Request a Personalized Demo

Learn how to accurately convert your designs with Scan2CAD

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
  • Join thousands of happy customers worldwide

14 Top CAD Software Packages for Mac

A Macbook partially closed in a dark room

Computer Aided Design (CAD) software is at the forefront of most industries nowadays. From architecture to engineering to gaming, it can be integral in the creation of designs. Depending on your chosen CAD software, you can design and work with anything from architectural drawings—graduating onto BIM—to electrical drawings to mechanical schematics. While it can be easy enough to find CAD software for PC, however, it can get a bit difficult with the Mac OS. As with other types of applications, many CAD packages are unavailable for Mac.

With that in mind, Scan2CAD has put together a list of top 14 CAD packages for Mac. We even discuss whether it’s worth using Mac with CAD, or whether you should stick to PC.


Can I use a Mac for CAD?

The complexity of the Mac OS has made it difficult, in many cases, for software developers to create apps for these systems. This is no different in the CAD industry, with all software packages being compatible with systems such as Windows and Linux, but avoiding the Mac OS. Now, there are many CAD software packages that run natively in Mac. Unfortunately, however, many high-end packages are unavailable for Mac. CAD giants Autodesk and Dassault, for example, are primarily PC-based.

So, does this mean Mac users have to avoid high-end CAD software? Not necessarily. Before you start forking out for a PC, there are steps you can take. With Apple’s Bootcamp utility, you can install and run Windows applications within the Mac OS environment. You can then use either Mac OS or Windows. The second option, is to use Parallels desktop, allowing you to use both Mac OS and Windows simultaneously. In either case, you can use any CAD software package on your Mac.

Like most things in the world, however, there are downsides to this approach. The main issue is that running Windows on Mac can take up a lot of storage. For heavy CAD users, like engineers and architects, this is problematic—space is precious, after all!

Should I use a Mac for CAD then?

It all comes down to your own preferences. Most major CAD software packages aren’t compatible with Mac OS, meaning you have to run Windows on your Mac—taking up a lot of storage—and the ones that are compatible, more often than not, come with limited capabilities.

If you’re a heavy CAD user and you require full capabilities, then it might be more advisable to stick to using a PC than a Mac. Before you make up your mind, however, check out our list of top 14 CAD software for Mac.


Top 14 CAD Packages for Mac

1. AutoCAD

Screenshot of AutoCAD 2017 on Mac

Image source: CADD Microsystems

  • Operating system: Mac, Windows
  • Price: $195/month, $1,260/year
  • Interested? Try out the free trial!

AutoCAD is the flagship product of Autodesk, and is arguably one of the most popular CAD packages on the market. Initially a 2D design software, it has built up 3D capabilities over the years. With AutoCAD for Mac, users can create and edit 2D geometry, along with 3D models with solids, surfaces and mesh objects. It’s also possible to annotate drawing with notes, dimensions and even tables. If the ribbon and tool palettes aren’t to your liking, it’s possible to customize them—something we discuss in our top tips and tricks for AutoCAD newbies.

If you’re familiar with the PC version of AutoCAD, you’ll notice the difference in interface straight away. To ensure the UI is familiar for Mac users, its design is practically identical to other Mac applications. Autodesk has also included additional features to take advantage of Apple’s Trackpad capabilities and the full screen mode in OS X Lion. Additional specialized Mac features include coverflow navigation, multitouch gestures, multiview split screen and touch bar support.

As with other Mac counterparts, however, AutoCAD for Mac comes with some limitations. You’ll find that some versions miss features like advanced rendering settings, a feature finder or DWF/DGN underlays. You also won’t have access to specialist toolsets for architecture, mechanical design and so on. With the price for both PC and Mac standing the same, even with a difference in capability, you might be better off running Windows on your Mac or forking out for a PC instead.


2. ArchiCAD

Screenshot of ArchiCAD 19 for Mac

Image source: InsMac

  • Operating system: Mac, Windows
  • Price: N/A
  • Interested? Try out the free trial!

