn and understand. It is available in two versions, one more advanced than the other. We would recommend buying this software from a dedicated CAD vendor rather than from a box moving retail software site like Amazon as you will undoubtedly need some level of support.
  • RealCAD Pro® -(Windows) by CAD International has the same interface and tool set found in its 2D offering (RealCAD LT) but RealCAD Pro enables the 3D modelling that is already there to function. RealCAD Pro is the product chosen for delivery of internationally recognized CAD level 1, CAD Level 2 and CAD Level 3 online Certificate training; We understand this is because RealCAD is easier to learn and is free to use whilst learning. If however you are looking for software to do complex surfacing this is not the product for you. RealCAD still needs true solids, parametric ability and unrestricted surface modeling to make it more suited to product and jewelry designers. In general terms though RealCAD currently gets the Editor’s choice award. If you wish to model in 3D easily and produce excellent 2D documentation and you need to get up and running quickly with excellent support then RealCAD is a good choice. CAD International advise that Mac users will be able to switch from the current Windows version to the new Mac OS X version at no cost when released in 2014. RealCAD Pro can further be upgraded if you also require Animation by  selecting RealCAD Complete.
  • VectorWorks® – by Nemetschek is a well featured well known and extensive 2D/3D CAD program for Mac. Albeit quite intense to use, especially for the beginner, Vectorworks has a large following due to it being one of the first professional level Mac based CAD programs in the market, originally known as MiniCAD. It has a particularly strong user base in landscape and interior design as well as stage and lighting design. On its own Vectorworks compares with AutoCAD® and RealCAD® but most Vectorworks users will add a plug-in for either architecture, landscape or lighting design and rendering to make it even more useful. Whilst historically popular and well supported throughout the world, Vectorworks suffers from a legacy of being complex to use and having much of its screen real-estate taken up with menus and dialogs.
  • Draftsight® – CAD software for the Apple Mac from Dassault Systems is also new in this arena and is built on the same platform as ARES CAD for Mac from German company, Graebert GmbH. It is almost identical to its Windows®brother with only a few functions lacking in the Macintosh® version. This product is essentially the same software as CorelCAD® and several other re-badged OEM CAD programs. Designed to feel very similar to the Windows®version of AutoCAD® from AutoDesk Inc., Draftsight is supplied free as a marketing strategy for Dassault Systems to engage new clients and later have them upgrade to its significantly more powerful 3D parametric Windows only software SolidWorks. Support beyond forums or outside USA time zones may be difficult and its functionality must be investigated to ensure it has all the features you are looking for.
  • CorelCAD® – a 2D and 3D CAD for Mac is based on ARES CAD from Graebert of Germany. We are not quite sure why Corel decided to enter the already flooded CAD market and OEM ARES CAD but we assume it was to complement their suite of graphics products such as CorelDraw.
  • ARES® – by Graebert is the original of the Draftsight and CorelCAD software. Like the others it is an AutoCAD-like program designed to encourage experienced users of AutoCAD away. ARES is also available for Linux and Windows and runs DWG natively.
  • iCAD Mac – by ProgeCAD is a new player (or possibly an old player under a new name?) and one we haven’t been able to review fully as yet. This is another of the AutoCAD style ‘clone’ programs so could be of interest by those who already use AutoCAD or know and understand how it operates. It has some redeeming features added that the other three ‘copies’ don’t have such as 3D PDF output.
  • AutoCAD® for Mac – from Autodesk® is like TurboCAD® in that it has opted to leverage its well know brand to gain market acceptance. AutoCAD®for the Mac is a very different beast to AutoCAD® for Windows® as they have opted for a very Mac like interface. One could say that AutoCAD for the Mac is not really AutoCAD as we know it at all. At this stage there are very few add-in application available for the Mac version and so in reality, AutoCAD for the Mac has little more to offer that any other generic CAD software on this platform. The other detracting factor is that it is comparatively very expensive. You can create custom scripts, line types, hatch patterns, and command aliases, as well as AutoLISP and ObjectARX applications; however, there is no support for DCL in AutoLISP, nor is there access to some of the custom AutoCAD® user interface controls in ObjectARX. Technologies specific to Windows®, such as Visual Basic® for Applications, OLE® objects, and Windows Media Audio®, are not supported in AutoCAD for Mac. The most commonly used functionality of AutoCAD for Windows is included in AutoCAD for Mac. However, there are a few commands that are not included, including layer filters, layer groups, and layer states; Sheet Set Manager; and DGN, PDF, and DWF underlay support.

