Linux is a leading open-source operating system in terms of security, compatibility, and performance, even surpassing Windows and macOS in some areas. However, due to factors such as a smaller market share and differences in underlying libraries and APIs, the available Linux CAD software has been limited.
But fear not, a positive shift is underway. Open-source options and dedicated solutions provide more and more choices for CAD software for Linux. To make it easier for you, this post has compiled 10 of the best Linux CAD software. Some are paid, while others are entirely open-source and customizable. Without further ado, let’s jump in and make a selection based on the needs.
What Should You Look for in Linux CAD Software?
Although Linux computers differ in appearance and operation from Windows and macOS, the criteria for good CAD software are still the same. Specifically, prioritize the following aspects such as comprehensive features, customization, collaboration, and security and stability.
- Ease of Use: Select Linux CAD software with a user-friendly interface for easy navigation and learning. It’s best if the commands and shortcuts bear minimal differences from other CAD software, making integration and transition more effortless.
- Abundance of Features: The ideal Linux CAD software should include both 2D drawing and 3D modeling, offer a vast model library, and support advanced features like rendering, simulation, and analysis.
- File Compatibility: It should be compatible with common CAD file formats such as DWG, DXF, DWT, and more, allowing smooth file opening, preview, and modification when collaborating with different teams.
- Feature Customization: The chosen software is ideally open source or allows customization and extension through APIs to tailor design features for specific industries and specifications.
- Real-time Collaboration: Online file sharing and editing facilitates timely communication between multiple parties and can also improve the efficiency of design, so Linux CAD software that supports online collaboration is recommended.
- Stable Performance: A solid foundation for the best CAD software on Linux is stable performance. Therefore, before purchasing the software, it’s advisable to check the system requirements and related information on the official website to ensure your device can run smoothly.
- High security: Ensure that the 2D or 3D CAD software for Linux you download has permission control and appropriate security mechanisms to protect files and sensitive information from unauthorized access. Additionally, opt for tools that receive regular updates to prevent potential security bugs.
- Training Materials: Quality CAD software will provide user guides for different versions and operating systems, particularly for those with a steeper learning curve. If you cannot find resources through official channels, software with relevant information on third-party platforms is also a good choice.
4 Best Paid Professional Linux CAD software (Free Trial Provided)
For ease of selection, the 10 best CAD software for Linux are divided into two parts: paid and free. Although the four options in this part are all paid, they are more stable in performance and can be converted between 2D and 3D designs in the software at will. Therefore, this is a must-see list for professional practitioners and students.
Top 1. ZWCAD
Best for: Architecture, civil engineering, mechanical engineering, landscape design, and GIS
ZWCAD is one of the best CAD software that supports running on Linux. It can do 2D drawing, 3D modeling, rendering, and analysis. Especially for 3D design, this top-rated Linux CAD software not only converts detailed plans into models but also supports Point Cloud. This feature can help you accurately scan and capture the 3D measurement results of real-world objects and integrate them into drawings for precise modeling. Moreover, ZWCAD can be extended and integrated with 200+ third-party design tools through APIs. This makes it meet the demands of various professional fields.
Despite its rich feature set, ZWCAD is user-friendly even for beginners. It allows interface customization based on your work habits and develops some smart features. Now, with simple mouse gestures and voice messages, commands and annotations can be easily enabled. Meanwhile, there is also a feature called File Compare that can easily compare the differences between two images with one click. Better yet, ZWCAD runs smoothly on Linux computers. To help you process work faster, it also has built-in multi-core CPU and CPU acceleration, which can ensure fast response and no lag for multitasking.
Features of ZWCAD
- Run on dual platforms of Windows and Linux;
- Compatible with common CAD file formats like DWG, DXF, and DWT;
- Achieve feature customization through APIs like LISP, VBA, ZRX, and .NET;
- Allow design file sharing and editing for online collaboration;
- Offer a one-time purchase subscription plan with no additional fees;
- Provides a free version of a software trial.
Top 2. BricsCAD
Best for: Architecture, engineering, manufacturing, and product design.
As the best 2D CAD software for Linux, BricsCAD has a full set of drawing tools and supports creating multiple layouts with different scales and viewports for complex drawings. In 3D, it can create the required models through direct editing, parametric modeling, solid modeling, and mesh modeling, and complete realistic rendering and visualization. It is worth mentioning that dynamic rendering results are also feasible in BricsCAD.
