Dassault Systemes Joins the FreeCAD Fight

DraftSight is the latest free 2D DWG CAD product from an AutoCAD competitor. It comes as both a software product and an online community. The worst-kept secret in years is that the technology comes from Graebert.

Dassault Systemes has introduced DraftSight, a 2D CAD program and online collaborative site, which will enable users to deal with legacy data in Autodesk’s DWG format.

DraftSight.com will be an open, online service where visitors can access services and products that will help them work with and share DWG information. It will be coupled with DraftSight, a free 2D CAD application that can already be downloaded from 3ds.com. DraftSight will run on Windows XP, Vista, and Windows 7. Mac OS and Linux versions are on the way.

The company is using technology from Graebert, a German company that has been building DWG tools for over a decade now; most of its business has been to sell technology for integration into OEM products. Most recently the company has re-emerged as a stand-alone CAD company. When DraftSight was announced in early June, Dassault Systemes declined to mention who was developing the technology for them. Graebert, it seems, had its own needs for some PR and wanted a separate announcement about their role in DraftSight. The online community of CAD users and pundits were quick to deny them a separate debut, outing Graebert as the developer of DraftSight within hours of the original Dassault announcement.

Dassault promises to actively support the DraftSight Community site as a resource for all CAD users and says further development of DraftSight will reflect the participation of members. In addition to the free community, Dassault will also offer fee based support with telephone email, and remote desktop support.

What do we think?
We’re thinking that we’ve seen this movie before. Free 2D CAD is available and will obviously become even more available over time. DWG support also exists in varying levels of faithfulness to the original content. That’s not to say that the end users don’t encounter problems bringing in old data into new systems. Many companies hold AutoCAD licenses simply to maintain control of their legacy data. That’s why Autodesk is working so hard to move its customer base away from AutoCAD to its advanced software products.

What’s important for readers to know is, how does this impact Autodesk? Frankly, we really haven’t seen that much of a threat from DWG conversion issues—after all, the point is that these people aren’t primarily using AutoCAD, they’re committed to some other product and just trying to move their data along. The real question is how many people are still actively working in 2D with maybe a little 3D involvement. Their number is legion, and Autodesk keeps improving AutoCAD to make a move to the competition harder to justify. — K.M.