nanoCAD for Free: From Russia with 2D

Russia-based Nanosoft released a free 2D CAD program targeting North America.

nanoCAD shown here with a sample DWG file.

Nanosoft, already a familiar name in the Russian-speaking regions, is joining the collective forces that hope to topple AutoCAD’s dominance. Its weapon to conquer the North American territories is a 2D CAD program, nanoCAD. Like IMSI/Design’s DoubleCAD XT and Dassault Systemes’ DraftSight, nanoCAD comes with a tempting price tag: it’s free.

In its FAQ, Nanosoft states, “There are no catches, gotchas, or tricks. If you install [nanoCAD] without registering and activating it, you may only use it for educational and evaluation purposes. But, once you have registered and activated it, you may use it for commercial, professional, for-profit, or non-profit purposes, as an individual or a business.”

The company’s current site doesn’t provide comprehensive history on itself or its management team, but Evan Yares, Nanosoft’s North American point man, shared additional details about his colleagues. Dmitry Popov, who holds a Ph.D. in IT/CAD, handles the Moscow-based operations. Dr. Igor Hanin, another CAD industry veteran, serves as Nanosoft’s chairman of the board.

So why offer a free 2D CAD package? Explaining its vision, Nanosoft declares it aims “to protect corporate CAD users from legal risks.” Yares clarified, “Too often corporate users are exposed to legal risk and financial liability by well-meaning employees installing more copies of software than they’re licensed to use.” The professional grade freeware, he believes, would eliminate this all-too-common scenario.

Yares says Nanosoft’s strategy is to “gain global recognition as a CAD product of choice; become the ‘Open Office’ of 2D CAD.” The company augments its free product with paid licenses that include priority tech support and future updates. (The cost is “lower than what [buyers would] pay for maintenance alone on AutoCAD LT,” Yares pointed out.)

The company also plans to populate the nanoCAD universe with specialized, localized apps: for instance, nanoCAD Electro, nanoCAD ConstructionSite, and nanoCAD Construction. It has plans for mobile devices, but “it will be a different app, not nanoCAD as you know it,” said Yares.

Nanosoft is a founding member of the Open Design Alliance (ODA), the main organization providing an alternative to Autodesk’s DWG technology. According to Yares, “There are over 200,000 (heading to 250,000) production users” of nanoCAD.

2D CAD users’ continued reliance on AutoCAD despite other free 2D CAD programs’ existence suggests Nanosoft cannot win over 2D users with the “free” price tag alone.

Yares observed, “While I don’t claim that nanoCAD 5 is perfect, or good enough for everybody, it’s an impressive program. It is fast, reliable, very compatible, and production-proven. It’s not, by any means, crippleware (as are many other free CAD programs.) And it’s only going to get even better in upcoming versions.”

He believes nanoCAD’s API compatibility with AutoCAD gives Nanosoft’s product a good chance at infiltrating the AutoCAD-dominated 2D market.

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