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Fabulous Freebies for

CAD Users
Readers and editors share software tools and tips that are worth
their weight in gold, but dont cost a penny.

Free is a very good price!


L
ong-time residents of Portland, Oregon, know and love this
catchy slogan from the low-budget television commercials of
Tom Peterson. A home furnishings dealer who became such an
icon that Gus Van Sant cast him in movies, Peterson lured custom-
ers to his stores with every kind of freebie imaginable, from hot
dogs and haircuts to wrapping paper and area rugs.
Nearly every American community has had its own version of
Tom Peterson at one time or another, that noisy local retailer
who tapped the marketing power of Free! Fast-forward to the
Internet age, and freebies are more prevalent than ever: free Wi-Fi,
e-mail accounts, apps, games, you name it the options are end-
less. And nowhere are the freebies better than in the CAD world,
where no-cost tips and tools are plentiful and more often than
From the editors of
not, surprisingly practical.
But finding great freebies in the vast online world can be a chal-
lenge. To help you get to the real gems that will make your job
easier, we have compiled a list of indispensable freebies recom-
mended by Cadalyst readers and contributors.
Editors note: This guide was
originally published in 2010 and Editors have not tested each tool extensively; we encourage you
updated in 2014. For the current to evaluate the options according to your own needs. Nor can we
edition, editors validated and guarantee that any particular site or download is virus-free, so
updated information from the please use caution.
2014 edition and added new
Be sure to review licensing agreements before downloading to
tools recommended by Cadalyst
ensure that you can comply with the terms of use. Some sites
readers and contributors in early
require that users provide contact or other personal information in
2017.
exchange for free tools; others suggest a small donation.
Do you have your own
Now, lets get to the free stuff!
fabulous freebie to share
with fellow CAD users?
General-Purpose Tools
Submit it to
editors@cadalyst.com to be CAD might be your primary software, but CAD managers and
considered for publication in a users alike call on a variety of general-purpose software to get
future edition! their jobs done, including tools to make PDFs, convert units, orga-
nize and rename files, and create videos and screen captures.
Fabulous Freebies for CAD Users 2017 Edition 3

The following free tools are among the best, according to our
I could not readers and contributors.
PDF Tools
survive a CAD A popular freebie thats been around for more than a decade is
CutePDF Writer. Use it with virtually any Windows application to
workday without create quality PDFs. Reader Marga Io said, I could not survive a
CAD workday without this tool. It saves paper too!
CutePDF Writer. Icecream PDF Converter is one of Adam Clarks favorite free tools:

It saves paper Files can be dragged into the box and then converted with a sin-
gle click. This makes it quick and easy to send and save large files.

too! PDF995 is my favorite freebie, reported Sharla Livingston. It


is the easiest PDF creator Ive used. The free version displays a
sponsor page in your web browser each time you run the software;
upgrade for $9.95 to eliminate ads.

Free (and Almost Free) Tools for Your Mobile Device


Tucked into your pocket or bag, these tools can Evernote (pictured below) lets users make notes
go anywhere. To search for the titles below, and lists with text, sketches, photos, and more;
visit iTunes for iOS apps and the Google Play share them; and sync them across devices.
store for Android. Cadalyst contributing editor Melanie Perry uses
it in her facilities management work when she
Many CAD titles youre familiar with from
has to leave the office for meetings or site
your desktop such as AutoCAD, Onshape,
visits. (iOS and Android)
eDrawings, ARES, and CorelCAD have
associated mobile apps offering varying levels
of functionality, and most are free. There is also
an ever-expanding market of free and low-cost
apps that can help you with specific CAD or
related tasks; here are just a few.
Autodesk SketchBook painting and drawing
software is free; you can upgrade to Pro tools
with in-app purchases. (iOS and Android)
John Hebrank favors the ConvertPad unit
converter: This is an extremely easy-to-use
and useful converter for everyday work-related
calculations. I use this frequently for pressure,
temperature, length, and volume computa-
tions. (Android)
You can use Drawvis Free to display 2D DXF
technical drawings. (iOS)
Create vector drawings using solid or dashed
lines in iPocket Draw Lite. The free version is
limited to 12 objects per drawing; the full ver- REVITkeys lists 158 keyboard combinations
sion costs $11.99. (iOS) for Autodesk Revit Architecture 20102012,
arranged in 14 categories. The app costs $0.99.
(iOS)
Fabulous Freebies for CAD Users 2017 Edition 4

