The 7 Best CAD Apps for iPad

Updated Oct 23, 2023
CAD apps. Apple logo, Scan2CAD logo

People have always been in search of mobility in their day-to-day activities, including work. It is no surprise, therefore, that CAD has evolved from being available on only mainframe computers to be available on personal computers, and today, you can create fully functional designs on compact devices such as an iPad.

The iPad mobile device is so powerful that it can run different CAD programs successfully. However, the success of your CAD project doesn’t depend solely on the power of the hardware (an iPad in this case), but also on the iPad CAD Software used. There are tons of paid for and free CAD applications available for the design of models. 

In this article, we would be reviewing the 7 Best CAD applications for iPads. If you need more, all the available applications can be gotten from the Apple App Store.

Table of Contents

The 7 Best CAD Applications for iPads

1. Shapr3d


Shapr3D Pricing



Monthly Billing

Annual Billing

Shapr3D Basic



Shapr3D Pro



Pricing structure: Subscription

The first app on our list is actually one of the first professional 3D CAD applications to run on any Apple pencil-supported iPad. Shapr3D is a 2D and 3D modeling application that is used for 2D drafting, part design, and visualization. Using the Apple Pencil, you get to experience highly responsive 3D modeling, which gives the feeling of sketching with a pen on paper. The application also has a predictive menu that suggests various tools and transformations for every selection you make, speeding up your design process. Shapr3D also features smart toolsets that are engineered for quick mastery, hence reducing design time. You can effortlessly create parametric designs using the constraints, dimensions, and drawing tools such as lines, arcs, ellipses. You can also use the boolean command to combine separate bodies, creating water-tight manageable solid models. 

Another perk of using Shapr3D is that you can use it as a 2D/3D model viewer and editor. You just have to import an existing project and utilize the app’s intuitive tools to develop stronger prototypes. This perk is also helpful for design presentations and idealization with clients. Shapr3D supports X_T, STEP, IGES, STL, DFX, DWG, OBJ, JPG, and PNG file formats. First-time users usually master the interface and learn how to use the tools in no time with the help of the free video tutorials and bi-weekly seminars provided by the application.

You will get to use the powerful Siemens Parasolid, a geometric modeling kernel, that powers Shapr3D. Parasolid provides advanced capabilities for creating, editing, optimizing, and representing geometric 3D models.

Features of Shapr3D

  • 2D sketch suite
  • Support for the Apple Pencil
  • Shapr3D supports both direct modeling and history-based parametric modeling (although the latter is currently still in beta)
  • All-around compatibility, letting you export to any CNC machine, 3D CAD software, or 3D printer
  • Documentation capabilities

Pros of Shapr3D

  • Shapr3D has a free tier (the basic package), which allows you to create a maximum of 2 projects, use all 3D modeling tools, and import and export files
  • It is easy to learn and use
  • The free package provides access to all the modeling tools, only limiting the color and materials options as well as the number of projects you can work on

Cons of Shapr3D

  • Users have complained that Shapr3D lacks several export options, including the ability to export to 3DS, OBJ, and FBX
  • Lack of an organization feature that lets users organize models into folders for easy retrieval through search later on
  • Limited drawing and design options, including a less-detailed dimensioning tool and the lack of a quick measuring tool, according to some users

Shapr3D Customer Reviews

According to Shapr3D reviews posted on G2, the Shapr3D for iPad user interface is more intuitive and fluid than the desktop version. That said, some say that working with Apple Pencil needs some getting used to. However, users laud the flexibility and mobility that comes with using the iPad.

Users who have posted Shapr3D reviews on App Store say that Shapr3D is perfect for beginners, given that it is one of the easiest 3D modeling apps in the market. Moreover, the application makes prototyping easy, an attribute that makes it perfect for initial conceptual design. This is partly because of the clean user interface, which packages all the necessary tools in a way that does not visually overload the user.

At the same time, some users have faulted Shapr3D’s limited color, light, and texture options during rendering. According to one user, the available color options do not allow for a realistic representation of the model.

