LibreCAD 1.0.0 released, v2 in works

LibreCAD 1.0.0 released, v2 in works

After over a year of work LibreCAD 1.0.0 is out with few user visible, yet a whole bunch of important internal changes.

LibreCAD is a free traditional 2D drafting application available for Windows, Mac and Linux. It features pretty much everything you would expect from a generic 2D CAD, including command-based drawing, dimensioning, parts library etc.

Splash screen design

The project was started during summer of 2010 by Ries van Twisk, a freelance web developer. From the original announcement:

When I was working on my CNC machine I was slightly irritated by the fact that I couldn’t send my design directly from QCad to EMC2. I had to save the file, load it into dxf2gcode, save it back again and load it back into EMC2. This looked rather time consuming. And as such, I decided to make a little CAM addition to QCad Community Edition.

However Ries discovered that the community edition of QCad was based on Qt3 that was aging even in mid 2010, so it didn't make a lot of sense writing new features on top of that.

Since QCad was effectively under control of Ribbonsoft, Ries started a new project initially called CADuntu and quickly got absorbed into porting everything to Qt4 and cleaning up QCad's intestines.

In November/December 2010 he ran a poll to find out what new name the community would pick, and LibreCAD turned out to be the winner. Around that time the team started growing, new people joined the project to improve various aspects of the application.

LibreCAD 1.0.0

The poll was appended by a call for new branding package which resulted in a new logo, new splash screen and a set of new icons.

In May the team set up a Pootle based translation server to help translators updating localizations. However, most translations are still not 100% complete.

In October the team got a notification from Ribbonsoft who insisted that the team was to remove fonts and documentation which weren't published under GPL. So LibreCAD team removed them and introduced new font format called LFF that is backwards compatible with original CXF fonts.

Unfortunately redoing documentation wasn't as easy, so for now LibreCAD is shipped without documentation.

Overall, the visible changes between QCad Community Edition and LibreCAD are:

  • up to date Qt4 based user interface
  • plug-in architecture
  • autosaving
  • better reading of DXF files
  • sadly, no documentation

The team has much more visible progress in the LibreCAD v2 branch, including, but not limited to:

  • new snapping system
  • isometric grids
  • trisecting an angle
  • drawing inscribed circles and ellipses
  • drawing common tangent lines for two ellipses
  • better international fonts support, including CJK
  • experimental offset support
  • better performance

Notably, the CAM plug-in that started all the fuzz is still to be implemented ;-)

By the way, one of the LibreCAD developers recently started writing a new C++ library for reading and writing DXF files. It's called libdxfrw. So this part of the project is easily reusable.

Despite of rise and shine of DraftSight, LibreCAD is quite a fun project to watch along with FreeCAD, an OpenCASCADE based mechanical engineering and product design CAD/CAE/PLM application that recently got an update as well.

My impression is that these days free CAD software in general is a bit of an underdog. It's quite possible that a holy marriage to personal fabrication and open hardware communities would do it good. What do you think?

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16 Comments

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  1. I believe that LibreCAD could be a great future if improve its functionality with new and own features and a capability to read DWG files (there is a libredwg project).
    DraftSight shows that a market to CAD software is possible. The distance among different CAD 2D softwares is not too long.
    Sadly, CAD users don’t know programing, that is the reason why there is not a strong support for these kind of project, even when they are so necessary (autocad is one of the most pirated software).

  2. Yup, AFAIK, Ries experimented with libredwg. Unfortunately the library’s development seems to have been put in hold.

  3. Anyway, I am sure that there are a lot of opportunities for Free 2D CAD softwares. Projects like DraftSight, CADEMIA, and LibreCAD are close to have a great future because of their comparatives advantages.  However, I not sure about the future of paid software as Qcad professional. Why should I pay for almost the same compared with free options?

  4. Alexandre Prokoudine 30 December 2011 at 4:14 am

    Oh, but it’s not almost the same. The pro version got a lot further. Whether those changes are relevant to you — that’s a different story :)

  5. Alexandre, thank you for reporting such a great story of recent LibreCAD development.

    I would like to added some comments about LibreCAD’s future mission.

    My personal favorite:

    LibreCAD should be able to help drawing 2D geometry, pretty much everything in highschool geometry classes. Voronoi cells ( as needed for “Offset” feature) will be the next interesting geometry development.

