AutoCAD vs. SolidWorks: Which One Is the Best?

By Microsol Resources | CAD

Once upon a time, designers were people who sat at their drafting tables with pencils in their hands. These days, you’re more likely to catch them at the computer, fiddling with 3D design and adjusting parameters. That’s no surprise — the rapid development of technology brought about dozens of designing programs and software. But none of them are quite as famous as AutoCAD and SolidWorks.

Even if you’re entirely new to design, you’ve surely heard about these two before. Sadly, since they are both so well-known and beloved, it can be difficult to pick one. That’s exactly why we’ve decided to take a closer look and see who’d win in the AutoCAD vs. SolidWorks battle.


What Is AutoCAD?

AutoCAD is a superb computer-aided design software (CAD) often used for drafting, modeling, and editing. Thanks to its intuitive interface and various functions, it’s perhaps the most versatile CAD software out there. Namely, it can just as easily find its place in architecture as in mechanical design or electrical engineering.


Back in the late 1970s, developer Mike Riddle created software called Interact CAD. As the 80s came knocking, Autodesk decided that Interact CAD had potential and acquired it for themselves. That’s when the program’s further development began, resulting in a new and renamed drafting software called AutoCAD. It quickly became one of the best Autodesk products on the market.

All that happened in 1982, and at the time, this program was one of a kind. AutoCAD could run on PCs, not just minicomputers like most software in the 80s. The general public loved it, and soon enough, AutoCAD became what it is today — one of the most widely used software in the world.

Of course, its functions at the time were nowhere near as advanced as the ones we have today. Still, with each new release, AutoCAD improved and added new features, making sure that its clients’ needs are met. To this day, that’s still the AutoCAD developers’ number one priority!

What Does It Do?

Despite its numerous excellent 3D CAD modeling functions, most designers still use AutoCAD primarily for 2D drawings. That’s really no wonder — its features in this area are simply peerless. They allow for greater precision and speed while drafting, which is exactly what most designers are looking for.

Other than that, AutoCAD lets you annotate drawings, as well as import and attach data from PDF files. And if you choose to use its 3D modeling features, after all, you’ll be happy to discover that you can view the model from various angles.

Industrial Application of AutoCAD

When AutoCAD gained its enormous popularity, Autodesk decided that it wasn’t fair for just designers to enjoy its benefits. Thus, the company made different kinds of the same program to cater to various industries.

For instance, now you can buy AutoCAD Electrical, which is entirely different from AutoCAD Architecture in terms of the user interface and features. Aside from these two, you can also purchase AutoCAD Mechanical, MEP, and so much more.

Clearly, AutoCAD can be used in every engineering or design sector out there. In some cases, you may use it to design a house or a building. And in others, you might need it to automate engineering tasks. Considering that it can handle so many different applications, it’s no wonder that AutoCAD is one of the best CAD programs out there.


What Is SolidWorks?

Much like AutoCAD, SolidWorks is a CAD program. But instead of 2D geometry, SolidWorks employs a parametric approach to model creation. This kind of approach is well suited to 3D solid modeling, and that’s exactly what SolidWorks is typically used for.


SolidWorks also has a long history on the market. It made its first appearance in 1995, two years after its inventor Jon Hirschtick founded the SolidWorks Corporation. The public instantly fell in love with it, prompting Dassault Systèmes to buy it in 1997.

After that, SolidWorks kept rapidly developing over the years, introducing new features with each release. In 2001, it was one of the first programs to include simulation in its product design process. And the more recent versions allow you to sketch freely on touchscreen devices and use CAM, topology tools, and advanced surfacing functionality.

What Does It Do?

As we already said, SolidWorks is particularly well known for its 3D modeling functions. Despite that, you can use it for 2D design and later base your 3D models on it. Ultimately, when it comes to drafting and modeling, SolidWorks has an impressive range of features that will satisfy all your needs.

But it doesn’t end there — if you want to test your models in real-world conditions, you can do that too. SolidWorks comes with some of the best simulation tools on the CAD market. You can simulate fluid dynamics, heat transfer, and even use life-cycle assessment (LCA) features.

On top of that, thanks to the software’s superb rendering functions, you’ll always be able to see a photo-realistic visualization of your creation. Why leave anything to imagination when you can use SolidWorks?

Industrial Application of SolidWorks

Though SolidWorks can produce decent 2D drafts, it is primarily a simulation and modeling software. Thus, its clients come from the industries that benefit from those functions the most — typically aerospace and automotive.

In addition, engineers find SolidWorks’ simulation tools to be particularly useful. Before the prototyping stage, they can test and evaluate materials and designs without wasting any resources. That allows them to cut down on their production costs, and which company doesn’t want that?


AutoCAD vs. SolidWorks — Head to Head Comparison

Now you know what each of the programs brings to the table. But how do you decide who wins the AutoCAD vs. SolidWorks battle? Well, this quick comparison might help you choose:


  • Has fantastic 2D drafting tools
  • Excellent for architecture and MEP, but also engineering and design
  • 3D modeling is available too, though less advanced
  • Allows the creation of detailed electrical plans
  • Available on Windows and Mac
  • No simulation tools
  • Accepts DWG and DXF file format
  • Comes with tutorials for beginners


  • Ideal for 3D modeling with an intuitive interface
  • 2D drafting is available but not fully developed
  • Excellent for automotive, aerospace, and engineering industries
  • Has sheet metal design tools
  • Compatible only with Windows
  • A whole range of available simulation tools
  • Accepts DWG and DXF files
  • Comes with tutorials for beginners


In Conclusion

If you ask us, AutoCAD vs. SolidWorks doesn’t have a clear winner. After all, both programs come with a set of different features that cater to different needs. For instance, if you’re an architect or an electrical drafter, AutoCAD is the right choice.

But if you work with 3D printing on a daily basis, you’ll definitely get more use out of SolidWorks. In the end, whichever you choose, we’re sure you won’t regret it!


INDUSTRIES: Architecture, Buildings, MEP Engineering, Structural Engineering

Published on May 5, 2021 in CAD.

About the Author

Microsol Resources delivers integrated solutions that help customers design, simulate and analyze their ideas, increase operational efficiencies, and maximize their return on investment in their technology solutions. As a team, we are passionate about helping customers improve their productivity and overall business processes. How can we help? Just reach out.