Chris Harris recommended PDFCreator. It offers encryption for


The free, security, the ability to digitally sign documents, stamping, [and
much more]. My favorite feature though, is the ability to create
nonregistered JPEG, PNG, TIFF, BMP, and other formats from a program or an
existing PDF. Plus, all these settings can be saved into profiles for
version of easy switching. Upgrades to the ad-free Plus version start at $8.95.
Vernon Swigert uses PDFedit for converting PDF files to raster
PDFescape is a images, and for combining PDFs.

very powerful PDFescape is a free PDF reader, editor, form filler, and form
designer that you use online, sidestepping any software installa-
tool, similar to tion. Viranjith Tilakaratne said, The free, nonregistered version is
a very powerful tool, similar to Adobe Acrobat Pro.
Adobe Acrobat Tom Pollard recommended PDF-XChange Viewer for viewing,
modifying, and annotating PDF files, and PDFsam for splitting and
Pro. merging PDFs.
Go Pro. For more features at a price, trade up to the professional
version of a freebie or check out products from companies includ-
ing Adobe, Bluebeam, Cadzation, and Quadrispace.

Unit Converters
Chris Micallef recommended ESBUnitConv. It can be installed as
a Windows utility or as a stand-alone program for removable USB
drives. For $19, the Pro version offers more features.
Mark Loomis is one of many readers who like the Convert appli-
cation, which is available for Windows, Linux, and UNIX. Loomis
uses it for takeoff volume, area, and distance conversions. Its fun
because it has tabs for all kinds of conversions, he said. According
to Colin MacWilliam, another fan, [Convert] opens up in a small
window that does not take up a lot of desktop space, and it is
somewhat customizable as you can add your own units to it in case
you work in a field with some uncommon values.

Using Convert, select the


tab of the category you want,
select the input and output
units, and enter the input
value. Convert shows you
the conversion result in the
output box as you type.
Fabulous Freebies for CAD Users 2017 Edition 5

Go Pro. For more features at a price, trade up to the professional


version of a freebie or check out products from companies includ-
ing GEOMATE and PTC Mathcad.

File and Text Utilities


Melanie Perry recommended Beyond Compare for comparing and
syncing files across multiple locations. It has a free trial and two
paid versions.
Bulk Rename Utility is an easy-to-use file renaming program for
The Everything Windows that offers many options and enables users to change
multiple file names at once, Drew Kertis reported. The free version
utility does one is intended for personal use only; there is a paid version available
for commercial use.
thing very, very The free version of CCleaner is available for Mac or Windows. Drew

well, which is Kertis called it an easy-to-use maintenance tool for removing left-
over files and registry entries.

to find files and Patrick Chabot and Melanie Perry like Ditto, a clipboard manager
that keeps a log of every text string you copy, to access and paste
folders by name as needed later. Very practical when you need repetitive info
(for example, reference drawings title in multiple drawings), said
as quickly as you Chabot. It will hold formatting, but also has the ability to strip
formatting off of saved text, Perry noted.
can type. Cant find a file? Ken Goldstein told us about Everything. This util-
ity does one thing very, very well, which is to find files and folders
by name as quickly as you can type. Unlike the standard Windows
search, this freeware tool initially displays every file and folder on
your computer. Donations are welcomed.
Cadalyst contributing editor Paul Aubin recommended ReNamer
for batch file renaming. Select your files or folders, add and con-
figure rules for the changes, preview your changes, then execute.
Love this product, said Aubin. The free Lite version is not licensed
for commercial use; the Pro version starts at $17.95.

ReNamer makes life easier


when you have to rename an
entire batch of files.
Fabulous Freebies for CAD Users 2017 Edition 6

CKRename also performs batch file-renaming operations, such


as sequentially renaming files, changing file extensions, changing
case, and performing string substitutions. Guy Dow said,
AutoCAD, Adobe, FinePrint, and all the other PDF drivers Ive
looked at always attach the DWG layout name or Model(1)
(or something similar) to the PDF file name. With CKRename, I can
strip out all of the extraneous words in the file names that I dont
want. (Available from multiple sources; search for CKRename.)
Tom Pollard likes the Total Commander file manager, because it
has two windows for side-by-side functions to allow for easy copy,
edit, viewing, compare, synchronization, pack/unpack (ZIP, 7ZIP,
ARJ, LZH), FTP client, modify attributes, multi-rename.
Go Pro. For more features at a price, trade up to the professional
version of a freebie or check out products from companies includ-
ing Cadac and Trix Systems.