2. uMake


uMake Pricing



Monthly Billing

Annual Billing

uMake Basic









Pricing structure: Subscription

Every CAD user wishes to have a platform where their ideas and imaginations can be expressed seamlessly and quickly. uMake is a 2D and 3D modeling app that provides such a platform. The application offers a plethora of features that ensure that your designs are created to your desired quality. The first stage of 3D modeling in this app is sketching. You can put down your raw sketch using the apple pencil, then add precise lines to your model to enhance the sketch look, using the necessary commands. There’s a surfacing feature with which you can generate surfaces on your drawing either manually or automatically. You can add surfaces to sketches of a car, a house, robots, and other objects. 

uMake supports the importation of various CAD files and images from other CAD software to use as a reference, for modification or presentation. It supports SKP, IGES, STEP, OBJ, STP PNG, and JPG file types. You can export designs created to other CAD programs. In addition to all these, uMake features a content library, presentation tools, augmented reality views, and a rich library of video tutorials. 

Features of uMake

  • Library of 3D and 2D elements
  • Freestyle tool that lets you sketch 3D models
  • Sketch Plane, which can be thought of as a 3D workspace in which you can place, rotate, and draw
  • Workspace customization capabilities, including setting your preferred grid units, configuring the snap tool behavior
  • 3D symmetry tool, which lets you create symmetrical drawings
  • Precision drawing tools for drawing precise circles, arcs, and straight lines
  • Measurement and dimensioning tools
  • Multifunctional file import capabilities – uMake accepts STL, SKP, STEP, OBJ, STL, SVG, PNG, and JPG files
  • On-device rendering, with support for textures, various lighting options, different environments (e.g., a studio setting or outdoors), colors, and materials
  • Annotation and markup tools

Pros of uMake

  • It promotes convenience by enabling you to drag and drop objects from a library
  • uMake’s support for the Apple Pencil and the freestyle tool lets you freely sketch in 3D like you would using paper and a pen
  • Its Basis package is available for free; it lets you use uMake to import, view, measure, and render 3D files
  • It offers on-device rendering, meaning you can render your designs in real time without having to connect to the cloud

Cons of uMake

  • Users have complained about a clunky/poor user interface

Customer Reviews

According to an App Store review of uMake, the Basic package does not offer access to design modeling tools. Instead, it only allows users to import, view, measure, and render 3D files. Other users have complained about a clunky user interface. Nonetheless, uMake’s developer is continuously releasing updates that address some of the challenges.

3. SketchUp for iPad

SketchUp Pricing



Annual Billing

SketchUp Go


SketchUp Pro


SketchUp Studio


Pricing structure: Annual subscription


Trimble launched SketchUp for iPad in early 2022. The application has most of the features and functionality found in the desktop version of the software. However, its developer packaged these features in a brand new user interface that had/has been optimized for both the Apple Pencil and touch.

Given that SketchUp for iPad borrows heavily from the desktop versions for Windows and macOS, it shares the basic workflow (from a functionality perspective). To create 3D objects, you first have to sketch out their 2D geometry. Then, using the extrude (push and pull) tools or by keying in dimensions, convert the 2D geometry to a 3D model.

However, SketchUp for iPad does not have all the modeling features you would find in the desktop product. At the same time, given that fat fingers can greatly constrain modeling on tablets, you can connect your iPad to a keyboard and mouse, activating SketchUp for iPad’s desktop mode. The desktop mode lets you use common SketchUp keyboard shortcuts, simplifying certain workflows.

Features of SketchUp

  • Support for Apple Pencil and multi-touch gestures
  • SketchUp stores models either locally on the iPad or in the cloud (it supports a number of cloud services, including Dropbox, Google Drive, and more)
  • The AutoShape feature transforms sketches into accurate 3D shapes
  • Markup mode enables users to annotate 2D drawings and 3D models
  • The 3D Warehouse is an online library with more than 600,000 real-world products and over 4 million models
  • The augmented reality feature supports viewing at a 1:1 scale

Pros of SketchUp

  • It syncs all changes made in the field to the cloud, keeping the 3D models and, by extension, stakeholders up to date
  • The integration with Trimble Connect, the developer’s cloud-based collaboration platform, promotes collaboration
  • SketchUp sports a clean UI that only displays the on-screen buttons as and when you need them, such as when you click on an icon in the main toolbar
  • SketchUp’s AutoShape uses machine learning to transform rough sketches and primitives into 3D shapes
  • Markup mode disappears the rest of the drawing and modeling tools, leaving markup tools such as the pencil kit (different pencils/pens and colors)
  • SketchUp automatically saves each markup, complete with the date and time