Beyond that, BricsCAD can use LISP and DIESEL scripts to automate repetitive tasks. It is also connected to various cloud storage services such as Dropbox and Google Drive for easy file sharing and collaboration. In the latest V24 version, compatibility with BIM software and AutoCAD files is strengthened. Meanwhile, it improves memory management and adds multi-core support. This ensures that large and complex drawings can be completed stably and quickly.
Features of BricsCAD
- Natively designed for Linux with reliable performance;
- Provide diverse modeling options for complex models;
- Compatible with DWG format to make AutoCAD integration easy;
- Take advantage of multi-core processors to allocate workloads;
- Offers a 30-day free trial for testing.
Top 3. VariCAD
Best for: Mechanical engineering
With a vast part library that meets ANSI, DIN, and JIS standards, VariCAD is great mechanical CAD software on Linux. It can build complex 3D models using solid graphics, adjust surface curvature through surface design, and combine and modify solid models using Boolean operations. And as one of the best 3D CAD software for Linux, VariCAD can check for possible collisions between components in 3D assemblies, making the design accuracy and feasibility more intuitive.
In addition, VariCAD is also 2D CAD software for Linux. It can directly use tools for mechanical drafting. Alternatively, by defining 3D views, it produces traditional engineering drawings that can interact with other CAD software. Common 2D compatible formats for VariCAD include DWG, DXF, and STEP (import support).
Features of VariCAD
- Easy to navigate with a clear interface;
- Exchange files with other CAD systems using diverse 2D and 3D formats;
- Calculate values such as 2D cross-sectional area, surface area, and volume;
- Support assembly design and allow rendering and testing of 3D models;
- Built-in BOM and Title Blocks with the ability for batch modification.
Top 4. Siemens NX
Best for: Mechanical engineering and product design
Siemens NX is another CAD software for Linux that supports both 2D and 3D. It offers a robust sketching environment with a complete set of line and shape tools. And it boasts a parametric design. Thus, modifications can be easily made by changing constraint and dimension values without repeated redrawings. Its 3D design is also very practical, along with a variety of modeling methods such as direct modeling, feature modeling, and assembly modeling.
However, the most noteworthy point is that it supports generative design. This feature can automatically generate design options based on your input standards. It is a great way to spark design inspiration and find the best solution. Moreover, Siemens NX allows simulation analysis of physical aspects such as stress and thermal behavior, ensuring designs meet requirements and standards.
Features of Siemens NX
- Possess CAD, CAM, and CAE capabilities at the same time;
- Features different simulation tools to test designs;
- Customize software features with extensive scripts and APIs;
- Integrate with Teamcenter PLM for efficient data management and collaboration;
- Offers an online community and numerous tutorials.
6 Free Best CAD Software for Linux
Now, let’s move on to free Linux CAD software. Most of them are open source, and as a result, some options are still under development. If you’re up for a challenge, explore and combine as needed to choose the perfect fit for you.
Top 5. FreeCAD
Best for: Architecture, mechanical engineering, product design, and education
FreeCAD is open-source, free CAD software for Linux. It can do 2D design, but its 3D parametric modeling is practical for mechanical parts, product design, etc. Models can be modified based on properties such as values, text, on/off buttons, or even other objects. With a feature tree and history, this beginner-friendly CAD software allows for non-destructive modification and regeneration of features. What’s more, it integrates finite element analysis. This can help you study the stress, strain, and deformation of the model.
Even better, FreeCAD boasts a large and growing multi-professional ecosystem. Its core functionality is coded in C++, but the user interface and basic design functionality are coded in Python. This allows a large number of users to continuously expand its functionality. Originally focused on mechanical engineering, it now has CSG modeling, BIM modeling, and 3D printing for other industry needs.
Features of FreeCAD
- Work seamlessly on Linux thanks to open source nature;
- Compatible with dozens of different CAD file formats;
- Offer an extensive parametric design environment;
- Provide community support and related training materials;
- Customize unique design features using Python scripts.