Imaging Tools
I recommend Greenshot for capturing images, said contributing
editor Melanie Perry. Previously, my favorite was Gadwin
PrintScreen, which is still fantastic and saves screen snippets to a
directory, but, Greenshot has also some simple but effective
markup tools built into it, which help us with developing our user
guides.
If you have trouble opening large TIFF, SID, or other georeferenced
image files, Mike Morison suggests the free version of GeoViewer.
It is easy to load your images into it, have it combine them using
the georeferenced files, and then you can export the combined
image at an acceptable resolution that fits your needs.
Inkscape is a free vector graphics editing program for Windows,
Mac OS X, and Linux. William Mack uses it to translate PDF, EPS,
and DXF files.
Rick Crawford, Tom Pollard, and Lori Dankovic are among the
many fans of IrfanView image editing software. I put together
training manuals, and this software allows me to quickly capture
the screen image, crop the image as necessary, recopy the image,
and paste into a document all in a matter of seconds, said
Dankovic. Noncommercial use is free; the pro version costs $12.
Timothy J. Harlow recommended screenshot tool Lightscreen Por-
table. I use it for capturing portions of aerial photos, screenshots
of web pages, and capturing parts of help files in AutoCAD to later
be compiled in my own custom help file.
Sidney Lanier relies on the Microsoft Snip screen capture tool,
which can capture, annotate, and share screenshots, photos, and
more: Great little tool that I keep active at the top of my screen
and use for image capture and markup. The tool is available for
Windows 7 and higher.
For photo editing thats a little more robust than MS Paint, you can
try Paint.NET. Drew Kertis called it a powerful graphics editor with
many of the features of Photoshop. It is free, but a $15 donation
is suggested.
Fabulous Freebies for CAD Users 2017 Edition 7

Go Pro. For more features at a price, trade up to the professional


version of a freebie or check out products from companies includ-
ing Adobe, American Systems, Etecad, and Hyperionics. TechSmiths
Camtasia Studio is a popular choice for creating screen recordings,
and the companys Snagit is a popular screen capture program.

CAD Freebies
I suggest Do you wish you could change AutoCAD just a little to make it

DWGgateway better suited to your needs? You can, of course and probably
without opening your wallet.

for all our Tools for AutoCAD


Twice a month, Cadalyst publishes a new AutoCAD video tip
consultants by Lynn Allen. These quick and easy methods for maximizing
AutoCAD productivity are archived in the Cadalyst Video Gallery.
when the Sign up for the free Cadalyst Video Picks newsletter, and youll
receive the new releases as soon as they come out plus more
common great CAD videos!
Brian Stark loves the Drawing Purge utility for AutoCAD: It has
problem of the ability to batch-clean multiple files at a time and gets rid of all
traces of DGN data.
not having the Not only do we use DWGgateway, wrote Alan Harmon, but I
compatible CAD suggest it for all our consultants when the common problem of not
having the compatible CAD edition occurs. We havent upgraded
edition occurs. our CAD systems since 2005, but when someone sends me a CAD
file from any year after that, I just open it up with DWGgateway
and save it with my older version. DWGgateway is available
through a few different sources.
Vladislav Bronin pointed out that although the iComTools web site
is in Korean, its iDwgTab freebie is available in English. This freebie
lets you organize open files in the order you wish, create a list of
favorite drawings, run batch file commands, and much more.
Increment provides a dialog box controlling tools to increment
numeric, alphabetic, alphanumeric, hexadecimal, or Roman
numeral values contained in texts, mtexts, or block attributes.
I use it to address initiating and indicating devices for fire alarm
drawings, reported Chip Schefer. Easy to use, with many adjust-
ments available, and [I can] click to replace or update existing
entries.