Cons of SketchUp

  • You need a subscription to add markups, although you can view the markups in the free version
  • Users need an internet connection to access the pre-made models that form part of SketchUp’s 3D Warehouse
  • The large repository of materials and models complicates the process of searching for the right object
  • Some users have cautioned that the application only works well with small files; it cannot handle large models

Customer Reviews

Users prefer SketchUp for iPad to drawings presented on pieces of paper because the models on an iPad are more detailed. Moreover, the iPad offers more flexibility than a laptop. Plus, users have lauded SketchUp for iPad for providing easy-to-use tools that make sketching on the software akin to sketching on a physical piece of paper. They liken SketchUp for iPad to working on a digital piece of paper. That said, some users have cautioned that the application only works well with small files. It cannot handle large models.

4. AutoCAD Web

AutoCAD Web

AutoCAD Pricing




Monthly Billing

Annual Billing

AutoCAD Web



Note: An AutoCAD or AutoCAD LT subscription also gives access to as well as all the entitlements and benefits of AutoCAD Web

Pricing structure: Subscription

A list of great CAD applications would not be complete without an application from the software giant, Autodesk. Autodesk introduced AutoCAD Web in 2022 to replace AutoCAD mobile apps and the AutoCAD Web App Program. AutoCAD Web is DWG editing, sharing, and viewing application. While it may not be as powerful as the desktop version, it possesses easy-to-use tools for basic drawing, drafting, and editing.

You can create, delete, rename, lock layers, add blocks to drawings, and annotate your drawings by adding comments and marking up the drawings. After creating your design, you can reveal your object’s requirements and add dimensions to your drawings with the tools provided. With AutoCAD Web, you can design and work offline, allowing you to take your design to the site or anywhere else for further inspection or client review. Later, the application will sync the changes to the cloud. The cloud integration, as well as collaboration features such as markup and annotation tools, help team members work on a design in real-time. 

Features of AutoCAD Web

  • The Trace feature lets you add feedback and edits directly to the DWG file without changing the existing drawing
  • Accessible command line
  • Support for layers
  • Support for external references such as DWG files and images
  • Block creation and editing
  • Annotation and markup tools
  • Measurement tools for distance, angles, area, and radius

Pros of AutoCAD Web

  • AutoCAD Web lets you access projects without an internet connection, later allowing you to sync them when you get to the office or home
  • It supports a number of cloud services, including Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, Autodesk Drive, Dropbox, Box, and Autodesk Docs
  • AutoCAD Web can save the drawings locally or on the web
  • The application is available for free during a 30-day trial period

Cons of AutoCAD Web

  • AutoCAD Web has limited capabilities, as it is meant for, among others, light editing, creating fundamental designs (that is, the most basic design elements), and viewing the designs
  • AutoCAD Web is not optimized for iPad; it is designed for general mobile use via any mobile device, including a laptop

AutoCAD Web Customer Reviews

Some users have documented AutoCAD Web’s shortcomings, including the lack of numerous features that are found on the desktop software. AutoCAD Web is a lightweight solution for viewing, sharing, and editing DWG files.

5. Morpholio Trace

morphilio trace

Morpholio Trace Pricing



Monthly Billing

Annual Billing

Morpholio Trace Essential



Morpholio Trace Plus



Morpholio Trace Pro



Pricing structure: Subscription

If you’re a CAD user that likes to get handy with sketch designs and communicate through drawings, then Morpholio Trace is a perfect choice. It is utilized by architects, interior designers, landscape architects, urban planners, engineers, and any other CAD user that deals with the design and arrangement of environments. 

Morpholio Trace is part of the Morpholio Project. According to a WIRED review, the app is intended to help designers get their ideas down and rapidly iterate on them. Morpholio Trace adopts a tracing-paper style of doing things: it acts as a virtual tracing paper on which to build sketches. You can lay this paper atop an imported file, letting you draw (or, more accurately, trace) on top of the imported drawings or images. You can use it to add comments to a drawing or refine drawings and wireframe sketches.