ArchiCAD is developed by Graphisoft. Not familiar with the company? They’re a subsidiary of Nemetschek, the developers of  Vectorworks. A popular option for those in the AEC industry, ArchiCAD is a BIM CAD software package dedicated entirely to the realm of architecture. No matter what you’re looking to do—from looking purely at aesthetics to figuring out the workflow of design and engineering—it’s got you covered.

Unlike AutoCAD, there aren’t any limitations for Mac users with ArchiCAD. Users can take full advantage of features like ArchiCAD’s well known ‘Stair Tool’—allowing you to evaluate thousands of designs at once and pick from the most optimal designs. Meanwhile, you’ll also notice the remastered Facade Design workflow, enabling users to design and develop hierarchical curtain wall systems using modular patterns. And with parametric custom profiles, ArchiCAD combines the power of parametric design with graphical profile creation.

ArchiCAD is certainly one of the top architecture software packages on the market. With optimized workflows and coordination, everything is streamlined from design to production. And with advanced BIM capabilities, it’s easy enough to put together cost, materials and even plans for eventual demolition.


3. ARES Commander

Screenshot of ARES Commander for Mac

Image source: Cadalyst

  • Operating system: Mac, Windows, Linux
  • Price: $250/annual, $199/perpetual
  • Interested? Try out the free trial!

Although perhaps not the most well-known CAD package on the market, ARES Commander brings a lot to the table. A DWG-based CAD package for Windows, Mac and Linux, ARES Commander is seen by some as a viable alternative to packages like AutoCAD. With it, users can create and edit DWG drawings in both 2D and 3D no matter the system. Indeed, one of the biggest advantages to the package is its intuitive interface—familiar to any CAD user—making the learning curve easy.

ARES Commander doesn’t want to limit users to just one device. That’s why they have ARES Touch, a mobile CAD application. With it, you can keep your designs with you no matter where you are. You can make use of a complete set of 2D design and annotation tools, with the ability to add picture and voice notes. The software package also comes with ARES Kudo, which allows you to access, design and edit DWGs stored in cloud storage services like Google Drive, Dropbox and OneDrive. If you save any modifications, the changes are automatically synchronized.

ARES Commander certainly comes with plenty of powerful and innovative features—did we mention it was cross-platform?! If you’re looking for a viable alternative to AutoCAD that doesn’t limit your capabilities, it’s not a bad option.


4. Vectorworks Architect

Screenshot of Vectorworks Architect for Mac

Image source: Cadalyst

  • Operating system: Mac, Windows
  • Price: $3,045
  • Interested? Try out the free trial!

Vectorworks Architect is yet another favourite of Scan2CAD’s. Developed by Nemetschek, Architect is one of the many CAD software packages on offer from the German developer. Unlike other software packages that limit capabilities for their Mac counterparts, Vectorworks holds absolutely nothing back for Mac users. A full 2D/3D modeler with BIM capabilities, Vectorworks Architect is a popular package for architects and designers across the world.

Vectorworks Architect has the ability to support projects from the beginning—with conceptual design—all the way to the eventual demolition. Users can freely draw, model and document ideas with tools that have cutting-edge precision and an innovative 3D modeling engine powered by SIEMENS Parasolid. This means users aren’t constrained at all by presets or strict parameters. If you’re looking for a flexible CAD software package for your Mac OS, you can’t go too wrong with Vectorworks Architect.

With an advanced suite of NURBS-surface solutions and Parasolid-based solids, nothing’s impossible with Vectorworks Architect. Knowing how important collaboration is with architects and designers, Vectorworks also provides a multi-user environment with Project Sharing.


5. Cobalt

Screenshot of Cobalt for Mac

Image source: Ashlar-Vellum

  • Operating system: Mac, Windows
  • Price: $1,495/single-user licence
  • Interested? Try out the free trial!

The difficulty with CAD software is that because there are so many software packages available, we often settle for the most popular choices and miss the unseen gems. Cobalt, developed by Ashar-Vellum, is one of these gems. A parametric-based CAD and 3D modeling program, it is unique for combining direct-modeling to create objects and the history-driven parametric modeling.