Professional Architectural CAD for Mac

  • ArchiCAD® – by Graphisoft is architectural CAD for Mac OSX. It is purpose built architectural software that has been around for years and was the leading Architectural CAD software globally for some time. It is at the higher end of the price range and is also available for Windows. ArchiCAD and all the CAD software at this level of professionalism does require time to learn and master. It is a professional software product designed with dedicated professional users in mind. Interestingly Graphisoft since 2007 a part of the Nemetschek Group who also own All-Plan and Vectorworks. All competitors of each other. It will be interesting to see what happens in this space.
  • DomusCAD® – by Interstudio of Italy is an architectural CAD program for Mac OSX and supports QuickDraw 3D technology and plug-in renderers. Whilst this Italian software is relatively unknown outside of Italy, it is a powerful architectural tool and extremely well priced. The lack of support options in English outside Italy seriously prevent us from giving the program top marks but for the price it is well featured.
  • BOA – French architectural CAD design software for the Mac that allows users to design projects in 3D easily and obtain 2D drawings automatically. By today’s standards this software is quite elementary but could be worth considering if your demands on software ability are not too high.
  • Chief Architect by Chief Architect Corp (USA) is a brand new player in the Mac space. We are yet to see the software and test it in an an Apple machine but have used it extensively on a Windows PC. If the Mac version is similar then this product is a major contender. It is easily the fastest building modeler on earth as its promotional catch phrase says. It is perfect for domestic and light commercial work but can be used on bigger projects at a pinch. It is an extremely automated system with dozens of dialogs, each with dozens of options. Once you have your head around the options the software will build your model with incredible speed and dexterity. It is only available and supported from the USA with no reseller network.

Non-Professional Architectural

  • DenebaCAD – DCAD Vectorspace appears to have disappeared from the radar. It was an elementary design system from Italy with strong architectural ability. We can’t advise on this product until we are able to contact the developers and find out where this software has gone in the last few years.

Conclusion

There are quite a few products to choose from and several options to consider before you make your CAD software purchase. Read as much as you can or shortcut the process to some degree and seek expert advice or just contact us by email and we’ll do our best to point you in the right direction.

Future

There is no doubt that software vendors have finally recognized the Apple CAD market and they are all working hard to bring their particular brand to market. As machines get faster and 3D graphics improve and ways of interacting with the machines we all use changes CAD software will be hot on the trail allowing virtually anyone do design and produce almost anything.

 

Need help choosing? Ask us

 

 

58 thoughts on “All About CAD for Mac

  1. Joe

    Placing PowerCADD as a Hobbyist 2D rases questions about your Expert Opinion. You should look at this a little closer including Wildtools add on

    Reply
    1. applecadmin Post author

      Joe, We would suggest that PowerCADD could indeed be used for professional purposes but falls short of being listed in our professional category due to factors such as support, distribution and marketing of the product. PowerCADD is definitely a good 2D contender and we would encourage others to consider this software. This site is constantly under review and we may be able to consider moving PowerCADD into the professional section if we can get contact from the developers.

      Reply
    1. applecadmin Post author

      Hi Bryan, SolidWorks is not a native Mac program and requires Windows OS to run. It is also a very substantial software and runs significantly better on a dedicated PC than it would on a Mac running Windows. For those who want to run programs like SolidWorks or IronCAD you are much better off getting a dedicated Windows PC with high end graphics card and stacks of RAM. Using SolidWorks or IronCAD on a Mac would be a compromise.