Through the tracing-paper concept, and coupled with the use of the Apple Pencil, Morpholio Trace has digitalized analog elements, integrating them into a digital idea-making product. The application takes you through the journey of creating intelligent sketches and drawings. To enable you to create the perfect sketch, the program has a number of beautiful pens, smart rulers, and perfect layer control. Here you can adjust the line weight or opacity of the drawing instruments (pencil, pens, brushes, etc). You can customize your own entourage, household objects, landscape, and graphics, or use the premade ones in the library to bring the sketch to life. You can literally sketch with detail, a whole event center and walk through using the features provided for that.

Features of Morpholio Trace

  • Virtual tracing paper with layers, which enables you to ideate in layers
  • AR perspective finder, which lets you uncover virtual perspective grids to scale, thus simplifying otherwise complex sketching
  • Instant scale, a tool that uses any two points to set a scale
  • Smart fill, which calculates areas and fills as you draw
  • Smart rulers
  • Custom stencils, which let you create designs of landscapes, graphics, and objects that you can then add to your drawing
  • Scaled drafting tools
  • PDF markup tools
  • Apple Pencil hover support
  • Augmented Reality Sketchwalk, which lets you jump into and walk around your drawing

Pros of Morpholio Trace

  • The application’s file management system enables you to recover deleted files
  • The Apple Pencil hover feature allows you to preview strokes, promoting accuracy and precision
  • Morpholio Trace facilitates easy importation of images from any location or third-party application via the copy-and-paste function
  • The application is affordable/cheap

Cons of Morpholio Trace

  • Users report that working with text is extremely time consuming, first because each text inserted is added into its own layer, and the app also makes it difficult to move, resize, or rotate the text
  • Limited ability to scale PDF exports

Customer Reviews

Users praise Morpholio Trace for being a powerful conceptualization app. The application makes it easy for designers to quickly produce visual representations of their ideas to help communicate them to clients. It is ideal for making simple sketches that can be turned into 3D models. Moreover, users regard it as a worthy replacement for using pieces of paper, with one user noting that it has helped them easily transition to digital sketching after decades of hand drawing.

6. RoomSketcher


RoomSketcher Pricing



Monthly Billing

Annual Billing

RoomSketcher Pro



Pricing structure: Subscription


RoomSketcher is an application that lets users create floor plans and home designs. It is used by more than 6 million professional and personal users worldwide. And that is largely due to its features, capabilities, and ease of use, elements that catapulted RoomSketcher to our list of the Best Architectural CAD Software Choices.

It is a very user-friendly application for creating high-quality 2D and 3D floor plans, complete with room names, dimensions, fixtures, and materials. In addition to design, RoomSketcher facilitates design presentations through advanced visualization features such as Live 3D, which creates stunning 3D photos and 360º views.

Features of RoomSketcher

  • 3D visualization and high-resolution rendering: RoomSketcher creates stunning, high-resolution 3D photos of projects as well as panoramic 360 views of the space
  • A repository containing thousands of furniture and fixture options
  • RoomSketcher Cloud stores all your projects in the cloud, enabling easy access using any device
  • Trace feature, which lets you take a photo of a blueprint and use it as a template to draw a floor plan
  • Automatic total area calculation tool
  • Floor plan branding, which lets you include your company name, logo, and colors
  • Measurement tool, which adds wall and room measurements with one click

Pros of RoomSketcher

  • The free package offers access to basic features, such as tools you can use to draw floor plans
  • RoomSketcher is easy to use
  • The software is quite affordable
  • Users can pay for premium features on a need-be basis by purchasing RoomSketcher Premium, which allows users to access the features for $2 per project per month

Cons of RoomSketcher

  • RoomSketcher is limited to architectural drawings, as it is primarily designed to create floor plans
  • It offers limited functionality and features to users in the free package; for instance, you cannot generate 3D photos of your projects – you can, however, view them in preview mode, but the application substantially lowers their resolution
  • The application is not ideal for large and very detailed projects
  • RoomSketcher does not support some designs, such as vaulted ceilings
  • Its rendering tools and capabilities are quite basic; for instance, the software lacks advanced lighting and illumination options
  • Some users report that some functions have a steep learning curve

Customer Reviews

According to RoomSketcher reviews on App Store, the application lacks modern fixtures and decorations. They further state that its finishes, especially wood grains, could be made to appear more realistic. To put it simply, the users call for better visualization. Moreover, the color options are limited, with one user recommending the addition of “more vibrant or true colors.” Other users have complained that “some functions have a steep learning curve” and that RoomSketcher charges extra to access certain features and tools.

