7 Questions to Ask When Buying CAD Software

CAD software is an important investment for architects, designers, and engineers, and the dozens of options available can be confusing for new users and seasoned veterans alike. Available packages vary considerably in price, ease of use, and functionality, so determining your software must-haves before buying will simplify the selection process.

Based on user feedback from user reviews on G2 Crowd, we’ve put together these seven questions to ask before choosing CAD software for your firm.

1. What is the price?
CAD packages can range in price from free to thousands of dollars. Often the price tag of a software package will reflect its level of functionality, but more power isn’t always better; many users find that less expensive or mid-range packages still have all of the features their companies would use. Many expensive platforms also offer free student licenses or less expensive, “light” versions for the budget-conscious, especially those who don’t have a need for advanced 3D tools.

2. What are you looking to create?
Does your firm need highly-accurate construction or production documents? Do you want to generate a photo-realistic image to present to a client? Or are you just interested in using CAD to mock up ideas? Know your desired output so that you can make sure that the product you choose has the level of accuracy and rendering capabilities that will best fit your needs.

3. Does it perform better for 2D or 3D modeling?
Many CAD products have tools for both 2D and 3D modeling, but most perform better in one over the other. There are also a number of  products (usually less expensive) that offer only 2D drafting. If your firm will be using your CAD program for 3D modeling, be sure to choose a program that has the capabilities you’ll need. For those interested only in 2D drafting, products with less-extensive 3D capabilities can often be both more cost-effective and easier to use.

4. How steep is the learning curve?
Most CAD software can be challenging for new users, but some programs offer a more intuitive interface that can be easier for beginners to pick up. Products with more sophisticated feature sets can often sacrifice ease-of-use in favor of power and are best left to users with a more advanced knowledge of CAD.

5. Who else is using it?
Many CAD programs are flexible enough to meet the needs of a wide range of professionals, but some industries have their favorites. Knowing what those favorites are can be helpful in deciding which CAD package will have the most relevant features. Choosing software that is widely used in your industry can also make it easier to collaborate with other users, meet client expectations, and find talent with prior experience using the software. However, many less-popular CAD programs have very loyal and satisfied users, and can offer unique advantages that make these products worth considering.

6. Are the program’s files widely compatible with other CAD programs?
File compatibility can be an important element in collaboration and communication for CAD users, and some may need to use more than one program to work on a file. Check to see whether the software you’re considering can import other file types, and whether its native file can be easily opened in other programs that you might need to use.

7. How well does it handle large files?
More complex CAD files can take a toll on computer memory. Some programs are designed to better handle complex designs or large assemblies. Make sure that the product you choose will be able to handle the file sizes you anticipate and that your hardware resources will support it.

Asking questions can help narrow the field of CAD products, and user reviews are a great way help answer them. Check out G2 Crowd’s General-Purpose CAD, Building Design and BIM, Civil Engineering Design and Product and Machine Design pages for more detailed reviews to learn how a number of CAD packages have worked for other users.

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