      Reply
  2. Sophia Durden

    First of all I would like to congratulate you guys for pulling out the best CAD software for Mac article and targeted website I have seen so far. I have been a CAD user and Mac lover since late 90s and quite happy on how companies are finally releasing good programs natively for Mac OSX!

    I would like to point out that Chief Architect X6 for Mac has been released and wondering if you would consider adding it to the Professional Architectural section.

    Other than that, keep up the good work!

    Reply
    1. applecadmin Post author

      Hi Sophia. Thank you for your encouragement. We do our best to provide a balanced view so when a new CAD product comes out we are always happy to add it to the list. If the Mac version if Chief Architect is as good as the Windows one then it will well be worth considering for Architects and building designers. We will be waiting for the developers to respond to our requests for further publishable information.

      Reply
  3. YB

    Thanks for the review.
    Siemens NX (formerly Unigraphics) have a very powerful (and highly priced) version for the Mac OSX.
    Have you had the chance of reviewing it?

    Reply
    1. applecadmin Post author

      Hi YB,
      As yet we haven’t reviewed it but we are familiar with the former Unigraphics product. High end software indeed. We would expect a Mac version to be very capable and like its non-Mac version, probably requires quite a steep learning curve. Users at this end of the market usually understand why they are paying the big dollars ..They want accuracy in high level surfacing, downstream FEA, and integrated CAM and CAE. The mid range MCAD software has been catching up with the high end, but products like Siemens NX will maintain superiority for some time due to the core being better designed than the mid range software. We’ll post our review if we get a chance to check it out.

      Reply
  4. Nigel Varley

    Hi, I noticed you have mentioned RealCAD several times in your reviews. I am very pleased as I am deeply involved in the development of this software, and yes you are correct in stating there will be a native Mac version soon….not quite as soon as we would like but certainly well on its way. My best guess at this stage is that the software will be available for public testing in May/ June this year. I should also let you know that there will also be an architectural add on for it at some stage too. Question, where are you guys based?

    Reply
    1. applecadmin Post author

      Nigel, thank you for your comment. The AppleCAD team wish you well with your RealCAD software and we look forward to testing it thoroughly when it is released. Be sure to send us a link when it becomes available. Be prepared for mixed comments as our evaluation team is growing and becoming more diverse with even greater points of view. As for your question. We are not located in one place but are a collective of professional CAD users and enthusiasts including ex developers of software from various places around the globe. We are currently predominantly English speaking but have some Spanish and Asian members also.

      Reply
  5. Juliana Rosales

    Hello,
    thanks a lot for the information! I am an architect CAD user and Mac owner, so it is very useful article. Long time ago I used minicad and Formz, and later changed to Autocad and 3dmax. I would like to know if vectorworks or other program offer the same possibilities than 3dmax_vray in architectural modelling.
    Thanks a lot

    Reply
    1. applecadmin Post author

      Hi Juliana. We would need to understand exactly what it is you like and use in 3D-Max and V-ray. Your questions is otherwise a little too broad to answer with any clarity. V-Ray is for rendering, 3D-Max is primarily for basic modelling and rendering whilst Vectorworks is more for drawing and documentation. Vectorworks is the equivalent of AutoCAD.

      Reply
  6. John B

    It’s PC only, but where would the $199 Cubify Design fit into the landscape of programs you judge? It promises to do much of what a “pro” package such as SolidWorks does but for much less money and with a much easier learning curve. Maybe running it in PC-mode on the mac is the best way to go.

    Reply
    1. applecadmin Post author

      Cubify Design is focussed on model making, ultimately for 3D printing. It is promoted as an alternative to Solid Works, Inventor, Solid Edge and IronCAD however it lacks most of the advanced professional tools included in those products. It is still good value for money if you are not looking to do the more intense modelling that most commercially designed products require. I would suggest that those looking at Cubify also look at IronCAD’s Innovate as this is possibly an even easier solution with an upgrade path to the full IronCAD. Neither however are Mac based and so as far as this web site is concerned they will lose a few ‘brownie points’ for having to work only under Windows. We think Cubify is an interesting product to keep an eye on in the future.