7. Onshape CAD


Onshore Pricing



Annual Billing

Onshape Free


Onshape Standard

$1,500 per user

Onshape Professional

$2,500 per user

Pricing structure: Annual subscription with free package

The well-known Onshape that provides solutions for CAD, CAM, and CAE through the cloud also has a mobile version, Onshape CAD. Onshape CAD is a cloud-based 3D mechanical modeling application that enables you to create, edit, and share models. One of the major selling points of this app is the secure online collaboration feature that enables multiple users to work on a model simultaneously via the cloud in real-time. Onshape’s CAD, data management, and collaboration tools give you the perfect design experience. 

Complete sets of tools for complete parametric design are available in the app. In the part design studio, you can create detailed parts and manufacturable mechanical assemblies to capture complex motions. The application supports the use of the Apple pen for more intuitive sketching, selection, and navigation. When designing you do not have to worry about ever losing your design data or having to start the design again as all the changes made on the models are automatically saved in the cloud. 

Onshape CAD helps achieve the main aim of designing on an iPad, which is the ease of use and mobility. You can start your design on a device, let’s say your computer, and continue on your iPad from anywhere, without having to export any files. All you need is to log in with the internet and carry on with the design. Onshape is free for educational purposes and for non-commercial projects. 

Features of Onshape CAD

  • Support for Apple Pencil
  • A full suite of parametric modeling tools
  • Part Studio, which is a container used to create, define, design, and edit parts, surfaces, and sketches that share common references
  • Feature list (displays the parametric history)
  • Sketch tools that create 2D geometry
  • Feature tools create 3D models from sketches
  • Measure tool measures the distance/length/dimensions and angles of curves, sketches, parts, surfaces
  • Cloud connectivity

Pros of Onshape

  • Updates are reflected in real time, enabling teams to see the impact of design changes instantly
  • Onshape for iOS and iPad can create mechanical assemblies that capture complex motion
  • The software facilitates collaboration by allowing teams to share, edit, or monitor the design process
  • With Onshape, you can design parts using a suite of parametric modeling tools
  • Onshape for iPad supports keyboard shortcuts (if you connect a keyboard to the tablet)
  • Onshape displays all open documents in separate tabs for easy navigation
  • Users can create designs for free thanks to the Free package

Cons of Onshape

  • Onshape for iOS and iPad lags behind the browser version of the product because it does not have some key features, such as auto-dimension
  • The application does not have some features found in the PC version
  • Onshape for iPad hides tools behind submenus to simplify the user interface and make it less clunky, but this can make the tools hard to find
  • Onshape is quite expensive

Customer Reviews

Multiple users have complained that the browser version of Onshape is better than Onshape for iPad or iOS, according to Onshape reviews posted on the App Store. They even recommend using the application for viewing models only. However, others note that Onshape for iPad is perfect for creating good 3D models on mobile. But despite the application being good at this task, it lacks features that can be found in the PC version.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a CAD App for iPad

1. Customer Reviews

Customer reviews expose both the good and the bad. Only by going through the reviews will you read about the issues veteran users encountered as they used the app. You will also learn about the app’s appealing features, as well as their experience using the application. The latter lets you peer into the app’s user experience and whether or not it has a gentle or steep learning curve.

The customer reviews also hint at the developer’s support services. Some developers make a point of replying to some of the negative reviews. In their responses, the developers often notify the users of plans to address the issue as part of upcoming updates. Of course, such replies do not paint the complete picture of the developer’s support services, given the developer may be using other avenues to receive and address customer concerns. Still, they can demonstrate, at least to a certain degree, their commitment to customer service.

