Alternative Free Software for Architecture and Design

Alternative Free Software for Architecture and Design

During the academic formation process, beginner architects are educated and trained to develop projects on the most “traditional” software. Several reasons might explain that: the partnerships that these companies usually make with the university labs, the lack of time to learn a new program, or the culture to use the most popular software.

There is no denying that these are excellent software and the point here is not to criticize them, but there is an alternative universe of free software (most of them open-source) that might solve the increasing problem that architects have with license costs, and attend to student demands as well as the industry ones. For this reason, we have created this list.

It is important to keep in mind that in order to save the money that was usually destined for the licenses, you will need to adjust yourself. Some software are very similar, while others were elaborated with different ways of thinking that will require some studying. This software transition is much simpler for self-employed professionals or students since they are the only performers of their demands, but in the cases of small teams and offices, training will probably be necessary.  

Operating System

An alternative to Windows or Mac OS is the Linux Mint. Linux is a generally known operating system although rarely used. Apart from free of charge, its distributions have become increasingly more complete, professional and productive.


As an alternative to AutoCAD, we have the LibreCAD and the NanoCad. The LibreCAD is totally free and open source while the NanoCAD, besides the free version, has also a paid and more complete one.

3D Modeling 

For those who seek alternatives to programs such as SketchUp, 3DS, V-Ray and Lumion, there is the Blender, Unreal Engine 4e and the Unity, that offer impressive results. They are able to present amazing realistic products, being also used by the great studios of games and movies industries.

3D Modeling and BIM

For Revit and ArchiCAD, we have as an alternative FreeCAD, which has its own working method that will require some study and patience but is very powerful and capable of exporting drawings, charts and other information of the constructed models.

Image Management

As an option to substitute Photoshop, it is possible to use GIMP. It is extremely similar to the famous Adobe program and has every resource that one can imagine for image editing. It also has a totally customizable interface that facilitates the workflow.

Publishing and Typesetting

In alternative to InDesign, we can use Scribus. Open source and simple to use, it is the type of software that will easily substitute its similar paid program since it has all the tools and, even though its interface is a little bit different, it is easy to adjust to it.


As an alternative option to Illustrator and Corel Draw, we have InkScape. Very known among designers and illustrators, it is a vector graphics editor of a professional quality to Linux, Windows and Mac OS. It is free and open code.

Documents, Spreadsheets and Slides

An interesting alternative to the Office package is LibreOffice. Similar to the most popular family office, it leaves nothing to be desired. It has all the text tools, spreadsheets, slides and complements with all the needed resources for documents work.

Project Management

As an alternative to MS Project, we can look at ProjectLibre. Besides all the free resources, it is possible to import and export files in the same format as its competitor, functioning in several operating systems (Linux, Mac OS and Windows).

Video Editing

An alternative to the Premiere, Final Cut or Sony Vegas, there is LightWorks. Already very popular and largely used, it is capable of exporting high-resolution videos and with professional quality, besides having a lot of material on the internet in order to facilitate the learning process.

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About this author
Cite: Obarq, Obarq. "Alternative Free Software for Architecture and Design" [Softwares alternativos e gratuitos para arquitetura e design] 20 Apr 2020. ArchDaily. (Trans. Peixoto Almeida, Amanda) Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

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