    For the CAD engine, we are now ready to implement NURBS support, and clean up spline related methods in the process.

    For the interface part, we are fixing reported bugs, quickly in most cases, getting ready to new Qt development. Planning to get enhanced command line/scripts/plugins for power users.

    For coding in general, we want to rely more on boost, implement C++11 support, and design multi-threading capibility in this process.

    Dongxu

  6. Alexandre Prokoudine 30 December 2011 at 6:12 am

    @Dongxu Regarding geometry classes, I actually was asked in another discussion of LibreCAD release whether it’s possible to do stereometry drawings. Recent beta of GeoGebra 5 actually can do some 3D, but that’s pretty much the only app (apart from maybe FreeCAD) that’s up to the task.

    I’d really be happy to see rendering speed boost. I have here some files with dozens of layers that make panning a real pain.

    BTW, captions with Cyrillic characters stopped rendering properly in Git master (only when opening DXF files created elsewhere).

  7. we only have 2D engine currently. To implement stereometry drawings will require 3D. Currently, we have isometric grid/crosshair implemented, however, measurement of distance/angles is still 2D, so the implementation of isometric grids is not complete yet.

    Rallaz mentioned some licensing problem for LibreCAD’s cyrillic font support. I feel the easiest way is to edit the text in LibreCAD to use available fonts (unicode, wqy-unicode are both all-in-one as hinted by the name).

  8. Alexandre Prokoudine 30 December 2011 at 6:39 am

    Well, the fonts thing is exactly what I was referring to in one of comments to your blog :)

    I’m not entirely sure why QCad still relies on a set of custom fonts in a specific file format (my guess is that it is because of how DXF deals with encodings and languages), but it’s one of the parts in the app that I’d love to see go :)

    There already exist nice free CAD specific fonts in TTF/OTF that are GPL compatible. It’d be nice if you could have this fixed once and forever.

  9. Well, in fact there are differences between LibreCAD and QCAD Pro, but three options of free 2D CAD software with a development faster than Qcad Pro… I believe that the future will be hard…

  10. LibreCAD is an important project. DraftSight may be a lot more powerful, but reading its EULA (which you have to agree on by installing it), leaves you with some misgivings (do take the time to read it). I hope LibreCAD developers will think at some point of improving the awful GUI inherited from QCad (I’m talking about the multilevel toolbars). It’s really counterproductive and a major turnoff to an old AutoCAD user like me.

    Speaking of FreeCAD, this past week the lead developers have been speculating about interfacing FreeCAD with LibreCAD to dimension and annotate 2D drawings generated from 3D models. The LibreCAD plug-in architecture may make this possible. Right now FreeCAD can output drawing views but dimensioning and annotating tools are lacking. Fun stuff, I hope this gets done at some point!

  11. Alexandre Prokoudine 13 January 2012 at 10:20 am

    Yup, I’ve read the thread. Do you thing the SVG way will work?

  12. I have big respect for the people creating this kind of program FOR FREE. I sure believe in the SVG way, to have the freedom of knowingly not being limited in the future.

  13. LibreCAD can’t handle multiple snap-to-point modes simultaneously. For real? What century are we living in? How can i be productive when i have to remember ( i mean, to worry) to select the appropiate type of snap, or i will miss the point i need to stop to! All autocad programmers, and all intellicad programmers are LOL about this stupid lack of programming vision!

  14. Hey thor, you make much noise but you are no god of thunder.

    LibreCAD is a young fork of the old QCad Community Edition, and QCAD CE was built that way, while the commercial QCad had/has multiple snap simultaneous mode.

    On v1.0, LibreCAD’s developers spent much of their time to port the app to modern Qt4 libraries, from the deprecated Qt3 ones. This did not add more functionality to the software, but was necessary to ensure the project’s future. They are now working on a v2.0 version that will depart from QCad CE and add more features, multiple snap simultaneous mode being one.

    But Alexander already mentioned that in his post, which makes it clear you didn’t even bother to read it. So next time, how about RTFP, showing some respect for the volunteer work done by open source developers (none get any money out of this), or shutting the hell up?

  15. @thor Wow, what a vitriol :) LibreCAD 2.0beta1 actually has multiple snapping options.

    As Normand pointed out, v1.0 was mostly about porting and bugfixing rather than new features.

  16. I love this CAD. I think it is a great alternative to AutoCAD

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