2. Purpose (Use)

Before going with a specific CAD app for iPad, ask yourself what you intend to use it for. Do you want to create 3D models? Do you want to use it to draw floor plans? Do you want an application that supports sketching? As discussed below, each app has distinct features and capabilities. Thus, by identifying the app’s intended use, you can now look into the supported features and capabilities. The features and capabilities should align with the intended use.

3. Features and Capabilities

Apps’ features and capabilities ensure you get particular things done. For instance, not all CAD apps for iPad support parametric modeling, even though they let you create 3D models. If you are looking for an app that supports parametric modeling, consider Shapr3D or Onshape. However, Shapr3D’s history-based parametric modeling was still in beta (as of October 2023).

Similarly, some apps, like AutoCAD Web, do not include tools for creating 3D models. AutoCAD Web only supports 2D drafting and design. Additionally, some applications support sketching while others do not. Thus, when choosing a CAD app for iPad, it is vital to consider an app’s features and capabilities vis-à-vis what you intend to use it for.

4. Pricing and Pricing Structure

Subscription prices vary from one app to another. These prices range from zero to several thousand dollars. This difference in prices means that some applications are more expensive than others. For instance, the most expensive package is Onshape’s: the Professional package will set you back $2,500 per year. The least expensive package among the 7 best CAD apps for iPad is Morpholio Trace. To use the app’s Pro features, you just have to pay $19.99 per year.

It is hard to justify an expenditure of $2,500 if you are just a hobbyist. But suppose you are a professional 3D modeler looking for a product that supports 3D modeling, simulation, built-in product data management (PDM), and product lifecycle management (PLM). In that case, spending that amount is a no-brainer. That said, there are multiple cheaper options from which to choose, with some available for free.

5. Support from the Developer and Regular Updates

Updates usually fix existing bugs and may introduce new features, improving functionality. Some updates address security vulnerabilities, while others bake in changes that accompany new versions of operating systems. Based on these reasons, outdated apps may predispose to attacks. New versions of iPadOS may also render them unusable. What’s more, they may be buggy and may still have unaddressed issues from yesteryears.

It is worth noting that an app that has not been updated for years may suggest that the developer closed shop. Thus, they may not be available to provide any support as and when needed. While the developers of most apps regularly release updates, the practice does not cut across all apps. You can encounter apps that were last updated as far back as six years ago.

6. Collaboration Tools

If you work as part of a larger team, it is important to consider your team members when selecting a CAD app for iPad. Your selection should support collaboration via a cluster of tools, such as support for various cloud computing services, annotation and markup tools, and more.

Tips for Optimizing CAD Performance on iPad

1. Install the Latest Version of iPadOS

A new operating system improves the performance of the iPad and applications. It introduces new features that enhance functionality. For instance, did you know you cannot use Apple Pencil with older versions of iPadOS? The Pencil can only work with iPadOS 15 or later. And given that most CAD apps for iPad do support the Pencil, installing the latest version of iPadOS is a no-brainer.  

2. Update the CAD App

As discussed, updates usually add new features and functionality and fix bugs that previously slowed down the application. They also ensure compatibility with the latest version of the operating system. Thus, the next step after updating the OS is to update the CAD app to the latest version.

3. Purchase/Use the Apple Pencil

The creators of CAD apps for iPad have tailored their applications to the Apple Pencil. To that end, the apps support workflows that combine both touch and Apple’s proprietary stylus. Following the release of Apple Pencil 1 in 2015, Onshape updated its iPadOS app, adding new features that took advantage of the stylus. With this new update, released in 2016, Onshape introduced the ‘Force Zoom’ feature, which allowed Onshape users to more accurately select detailed pieces of 3D objects than they could previously with their fingers. The update took advantage of the Pencil’s ability to isolate and select individual pixels.

In addition to Onshape, all the other CAD apps for iPad support Apple Pencil. The Pencil compliments the conventional two-handed workflow. For instance, by adding the Pencil to your workflow, you can easily use one or two fingers to pan or zoom into a drawing or model and use the Pencil to sketch, modify, or interact with the geometric objects or the model. Put simply, the Pencil simplifies the process of creating drawings and models, enhancing productivity.