The custom command


GILE_INCR opens the
Increment dialog, with
common controls on the
left side and tabs to specify
settings on the right.
Fabulous Freebies for CAD Users 2017 Edition 8

MDITabs from Autodesk a tool that lets you see and quickly
navigate open AutoCAD drawings in a series of tabs along the top
of the drawing window is a favorite of Rodney Lee. The tool
became part of the core AutoCAD product with the 2014 version,
with the new name of File Tabs; users of older versions can down-
load it via Shaan Hurleys Between the Lines blog.
Chad Stanko recommended the Trimble Link add-on for AutoCAD
Civil 3D. It allows me to upload my alignment, profile, and corri-
dor designs directly into the survey controller or create a file of my
design that I can e-mail to the surveyor for upload into the control-
ler, helping to eliminate the chance for error of someone recreat-
ing what was designed.
Randy Valimont recommended an official tool: Its been around
forever and its included with all versions of AutoCAD. But my
favorite tool for sending drawings and making sure the poor guy
on the other end receives all of the files necessary to continue
where you left off is eTransmit. It goes out and gathers all the files,
tools, and references used to create your drawing.

LISP
Where theres AutoCAD,
there are free AutoLISP
routines to make life
easier. But what is
AutoLISP, and how do
you use it? Bill Fanes
classic tutorial, Learn-
ing to LISP, and Lynn
Allens set of beginning
LISP video tutorials (part
1, 2, and 3) will get you
started.
Cadalysts own CAD Tips
archive is one of the
most extensive sources
of free LISP code (plus
On Cadalysts CAD Tips site,
users can search the archive by some VBA code, hatch
keyword or browse by category patterns, and general
to find AutoLISP and VBA code, tips for AutoCAD and
hatch patterns, and general tips other software). It is
for AutoCAD and other CAD home to thousands of
applications. tips that are searchable
by keyword, author
name, file name, and
more. Browse tips by
category, find the most-downloaded or highest-rated tips, or use
the advanced search options.
Among the most frequently downloaded routines on the CAD Tips
site is AIA Standard Layers by Mike Stachulak. This utility aids archi-
tects who create drawing layers according to the 1997 AIA CAD
Layer Guidelines.
Fabulous Freebies for CAD Users 2017 Edition 9

Also popular is Create Custom Linetype by Ron Perez, an AutoLISP


routine that automates the steps needed to make a custom line-
type with embedded characters.
Don Bentz lists Layer Creator by Timothy Spangler as one of his
favorites. I like it because different layer groupings can be quickly
and easily created, and these can then be imported into drawings.
Even when Jeff Plourde said he cant do without Steel Shapes of All Types and
using trusted Sizes (AKA Als Steel Mill) by Al Rogers, which draws all types of
steel shapes in 2D and 3D.
sites, theres a Jennifer Grande said, Ive been using Multiple Offsets by Joon
Hong since it was first printed in Cadalyst magazine. It allows
risk of getting you to change the offset distance midstream, without exiting
and restarting the command. Zero-Radius Fillet by Paul Herman is
viruses or other perfect for squaring up corners or just making lines meet without
changing your stored fillet radius. Scott Cunninghams Lock Layers
malware with makes it easy to isolate layers without freezing them like Layiso
does (so you can still see them). The second routine in this tip is
your downloads. even more useful, because you can use it even if you locked layers
manually. Finally, Offset Line by Will DeLoach lets you draw the
Ensure that center line first and offset it to either side at once with the option
to keep or delete the center line very handy.
you have a Youll also find free AutoLISP code, including the following favor-
robust, up-to- ites, in many places beyond the Cadalyst CAD Tips archive:
The humorously named Steal from Drawing is Tom Beaufords
date security favorite LISP routine. It allows you to import many times more
items than Design Center, including Blocks, Layers, Linetypes,
solution before Dimension Styles, Text Styles, Table Styles, MLeader Styles, MLine
Styles, Layouts, Page Setups, User Coordinate Systems, Named
you start hunting Groups, Views, Layer States, Scales, Materials, Named Viewports,
Drawing Properties, and Custom Properties.
for freebies! Sunny Alexander recommended another tool from Lee Mac,
Incremental Numbering Suite. I place hundreds of labels on tele-
communications as-built drawings, and sometimes must re-label
them. This tool has literally saved me hours/days of time per job,
not having to place text one at a time the old-fashioned way.
Brian Smith uses Toggle AutoCAD Background Color Quickly by
R.K. McSwain. I do a lot of design reviews via GoToMeeting.
Apparently non-AutoCAD users prefer a white background when
viewing drawings on a monitor, Smith noted.
Contributing editor Melanie Perrys list of LISP favorites includes
FIXBLOCK.LSP, which redefines all or selected blocks so all entities
are on layer 0 (zero), with color BYBLOCK. Prior to AutoCADs
introduction of the SetBylayer command in version 2008, I used this
free program from Owen Wengerd constantly. And JTB_TITLEBAR.
LSP by Jimmy Bergmark is fun, allowing you to change AutoCADs
title bar. Check out DotSofts free tools for TXT2MTXT.ZIP, which
exports text objects from a drawing to a TXT file (in my case, a
couple of hundred room numbers) and other LISP routines.
Fabulous Freebies for CAD Users 2017 Edition 10