If you’re tired of CAD software packages constraining your work process, you might be better suited to Cobalt’s Organic Workflow design process —letting users work in any way they want. With simple design iteration, accessible tools and a hands-on approach, you’re entirely in control. Users can create speedy designs from concept to production with Class A NURBS surfaces, ACIS solids and intuitive wireframe. And with a non-modal interface, you can switch between modeling techniques and approaches with absolutely no hassle.

Once you’re happy with your designs you can show them off using Cobalt’s full photorealistic rendering and camera-based animation toolsets. This includes realistic texture maps and procedural textures, an advanced material editor, interactive materials display and environment maps. Additionally, users can interleave wireframe geometry in photo-realistically rendered stills and animations.


6. Fusion 360

Screenshot of Fusion 360 for Mac

Image source: Majenta Solutions

  • Operating system: Mac, Windows
  • Price: $60/month, $495/year, $990/2 years
  • Interested? Try out the free trial!

Another groundbreaking software package from CAD giant Autodesk, Fusion 360 is a cloud-based 3D CAD, CAM and CAE tool that allows users to streamline their entire product development process in a single cloud-based platform. All user data is kept safe and secure on the cloud, with unlimited storage and access.

Whether you’re a professional or hobbyist, you’ll find everything you need in Fusion 360. It comes with freeform modeling, along with solid, parametric and mesh modeling. Users can get started on designs quickly and efficiently with a full suite of sculpting tools. To avoid having to deal with issues after production, Fusion 360 gives users access to a full suite of simulation tools that can test fit, motion and pit designs against real-world conditions. This can cut costs and speed up the entire design and manufacturing processes.

Those working with CAM can use Fusion to create toolpaths to machine components. Additionally, users can take advantage of the 3D printing workflow to create prototypes. Collaboration is an important aspect in almost every industry out there, which is why Fusion 360 makes it so easy. Users can invite as many team members to their Fusion 360 projects as they like—any changes are made simultaneously.


7. Onshape

Screenshot of Onshape for Mac

Image source: Onshape

  • Operating system: Mac, Windows
  • Price: Standard $1,500/year, Professional $2,100/year
  • Interested? Try out the free trial!

A direct competitor of Fusion 360, Onshape boasts of being the first completely cloud-based CAD package. If you’re familiar with the history of SolidWorks, you’ll be familiar with one of Onshape’s key founders—Jon Hirschtick, former SolidWorks CEO. The true beauty of Onshape lies in its accessibility—it doesn’t matter what system or device you’re working on, you can access and work on your designs anywhere.

Onshape is the perfect platform to increase productivity, saving users time with Parametric Modeling 2.0—a new way to model multi-part design, configurations and managed-in context design. And with open source collaboration, users can make drawings public and available for viewing and/or editing—meaning you can simultaneously collaborate with your entire design and engineering team. If you’re working on the go, you can even access your designs on iOS or Android.

In an attempt to make Onshape even more accessible, they provide self-paced training content to help users master their personal CAD skills. And with an active, bustling online community, learning is made enjoyable and practical. Get more information about this at Onshape’s learning center.


8. TurboCAD Mac Pro

Screenshot of TurboCAD Mac Pro

Image source: AppKed

  • Operating system: Mac
  • Price: $499
  • Interested? Try out the free trial!

While not a household name like AutoCAD or SolidWorks, for example, TurboCAD brings a lot to the table. A full 2D/3D CAD package, TurboCAD comes with a realm of specialist tools, ranging from drafting tools to the latest ACIS realistic rendering engine. Promising to deliver ‘unparalleled value and productivity’, TurboCAD is a great option for anyone working in the AEC industry sticking to their guns by working on Mac.

TurboCAD comes with a full suite of 2D drafting tools, but it’s the software’s 3D capabilities that has our attention. With 3D surface and ACIS solid modeling tools, assembly tool and 3D printing capabilities, there’s more than enough to keep anyone interested. Those in architecture will be pleased to hear that TurboCAD comes with an entire suite of architectural design tools including symbol and material libraries, auto-dimensioning capabilities and built-in intelligence that automatically creates openings.

