Free / Open Source Software List for Architects


So, this is sort of inspired by the pirated-software discussion. It occurred to me that many of the (very expensive) software packages listed actually have fairly passable alternatives. I've been using several of these instead of InDesign for years while making websites using only text-file editors and rendering using open-source solutions, and others are probably in the same boat. Instead of pirating software (especially if one is just starting out),it may be better to use some of these packages.

For my contribution, I've separated the list by category, but the categories aren't definitive - everyone will probably have different needs based on their own work / practice. Open-source software (as opposed to merely 'free' software) is starred.

- *QCAD community edition:
- *PythonCAD - "it's rudimentary", but it's also written in Python, which is a handy scripting language used by a lot of programs, so maybe it can interface well:

3D CAD/modeling
- Sketchup:
- *Blender3D:

Other assorted modeling/information software
- Google Earth:

- BIM for Rhino - not really free since you need Rhino, but whatev', it's interesting (also, I can't tell if the software itself is free):
- Green Building Markup Language - not really BIM, but a helpful open file format that could be used as the basis of some kind of BIM interface with an open-source (or otherwise) modeling software:

Building analysis software
- there are a few floating around, but I can't remember the names! Lighting and stuff like that - perhaps someone else has a better list.

Rendering software
- *PoVRay:
- *YAFray:
- Kerkythea:

Raster graphics
- *GIMP:
- *GIMPshop - an extension for the Gimp that makes the interface more Photoshop-like:

Vector graphics
- *Inkscape:

- *Scribus:
- *OpenOffice also has a 'layout' portion of the software, see below

Web design
- Kompozer:

Project management software:
- *OpenProj:
- *Web2Project:
- *Taskjuggler:
- *Onepoint:

General office software
- *OpenOffice:
- *Phoenix (e-mail, if you don't want to rely on 'the cloud'):

Other helpful software
- PDF conversion - it's not free for commercial use, but Ghostscript has been really helpful for me, although accurate EPS conversion requires a charge:
- *Operating system: there are a zillion flavors of Linux, take your pick

There seems to be a whole lot of software out there that is also free for personal use, but not for commercial use; with a few exceptions I've left these off the list, but they're usually fairly affordable.

The long-term goal of a community resource like this, in my opinion, should be to take charge of our own software future, rather than having functionality automatically given to us by companies that charge tons of money for the privilege (here's looking at you, Autodesk)*. As it is, there are some noticeable holes in functionality (BIM, color management, 3D-CAD that has good control over plotted output, interface issues), but I think that this is in part because architects are not really part of the conversation (it's mostly Internet tech-geeks). To start the process, it could be helpful to figure out what sort of holes need to be plugged before an office can functionally work from open-source solutions (or have better integration from a wider variety of programs, rather than being stuck in the somewhat linear AutoCAD-Ecotect-Revit-InDesign ecosystem). Developing an effective workflow between programs could also be part of this process.

* - Not that I'm a rabid anti-closed-source zealot or anything; proprietary software is often worth the money, especially if you need to do something very specific and technical. However, for the majority of architects, we'd probably benefit more if we had at least some of the functionality spread across multiple programs that didn't cost so much and were alterable to our own ends.

Jan 4, 11 1:01 pm

pdftk builder for putting pdf's together/etc..

i also use ghost writer/open office

Jan 4, 11 1:08 pm  · 

I use pdfsam to compile/split/modify pdfs and DoubleCAD to open dwg files. Of the open source CAD software I've looked at - DoubleCAD seems the most complete (and ACAD like of you're looking for that sort of thing.)
Gimp and Inkscape are both great applications.

Jan 4, 11 1:24 pm  · 

rhino's .net sdk is now open source.
but you have to not be somewhat willing to learn to take advantage of that. (most architects aren't).

Jan 4, 11 4:59 pm  · 

Hey I have created an informative blog , this is specially designed for emerging architects, startups, students, and young professionals.

Here I have shared my knowledge based on my personal experience. The blog is pretty similar to this one. 

I request you all to visit one and express your views. 

May 3, 16 11:14 am  · 
FORM Z - I would add 3D Model ( inc parametric tools), they offer a free version and paid upgrades !
Feb 1, 18 11:25 pm  · 

What's your commission?

Feb 2, 18 3:39 am  · 

A free license CAD, Draftsight

If one is into developing solutions for BIM, some open-source platforms: OpenBIM, BIMserver, IFcOpenshell

Also, some popular open-source databases: PostgreSQL, SQLite and MySQL (whose offshoot, MariaDB, was adopted by Wikipedia).  Some examples here, here, and here about how Revit can be linked to MySQL, for various purposes.

Feb 2, 18 10:04 am  · 
I wish we had a good rival to revit - geared for really true simple early design studies and progresss to cds .
Plus that wasn’t so expensive for architects
Feb 2, 18 3:49 pm  · 
Funny - I was just copied on an email
Check out :

They offer three very good program
One similar to sketch up , revit and autocad but very easy to learn and interchangeable
Feb 2, 18 8:18 pm  · 

I'd remove the Kapersky; I'm pretty sure it has been linked to Russian intelligence as a data mining anti-virus and banned on all government machines.

Jul 30, 18 2:00 pm  · 
( o Y o )

I’m not buying into the Russian spyware hoax. CISCO routers are hardwired with NSA back doors. 

You can believe that this was for “international” shipments” only if you like. I’m not buying that either.

Jul 30, 18 3:07 pm  · 

Saving money as a student is one thing. Just keep in mind that if you plan on getting a job, most major firms look for years of experience in almost all the non alternatives you listed. 

Sep 17, 18 5:33 pm  · 

Thanks for all the information. Small firms feel trapped by the software .

Getting projects just to pay software, hardware, rent, employee, training, E&O insurance,  marketing and a few crumbles for myself if there is any. 


Nov 12, 18 6:15 pm  · 

In addition to draftsight, there's also the free cad alternatives: nanocad and turbocad. Not sure how these three stack up against one another but I guess it provides you options based on your needs and preferences.

Feb 21, 19 3:12 pm  · 

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