      Reply
  7. Ronny Hoffmann

    Dear Sir and Madam

    I am going to study mechanical engineering and this is why I have to install “CATIA V5″. I thought I could buy a MacBook Pro Retina in it’s best configuration. Especially because I already own a MacBook and consequently lots of OS X software.

    Now the IT department of the university told me, I should better buy a Windows Notebook neither a MacBook Pro. But they said CATIA V5 would work but some students came accross troubles.

    Hence I would like to ask you, if you have some experience at using a rMBP with Windows 7 installed via Boot Camp and running CATIA V5 on it? Or should i better buy a Windows Notebook? What do you think?

    I am looking forward to hearing from you.

    Yours faithful

    Ronny Hoffmann

    Reply
    1. applecadmin Post author

      Ronny, after careful consideration of your question and a fair bit of too-ing and fro-ing internally here, we would say the following about your question. The IT department of your university probably has it right with respect to Catia. Catia is strongly purpose-built around the Windows(r) platform running on powerful PC based systems with dedicated graphics cards that are optimised for CAD work. The concern we would have in running Catia on the MBP is that the Graphics adapter in it is tuned for Mac OSX and not Windows. My guess is that the problems your colleague face will be graphics display issues such as rendering whilst rotating large models, breaking up of shaded images, poor colour saturation etc. They may even face problems with lines not showing in certain Windows. Other than these POTENTIAL issues the rMBP would be a great machine for the job. If you were using one of the mid range MCAD products such as Solid Edge, Solid Works, IronCAD etc you would have less potential problems because the developers of these products do more work on optimising the display options so they have a broader user base.
      Ask your colleagues that already have tried the MBP what specific issues they have had and then decide if those issues are enough to drive you away from a MBP machine or go with it so you have access to all your existing Mac software. Let us know how you go.

      Reply
    1. applecadmin Post author

      Dear Rick,
      We don’t think there is a demo of RealCAD for Mac available yet. It does not appear to have been released. You can download the Windows version but this has an older style interface to the one we got a sneak preview of several months back. When we ‘played’ with the pre-release version is was pretty flaky and not quite ready for any sort of distribution. You could try contacting the developers directly cadinternational for release dates

      Reply
    1. applecadmin Post author

      Dear Owen,
      It would appear CADopia have been flying well below the radar as we haven’t seen them for years and years. We thought they had disappeared. Having visited their web site it appears they are still around and have a Mac offering. We think their software was originally based on IntelliCAD. We will contact them to see if we can get some more information for you.

      Reply
  8. Kevin Roy

    Taught pre engineering classes and just loved Autcad Inventor and architecture with Revit. The programs were being taught on a Mac with a windows platform and we had no problems. In retirement I still enjoy drafting and trying to find a cad program for my Mac. Thank you for this article.

    Reply
  9. Mr. CAD

    Nice article, just missing ViaCAD / Shark, and Fusion 360.

    There’s also a beta version of BricsCAD, might be worth checking out.

    Reply
    1. applecadmin Post author

      Dear Mr.CAD, Thank you for your notice regarding some missing products in the list. We have added Shark-FX and Fusion 360 to the line up and will add reviews following deeper inspection. We have contacted many CAD publishers regarding information relating to their products and find very few actually seem to care enough to respond to our requests. If you have inside knowledge leading to better information to post on the site we would be grateful.
      BricsCAD will be a great AutoCAD replacement if it performs in a stable manner. Both are excellent general purpose CAD products. BricsCAD obviously more reasonable in its pricing.

