5 Best Woodworking Software 2023 (Carpentry CAD Tools)
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Woodworking really has changed a lot since the old days. From manually drawing with a pencil, it’s been a big shift to the woodworking design software we have today.
Woodworking is also spreading and becoming more accessible than ever before, as cheap CNC routers have opened the woodworking doors to newcomers.
But, what is the best woodworking software?
SketchUp is my top choice overall because it covers all bases. The free version is super intuitive for beginners, with plenty of accessible tutorials – while the reasonably priced Pro version is packed with advanced features for professionals.
Fusion 360 also offers a comprehensive free version that you can scale right up to advanced 3D CAD, while SketchList 3D is a woodworking-specific platform with specific features for things like furniture and cabinet design.
In this article, we’ll I’ll compare my experience with the best free and paid woodworking software for beginners and advanced users, as well as the software to AVOID for woodworking design at the end of this article.
- SketchUp: Best woodworking software for all, from novices to professionals
- Fusion 360: Best integrated CNC woodworking software. It’s also the best free woodworking software for personal use
- SketchList 3D: Best software for woodworking at a hobby level
- PRO100: Best carpentry software – if you don’t mind the high price
- Easy Woodworking Design: Best woodworking software for beginners
- Price: Free with a Pro version at $299/year
- Compatibility: Windows, macOS, iPad, and Apple pencil drawing
- Recommended for: Beginners to advanced users
Not too complex, but advanced enough for what you need for woodworking.
Useful woodworking plug-ins like cut list and cost reports.
SketchUp is popular, has a vast community, and has many Youtube tutorials.
Compatible with Windows, macOS, iPad, and Apple pencil drawing.
SketchUp Pro is reasonably priced.
SketchUp Free version has fewer features compared to Fusion 360 free.
Although adequate, SketchUp’s render engine is not as impressive as Fusion 360 or PRO100.
Doesn’t support parametric modeling.
SketchUp is not complete CNC software, since you need separate CAM software to generate g-code.
Overall, we feel SketchUp Pro is the best software for woodworking, as it’s simple to use and doesn’t confuse with irrelevant tools. You only have to learn the CAD tools that directly apply to woodworking (as opposed to many other software like Solidworks, Blender 3D, and even Fusion 360).
For example, designing a simple chair with SketchUp doesn’t require extensive CAD knowledge – you can design it using SketchUp’s simple and intuitive toolbar. In contrast, it would require much more CAD knowledge to navigate AutoCAD, even for a simple design.
Plus, SketchUp’s simplicity doesn’t hamper your woodworking abilities. And if you are more advanced, SketchUp Pro is an excellent choice – whether you’re looking for woodworking software for Mac, or Windows.
Very Popular and Large Community
SketchUp is one of the most popular woodworking software options around. It’s popular among both older and newer woodworkers, so there are a wide range of video tutorials for getting started, and for learning different niche uses, tools, and how to design certain projects.
Also, since SketchUp has been popular for so many years, there’s a great community. You can download thousands of ready-made projects other users have designed, and play around with even as a beginner.
Possibly The Most Beginner-Friendly Software for Woodworking
SketchUp’s most striking advantage is its simplicity. SketchUp is one of the most user-friendly woodworking and 3D modeling software.
Its UI is intuitive and straightforward. SketchUp’s toolbar is simple (unlike AutoCAD’s overwhelming toolbar). There are a few useful and easy-to-understand tools, and you can do more using the dropdown menus.
Therefore, Sketch-Up has the shortest learning curve among 3D woodworking modeling software of similar capabilities.
Add SketchUp’s intuitive environment to the Youtube video tutorial availability, and the result is a very accessible and easy-to-use woodworking software. That being said, there are more beginner-friendly options on this list. While SketchUp Pro is more complex however, it’s a far more advanced software capable of far more extensive woodworking designs and projects.
But, for woodworking, it’s the ideal mix of performance and complexity.
There are many plug-ins for SketchUp that benefit woodworkers. For example, you can add the CutList plug-in to generate the cut list from your design.
The cut list will show all the parts you’ll have to cut on your material sheet. This helps you understand how much wood you’ll need, for generating the toolpath later. SketchUp’s plugins have all the required woodworking calculator software features.
Price and Plans
SketchUp has four plans. The most popular ones are SketchUp Free and SketchUp Pro. These are SketchUp Free’s main features:
- SketchUp Free is web-based.
- You can access it on mobiles too.
- You can do some 3D modeling with it, but you can’t export DXF files, add extensions, or use other features.
With SketchUp Pro at $299/year, you’ll get a lot more, including:
- Compatibility with Windows and MacOS. It also works with iPad and Apple Pencil for drawing.
- You can work offline and online.
- Create realistic 2D presentations from your 3D models.
- Unlimited cloud storage.