Top 6. SOLVESPACE
Best for: Mechanical engineering, 3D printing, and education
SolveSpace is free CAD software for Linux. It can create 3D constructs using CSG (constructive solid geometry) modeling by combining basic shapes and using stretching, rotation, and Boolean operations. Meanwhile, the software features mechanical simulation to test the functionality and strength of models under simple loads and constraints. If you prefer 2D design using SolveSpace, it’s well-equipped for that too. One of the best is the ability to create multiple working planes for complex 2D geometric shapes and projecting 3D features.
SolveSpace is also open-source, so you can use Python scripting to automate tasks or customize design tools. Better yet, SolveSpace is extensible and modifiable, and its source code is available on GitHub. This turns it into not just design software but also a valuable educational tool.
Features of SOLVESPACE
- Easy to get started with a user-friendly interface;
- Support various 2D and 3D output formats, including DXF, EPS, PDF, etc;
- Enable the creation of multiple components for assembly modeling;
- Feature constraints and dimensions for precise control and documentation;
- Accessible source code for extending and developing its features.
Top 7. LibreCAD
Best for: Architecture, engineering, manufacturing, and graphic design
Looking for dedicated 2D Linux CAD software? Then you must give LibreCAD a try. It comes with a variety of line styles, hatching, and patterns. Constraints can also be employed to maintain specific relationships between geometric entities, ensuring accuracy and consistency. To streamline design, commands like trim, extend, offset, and mirror allow quick modifications to existing design elements in LibreCAD. It also permits the creation of reusable symbols and blocks to represent common components for high efficiency.
However, the most notable feature of this top free 2D CAD software is that it is open source. In this scenario, it benefits from a vibrant community of developers and users offering support resources. More importantly, it allows you to extend LibreCAD’s features using Python scripts. Thus, repetitive tasks can be automated and the software can be customized based on your specific needs.
Features of LibreCAD
- Free and easy to use with no extra fee;
- Personalize the interface, shortcuts, and settings for your preferences;
- Import and export a range of files like BMP, CUP, ICO, and more;
- Support 8 dimensioning types and 3 dimension units.
Top 8. LeoCAD
Best for: Design, education, entertainment and media
Unlike traditional parametric and direct modeling software, LeoCAD has a full library of LEGO bricks, minifigs, and other elements. This means it can easily apply these preset shapes to solid 3D objects. And to make designs accurate, this best 3D CAD Linux software can use snapping, grids, and numerical input to align bricks and place pixels. Even better, designs can be set up as manageable steps for easy sharing and collaboration with others.
LeoCAD’s rendering capabilities are also no slouch. There are two rendering methods available to you: internal rendering and external rendering. The internal renderer will use a variety of lighting, shadowing, and reflection options to create realistic images and animations for your models. External rendering involves exporting 3D models to design software like Blender for more advanced operations. Additionally, this Linux CAD Software comes with a built-in physics simulator to test the stability and motion of models, particularly useful for mechanical devices and vehicles.
Features of LeoCAD
- Free and user-friendly modeling as playing with LEGO;
- Offer multiple modeling views for complete control and precision;
- Customize parts and textures to extend creativity;
- Achieve automated repetitive tasks and feature customization with scripts;
- Integrate with other LEGO software and the community through LDraw files.
Top 9. OpenSCAD
Best for: Mechanical engineering, prototype design, and art design
Although OpenSCAD is free, it may have a learning curve. Because it creates solid 3D objects using a scripting language. By modifying the variables and expressions defined in the code, models will adjust the dimensions, shapes, and curves, etc. This precision is particularly useful for adjusting clearances between mechanical components. Meanwhile, OpenSCAD provides a variety of functions to help you operate and transform 3D shapes to create complex solid objects.
Not only that, the code writing and 3D model construction are displayed on the same screen, which makes it easy for you to preview and modify at any time. OpenSCAD also offers options for custom rendering and visualization. Lighting, materials, textures, and even creating custom shaders to enhance the visual appearance of your design are all possible within the Linux CAD software. Furthermore, model drawings and rendered images can be exported in common formats for sharing or 3D printing.
Features of OpenSCAD
- Free and available for all Linux users.
- Parametrically modify constructive solid geometry with scripts;
- Customize models and functions to assist in complex designs and operations;
- Able to integrate into open-source design software like FreeCAD.