Find Your Own Fabulous Freebies


Numerous online sources offer free software DWG Sync for Revit, a utility that can help users
tools for just about every CAD-related task manage DWG files imported into Revit families.
imaginable. If your CAD workflow needs
Project Play, an in-browser node-based edi-
improvement, chances are theres a free tool
tor that enables users to make interactive 3D
to help. You can try a general Internet search;
presentations on the web from 3D models and
steer clear of sites you dont trust, and keep
other data without programming.
an open mind about where useful tools might
be found. An excellent place to find freebies
Brothersoft
and resources such as libraries, trees, people,
Brothersoft is a collection of freeware and
presentations, and design of a high standard is
shareware tools and games for Windows, Mac,
Pinterest, noted architect Michael Douglas.
mobile devices, and more. The site claims that
You might save time by heading to some of the software is downloaded, installed, and scanned
popular stockpiles of freeware. Here we list a for adware, spyware, and viruses before
few of those for browsing, and a sampling of being published in the Brothersoft database,
the freebies they offer. although this is not a
guarantee.
Autodesk Labs
Visit brothersoft.com and
The software from
type a title from this list
Autodesk Labs is still in
of CAD-related free-
development, but its
bies for Windows in the
serious technology that
Search field, or try enter-
wont cost you a cent.
ing general terms such
And by providing feed-
as CAD viewer or 2D
back, you may help the
design to browse.
developers create a bet-
ter final product. Read 3D Architecture by
Scott Sheppards Its LiveCAD. Design, display,
Alive in the Lab blog for present, and realize all
project updates and more information. your building projects, according to the site.
Create 2D plans with quotations, grid, or 2D/3D
Active technology previews are available to the
simultaneous views. Quickly apply textures and
public, but to see them, you must register for
materials to all elements of your project.
an account for the Autodesk Feedback Com-
munity. Once youve logged in, look for the list AutoCAD Version Explorer. A stand-alone pro-
of Open Opportunities on the home page of gram that provides a Windows Explorerlike
the Autodesk Feedback Community. Note that interface to quickly view AutoCAD previews
this list comprises beta tests as well as technol- and version information. Output selected files
ogy previews, and be sure to review the terms or an entire directory to HTML format.
of use; most installations are only functional for
Clone. Use this freeware to create copies of an
a limited time. Free technology previews avail-
object. It is similar to the Array tool in
able at the time of this writing include:
Autodesk 3ds Max, except that its parametric.
2D to 3D Tool for Inventor, an add-in util-
Envisioneer Express. This architectural design
ity for Autodesk Inventor 2017 software that
program was created to introduce users to
automatically transforms drawing views into
simple creation of floor plans, 3D models, and
orthogonal sketches.
interior design concepts. The free tool uses
Autodesk React Structures, which is intended to real-world objects such as walls, doors, win-
be a powerful, yet easy-to-use structural analy- dows, and stairs.
sis offering for structural engineers.
Fabulous Freebies for CAD Users 2017 Edition 11