4. Customize the Application

Some applications offer an array of customization options that let you tweak the interface to align with your unique workflow. Doing so helps improve productivity. SketchUp for iPad, for instance, lets you customize toolbars, appearance themes (Light Mode and Dark Mode), and shortcuts.

5. Use iPad’s Multitasking Feature

The iPad’s multitasking feature lets you work with more than one app at the same time. It allows you to switch back and forth between these apps. However, there is a prerequisite: the app must support multitasking for this feature to work as intended. If they meet this requirement, the apps will support three types of multitasking:

  • Split View, which lets you view and use two apps side by side
  • Slide Over, in which the iPadOS will display one app in a smaller floating window that you can drag to the right or left side of the screen
  • Center window, which centers the app at the center of the screen, letting you focus on that particular item or application

6. Use Apple Magic Keyboard and/or Mouse

While connecting the iPad to a keyboard and mouse goes against the tablet’s touch-first environment, it has a few advantages. Chief among the various advantages is the ability to use keyboard shortcuts. Apps such as SketchUp and Onshape support keyboard shortcuts. These shortcuts let you perform tasks more quickly by eliminating unnecessary steps.

Moreover, if you are yet to purchase the Apple Pencil, using a keyboard for CAD or the Apple Magic Keyboard promotes accuracy and precision. The keyboard eliminates issues associated with fat fingers, i.e., the inability to press tiny buttons using the touch functionality. Overall, using a keyboard boosts productivity and efficiency.

7. Make Sure You Have Enough Storage

For best performance, Apple recommends maintaining at least 1GB of free space. Inadequate storage (<1GB) causes the device to slow down as the iPadOS repeatedly attempts to create room for more content. The OS removes files or items that can be downloaded again or are unnecessary. Of course, this removal uses up resources – such as the CPU and RAM – that the CAD application would have otherwise used, leading to a dip in performance. By saving your CAD files to the cloud, you can avoid depleting your iPad’s storage capacity.

8. Consider iPads with M-Series Processors

The M-series processors bring enhanced performance and capabilities to the iPad Pro. According to Apple, the M1 iPad Pro, launched in 2021, delivers up to 50% faster CPU performance than the A12Z-powered iPad (its predecessor). Its GPU is 40% faster. The next-generation M2 iPad Pro delivers 15% and 35% faster CPU and GPU performance, respectively, than the M1 iPad Pro. Thus, using the M-series chips, which, combined with the display, lets you create photorealistic 3D designs, is a surefire way to improve CAD performance.

Little wonder then that for optimal performance, SketchUp recommends using iPads with powerful M-series chips. According to the developer, such iPads can handle large, demanding files. Similarly, Shapr3D has optimized its app to support the M1 chips, taking advantage of Apple Silicon’s enhanced computing power.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. What is the best free CAD app for iPad?

There are currently no free CAD apps for iPad. To legally use the available iPad CAD software, you will have to pay either a monthly/yearly subscription or a one-time payment. 

The above list gives the top seven best iPad CAD software and if you are on a tight budget, the AutoQ3DCAD could be a good choice since it only requires a one-time payment of $29.99.

2. How can I use CAD on my iPad?

Depending on the capabilities of the iPad CAD Software you have selected to use on your iPad, you can view, edit and even create 2D or 3D CAD files on your iPad. 

3. How can I view CAD files on an iPad?

There are applications you can use to view CAD files on your mobile. If you are using an iPad, you can use any of the above-mentioned CAD applications to view CAD files. It is therefore important to confirm that a CAD application can do what you want to do with it before deciding to pay for it and install it on your iPad.

4. Is there a FreeCAD app for iPad?

No, FreeCAD doesn’t have a mobile version, either on Android or iOS. You could consider going for an alternative CAD app from the list of iPad CAD software provided in this article. in fact, there are plenty with free tiers.

5. What is the learning curve for someone new to CAD on an iPad?

Using CAD on an iPad is markedly different from what you may have grown used to with a laptop or a desktop computer. The iPad does not come with a mouse or trackpad. That means that you have to use iPad-specific commands and gestures to control both the iPad and the CAD application.

For instance, depending on the application, a single tap on the screen selects an object, a double tap deselects a selection, and a two-finger tap displays the context menu. Moreover, pinching the screen helps you zoom in or out. Dragging a single finger across the screen rotates the object while dragging two fingers pans the object.