And that’s not all! TurboCAD also enables users to create incredible photorealistic renderings—taking care of aspects like material, special effects lighting and environmental effects. It supports High Dynamic-Range Images (HDRI) and the export of poster size images. And if you’re feeling particularly artistic, you can even add render styles to make your renderings more individual.


9. Rhino3D for Mac

Screenshot of Rhino3D for Mac

Image source: Simply Rhino

  • Operating system: Mac
  • Price: $695/single user
  • Interested? Try out the free trial!

Developed by Robert McNeel & Associates, Rhino3D is a commercial 3D graphics and CAD software package. An innovative package, it can be used in the processes of CAD, CAM, rapid prototyping and 3D printing—needless to say, it’s a pretty flexible package. For this reason, it’s popular in industries including industrial design, product design and architecture.

Rhino3D is based on the NURBS model, which produces freeform surfaces in graphics—as opposed to applications that focus on a polygon mesh-based approach. It’s a relatively accessible software package, with a familiar interface for any Apple user and experienced CAD modeler. If you’re a fan of customization, you’ll be pleased to hear that Rhino3D enables users to personalize the interface and create custom commands and menus. And, with a realm of plug-ins at your fingertips, you can delve into specific fields like animation, jewelry, prototyping and much more.

Unfortunately, as with other packages on this list, Rhino for Mac has more limited capabilities than its Windows counterpart. Users won’t be able to take advantage of Worksessions, which allows for efficient collaboration on large projects. Additionally, animation tools that allow for quick and easy visualizations are available on for Windows users.


10. DraftSight

Screenshot for DraftSight for Mac

Image source: Ricky Jordan

  • Operating system: Mac, Windows
  • Price: Free (Professional is unavailable for Mac)
  • Interested? Download now!

Whilst Dassault might be best known for its flagship products SolidWorks and CATIA, a close runner-up has to be the freeware DraftSight. A frequent feature on the Scan2CAD blog, DraftSight is a 2D CAD software package that enables users to design, edit and view 2D drawings. A relatively simple software package, DraftSight reminds many users of AutoCAD in regards to its interface. In fact, its learning curve isn’t steep at all—allowing many CAD newbies to get to grips with it quickly.

DraftSight for Mac OS is only available as Beta in the free version. So, if you’re eyeing up its advanced Professional version, you’ll have to run Windows in your Mac OS or fork out for a PC. Whilst the free version for Mac comes with limited capabilities, it still has an abundance of features to take advantage of. With it, you can take advantage of straightforward 2D documentation—using design and drafting tools to create an abundance of 2D designs. Users also gain access to online community support and learning resources.

If you’re looking for an AutoCAD alternative, in fact, DraftSight is a decent option. It supports both DWG and DXF, meaning you can work with files created in AutoCAD—decent if you’re working with people who use AutoCAD.

Not sure DraftSight is all it’s cracked up to be? Check out our top tips and tricks for DraftSight newbies.


11. QCAD

Screenshot of QCAD for Mac

Image source: Softpedia

  • Operating system: Mac, Windows, Linux
  • Price: Free
  • Interested? Download now!

QCAD is a free and open-source CAD application that can be used to create a wide variety of 2D designs. Technical drawings such as mechanical schematics, electrical drawings and building blueprints are a walk in the park with QCAD. Many users of QCAD have remarked on its similarity to AutoCAD’s interface—making the leap from both software packages easy enough. To make things easier, QCAD uses the AutoCAD’s DXF file format to save and import files. Users can opt to use DWG with a commercial plugin. 

With a lot of free software, capabilities tend to be lacking. With QCAD, you get a lot more than you bargained for. It comes with a library of over 4,000 CAD parts and 60 construction and modification tools. Additionally, users can make use of layers, grouping blocks and printing to scale. QCAD is certainly not the most powerful or complex CAD software out there. However, it is accessible for all users, regardless of whether they’ve used CAD before. If you’re just starting out with CAD, it’s not a bad option.