FrameXpert Frame Designer. Build equipment CAD Studio


racks, server racks, custom aluminum enclosures CAD Studio is an Autodesk Platinum Partner.
and shelves, and other custom frames from The companys website holds a bounty of free
T-slotted aluminum profiles. tips and tools for Autodesk products (be sure
to look in Other Applications, as well as Free
Mini CAD Viewer. Compact CAD viewer is de-
Stuff). Popular tools include:
signed to be easy to use for those without CAD
experience. It supports DWG and DXF formats. BUDWEISER benchmark. Benchmark drawing
tests the DWG format compatibility of non-
Download.com Autodesk applications.
This site hosted by CNET holds endless
freebies (and non-freebies) for every
application under the sun, for
Windows, Mac, and mobile platforms.
Here are a few favorites for CAD-
related use. Go to download.cnet.com
and enter the name of your desired
category or tool of choice in the
Search field.
A9CAD. This general-purpose 2D CAD
program supports DWG/DXF drawing
formats.
CadStd Lite. This is a general-purpose
CAD or drafting program for creating
mechanical designs, house plans, blue-
prints, schematics, and charts.
Flay (Force Layer). Customizable reactor tool
DoubleCAD XT. IMSI/Designs DoubleCAD XT is a
for AutoCAD ensures that all hatches you
compact CAD utility for Google SketchUp that
draw will go to the layer Hatch, all texts will
can double as a DWG viewer for those with
automatically go to the layer Annotations, all
older AutoCAD or AutoCAD LT versions. There
dimensions to Dims, and so forth.
are no restrictions or limitations on it for com-
mercial use. GeoRefImg. Automatically places raster images
(maps) according to date from their georefer-
PCB123. Design and order custom-printed circuit
ence files (for example, TFW for TIFF files) so
boards. A start-up wizard offers several choices
you can easily reposition a set of tiled maps in
for your board, including number of layers, use
a DWG drawing in AutoCAD or AutoCAD
of plane layers, solder mask, and silkscreen.
Architecture.
Next, PCB123 presents a CAD design window.
The tool includes an extensive library of parts, DelGRpA. Delete anonymous groups from an
devices, and layouts, and can import net lists AutoCAD drawing.
from CAD vendors.
GRP.VLX. A simple, single-click tool for easy
grouping and ungrouping of drawing objects in
iCadTec.com
AutoCAD.
iCadTec.com, a CAD drafting services business,
often receives questions about CAD drawing srxTEXT. Find and replace drawing text in
programs, blocks, LISP routines, and more. To AutoCAD using a Command-line function with
help out those looking for CAD information, many options. Use as a batch command, in
the companys website features a list of free scripts, or to perform advanced replacements
CAD resources, including many for AutoCAD with regular expressions or replacements of
users. Available resources include landscape word pairs defined in an Excel table.
design software, viewers, blocks and hatch
patterns, and more.
Fabulous Freebies for CAD Users 2017 Edition 12

And if you need to work on customizing a LISP routine or writing


your own, several readers recommended Notepad++ for program-
ming use. Excellent for easily writing LISP routines as well as any
other scripts, said Sebastian Tanley. It is also good for finding and
replacing text strings across a directory, noted Melanie Perry.

BIM Freebies
1st Pricing offers free toolkits for some versions of AutoCAD (stan-
dard, Architecture, and Map), Revit Architecture, and TurboCAD
that allow users to select commercially available windows and
doors to insert directly into CAD drawings. Products and compara-
tive pricing information are listed in a schedule.
The ARCAT web site is chock full of free resources for BIM users,
including more than 15,000 CAD details in DWG and other
formats, more than 7,500 BIM objects and systems, specifications,
and wizards.

Hardware Customization
One of my biggest time-saving tool tips is for customizing my
[Logitech] multi-button mouse, reported David McKone. I have
assigned the three buttons at my thumb to Ctrl+Save (my current
file), Alt+Tab (to my next open file), and Ctrl+Open (a new file)
without using any keyboard strokes or finding them on the tool-
bar. The additional two buttons at my index finger will increase
or decrease the pointer speed without having to know, or locate,
where to look to change those settings. By setting these commands
on the mouse, they work in many different software packages
including Autodesk, Bentley, and Microsoft Office products. The
SetPoint customization software is a free download from Logitech;
if you use a different brand of input device, check with the manu-
facturer for something similar.

Sketching and Modeling


Creo Elements/Direct Modeling Express 6.0, a free version of Creo
Elements/Direct Modeling 19.0, is a popular 3D CAD offering for
designers who have short design cycles and frequent one-off
designs. It creates assemblies with as many as 60 unique parts.
Dassault Systmes DraftSight is a free, stand-alone, professional-
grade 2D CAD product for professional CAD users, students and
educators to create, edit, and view DWG files.
Drew Kertis is one of many readers who use the GrabCAD
Community Library, which comprises more than 1.5 million free
CAD files. Users must create an account in order to download files,
which range from rotors and gearboxes to robots and sports cars.
The McMaster-Carr parts catalog comprises more than 100,000
downloadable CAD models of casters, hinges, motors, and more.
I use McMaster-Carr when inserting fasteners into all of my
SolidWorks models, and many times the 2D DWGs for detailing,
said Randy Thomas. Another fan of the site, Mike Van Helsland,
noted that McMaster-Carr provides exact specification in the draw-
ings, making it simpler to create a bill of materials/parts list.
And Jeff LeBlanc commented, I regularly go to their website to
Fabulous Freebies for CAD Users 2017 Edition 13

