Here we explore CAD software designed for Apple Mac®. We touch on the pros and cons of choosing an Apple® computer for CAD and list all the currently available CAD software for Mac.

This article is an overview of 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.


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 visualize 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 document able 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 focused 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 as landscape designinterior designfilm and stage designproduct designindustrial designengineering, 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.


There are many 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 very best to point you in the right direction.

Need help choosing? Ask us