SOLIDWORKS vs AutoCAD: What Are the Main Differences?

February 16, 2023

If you are wondering what SOLIDWORKS is, here’s what you need to know.

SOLIDWORKS is a CAD (computer-aided design) program, which means that a computer assists the designer in the design process. You can rely on SOLIDWORKS to help you design sophisticated 3D models and simulations.

SOLIDWORKS is a top-rated CAD program in different industries—from product design to architecture and mechanical engineering. It’s been around since 1995, and SOLIDWORKS has grown significantly since then, adding new features and capabilities over time.

SOLIDWORKS and AutoCAD are both CAD programs. Choosing which one to use depends on your requirements. So if you want to create complex 3D models, then use SOLIDWORKS. AutoCAD software is excellent for general-purpose 2D drafting. It also has industry-specific software such as AutoCAD Electrical, AutoCAD Mechanical, and AutoCAD Architecture. Many architects, engineers and designers use AutoCAD to create 2D sketches or diagrams. 

In this article, let’s examine the difference between AutoCAD vs SOLIDWORKS so you know which to use.


SOLIDWORKS is a powerful 3D-Modeling software.

SOLIDWORKS is a powerful, full-featured CAD software that allows you to create 2D and 3D models and drawings. A wide range of professionals across many industries uses the software.

It’s a very versatile tool, and you can use it to create almost anything, from small parts to entire buildings.

The software includes tools for every design project, including mechanical designs, architectural plans and layouts, industrial equipment, medical devices, and more.

It also includes an extensive library of components (often known as “parts”) that you can use in your designs. The library includes everything from screws to custom-designed hinges to entire vehicles. Once you’ve created your model in SOLIDWORKS, you can export it and send it off for fabrication.

Mechanical engineers and architects use it for designing buildings, product designers for designing real-world objects, automotive designers for designing cars, and medical device designers use it to design their products. Its capacity to store instructions for detailed assemblies makes it very popular.

What is AutoCAD?

Thinking of AutoCAD vs SOLIDWORKS? Here are the differences.

AutoCAD helps users design and create objects in 2D and 3D. You can use the software to create drawings for anything, from furniture to buildings and even entire cities. AutoCAD allows you to easily create technical drawings that are used in various industries like architecture, engineering and construction.

With AutoCAD, you can easily draw shapes and objects on your screen. You can also use it to create accurate technical drawings and models for blueprints. It is the industry standard to create diagrams and sketches for websites or other projects.

AutoCAD is excellent for anyone who wants to create 2D or 3D drawings quickly and efficiently. It’s beneficial if you’re working with a team of people who need to collaborate on one project since everyone can work on their part without having to copy files back and forth from one computer to another.

AutoCAD is also used by architects, engineers, drafters, and graphic designers.

What Are the Differences between SOLIDWORKS and AutoCAD?

SOLIDWORKS and AutoCAD are both popular CAD software programs. If you’re considering using one of these programs, you may be wondering how they’re different from each other. Here are the similarities and differences:

1. Features for 3D modelling

Although AutoCAD is primarily for 2D sketching, it can create 3D models. Using AutoCAD, you can model complex parts effectively using the classic user interface. There are many commands in AutoCAD, which you can enter as keyboard shortcuts. That way, you keep the mouse cursor where you need to modify the sketch instead of continually clicking toolbars at the edge of the screen. However, 3D modelling features are more visible in SOLIDWORKS than in AutoCAD. In AutoCAD, the tools are hard to find.

SOLIDWORKS has plenty of tools and features that are specialised for parts and machine modelling. In SOLIDWORKS, the Feature-Based Features increase possibilities for model shapes and make modelling more efficient. These allow designers to modify existing features based on standard design parameters. This feature along with its software interface makes it suitable for assembly design since you can see the product parts separately.

2. UI and Layout 

SOLIDWORKS and AutoCAD have some similarities in their user interface. AutoCAD has a user interface similar to a text editor, where you can display multiple diagrams on a drawing board and edit them one at a time. You can also adjust them into tabs. In contrast, SOLIDWORKS is more like a word processor. Like AutoCAD, you can see all your work in separate tabs on the drawing board.

However, while AutoCAD works on 2D drafting, SOLIDWORKS works in a 3D environment, and models created in the program consist of physical properties. You will also see options like Open, Save, New, Print, and other file management tools in AutoCAD. In SOLIDWORKS, there are more menu options, especially for 3D modelling. It is also an excellent rendering tool.

3. Technical differences

It’s important to know that both software runs on different operating systems. AutoCAD runs on 64-bit Windows and macOS platforms. But SOLIDWORKS only works on Windows OS. You cannot run it on a macOS unless you install Windows on your Mac computer.