Of course, if you’re looking for heavier capabilities—such as 3D modeling—you might find QCAD to be a little bit underwhelming.


12. FreeCAD

Screenshot of FreeCAD for Mac

Image source: Softpedia

  • Operating system: Mac, Windows, Ubuntu
  • Price: Free
  • Interested? Download now!

If you’re looking for a CAD option that doesn’t require you to break the bank, you can’t exactly go wrong with FreeCAD. An open source 3D parametric modeler, FreeCAD is designed to be used across a range of industries including product design, mechanical engineering and architecture. It’s also flexible and powerful enough to be a viable option for hobbyists, programmers and experienced CAD users alike.

FreeCAD boasts of the ability to design and work with real-life objects of any size—something that’s definitely worth challenging! The modeler also enables users to modify designs and change parameters by going back into model history. Like other CAD packages out there, uses can create 3D models from 2D—sketching 2D shapes and using them as a base to build other objects.

And that’s not all! FreeCAD also comes with a variety of specialist tools to the needs of users from all types of industries. You can take advantage of FEA tools, experimental CFD and BIM. One of its most interesting features has to be its robot simulation module that enables users to study robot movements. We can certainly understand why FreeCAD boasts of being the ‘Swiss Army knife of general-purpose engineering toolkits’.


13. CorelCAD

Screenshot of CorelCAD for Mac

Image source: Architosh

  • Operating system: Mac, Windows
  • Price: $699
  • Interested? Try out the free trial!

A fan of image editors? Then you’ll probably be familiar with CorelDRAW, the vector graphics editor developed by Corel Corporation. You might not be, however, as familiar with its sister product: CorelCAD. It’s a 2D and 3D CAD software package, providing a great solution for drawing the detailed elements that are required in technical design. And, with the ability to work with DWG files, it’s a good option for designers working with other people using AutoCAD.

To start, CorelDRAW comes with a full suite of 2D drafting tools, including helix tools, advanced table tools and a MultiLeader tool that configures callouts. Using a range of 3D tools, users can then transition 2D drawings into advanced 3D designs—from EntityGrips to the handy Properties palette, users are more than equipped to move through each step of the design process. CorelCAD can, therefore, take users through from project sketches to 3D models to 3D printing. And, if you work with CorelDRAW, you can easily import your graphics to CorelCAD and convert them into 3D models.

If collaboration is important with your chosen CAD software, CorelCAD has got you covered. It enables users to streamline project sharing with internal teams and external suppliers. By working with AutoCAD’s native file format, DWG, you can be sure of worry-free collaboration with any other CAD user.


14. SketchUp Pro

Screenshot of SketchUp Pro for Mac

Image source: Download cnet

  • Operating system: Mac, Windows
  • Price: $695/single user
  • Interested? Try out the free trial!

Once known as Google SketchUp, SketchUp Pro is a 3D modeling tool that can be used to design simple models like construction structures, engineering components and so on. To be clear, it’s not a modeler that competes in the big leagues—it’s a good choice for CAD beginners and hobbyists, not for professionals in need of industry-standard software.

SketchUp Pro is popular for its intuitive and customizable interface—its learning curve, as you’d imagine, is very simple. With it, users can move from the concept stage of design all the way to the structure’s eventual demolition. Its best feature, however, has to be 3D Warehouse. Touted as ‘the world’s largest repository of free 3D models’, it works with SketchUp to help you find anything you could possible need—from furniture to equipment to case work.

In regards to collaboration, Trimble Connect enables users to invite people to view and edit models. You can reply to comments, assign to-dos and be sure that you’re always working with the most up-to-date version of your designs. If you’re ever unsure of changes, you can even view a history of changes for each of your models. And if you’re ever stuck on anything, you can get in touch with SketchUp’s online community who are always happy to help.


Looking for more top sites or software? Keep a close eye on Scan2CAD’s freebies page for articles like sites with free DXF designs and sites with free CAD blocks

Join 53,482 designers and engineers who get our best articles once a week.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE:
No comments yet.

Leave a Reply