Saturday, 25 August 2012

Back to School Time….


Summer is almost at an end and people are getting ready to go back to school or college. For budding engineers and architects, there are plenty of free Engineering tools out there to check out.

Draftsight, from Dassault Systèmes is a free 2D CAD Package that is compatible with AutoCAD DWG files. Best of all, it is free to use in a commercial environment also. In fact it’s my CAD package of choice at the moment. For more information, click here. Available on Windows, OSX and Linux.

I mentioned AutoCAD above. It should be noted that Autodesk make their software packages available for free to students. Unlike Draftsight above though, they cannot be used in a commercial environment. Take a look here for more information on how to sign up to the Autodesk Education Community. AutoCAD is available on Windows and OSX.

Google Sketchup, is no more… It’s now known as Trimble Sketchup. Fear not though, only the name has changed. The free version of Sketchup is still available and can be downloaded from here. Unlike other CAD vendors out there, Sketchup Professional is not available for free to students, but can be bought at a very reduced rate. Click here to read more. Available on Windows and OSX.

MicroStation PowerDraft V8i is available as a free download from Bentley. When I started as a CAD Monkey, you chose Microstation or AutoCAD. Most went for AutoCAD as there were more jobs available… I’d love to tell you more about Microstation, but I have no working knowledge of it!  For more information on their free packages for students, click here. Available on Windows.

There are other CAD Packages out there, some have free Student Editions, some don’t, but the packages above should get you started.

Next on the list is Office Software. Most famous of all is obviously Microsoft Office and it comes in a Student version, but at a price. Shop around and you may find it cheaper than listed on the Microsoft website. Available on Windows and OSX.

If you don’t feel like paying for office software, check out Libre Office. It’s not as fancy looking as MS Office, but it reads and writes MS Office file formats and does the job. Like Draftsight above, it is what I use at work. Libre Office can be downloaded here. Available on Windows, OSX and Linux.

Unfortunately, Adobe haven’t seen the light and unlike Autodesk above, charge ridiculous money for student versions of their software. Check out the prices here! Available on Windows and OSX.

There are some free alternatives out there though. GIMP, unfortunate name aside, is an excellent Photoshop alternative and can be downloaded for free from here. Inkscape is an alternative to Adobe Illustrator and does an admirable job. Inkscape can be downloaded here. Available on Windows, OSX and Linux.

One last piece of software that I use is the excellent Convert for Windows by Josh Madison. To quote the website “Convert is a free and easy to use unit conversion program that will convert the most popular units of distance, temperature, volume, time, speed, mass, power, density, pressure, energy and many others, including the ability to create custom conversions!” Convert can be downloaded here. Available on Windows.

So, that’s my round up of software for engineering and architectural students. With out doubt I have missed out on some piece of software, so feel free to tell me about it in the comments below.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

On a Bitmap editor, I'd like to suggest It has some features GIMP doesn't, and vice versa. It is also a very intuitive program to use.

Another free converter that has even more units than convert is converber

There is also a free option to Visio called Dia

I think it would be good to note that there are also portable versions of GIMP, Inkscape, and LibreOffice that can be run from a flash drive. There are many others available as portable programs. Go to

I've used portableapps when I needed to do something with files on a clients computer that I couldn't install software on.

Other good free software for school:
PDFTK builder GUI assemble and disassemble pdf files
PDFCreator- pdf printer that can also print in different graphic image formats
TaskCoach- great task manager
Red Notebook-
Nitropdf- reader that allows you to add type written text and a signature to a pdf file

It’s been a while…

It’s amazing how fast the last few months have gone… Time for a catch up! First up is Luka Bloom playing the Moat Theatre in Naas. Next up ...