      Reply
  10. Eddie

    I’m planning on starting my own ( I’ll be the only employee) small business doing landscape architecture and landscape design. I plan to show up, take some elevation points, load them into a design program and hope to be able to hand plans and renderings to home owners. I have a 2011 MacBook Pro right now but hope to get a desk top soon. Is Vectorworks Landmark my best option or is there something else I should consider?
    Thanks!
    Eddie H

    Reply
    1. applecadmin Post author

      Eddie, You can also consider waiting for the Mac version of Landworkscad. The current Windows version is very popular. Both will do the job. Landworkscad claims to be very easy to learn and has online training available. It is based on RealCAD which is very easy.

      Reply
    1. applecadmin Post author

      Keeping in mind that most mechanical engineers desire full 3D modelling and to subsequent production of 2D drawings and other downstream functions, of the software currently available we would suggest looking at TurboCAD Pro at the bottom end of the field, Xenon in the middle or SolidThinking at the high end. Price range between these is enormous. Otherwise, bite your tongue and put Windows 7 on your machine and then install Solid Edge, Solid Works or IronCAD. IronCAD being best value and easiest to use. Alternatively BricsCAD will soon be releasing their software on the Mac. The Mac version is currently in Beta test stage. http://www.bricsys.com/macbeta/

      Reply
  11. Bob

    I am a soon to be retired mechanical engineer interested in 3D CAD for woodworking and other home hobbyist work. I currently use Solidworks at work but I’m looking for far less capability at a far lower price for my home hobby work. I need to model my furniture projects and show them to friends/family but have no interest in commercial pursuits. I plan to purchase a Mac laptop but have not decided exactly what i need.
    Do you have a recommendation for CAD software for my needs?
    Do you a recommendation for what I will need in the laptop?

    Thanks!
    Bob L

    Reply
    1. applecadmin Post author

      Hi Bob, For furniture projects and home handyman work SketchUp Make is ideal. It is free and extremely intuitive. You will be able to share and show your models easily too. As far as the Laptop is concerned get thebest your budget will extend to. This is a long term investment so the better the machine now the longer it will stay current. I would think a separate large screen could also be considered to help with ease of viewing.

      Reply
      1. Bob

        Thank you for your recommendations. I have downloaded SketchUp and worked with it a little bit. It seems awkward to change geometry once you have created it. Maybe I will learn better ways to do things, but if you were to recommend a next step up from SketchUp, what would it be??

        Thanks,
        Bob L

        Reply
        1. applecadmin Post author

          Hi Bob. Compared to true parametric Solid Modelers like IronCAD and SolidWorks, SketchUp is way more basic, and yes,if you don’t approach the design very carefully it can be very difficult to modify geometry, although once you know how it all works it can be done. If we were to select a ‘next level up’ from this we would also want to take cost into the equation. TurboCAD Pro and Bonzai would probably be the next choices. If you can put Windows on your machine then try and get a copy of IronCAD. Really nice product. Equal to Solid Works that you have used in the past but much faster to use and less expensive (depending on the region/country you are in) Let us know you budget and country and we may be able to put you in touch with a local supplier.

          Reply
          1. Bob

            Thanks again for your thoughts. I am in Minneapolis, MN. I was hoping to stay in the $500 range, certainly under $1000.

            Bob L

  12. Dreamer

    Hi guys,
    Thanks for this much needed piece – I have a lot of ideas for inventions ranging from plumbing add-ons to common household improvements. I have never been involved with CAD products, but I understand it’s purpose. Like all, I don’t have a ton of money to throw anywhere, but I do need to be able to bring my designs to life.
    My original thought was to draw my pieces out, and have it 3D printed – building out my inventions with existing and available plumbing materials will result in large, heavy masses of parts, glue and duck tape. I could then use the printed pieces to assemble,test and tweak for the desired finished product.
    I have an iMac and hope you could steer me in the right direction with CAD software.
    Thanks,
    Dreamer

    Reply
    1. applecadmin Post author

      Dreamer, You could create and edit your design ideas in any of the 3D modelers. The most basic is SketchUp but this is not for accurate manufacturing purposes, especially where curves and circles are concerned. With a limited budget and experience in CAD you could also check out Bonzai 3D, Argon, Fusion 3D or TurboCAD Mac Pro.

