FreeCAD is a CAD/CAE parametric modeling application. It is still in early stage 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 few 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 serie 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 changes 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.
FreeCAD has two different navigation modes availables, that can be set in the preferences settings dialog. In the default mode, zooming is made with the , panning with the , and rotating with the and simultaneously. Selecting an object is made simply by clicking on it with the , with pressed if you want to select several objects.
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...)
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.