- Access to 3D Warehouse, where you can download pre-built designs.
- Supports extensions to get more functionality – like the cut list.
- SketchUp is the best software for woodworking for most, from beginners to advanced.
- SketchUp is not the most advanced woodworking CAD and renderer, although it satisfies professional needs pretty well.
- Price: Free version available but will cost $70/month, $545 yearly, or $1555 for three years for commercial use
- Compatibility: Windows and MacOS
- Recommended for: Professionals
Advanced 3D CAD.
Complete CNC woodworking software with integrated CAM.
Has woodworking plug-ins like a cut list.
Cloud-based and compatible with both Windows and macOS.
Strong rendering engine and realistic 2D documentation.
Free version has more features than other free woodworking software.
Very popular, with many tutorial videos.
More difficult to learn than most other woodworking software on this list.
Less suitable for hobby woodworking or beginner-level assemblies.
Although reasonably priced, Fusion 360 costs more than some options.
Autodesk is one of the biggest names in CAD software. You probably have heard of some of their CAD software like AutoCAD. But Autodesk’s Fusion 360 is their best software for woodworkers and machinists.
Fusion 360 integrates advanced 3D CAD with powerful CAE and CAM. This makes Fusion 360 one of the best CNC woodworking software, as it covers everything from design to CNC cutting toolpaths.
You can create far more complex designs more easily with Fusion 360 than most other woodworking design software tools – so if you’re more advanced, it’s ideal.
However, Fusion 360 has a steeper learning curve than probably all the other options we’ve picked.
Though, due to Fusion 360’s huge popularity among woodworkers, CNC machinists, and 3D printer users, there are many helpful Youtube tutorials to help you learn it fast.
And, if you’re looking for a super specialized software, Fusion 360 is a generalist CAD CAM software, rather than specifically being aimed at woodworkers.
However, specialized woodworking plug-ins upgrade Fusion 360 to one of the best woodworking software for professional CNC woodworkers. These plugins add cut lists and much more.
Fusion 360’s rendering is strong: Fusion 360 and PRO100 generate the best renders among all the software on this list. So, you can show your customers detailed design renders before implementing the job.
Also, Fusion 360 can make high-quality 2D documentation out of your 3D designs.
You can also do parametric modeling with Fusion 360. Learning parametric modeling helps you to resize sketches without scaling parts one at a time. Fusion 360 is the only software on our list with this capability. Fusion 360 is also ranked in our best parametric modeling software article.
Fusion 360 is cloud-based. With a computer and an internet connection, you can start playing around with Fusion 360 for free and without any download. You can also download it as a desktop app if you prefer (this is what I have done).
Fusion 360 has a great free version, and you can use it free for personal use – though you’re limited to basic features. This still has many more features than SketchUp Free, and other free woodworking software, however.
However, you’ll need to buy Fusion 360 for commercial use. Fusion 360 currently costs $70/month, $545 yearly, or $1555 for three years. The paid version unlocks more file types, CAM features, and more.
- Fusion 360 is the best CNC woodworking software, with integrated CAM.
- Fusion 360’s free version is the best of any free software.
- Price: Hobby version: $100 yearly, or $200 fee for a full license. Pro version: $425 yearly, or an $850 full license
- Compatibility: Windows and Mac
- Recommended for: Hobbyists
Useful woodworking plug-ins like cut list and cost reports.
SketchList 3D provides tutorial videos and weekly video sessions where you can ask questions.
SketchList 3D Hobby is great value.
Although easy to learn, SketchList 3D doesn’t have the shortest learning curve to complexity ratio.
SketchList 3D is not the most feature-rich woodworking software, although its woodworking features are plentiful.
SketchList 3D Pro is expensive for the value it offers.
SketchList 3D is one of the best woodworking software with 3D design abilities. It has features specifically for woodworking, like joinery, cabinets, doors, and drawers.
Since the developers were previously woodworkers, the software takes a woodworker’s approach – not a machinist’s. Therefore, SketchList 3D is tremendously intuitive for woodworkers – there’s no 3D modeling skills you have to learn that are only useful in advanced part-making projects.
SketchList 3D runs offline, and is compatible with Windows and Mac. This is best if your place of work has unreliable internet access, or you like designing on the move.
SketchList 3D has drag-and-drop tools. It snaps your design parts when you move them close – since the software knows that edges join in woodworking.
SketchList 3D also creates your cut list for you. It even optimizes the cut based on standard lumbar sheets, and will generate ordering reports. It then shows how much material to buy, and how best to cut.
It can even calculate approximate material cost with great accuracy, so you’ll have that estimate right from the design.
Learning Curve and Training
SketchList 3D is not as difficult as many other CAD software. It’s very easy to learn with their training videos, and SketchList also has weekly workshops where you can ask their experts questions.
SketchList 3D also has offline and online support, though the live support is only active for Pro users.
