CAD Design and Drafting Software Options


Well-Known Member
Feb 9, 2009
London, Ontario, Canada
Okay since I've seen this come up time and time again I figured a thread would be a good idea. I've heard people asking about CAD software availability, pricing, uses, etc. Especially a lot of people essentially saying "I can't afford AutoCAD or Vectorworks". Lets talk about CAD, there is a world of various CAD software packages, all of which have their ups and downs.

As I said I've heard a lot of people time and time again asking about different options for CAD.

We can talk about useage, available options, etc. I will construct a list to live in this initial post and can build an entry in the Wiki once we've had some contribution. CAD is very useful and is especially useful for helping to figure things out in advance. (as is mechanical Drafting).

What CAD software do you use? How do you use it?

I'll get us started.

Drafting CAD Applications (Free)

Draftsight - - very much like older versions of AutoCAD
LibreCAD - - Again like older AutoCAD versions, OPEN SOURCE CAD

Professional Drafting CAD
Autodesk AutoCAD (Traditional 2D/3D CAD)
Autodesk AutoCAD 360 (cloud Based "free", but not really free app for AutoCAD users.)

Lighting Specific CAD
Vectorworks Spotlight - The Industry standard in theatre CAD for lighting now. Connects with Lightwright.


Well-Known Member
Mar 20, 2004
Brooklyn, NY
Vectorworks, most recent version and am on a yearly license so get upgraded. Been using it since version 10, so about 12 years. Used with Lightwright and doing lighting plots and associated paperwork.

The Dept. of Theater teaches VW to students for scenic drafting. The scenic TD and carpenters use AutoCad, having come from Pro theaters where that was all that was used. The theater students are not seemingly taught how to draft light plots nor to do associated paperwork for lighting, even though they have the latest versions of both VW and LW on available lab. computers.

Enough said.


Well-Known Member
Sep 7, 2008
If you have any plans to interface with the architecture or engineering world, I highly recommend sticking with Autodesk (AutoCAD). The theater LD world operates on VW, but if you have to connect with anyone outside it (like assisting on a design for a new facility), no one on the architecture side will even know VW exists.


Active Member
Aug 18, 2013
Northern Illinois
Adding in my two cents to this...
Students that have a College ID can get VW for free for a year for Mac or PC
After the year period you are able to put in for a renew so you can get it for another year.


Well-Known Member
Apr 27, 2007
On Tour
I get all my drawings from the scenic department from AutoCAD. When I interface with them, all work is done in AutoCAD. I bounce those drawings into Vectorworks, do all of my audio plots/rack drawings/signal flows in a mixture of Vectorworks (Final) and Omnigraffle (Beginning), Vectorworks is linked to an intricate FileMaker Database that generates labels for all gear (among many other things) based on attributes in the VWX. Lighting does all their plots in Vectorworks, and the final "show" plot is a combination of the LX and Audio plots in VW.

I don't use anything else for CAD because other people would hate me for making them download yet another program.

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