Useful Open Source and free Tools

This webpage reviews some interesting software tools. Most are free or have a limited free version or are opensource - but not all. 

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2D CAD packages

DraftSight from

This is looks very much like an AutoCAD clone. You can download and use (you'll need to check the license agreements). It's one of the best 2D CAD packages I've used (which doesn't necessarily mean it is the best as I haven't used many).  What's really useful is that they have versions in Ubuntu, Mac and Windows, so I can have it running on all my CNC and office machines.

It has 'real' engineering functionality with excellent snapping to existing drawing attributes (end of line, mid of line, interesections, cicles etc). It also has quick and easy dimensioning. 

Anyone familiar with Autocad will recognise the layout, command-line commands and functionality. It will save drawing as .dwg (all versions), .dxf and many other drawing formats. It doesn't have LISP but has it's own simple scripting tool that looks good (have had not too much time to experiment with this). 

You can also download blocks from

Download from:
Share the drawings using:

DoubleCAD XT

The website claims that it's...The Nr.1 Alternative To AutoCAD LT. You decide. 

Solid Edge 2D Drafting

Siemens produce a  free 2d Drafting tool found here->

ProgeCAD 2009 Smart!

Blueprint Now (looks like it's retired now)

This is a very simple on-line drawing tool. Takes some time to get use to it.
Useful tool for making Bill of Materials. Probably could also be used in project mangement for making neat Work Breakdown Structures (WBS)  or Product Definitions.

3D CAD Packages


    • This is quite an amazing 3D Drawing tool. Has a  different approach to other CAD and engineering type applications.

Useful Plug-ins for Sketchup

    • Renditioner Express v2 is a free plug for sketchup

CoCreate - Creo Elements/Direct Modeling Express 4.0 

AutoDESK 123D  

    • Targeting the 'Maker" community directly - an area  where simple 3D modelling is required using 3D printing or laser cutting parts fitted together, but can certainly be used for all types of quick 3d prototyping. Autodesk have partnered with Ponoco,Tech Shop and 3D Systems to produce the Physical items ->
Other 3D CAD worth investigating (I haven't done this yet)


FreeCAD is a CAD/CAE parametric modeling application and runs on Windows, Linux, etc.

3Dtin You design blocky objects from your web browser! You'll need to sign-up to save/export.

tinkerCAD looks a bit like autoesk 123D and sketchup , but has it's own unusual approach for creating objects. You'll need to read to understand what to do. Seems to be designed for the maker industry with 3D printing in mind. Easy, powerful and quick! Not open source. Not released yet!

OpenSCAD -  OpenSCAD - The Programmers Solid 3D CAD Modeller 

Very nice if you're a programmer. 

CloudSCAD -  CloudSCAD

Web-based: work in progress, but a closed beta!. You can check out the viewer


Blenderis actually a mesh modeller, not a solid CAD tool. Blender is a free and open-source 3D computer graphics software product used for creating animated films, visual effects, interactive 3D applications or video games. The current stable release version is 2.61, and was released on December 14, 2011.[1] Blender's features include 3D modelingUV unwrappingtexturingrigging and skinning, fluid and smoke simulation, particle simulation,animatingrenderingvideo editing andcompositing.Many tutorials to learn it. 

Linkage Motion Simulation Tools

FreeCAD by Aik-Siong Koh, PhD

Not the same as the 3D CAD program called FreeCAD,. but with a focus on motion simulation
Tutotrial :


Website gtrebaol Gildas Trébaol

Good simulation of four-bar linkages With SVG and Flash embedded graphics

Geometers Sketchpad (Key Curriculum Press)


With Ch Mechanism Toolkit installed in a Web server, Web-based mechanism design and analysis can be performed on-line. It is very simple and easy to use for solving practical engineering problems as well as for teaching and learning design and analysis of mechanisms. Using Ch Mechanism Toolkit with QuickAnimation, you can also develop Web-based solutions for design and analysis of many other mechanisms.
4 Bar simulator



A webbased java applciation where certain simulations are configurable. 

Linkage Animation




Use Sketchy Physics plugin for simulating 
Tutorials about SketchyPhysics in Sketchup

AutoDesk 123D 

This can also simulate linkages (see links above in section 3D packages)

Collada Export

One of the key uses for a SolidWorks model exported to Collada is in a Microsoft Robotics Studio environment. This tool allows robotic simulation developers and robotic hardware makers to use code to control actual model geometry before any component is manufactured. Conversely, SolidWorks designers are able to export their motion studies into a format which in turn software developers can build upon to create simulations.


Let's face, we're most creative when we are "bouncing" around our ideas when sitting in room with other people (ideally in the pub) and getting everyone else to add other ideas step-by-step. 

Most of these have the same functionality as Freemind. Most can download/export to to Freemind so you can continue working on them off-line.


With this tool you can even create a mind map on-line, discuss the ideas using Skype with your buddy and update on-line. You share the mind-maps by inviting other people to collaborate with you on your mindmaps. 
Nice! Download from


Similar to solution and draws nicer graphics. Can read freemind mindmaps too.

Think Buzan  iMindMap

A nice on-line application for generating MindMaps - also in 3D. ThinkBuzan has a free version which is limited in use, but still usable. Some people have managed to use this software as a Knowledge management solution for relating all their documents in a company, which is much more logical and natural way to find documents compared to a file explorer. . 

Flash Development

Graphics & Picture Editing

Screen Cam Recorders

Project Management