Free ACAD (Both Gratis & Liberating) and TANSTAFL*


Free AutoCAD WS Login

This blog entry was inspired by a current discussion in the A CAD Community Connection ( LinkedIn group which you can join here:

I’d like to thank Bruce McCrory and David Kingsley for their thought provoking comments.

If you haven’t tried AutoCAD WS go for it. You can find it here: To “really try it” you will need an iPhone, as the online, desktop direct application isn’t as attractive as the hand held device.

Unfortunately, AutoCADWS doesn’t even match AutoCAD 2.* from the mid 80’s last century. It’s only 2D but I agree the price is right, and its concept is super sexy and attractive, though still clunky. Sorry to call it as I see it. I don’t think the iPhone platform is to blame, either.

If Autodesk made LT level features available for free, I project they would garner an amazing good will worldwide, unfortunately kill many small potatoe companies in the process, and re-write the rules of CAD development and sales overnight. They are one of the few companies around able to do this. The question is whether they should do it simply because they can, while watching out for unintended legal pitfalls you encounter when you offer something for free. It would be a bold move the kind that only true champions go for.

It would accelerate the race and development towards real intelligent CAD in an amazing manner. To make up for lost revenue, Autodesk could setup a new Apple like developer platform where AutoCAD LT would become more of a graphical Operating System, Application Programming Environment, which it already has been for a very long time, almost since the beginning. Likewise, because of the free nature of the platform, they could justifiably fill the program with ads and even ask for personal usage date bordering on “what size underwear you wear,” etc. If a person doesn’t like the terms then they can pay for something else they like better.

This is where TANSTAFL (There Ain’t No Such Thing As a Free Lunch) comes into play. It’s only fair that if you give something, you get something. You give “free” CAD, you get good will and paid in other nontraditional ways.

If Autodesk doesn’t do it, somebody else will. It’s just a matter of time, and one of the reasons why this thread is so timely and valuable. Thanks to @Bruce for creating it.

Can you imagine what developers would have to focus on if AutoCAD LT ability was given away for free? Real intelligent code would be finally required! We’d finally be “forced” to go beyond CAD as drafting. Developers would be freed to focus on writing programs that do less but do it better, programs that are smaller, tighter, more optimized and more portable, capable of running on multiple “platforms.”

I think it would be a great development. My personal stake at this is wanting to see and experience really great software development while I’m still alive. Without meaning to offend architects and great designers at all, I’d like to live to see the day a program would be able to compete in Architecture, the way that IBM’s Deep Blue successfully beat Gary Kasparov, the then reigning Chess World Champion. Without hope nothing great ever happens. Our expectations matter. Let’s aim higher.


The “free lunch” in the saying refers to the nineteenth century practice in American bars of offering a “free lunch” with drinks. The phrase and the acronym are central to Robert Heinlein’s 1966 libertarian science fiction novel The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, which popularized it.[2][3] The free-market economist Milton Friedman also popularized the phrase[1] by using it as the title of a 1975 book, and it often appears in economics textbooks;[4] Campbell McConnell writes that the idea is “at the core of economics”.[5]

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One Comment on “Free ACAD (Both Gratis & Liberating) and TANSTAFL*”

  1. hbm-la Says:

    Hey! That’s me you named… Bruce. All I am doing is looking for a CAD alternate to ACAD that will accept my LISP (((( )))) and a few command alias changes.

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