Additionally, you will need minimally 7GB of free space in your computer to install AutoCAD and run the software smoothly. But SOLIDWORKS requires at least 12 GB of free space in your computer to be installed. It may also vary depending on the additional components you install for each software.

4. Software compatibility

AutoCAD files are auto-saved as DWGs, which is a ubiquitous format. So, using AutoCAD files with DWG extensions means you can open them in other CAD software. This ensures compatibility and smooth functioning of versions and software.

SOLIDWORKS works in its native environment with file types like SOLIDWORKS Part (.sldprt), SOLIDWORKS Drawing File (.slddrw), and SOLIDWORKS Assembly (.sldasm). These extension types are unique to only SOLIDWORKS and cannot work in CAD software. You can save files with .stl, step, or .iges. This extension allows files to be opened in other software. However, it won’t save the features needed to create the file in SOLIDWORKS.

Which is Easier to Learn: SOLIDWORKS or AutoCAD?

Both AutoCAD vs SOLIDWORKS have their usefulness for the drawing process.

There are many CAD software available in the market, and SOLIDWORKS is one of them and is used by many around the world. Comparing AutoCAD, SOLIDWORKS is known to be user-friendly, easier to learn, as well as being reputable over its many years in the industry. Anyone can create simple 3D Models in SOLIDWORKS with just a few days of training. Learn more about the benefits of learning SOLIDWORKS here.

Both AutoCAD and SOLIDWORKS have their benefits. You will still use the same technical drawing rules, but the simulation tools differ. But SOLIDWORKS might be your better choice if you want to use a tool for mechanical design. And if you think you’ll want to move on to other programs down the line, learning one may help you pick up the other easily.

Ultimately, there are many CAD software available in the market. After you have chosen what you want to work with, you’ll need to learn how to use the software and make it work for you.

Should I learn SOLIDWORKS or AutoCAD first?

AutoCAD and SOLIDWORKS are both popular CAD software.

SOLIDWORKS does not require AutoCAD knowledge before you learn to use it. You do not have to understand programming abstracts to use them effectively. The software uses objects and parameters known to designers, and concisely presents them. Its ease of use and design capabilities make it popular amongst CAD users.

Many engineering companies train their new employees on AutoCAD first. So learning AutoCAD might be beneficial if you intend to work in civil, infrastructure, or electrical engineering. But if you are a product designer or machinist, you can skip AutoCAD and learn SOLIDWORKS first. Ultimately, AutoCAD presents visually, does diagrams and is a great composition tool. You can easily customise it after you have gotten over your learning curve.

On the other hand, you can use SOLIDWORKS to make high-quality, surface and solid models. You can also use it to manage and reuse large amounts of design data. Everything you do in AutoCAD can also be done in SOLIDWORKS too. For example, you can use SOLIDWORKS to model 2D, 3D, and specialised surfaces. However, it’s worth noting that AutoCAD has limited 3D modelling capability. Many professionals have also highlighted that both tools have different uses, and you can learn both simultaneously to work on your designs.

Which CAD software is better? SOLIDWORKS vs AutoCAD

Some advantages of using SOLIDWORKS include that it’s easy to use because it allows you to quickly create your designs by dragging and dropping objects onto the canvas. The software also offers a wide range of features and supports both 2D and 3D modelling tools, so you can use whichever works best for your project.

SOLIDWORKS users have highlighted that the software has limited operating system (OS) compatibility. It requires a Windows computer since there is no Mac OS version. Additionally, AutoCAD might be a better option if you want to primarily design in 2D, as SOLIDWORKS has limited 2D functionality.

AutoCAD users, on the other hand, have highlighted its simple and well-organised interface, with intuitive commands that make the workflow easy. Additionally, the software responds smoothly to large and hard-to-read files without slowing down or interrupting the workflow.

However, the AutoCAD software needs improvements in the 3D modelling area, as the interface is challenging. Furthermore, users have complained about some commands from previous versions of AutoCAD which were not updated. It is also worth noting that users have feedback that export and file formats are too limited.

According to Trustradius, many users like SOLIDWORKS because it is easy to use. It’s also able to help with 3D modelling. However, for AutoCAD, the reviewers have feedback that it has limited 3D modelling capacity. Therefore, choose SOLIDWORKS if you are looking for easy-to-use software that lets you create 3D models.

Get Access to SOLIDWORKS Software Today

3D Modelling with SOLIDWORKS

Ultimately, the best way to choose what works for you is to try the software packages. To get started on SOLIDWORKS, explore our different SOLIDWORKS applications here.