If you are unfamiliar with these commands, you may struggle to adjust your workflow to the new way of doing things. In such a situation, learning how to use CAD on an iPad and the commands that come with it may take some time.

6. How do these CAD apps handle 3D rendering and visualization on an iPad?

Most of the CAD apps in our list of the best CAD applications for iPad are capable of 3D rendering and visualization on iPad. For instance, Shapr3D can show in real time a 3D render of the model, complete with lighting, texture, varying depths of field, and a variety of materials. The software, therefore, lets you toggle between the 3D model and the 3D render.

Shapr3D, SketchUp, and Morpholio Trace enable you to instantly view your creation in augmented reality. Similarly, Onshape displays a photorealistic rendering of the part or assembly, while uMake handles on-device rendering.

That said, AutoCAD Web is incapable of rendering drawings. Instead, the application is intended to help you view 2D CAD drawings.

7. Are there any collaboration features in these apps for team projects?

AutoCAD Web, SketchUp, Onshape, Shapr3D, and RoomSketcher let you save files to the cloud for easy access by other team members. These applications automatically sync changes to the cloud, ensuring every team member is abreast with the edits. But some applications go the extra mile. SketchUp, for instance, is integrated with Trimble Connect, a robust cloud-based collaboration platform. This integration keeps files in sync across all devices, enabling you to switch between SketchUp for iPad, SketchUp Pro desktop software, and SketchUp for Web.

Similarly, Onshape is a purely cloud-based mechanical design and modeling software and product development platform. Therefore, it delivers a collaborative experience that infuses CAD capabilities with simulation, built-in product data management (PDM), and product lifecycle management (PLM).

Moreover, applications like AutoCAD Web, Morpholio Trace, uMake, and SketchUp also incorporate markup and annotation tools. Markup tools are collaboration features that enable teams to highlight sections within the drawing that have been updated or those that need to be edited. This aids in clear communication. On its part, SketchUp automatically saves the markup, complete with the date and time stamps.

8. How secure are these apps for professional projects?

To access most of these apps, you must first create an account. Access to the account thereafter is subject to a successful login. This setup safeguards your professional projects, ensuring unauthorized parties cannot access your CAD drawings, designs, and models. Furthermore, these apps support popular cloud services, which boast heightened security.

9. Is it possible to transition between desktop CAD software and these iPad apps?

This FAQ is layered. So, we will answer this question in two ways. Firstly, the developers of applications like SketchUp, Onshape, AutoCAD Web, and Shapr3D have integrated them with cloud services. Thus, you can easily access that file using its desktop CAD software even when you create a drawing or model on the iPad app. The cloud integration, therefore, makes the transition between desktop or web-based software and the iPad apps seamless.

Secondly, the iPad applications share most features and tools with their desktop counterparts. The only difference is that the developers often hide the tools behind menus and submenus to simplify the user interface. The act of hiding the tools does affect the ease of use, especially if you are more familiar with the desktop CAD software’s workflow. However, once you get the hang of how to quickly access the tools in the iPad app, you will realize that you can easily switch between the desktop software and the iPad apps. Nonetheless, it is worth remembering that some iPad apps cannot open large CAD files.

10. Can these apps manage large and complex CAD files?

Onshape can manage large and complex 3D models as well as CAD files. This is largely because it is a cloud-native platform, meaning powerful data center servers handle all the processing. But it is worth pointing out that Onshape’s capabilities are more of an exception than a rule. Most of the best CAD applications for CAD struggle with large and complex CAD files. SketchUp for iPad users have reported that the application struggles with large files. Similarly, RoomSketcher is not ideal for working with large and complex CAD files.

11. Are there any CAD-specific training or tutorial resources for iPad users?

Each developer provides video tutorials to help users learn how to use their CAD products. In addition to these tutorials, you can find educational videos created and published by enthusiasts and seasoned users.


With a device as powerful as an iPad combined with one of the applications listed above, you have the power to effortlessly create a plethora of 2D and 3D designs; from basic sketches and drafts to complex manufacturable parts and assemblies. Just head to the Apple Store, download, and design without limitations. 

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