download STL files for any number of common components that I


can then just drop into my CAD assemblies.
SketchUp is Trimbles popular 3D sketching and modeling tool for
Windows and Mac. SketchUp Make is free, but not licensed for
commercial work; SketchUp Pro costs $695.
Gabriel Calos recommended the SKF Bearing Calculator, an online
tool for selecting ball, roller, and other types of bearings.
With its 2D translators and import wizards, Solid Edge 2D Drafting
can read data from AutoCAD and other 2D products. You can use
layers, colors, line size, math trigonometry, import DWG and DXF,
etc., said Per Carlson, who uses this free software for floor plan
layouts and electrical, pneumatic, and hydraulic schematics. I like
how you can add intelligence to drawings, like making one line
always be three times the length of line #2, as an example. I use it
daily as a light version of a Mathcad program.

Free, Effective Tools for CAD Managers


The bluntly named Empty Folder
Nuker (pictured at right) finds and
deletes all empty folders, starting
from a base folder of your choice.
Its useful for cleaning up any empty
folders on the server prior to ar-
chiving projects, allows users to
choose which folders to delete, and
uses the Recycle Bin where available,
Tom Armbruster reported.
Lic-Report enables users to determine
who is occupying purchased
Autodesk network licenses. The
application prepares reports about
enabled licenses, issued or reserved
licenses, licenses in use, which user is
using what product license, etc. The
free version is limited to a maximum
of three instances of servers, prod-
Robert Green, Cadalysts CAD management
ucts, users, or Vault users.
expert, shared a couple of his favorite freebies:
Patrick Chabot likes Screenpresso, a lightweight
Record and share images and short videos
screen grab and image editing tool for
for training and more using Jing.
Windows and iOS that captures screenshots
and HD videos for training documents, collab- Clean house using Smart Defrag, which
orative design work, and other uses. Its very Green calls a great free disk defrag
convenient to add leaders, numbered bullets to utility.
a screen capture for documentation, or when
And CAD managers, dont forget the Cadalyst
e-mailing someone a drawing and you want
Benchmark Test for testing the performance of
to clarify points on it. The free version can be
computers running AutoCAD.
used commercially; purchasing a Pro license will
remove branding and provide access to addi-
tional features.
Fabulous Freebies for CAD Users 2017 Edition 14

Robert Zipprich offers a free demo version of CATcurve, which


comprises a catenary curve tool and other tools for developing
transmission plan and profile drawings. His website includes other
free downloads as well, including one that uses AutoLISP to draw
steel shapes.

Analysis, Visualization, and Communication


Autodesk offers a number of free desktop, mobile, and cloud-
based viewers to open files in a variety of formats, including
DWG, DWF, IPT, and DXF. The online A360 Viewer, for example,
enables users to view 2D and 3D files from SolidWorks, ProE, CATIA,
and others.
Blender is a popular, open-source suite of 3D content creation tools
for modeling, shading, animation, rendering, interactive 3D appli-
cations, and more, available for all major operating systems.
Chris Pollard holds CAELinux, an open-source set of CAD, CAM,
and CAE programs, in high esteem. It has multiple finite element
and CAD programs including a very good CFD [computational fluid
dynamics] program.
IronCAD Compose, available for Windows and iPad, is not just a
free viewer. All users can read data from any system, interrogate
the geometry, add commentary, configure new assemblies, and
create real-time renderings and animations.
Kelly Lasse recommended LuxRender, another open-source ren-
derer. It is designed to achieve physically accurate appearance
and realistic lighting for CG [computer-generated] imagery. There
CAD managers and users:
are exporters for most of the major DCC [digital-content creation]
Looking for more free resources?
apps.
Visit the Cadalyst Library for
software and hardware guides, Go Pro. For more features at a price, trade up to the professional
white papers, tip sheets, and version of a freebie or check out products from companies includ-
more all free! ing AutoDesSys, Autodesk, Foundry, Okino Computer Graphics, and
Robert McNeel & Associates.

For more than 30 years, Cadalyst has delivered insight, advice, tutorials,
and tips to help our readers optimize the software and hardware that
power the CAD workflow. Visit www.cadalyst.com.
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