      Reply
  13. J. Greene

    Hi!

    I’m a commercial interior designer and am going to start my own very small (just me) residential practice. I can’t bear the thought of purchasing and using a PC. I’m an expert in Revit and am looking for something that will be similar in its 3D capabilities. If it has the capability of producing beautiful presentation drawings that is a bonus! I don’t need the ability to produce detailed construction documents so much…

    There are SO many programs out there, as you’ve listed above, it’s overwhelming! What would you recommend in this case?

    Thank you for this article!

    J. Greene

    Reply
    1. applecadmin Post author

      Hi J.Greene, For Architectural/Interior design similar to Revit there are only a few to choose from that will run natively on the Mac; ArchiCAD and Chief Architect. Both are parametric 3D architectural modelers that generate 2D drawings from the 3D model. Chief Architect also has a slightly cut down version called Home Designer Pro which is very inexpensive but its rendering may disappoint. Both produce detailed 2D drawings. We have not posted reviews of these yet as the Mac version has only just been released. Several of our contributors have used the Home Designer Pro software and like it. They use it in conjunction with their favorite 2D software.
      Alternatively you can use SketchUp as this is very capable and super easy to learn. Most will want to add a rendering program to this to produce realistic renderings. Bonzai is also worth considering. We can’t say which one is best for you as it will come down to personal choice. Bonzai and SketchUp have more flexibility in modelling than Revit but less architecturally intelligent objects so will require more manual editing of the 3D model.

      Reply
  14. Jon dyer

    Hi
    Your review has been really helpful, I have just purchased a new imac and looking to produce drawings for my oak framed house extension, to include plans, sections, details and possible 3d drawings. I would need to share drawings vadf and dwg etc. I have used vectorworks and autocad LT in the past and prefer using macs which I find quite intuitive, vector works is a bit out of my price range unless of course I could pick up an older program. Can you give me a steer on alternatives that may be in my lower budget price range? iCard looks quite good but is still a reasonable investment.

    Regards

    Jon

    Reply
    1. applecadmin Post author

      Hi Jon, Good news. you can now get Home Designer Pro for the Mac. This is based on the highly acclaimed Chief Architect software and is simply a slightly cut down version. We haven’t officially reviewed this here yet but several of our contributors have been using it for their work and have given it the thumbs-up. Let us know where you are and we can let you know of your nearest supplier. It is a full 3D building modeler that automatically generates sections, elevations, plans and 3D views from the model. Its 2D drafting tools are pretty basic but because it generates 90% of all the line work automatically the 10% of 2D detailing that you will want to do once you have your designs is easily manageable.

      Some users of this software report that they send their elevation, plan and section views to their favorite 2D drafting program to fully detail up. This approach is fine if you don’t mind learning two programs and certainly will give you the best of both 2D and 3D worlds.

      Reply
  15. Tim Quigley

    Have you found any moderate to low priced CAD software for wiring diagrams?
    Autocad is way beyond my needs and budget.
    I currently use Visio on a PC and would much prefer to stay on macs.

    Reply
  16. David S

    Any experience thoughts / comments on iCAD mac. I currently use ProgeCAD (and sketchup) on a pc for architectural work but am tempted with switching to the mac platform but can’t find much on iCAD mac beyond sales PR type stuff.

    cheers

    david

    Reply
    1. applecadmin Post author

      Hi David,
      ProgeCAD of Italy released iCAD MAC just a few years ago. The ProgeCAD for Windows software you are using now will be very similar to the iCAD Mac software they produce as you might expect. iCADMac menus and toolbars are familiar to both AutoCAD users and users of progeCAD. All the basic tools and commands for creating and editing drawings expected in a professional CAD application are included but the program is for general purpose use and not specific for any one industry such as architecture. We see iCAD Mac as a viable alternative for ‘raw’ AutoCAD. None of our authors have regular hands-on day to day experience with this software so we would suggest downloading a 30 day trial on a Mac machine and making the comparison. You would be one of the better people to comment, seeing as you are already using progeCAD for Windows. Love to get your feedback. In simple terms though iCAD Mac is a ‘tweaked up’ version of ARES Commander

      Reply
  17. Michelle Faerman

    I work for an engineering firm and we just updated to iMacs. We had AutoCADD on our old PCs but our design business has fallen off and we basically just need a program to make floor or roof plans (2d) for attachment to our reports.

