- Version 0.12 Release notes : Check what's new in the 0.12 release of FreeCAD
- Version 0.13 Release notes : Check what's new in the 0.13 release of FreeCAD
FreeCAD is a CAD/CAE parametric modeling application. It is still in the early stages of development, so don't expect to be able to use it to produce work already. But, if you are curious about what FreeCAD looks like and what features are being developed, you are welcome to download it and give it a try. At the moment, much functionality is already present, but not much user interface has been created for it. This means that if you know a bit of Python, you will already be able to produce and modify complex geometry relatively easily. If not, you will probably find that FreeCAD still has little to offer to you. But, be patient, this is expected to change soon.
And if after testing you have feedback, ideas or opinions, please share it with us on the FreeCAD discussion forum!
First of all (if not done already) download and install FreeCAD. See the Download page for information about current versions and updates. There are install packages ready for Windows (.msi), Ubuntu & Debian (.deb) openSUSE (.rpm) and Mac OSX.
FreeCAD is a general all-purpose 3D modeling application, focused on mechanical engineering and related areas, such as other engineering specialties or architecture. It is conceived as a platform for developing any kind of 3D application, but also for doing very specific tasks. For that purpose, its interface is divided into a series of Workbenches. Workbenches allow to change the interface contents to display all and only the tools necessary for a specific task, or group of tasks.
The FreeCAD interface can therefore be described as a very simple container, with a menu bar, a 3D view area, and a couple of side panels for displaying the scene contents or object properties. All the contents of these panels can be changed depending on the workbench.
When you start FreeCAD for the first time, you will be presented a "general" workbench, that we call "complete workbench". This workbench simply gathers the most mature tools from other workbenches. Since FreeCAD is pretty young and not yet used for very specialized work, this workbench is very handy for discovering FreeCAD more easily. Basically, all the tools that are good enough for producing geometry are here.
Navigating in the 3D space
FreeCAD has three different navigation modes available, that can be set in the preferences settings dialog or changed by right-clicking in the 3D view. For full details about the modes, see the Mouse Model page. For the default mode ("CAD Navigation"), the commands are as follows,
|Press the left mouse button over an object you want to select. Holding down ctrl allows the selection of multiple objects.||Click the middle mouse button and move the object around to pan||Use the mouse wheel to zoom in and out.||Click first with the middle mouse button, hold it and the click the left mouse button on any visible part of an object and drag it in the desired direction. This works like spinning a ball that rotates around its center. If you release the buttons before you stop your motion, the object continues spinning, if this is enabled. A double click with the middle mouse button on any part of an object sets the new center of rotation and zooms in on this point.|
You also have several view presets (top view, front view, etc) available in the View menu and on the View toolbar, and by numeric shortcuts (, , etc...)
These are tools for creating objects.
- 2-point Line: Draws a line segment between 2 points
- Wire (multiple-point line): Draws a line made of multiple line segments
- Circle: Draws a circle from center and radius
- Arc: Draws an arc segment from center, radius, start angle and end angle
- Rectangle: Draws a rectangle from 2 opposite points
- Polygon: Draws a regular polygon from a center and a radius
- BSpline: Draws a B-Spline from a series of points
- Text: Draws a multi-line text annotation
- Dimension: Draws a dimension annotation
- Point: Inserts a point object
These are tools for modifying existing objects. They work on selected objects, but if no object is selected, you will be invited to select one.
- Move: Moves object(s) from one location to another
- Rotate: Rotates object(s) from a start angle to an end angle
- Offset: Moves segments of an object about a certain distance
- Upgrade: Joins objects into a higher-level object
- Downgrade: Explodes objects into lower-level objects
- Trim/Extend (Trimex): Trims or extends an object
- Scale: Scales selected object(s) around a base point
- Edit: Edits a selected object
- Drawing: Writes selected objects to a Drawing sheet
- Shape 2D View: Creates a 2D object which is a flattened 2D view of another 3D object
- Wire to BSpline: Converts a wire to a BSpline and vice-versa
- Add point: Adds a point to a wire or BSpline
- Delete point: Deletes a point from a wire or BSpline
- Draft to Sketch: Converts a Draft object to Sketch and vice-versa
- Array: Creates a polar or rectangular array from selected objects
- Clone: Clones the selected objects
Additional tools available via right-click context menu, depending on the selected objects.
- Set working plane: Sets a working plane from a standard view or a selected face
- Finish line: Ends the drawing of the current wire or bspline, without closing it
- Close line: Ends the drawing of the current wire or bspline, end closes it
- Undo line: Undoes the last segment of a line
- Toggle construction mode: Toggles the Draft construction mode on/off
- File:Draft ToggleContinueMode.png Toggle continue mode: Toggles the Draft continue mode on/off
- Apply style: Applies the current style and color to selected objects
- Toggle display mode: Switches the display mode of selected objects between "flat lines" and "wireframe"
- Add to group: Quickly adds selected objects to an existing group
- Select group contents: Selects the contents of a selected group
- Toggle snap: Toggles object snapping on/off
- Toggle grid: Toggles the grid on/off
- Show snap bar: Shows/hides the snapping toolbar
These are tools for creating primitive objects.
- Box: Draws a box by specifying its dimensions
- Cone: Draws a cone by specifying its dimensions
- Cylinder: Draws a cylinder by specifying its dimensions
- Sphere: Draws a sphere by specifying its dimensions
- Torus: Draws a torus (ring) by specifying its dimensions
- CreatePrimitives: A tool to create various parametric geometric primitives
- Shapebuilder: A tool to create more complex shapes from various parametric geometric primitives
These are tools for modifying existing objects. They will allow you to choose which object to modify.
- Booleans: Performs boolean operations on objects
- Fuse: Fuses (unions) two objects
- Common: Extracts the common (intersection) part of two objects
- Cut: Cuts (subtracts) one object from another
- Extrude: Extrudes planar faces of an object
- Fillet: Fillets (rounds) edges of an object
- Revolve: Creates an object by revolving another object around an axis
- Section: Creates a section by intersecting an object with a section plane
- Chamfer: Chamfers edges of an object
- Mirror: Mirrors the selected object on a given mirror plane
- Sweep: Sweeps one or more profiles along a path
- Loft: Lofts from one profile to another
These are tools for creating, configuring and exporting 2D drawing sheets
- Open scalable vector graphic: Opens a drawing sheet previously saved as an SVG file
- New A3 landscape drawing: Creates a new drawing sheet from FreeCAD's default A3 template
- Insert a view: Inserts a view of the selected object in the active drawing sheet
- Save sheet: Saves the current sheet as a SVG file
These are tools for exporting your 3D work to external renderers
- New PovRay project: Insert new PovRay project in the document
- Export view to povray: Write the active 3D view with camera and all its content to a povray file
- Export camera to povray: Export the camera position of the active 3D view in POV-Ray format to a file
- Export part to povray: Write the selected Part (object) as a povray file
And finally, one of the most powerful features of FreeCAD is the scripting environment. From the integrated python console (or from any other external Python script), you can gain access to almost any part of FreeCAD, create or modify geometry, modify the representation of those objects in the 3D scene or access and modify the FreeCAD interface. Python scripting can also be used in macros, which provide an easy method to create custom commands.