by Bill Tybring
DraftSight, Free Version
5 Stars: awesome free program
Fast. Lightweight, both in terms of footprint and system resources. Clean interface. Easy to use and understand, especially for those with past CAD experience. Full 2D feature set. Customizable interface, and has the ability to run simple script macros (such as a one-button print). Dassault and Graebert continue to improve the product with each new release.
Minor inconveniences persist uncorrected. For example, setting the Library Files Location setting in Tools > Options has no impact on the default directory location when browsing to insert block files. Faulty fast-right-click behavior when using keyboard command shortcuts.
Given that this is a free program and allows virtually anyone to read and write all versions of .dwg files, a great program. It has become the viewing/markup utility of choice for our company.
DraftSight, Professional Version
2.5 Stars: not quite ready for prime time
Able to run LISP, VBA, VB.net, C++, C# add-in applications. Price per seat $250
Required to buy a 5-seat minimum, which raises the price to $1,250.
For those have existing API functions in AutoCAD or Bricscad, be aware that there are a great number of missing functions and a number of bugs that have yet to be corrected. For example, LISP has none of the "VL-" functions are available, and there are no workarounds for many of them, such as the VL-BB functions. A known bug in the ExtMin and ExtMax system variables (renamed getxyurfit and getxyllfit in DraftSight) remains uncorrected thru the last release, V1R1.4. If any of your existing programs rely on these they will fail.
Support calls for main program issues are handled fairly quickly, even if it's just to reply that they hope to correct the issue in the next release. API support tends to be more sluggish, with responses that can be vague, or at times even off the mark. But if you have the tenacity to continue to press your question, eventually you will have an answer -- even if it’s not the one you were hoping for.
Our company is for now dropping its pursuit of DraftSight Pro as an AutoCAD alternative. Although it shows good promise, there are simply too many missing pieces to make it a viable alternative. We will re-evaluate this software in two years after it has had more time to mature. Bricscad remains our cost-effective AutoCAD replacement of choice.
[Bill Tybring is with Engineering Supt Services at Maysteel LLC in Allenton Wisconsin, and has been an AutoCAD AutoLISP/VBA programmer since 1995.]