    The MacDraft pro looks like our best option from what you’ve described here…..any more guidance would be helpful….I’d also like to know if the keyboard shortcuts in macdraft would be similar to autocadd

    Reply
    1. applecadmin Post author

      Hi Michelle, You will find Mac based CAD programs a little different from your old AutoCAD for Windows software and none will have the same keyboard shortcuts. Whilst you can certainly use MacDraft Pro you should also consider CorelCAD, ARES Commander and iCAD Mac as these are all very similar to what you have been used to.

      Reply
      1. David Scott

        Hi

        Thanks for the reply. The only remaining question is if I should take the plunge and switch to a 27″ iMAC – which is a tough decision as judging by sights like macrumours buying a current model would seem to be a bit risky as they are over due a update.

        Cheers

        david

        Reply
  18. applecadmin Post author

    Dear Dennis,

    Moving from Mac to Windows or Windows to Mac can be a challenge, but moving from Generic CADD 6 for Windows to any other system may be even more so.
    We loved Generic CADD when it was first introduced and the idea of a two letter key input to go from one command to another was a great idea when other menu systems were so convoluted. Two letter activation is a great deal to remember, especially for part time users and so this has given way to icon systems with the potential to program your own keys, but not usually two letter combinations.

    The nearest you will get to Generic CADD is not yet released for Mac but should be here later this year with RealCAD LT. The two key combo is not a feature of the software however. You could always contact the developers and ask them to put it in?

    We didn’t realise Generic CADD was available in the form of General CADD and this is the reason it has not been considered for inclusion. Also being a strictly Windows product with no additional features compared to Mac counterparts puts it in the not so interesting pile for Mac users.

    Regards…
    AppleCAD Team

    Reply
  19. Dennis S

    I used to be a MS Windows user and only recently converted over to Apple Mac and it has been a frustrating struggle at times and also an eye opener at other times. My question is is there any CAD software out there that is similar in operation to the full featured and intuitive Generic CADD 6. I really liked the full range of features for 2D and I especially liked the two letter commands that become almost 2nd nature after you have used the program for a while. You might consider me a Dinosaur for my reluctance to graduate to more complex and less user friendly, as well as menu intensive CAD programs, but when something works and works well my philosophy is don’t fix it. But I may have to if there is nothing else out there. However, I am hoping that there is some developer out there that will stumble upon an old copy of Generic CADD and upgrade a similar version for Mac OS X.
    In you reviews of software you never mentioned Generic CADD or its new replacement for Windows, General CADD, although you did mention other CAD programs that were currently Windows only. Was there a reason for that?

    I would like to be able to have free trial versions of CADD programs available so I could find one that suits me best.

    Reply
    1. applecadmin Post author

      Dear Dennis,

      Please accept our apologies for not getting back to you sooner. Our email system has been offline and when it went back on an entire block of emails were missed.

      Moving from Mac to Windows or Windows to Mac can be a challenge, but moving from Generic CADD 6 for Windows to any other system may be even more so.
      We loved Generic CADD when it was first introduced and the idea of a two letter key input to go from one command to another was a great idea when other menu systems were so convoluted. Two letter activation is a great deal to remember, especially for part time users and so this has given way to icon systems with the potential to program your own keys, but not usually two letter combinations.

      The nearest you will get to Generic CADD is not yet released for Mac but should be here later this year with RealCAD LT. The two key combo is not a feature of the software however. You could always contact the developers and ask them to put it in?

      We didn’t realise Generic CADD was available in the form of General CADD and this is the reason it has not been considered for inclusion. Also being a strictly Windows product with no additional features compared to Mac counterparts puts it in the not so interesting pile for Mac users.

