Graebert readies app store for DraftSight

Companies that design will always need 2D CAD drafting. Graebert and its partners including Dassault and its SolidWorks division intend to see that there are plenty of options on the market.

Dassault Systémes and its SolidWorks division weren’t the only CAD companies exhibiting at SolidWorks World 2011. Longtime developer Graebert also made the scene. One year ago, Graebert debuted ARES based on an updated CAD engine that supports the AutoCAD native format DWG (via the ODA’s Teigha for DWG). Graebert CEO Wilfried Graebert tells us Ares has been a hit in the Mac market where users have been crying out in the wilderness for a 2D CAD product on the level of AutoCAD and AutoCAD LT. And, on the heels of Ares came DraftSight, a free 2D CAD product carrying the Dassault brand.

DraftSight offers a familliar environment for AutoCAD and adds some nice touches including a SolidWorks-like mouse gesture wheel and interface options

Graebert has collaborated with Dassault Systémes to create DraftSight, a 2D CAD tool distributed free on Dassault and SolidWorks web sites. According to the companies, DraftSight has been downloaded 300,000 times. While it is true that people will download anything if it’s free, Graebert says Dassault is very happy with what they’re seeing at customer sites. DraftSight is “cleaning up” customer sites where there were random installations of AutoCAD to handle the 2D files that are part of design and documentation.

Dassault is also offering an enterprise version of DraftSight that includes services and maintenance for a fee. True to its name the enterprise version is available for up to five people and includes additional features including support via web, email, and phone, network licensing, LISP, remote desktop sharing, and services via an online community. The enterprise version is available for $250 a year.

At SolidWorks World 2011 Graebert announced the next step. The company will open an online store for add-on products. Graebert is calling all developers to get their apps ready in time for the expected launch of the Graebert Market for Draftsight in April. This latest spin on the “app store” idea will allow developers to promote, demonstrate, and sell their wares. Graebert is offering a developers’ kit so developers can get started and the Graebert team tells us that there are already several developers hard at work getting ready for the store’s grand opening.

The Developers’ Kit includes LISP functionality; routines will run in the free DraftSight edition provided they are approved and digitally signed by Graebert Market. In other words, the only way to sell a plug-in that works with the free version of DraftSight is through the Graebert store. The Graebert Developer Studio also has support for C++. All DraftSight plug-ins will be sold through the DraftSight store and developers will share revenue with Graebert. The going rate is 25%.

What do we think?

Time after time companies have mounted an attack on Autodesk’s entrenched position with AutoCAD and AutoCAD LT. Many of them have been by very good companies with good products and many of them are still out there in the market with their loyal base of users. They don’t win, but they chip away at Autodesk’s large base. The challengers will always have a problem when it comes to absolute compatibility. And, if that is the case, money really doesn’t matter.

On the other hand, there’s a nice big bunch of price sensitive users who need some compatibility with Autodesk’s native DWG, and what they really miss is the extensibility of AutoCAD and the wealth of add-on products. Graebert is there for them; Wilfried Graebert was building add-on products for AutoCAD using a CAD engine the company developed called FelixCAD. And, as a matter of fact, FelixCAD LT is still available for free from the Graebert website.

Graebert is making deals with other companies for 2D CAD products based on their current CAD engine. It looks like a new era of CAD clones is being born. Graebert’s products work on Windows as well as the Mac and they’re localized in 13 languages.

People who are looking for professional 2D CAD drafting are going to have plenty of options, including free.