AutoCAD and BricsCAD: Competitors or Companions?
As a tech consultant in the design/build world, I get to field a lot of questions about CAD systems featuring which is the best, or right one, for a given client. The truth is that there is no single right answer for that question. Some clients need a mix of systems for different types of users in their environment. There does seem to be an aversion to that idea in most design houses. They want to keep a single CAD platform for all their users and there was a time when I would have agreed with that approach, but I think licensing, technology and function have changed the argument. The big resistance lies in the belief that different CAD systems mean extensive learning curves, added expense, and compatibility issues. That’s why I want to talk about two systems today that I think work wonderfully together, side-by-side in the same office environment: AutoCAD and BricsCAD.
Now, there’s no denying that AutoCAD is king of the CAD world. It holds a place of prominence, and it has, hands down, the most installed seats of any CAD platform on the market. BricsCAD, on the other hand, is a more recent player in the U.S., making the transition over from its European origins and it’s been proving itself as a very reliable AutoCAD alternative. They are both natural competitors, offering very similar interfaces and functionality, but I don’t think they need to be. There’s a place in your environment for both systems, because not everyone is going to need the same levels of access or tools on a daily basis. The key feature of both AutoCAD and BricsCAD is that they use the exact same version of the DWG file as their native format. This means that multiple people in your office can work on the same file, using either system, and there’s no need for conversions or formatting changes of any kind. I can edit a file in AutoCAD, save it, and someone down the hall can open it in BricsCAD, review and modify, then save it and I can re-open and keep working in that same file. The other benefit is that the user interface between both programs is virtually identical. Most AutoCAD users can sit down in front of a BricsCAD system and start working with almost no training at all. Menus, toolbars, keyboard shortcuts and almost all commands are identical in both CAD systems. Even items like plotter configurations, linetypes, DWG templates, and LISP utilities are cross compatible between both platforms. You can copy standards from a default AutoCAD location to the matching BricsCAD location and go to work, or you can even just point each program at your existing standards locale. That takes care of the learning curve and compatibility issues: they don’t really exist between these two systems.
So, why bother with two systems? Well, because there are certain users who are going to need AutoCAD and its integration with other Autodesk verticals and cloud solutions on a daily basis. Others are just going to need basic drafting, or reviewing, within a single system and you can look to BricsCAD for its innovative AI drafting, lower cost, and flexible licensing structures. Each system is really designed for addressing the needs of very specific users and types of CAD work. AutoCAD is a remarkable tool for more advanced users who are in their CAD environment all day, every day, and are using vertical add-ons, plugins, and advanced industry-based design sets to enhance the type of work they do. Honestly, this is where AutoCAD really excels: adding advanced features for designers when you don’t quite have the need to move to a full-blown vertical package like Revit or Civil 3D but still need some serious analysis and layout help. The thing is, not everyone in your design group needs, or can even use, tools at that level; why force them to work in an environment that is overkill for what they do? It’s like buying a Lamborghini to go back and forth from the corner grocery store each day. It works, but it’s a bit excessive!
BricsCAD works best for what I call “Field Level CAD Users” - folks who are primarily drafting and creating construction documents on a regular basis. BricsCAD has created some remarkable AI and user interface tools for 2D CAD work that will completely alter the way you draft for the better. Tools like their AI Copy/Move Guided tools for intelligently manipulating multiple CAD objects around corners or curves and patching holes in walls, etc., that those changes leave behind are game changing. I also like that BricsCAD has really put its focus on pure drafting efficiency and functionality in their CAD packages. Autodesk has gone a different way by expanding their vertical design systems and providing advanced integrations for power users. Both of those approaches are equally important and vitally needed in the design world. It’s important though, to make sure you’re bringing the right approach to each of your employees, so you meet their work needs and help make their daily job easier. Either CAD system can be applied effectively to your full time drafting and design staff, but those folks aren’t really one-size-fits-all. Giving them the most appropriate tool is the key to your efficiency and output being where you need it to be.
The other time when using AutoCAD and BricsCAD systems side-by-side comes into play is when you have part-time, or intermittent, users. There are a lot of folks out there who need to access DWG files for basic information, measuring, or minor edits and printing of files but don’t need that high-end AutoCAD vertical functionality. BricsCAD offers two benefits here: it’s substantially cheaper to buy a single seat annual license of BricsCAD than AutoCAD ($677.00 for BricsCAD Pro vs. $1,955.00 for AutoCAD as of May 2023) and secondly, BricsCAD offers multi-user licensing, where AutoCAD no longer does. Multi-user licenses let you purchase a set number of CAD seats that can be shared between an unlimited number of users. If you have 20 users who only need intermittent access to CAD, you can pick up 10 seats of BricsCAD multi-user and have up to ten people at a time using BricsCAD. Multi-user licensing is a very large benefit for companies who have PE’s, executives, and field personnel accessing DWG files that don’t need, or even really know how to, extensively edit those files.
AutoCAD and BricsCAD both have their place in the CAD world, and to date, it’s been as competitors trying to convince you that one is better than the other. Using both systems within the same design environment seems to be a much more cost, and production, effective method of achieving fast, reliable, and consistent designs. There doesn’t need to be an either/or approach to your CAD systems when you can effectively give the correct tools to each user for exactly what their job requirements are while substantially reducing costs, even as you make CAD available to more users within your company.