      Regards…
      AppleCAD Team

      Reply
  20. Timm

    Hi guys,

    Thanks for this great review and collection. I am a structural engineer and need to do 2D drawings of details of steel, concrete and wood. Can you recommend a native MAC software that would do this but doesn’t cost me a fortune? This would be simple line drafting, saving as dwg files and printing as pdf.

    Cheers,
    Timm

    Reply
    1. applecadmin Post author

      Timm, any of the professional 2D or 2D/3D drafting products we list on the site will work for your need. If you are serious about productivity for structural detailing however and you do it a lot then StrucPLUS by CAD International is the way to go. For this you will also need BricsCAD or AutoCAD. BricsCAD is cheaper and just as good. Windows only.grrr

      Reply
  21. Rachel Hicks

    Great article. Have you any experience of Cinema 4D for Mac. I design and make furniture, and want a programme that can model sculptural and complicated forms for export to CNC machining.
    I am also considering the Beta mode, free user Rhino for Mac. I tried SolidWorks on Bootcamp, but want to work all programmes of the same partition for ease of use.
    Thanks for any advice.

    Reply
    1. applecadmin Post author

      Hi Rachel,
      Perhaps the best tool will be Form-Z. Forget SolidWorks as this is not good at free-form shapes. Rhino on the Mac is a bit flakey and will never have the same functionality that it does on Windows.

      Reply
  22. Ulrike

    Thank you so much for this. I was about to switch from Windows to MAC due to troubles since the abolition of XP. I worked with AutoCad LT and Rhino or FormZ: Now I am really frustrated after reading this. Is it worth to wait until it all works also for MAC or will this remain a problem?

    Reply
    1. applecadmin Post author

      Ulrike, Apple machines are excellent. they have great build quality but developers haven’t supported Mac OSX as perhaps we would like them to have so most CAD software simply runs better using Windows. It usually has more functionality and you have more choices. Rhino for instance will never be as powerful on the Mac OS as it is on Windows as it was built for Windows. AutoCAD will eventually be as good but it could be a few years. Form-Z on the other hand is good on both. What type of design work do you do? Running Windows on a Mac is an option as you can switch to a native Mac software when the software you have mentioned is better suited to the Mac OS

      Reply
  23. Ulrike

    Thanks for your answer. Architectural design. Also at a later stage designed objects like lamps and furniture. 2D drawings, Visualisation for clients and 3D that the client can walk thru the project. I do 2D in Autocad and the other things in Rhino. For an office I worked with Form Z and Cinema 4D for 3D visualisations. Due to my XP Laptop I do need a new Hardware. And would really like to switch to MAC.

    Reply
  24. Ben

    Hi,

    For an unmentioned contender, Spaceclaim works wonders on an iMac running in Windows mode. For solid modelling, drafting, sheet metal etc. It’s much cheaper than Solidworks, can be picked up in an afternoon and performs beautifully (works on Ram and PSU speed rather than specialised graphics cards).

    Take a look at the Spaceclaim CAD package!

    As a side note, I’ve used Solidworks a fair bit on a dedicated £10k PC machine and on an iMac 2009 i7. Whilst it’s a no-brainer as to which machine outstrips the other in performance, the iMac does work quite well and can probably meet the needs of a good portion of the user market. One is also able to trick Solidworks into thinking the iMac has a FirePro graphics card and when it does, performance improves a little more… though at the end of the day I still prefer Spaceclaim for most Solidmodelling purposes.

    Reply
    1. applecadmin Post author

      Hi Ben, and thank you for your comments about Spaceclaim. We like Spaceclaim too, especially for sheet metal although some of our members mention IronCAD as being more full featured contender in general (Spaceclaim still has faster sheetmetal). Both are well worth using in place of SolidWorks or Inventor for speed and usability. It often comes down to the type of product you are designing and the workflow proicess as to which software is best for the task.

      Reply

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