ProDesktop is now obsolete, but it was 3D CAD software for Windows desktops from the same company (PTC) that created ProEngineer. Now that ProE can be run on normal (albeit high spec) PCs real engineers don't need ProD. But here in the UK ProD has been given away 'free'* to any school that wanted it. Most will carry on using it for another 5-10 years I would guess. Some schools are already starting to look at ProE, SolidWorks or Inventor, but they are all expensive.

In UK schools the Design & Technology departments are often the heaviest users of IT, but they are rarely IT experts, they just want something to do CAD/CAM work on. The lack of a decent 2D/3D CAD package is major reason they won't consider Linux. In the end I expect the govt. will do a deal with PTC to import ProE and run it on Vista at great expense.

I've tried several packages. Some are 'Alpha' and not much more than a pretty GUI, others are old UNIX things with a primitive GUI that must be 15 years old. The best, cross-platform simple 2D/3D package I've seen is VariCAD, but it's not free (in any sense).

I'm pretty sure there isn't a suitable package out there. Anyone fancy building one based on the OSS that is available?

* Free as in "the beer's free, but you have to pay for a training course to learn how to drink it." Sounds mad, but actually it was a method for schools to 'buy' software they wanted whilst the government could boast how much it had spent on training!

Tony Mobily's picture


I found this page.

Unfortunately, I know next to nothing about CADs...

Do you know the products in this list?


Phil Thane's picture
Submitted by Phil Thane on

I've tried a few of the packages on the site Tony posted, including BRL CAD. I'm prepared to believe what the article Mauro refers to says about the way it works internally, though actually I think most engineering CAD as opposed to 'designer' CAD works with solids not just surfaces, the trouble with BRL CAD is the interface. It may have improved, I last looked about a year ago, but then it was like time travel. I'm prepared to believe it has been in existence since 1979, but I can't accept it's been DEVELOPED since 1979. Not recently anyway, the interface looked like something from Unix or DOS circa 1985. The give away is the lefthanded cursor arrow, not seen that for a while!

Phil Thane

guydjohnston's picture

CAD and CAE software seems to be very lacking at the moment in free (as in freedom) software, but that's not hugely surprising as it is quite a specialised area which not that many people are involved in (relative to the number of people who use computers). I have to use Pro/Engineer a lot in my university course (mechanical engineering), and I hope a decent free alternative will appear sometime in the near future.

GNU - free as in freedom