Price and Plans
SketchList 3D has a 14-day free trial. But you’ll need one of two plans to continue: SketchList Hobby, or Pro.
SketchList Hobby costs $100 yearly, or a one-time $200 fee for a full license, while SketchList 3D Pro costs $425 for an annual subscription, or an $850 full license.
SketchList 3D Hobby has full woodworking design features and can generate the cut list. But, you’ll only get the purchase list in the Pro version. The Pro version also offers live support, more woodworking joints, and DXF file import capabilities.
- Price: Full one-time payment of $2549.99
- Compatibility: Windows
- Recommended for: Business use
Powerful carpentry business software with a powerful rendering engine.
Optional CNC software package with cabinet libraries and support for CNC machining.
Very expensive CNC software package.
PRO100 is one of the best cabinet software, but it’s the most expensive option as a result.
PRO100 has all the features you need for interior design, like elevated interiors and exteriors, setting angled walls, and floor plans. PRO100 also has a powerful 3D rendering engine to preview the final look of your cabinet, floor, and wall design.
Perhaps most helpfully, PRO100 will create your cut list – and give you cost reports based on various material estimations.
You can also buy a CNC software package from PRO100 to generate g-codes. The CNC package software comes with a large library of cabinets, doors, drawers, and more. You can also add custom cabinets. But that is separate software, and you can use your own CAM software instead if you prefer.
Price and Plans
A full one-time payment of $2549.99 gets you a lifelong full license.
Alternatively, PRO100’s month-to-month plan is for US residents only. It costs $149 per month with a $489 down payment. However, you’ll own PRO100 after 14 months.
Pro100 CNC Software Package
Let’s start by saying that it costs “between $6k-$8 per unit based on your requirements.” Furthermore, it’s separate software. So for me, using my own CAM software seems much more sensible.
However, this package includes a large cabinet library, and they’ll give you CNC machining support for a year.
Easy Woodworking Design
- Price: $19.95 per year
- Compatibility: Windows
- Recommended for: Beginners
Simplest software on our list, and requires no previous CAD knowledge.
Generates cut lists and cost reports.
Cheapest woodworking software on our list by a large margin.
Not suitable for professionals.
You can’t test designs with Easy Woodworking Design.
Only works on Windows.
Easy Woodworking Design is the best woodworking software for beginners, and it’s ideal for learning to create a rudimentary woodworking project. You don’t need to know anything about CAD to learn Easy Woodworking Design.
The software has simplified many features, and doesn’t have any advanced ones. So, while designing straightforward drawings is easier than ever, you’re restricted in making advanced assemblies, rendering, or testing your design.
While it has a simple CAD toolset and interface, it still has comprehensive woodworking project management. You can generate cut lists, and cost reports.
However, Easy Woodworking Design is only on Windows. So, you can’t use it on Apple computers.
Easy Woodworking Design license costs $19.95 per year.
Easy Woodworking Design is the best woodworking software for beginners since it requires no CAD knowledge and has simplified features. But you’ll have to switch to other software to improve to professional levels since Easy Woodworking Design doesn’t have advanced features.
Woodworking Software to AVOID
Some lists online include software for woodworking that I honestly feel will waste your time and effort. Here’s why:
Learning Solidworks for woodworking is like getting a pilot’s license to drive a car. It’s unnecessarily difficult. However, it’s excellent software for woodworking if you already know Solidworks.
Blender 3D will subject you to a steep learning curve and will only serve your CAD purposes, while you should choose software that includes woodworking features like cut lists.
However, Blender 3D is open source. So, you’ll have powerful free CAD software for woodworking if you learn Blender 3D – and it is incredibly versatile for animation and other uses.
AutoCAD is excellent for interior and exterior design, but it’s more difficult to learn and use than the woodworking software options we recommend. Fusion 360 is the best Autodesk woodworking software in our opinion – not AutoCAD.
Some say that MacDraft Pro is a good woodworking software for Mac. But, it’s only a 2D drawing tool. So, you don’t get access to 3D views and rendering. You’ll have to create many layers for different parts since they won’t fit together on a 2D plane.
The best software for woodworking should be easy to learn and have features to move, measure, rotate, and test your design.
Easy Woodworking Design is the best woodworking software for beginners. SketchList 3D is the most affordable hobby-level software for woodworking.
SketchUp is the best software for woodworking overall, optimally mixing simplicity, capabilities, and price.
Fusion 360 is the best CNC woodworking software, since it has integrated CAM.
Also, Fusion 360 is the best free woodworking software for personal use.
What is the best software for woodworking?
SketchUp and Fusion 360 are the best software for woodworking. SketchUp is the optimal blend of simplicity, capability, and affordability. Fusion 360 offers CNC CAM, high-quality rendering, and a rich free version for personal use.
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