Getting started

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FreeCAD is a 3D CAD/CAE parametric modeling application. It is primarily made for mechanical design, but also serves all other uses where you need to model 3D objects with precision and control over modeling history.

FreeCAD is still in the early stages of development, so, although it already offers you a large (and growing) list of features, much is still missing, specially comparing it to commercial solutions, and you might not find it developed enough yet for use in production environment. Still, there is a fast-growing community of enthusiastic users, and you can already find many examples of quality projects developed with FreeCAD.

Like all open-source projects, the FreeCAD project is not a one-way work delivered to you by its developers. It depends much on its community to grow, gain features, and stabilize (get bugs fixed). So don't forget this when starting to use FreeCAD, if you like it, you can directly influence and help the project!

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.

Exploring FreeCAD


  1. The 3D view, showing the contents of your document
  2. The tree view, which shows the hierarchy and construction history of all the objects in your document
  3. The properties editor, which allows you to view and modify properties of the selected object(s)
  4. The output window, which is where FreeCAD prints messages, warnings and errors
  5. The python console, where all the commands executed by FreeCAD are printed, and where you can enter python code
  6. The workbench selector, where you select the active workbench

The main concept behind the FreeCAD interface is that it is separated into workbenches. A workbench is a collection of tools suited for a specific task, such as working with meshes, or drawing 2D objects, or constrained sketches. You can switch the current workbench with the workbench selector (6). You can customize the tools included in each workbench, add tools from other workbenches or even self-created tools, that we call macros. There is also a generic workbench which gathers the most commonly used tools from other workbenches, called the conplete workbench.

When you start FreeCAD for the first time, you are presented with the start center:

Startcenter0.16 screenshot.jpg

The Start Center allows you to quickly jump to one of the most common workbenches, open one of the recent files, or see the latest news from the FreeCAD world. You can change the default workbench in the preferences.

Navigating in the 3D space

FreeCAD has four different navigation modes available, that change the way you use your mouse to interact with the objects in the 3D view and the view itself. One of them is specifically made for touchpads, where the middle mouse button is not used. The following table describes the default mode, called CAD Navigation (You can quickly change the current navigation mode by right-clicking on an empty area of the 3D view):

{{{Select_name}}} {{{Pan_name}}} {{{Zoom_name}}} {{{Rotate_view_name}}} {{{Rotate_view_alt_name}}}
Hand cursor.png Pan cursor.png Zoom cursor.png Rotate cursor.png Rotate cursor.png
Mouse LMB.svg Mouse MMB hold.svg Mouse MMB rotate.svg Mouse MMB+LMB hold.svg Mouse MMB+RMB hold.svg
{{{Select_text}}} {{{Pan_text}}} {{{Zoom_text}}} {{{Rotate_view_text}}} {{{Rotate_view_alt_text}}}
{{{Ctrl}}}+Mouse RMB.svg {{{Ctrl}}}+{{{Shift}}}+Mouse RMB.svg {{{Shift}}}+Mouse RMB.svg
{{{Pan_mode_text}}} {{{Zoom_mode_text}}} {{{Rotate_view_mode_text}}}

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 (1, 2, etc...)

Workbench Draft.png 2D Drafting

Template:Draft Tools

Workbench Part.png Creating 3D Parts

Template:Part Tools

Exporting to 2D Drawings

Template:Drawing Tools

Exporting to external renderers

Template:Raytracing Tools


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.

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