Top 10. BRL-CAD
Best for: Architecture, civil engineering, mechanical engineering, and product design
The last Linux CAD software to recommend is BRL-CAD. It’s free and allows for the creation of 3D solid models using simple shapes. Additionally, it provides advanced tools for fine-tuning models. This means that you can complete tasks such as surface carving, chamfers and fillets adding, or curvature or thickness analysis in one software. Better still, its open-source nature allows you to write scripts to customize features, automate repetitive designs, and generate complex shapes and patterns through algorithms.
BRL-CAD is also good at rendering. With its powerful ray tracing engine, models can be rendered with realistic quality to create stunning visuals for presentations, simulations, and even films. If your model is of a large scale, BRL-CAD has you covered as well. It can distribute rendering workloads across a computer network to speed up the time it takes to display the final image. However, the most impressive thing about BRL-CAD is that it has image and signal processing tools for tasks such as medical image analysis, radar data processing, and even computer vision applications.
Features of BRL-CAD
- Support both shape modeling and procedural modeling;
- Feature two different rendering modes to produce high-quality images;
- Customize software through code according to preferences;
- Applicable in professional fields such as medicine as a 3D design tool;
- Provide comprehensive community and training material support.
An Overview of the 10 Linux CAD Software
Wise choices cannot be made without more intuitive comparisons. Therefore, a comparison table has been created below. Combining these key points with the descriptions above can guide you in selecting the Linux CAD software that best suits your needs.
|Beginners and designers
|2D & 3D
|DWG, DXF, DWT, SAT, etc.
|CPU and GPU acceleration
|2D & 3D
|BMP, DXF, DWT, FBX, etc.
|$314/year (2D only);
$711/year (2D & 3D)
|2D & 3D
|DWG, DXF, STEP, STL, etc.
|2D & 3D
|JT, IGES, DXF, DWG, etc.
|Expensive with flexible pricing, contact sales for negotiations
|Beginners and designers
|2D & 3D
|STEP, IGES, OBJ, STL, DWG, etc.
|Beginners and designers
|2D & 3D
|DXF, EPS, PDF, STEP, etc.
|Beginners and designers
|CUR, JPG, BMP, ICO, etc.
|Beginners and designers
|LDR, MPD, DAT, etc.
|DXF, SVG, PNG, STL, etc.
|STL, DXF, Pro/E, OBJ, etc.
The best Linux CAD software for you will depend on your specific needs and experience level. If you are a beginner, LibreCAD or LeoCAD are good options. However, ZWCAD remains the top recommendation. It supports both 2D and 3D, offers customizable features, and has a free version for trial. For those with more experience, BricsCAD, VariCAD, FreeCAD, and others are preferable. Despite steeper learning curves, they boast advanced features and greater flexibility, making them suitable for various industries and purposes.
FAQs About Linux CAD Software
Is It Easy to Learn and Use Linux CAD Software?
Linux CAD software is similar to CAD software on Windows and Mac. It has 2D, 3D, and some advanced features. As long as you are willing to put in the time and effort, it is not difficult to master, just a matter of time. if you are a complete beginner to CAD software for Linux, it is recommended that you start with easy-to-use software with many tutorials, such as ZWCAD and FreeCAD. They help with your confidence and foundation. As you gain proficiency, you can explore other more challenging open-source design software to improve your skills.
Is There Linux CAD Software for 3D Printing?
Certainly, there is a lot of Linux CAD software for 3D printing. Choices like ZWCAD, BricsCAD, and LeoCAD in the article all provide powerful 3D modeling tools and can export models to 3D printer-compatible file formats such as STL, FBX, and OBJ. In addition, Blender, Wings 3D, and Onshape (web-based) are also additional options that can be used for 3D printing.
Overall, these 10 best Linux CAD software each have their own advantages, and can meet the needs of beginners and professionals to handle designs on Linux. Additionally, if you prefer not to install software on Linux, online CAD tools are also suggested. However, it is important to note that online and open-source 2D and 3D CAD software for Linux may be unavailable due to untimely technical support. Therefore, you may as well download ZWCAD for standby. Its features and compatibility are on par with most CAD software, and it is quite easy to use. With both dedicated software and ZWCAD as a strong backing, you are ensured to cope with various design challenges on Linux.