Tuesday, April 30, 2013

How to run FreeCAD with the new drawing workbench

Luke Parry is working hard on the new Drawing module. Finally, parametric dimensioning tools has arrived!

If you want test (still in very early development) the workbench, you have to compile FreeCAD yourself. You can find a short how-to below (based on Luke's tips).

First of all, you need tools and development packages listed on the FreeCAD wiki.
Then you can clone the sources from github:

git clone

Next go to the downloaded directory:

cd FreeCAD_sf_master/

Switch to the "drawing" branch:

git checkout drawing

Create a new directory for a build (not necessary but recommended):

mkdir Build && cd Build

Run cmake and enable debug build (FreeCAD may be a little slower but easier for debugging):

cmake - DCMAKE_BUILD_TYPE=Debug ../

Compile, the number should be equivalent to the number of threads in your CPU:

make -j8

An finally run FreeCAD:


Open or create a solid part. Switch to the drawing workbench and create a new page.

Double click (in tree) to open the page view.

Select a solid from the tree and create a new view. Views (dimensions too) dragging using mouse is now possible - as opposition to the old drawing workbench.

Select an edge and add a new dimension. Tip: enable the Selection view in the View menu to see what is selected.

In the Data tab you can change the radius to a diameter.

Add some other dimensions: line length, distance between points (use Ctrl to select two points), radius and diameter are available.

Back to the 3D model and change something.

The drawing should change as well.

Any good ideas? Share your opinion!


  1. Hi Adrian,

    I still cannot believe you have done a quick tutorial on this so quickly, so firstly a big thank you! It was a nice surprise when I came home today and shows that I'm heading in the right direction.

    From your experiences, did everything seem intuitive to use considering that it is incomplete?


  2. All new stuff (dimensioning, dragging) seems intuitive. I do not like some legacy things like a view direction setup in the Data tab. But ATM we need some bug hunting and new features.

  3. Thanks Luke for all of your work and thanks to Adrian for posting this page or I would not know about it.

    I am quit new to FreeCAD, built one model so fare, of a new base to a Mix Master.

    Just tried the new drawing module, here are my first impressions, from a newbie perspective:

    Was confused for a few seconds, looking for an icon to add a dimention. Then found it in the menu.

    Added a radius dimention on a hole ... size is 0.00? Added a radius dimention on the biggest radius of the part (3.780 inch.) ... size is 3.00, changed it to diameter... size is 7.00. Then changed to precision to 4 places, just got .0000. So it looks like the numbers are being turncated just priore to display.

    As FreeCAD currently can not change the units used?, I just used it as though it was unitless, and put inch values in directly. I would prefer millimeters, but the part being reverse engineered was in inches, and staying in inches made things simpler.

  4. You should share your observations on FreeCAD forum, I think.

    There is some internal, python scripting support for imperial units.

  5. Any one know why Dimensions on radii or diameters always read 0.0?

  6. Is there anyway to change units to inches?

  7. Well that seems like an amazing oversight. I'm a big fan of metric, but there are far too many things that, in North America especially, need to be in inches and if we rely on manual conversions we end up with crashed spaceships…

  8. If you would leave North America, you would realize that it is absolutely not an amazing oversight, because NO ONE ELSE uses inches. So that's only 350 million potential imperial system/US units users out of 7.1 billion people. And with good reason, it's a stupid, and backward system that is kept alive by the US. The FreeCAD developers are doing this on their spare time, which is limited. So they work on actual modeling features, which is the most important thing for a majority of users. The project lead is European and even if he has no use for inches, has implemented the framework to support multiple unit systems, but has repeatedly asked for a North American developer to help integrate inches into FreeCAD. For the past three years, no one has stepped up. Many complain, but no one is willing to contribute, it seems.

    FYI I'm Canadian, I work with fractional inches everyday, and I hate it.

  9. I hate it too. Nevertheless, not being able to convert loses your largest base (it's more like 400 million anyway, because most Canadians are still using inches). Sure there are 7.1 billion people, but how many of them have use for a CAD package.

  10. I took the 350 million figure from the population number on Wikipedia. And your argument on how many of the rest of the world uses CAD can also be applied to North America just as well.

    As for losing the "largest base": I beg to differ. What about Europe, 739 million population? What about Asia? They don't count? For another, are you aware FreeCAD is an open source project? Are you familiar with what it implies? Do you think a few passionate people who dedicate a large part of their own free time to program a complex and specialized piece of software, *with no expectation of being paid for it* are after market share? As I told you, the real problem is that no American (nor Canadian) has been willing to help with implementing inches in FreeCAD.

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  13. Hi there ! Brand new to Freecad, and all Cad software. I am very interested in gleaning a deeper understanding of all this though.
    This is my question: I am required to make a drawing of a part I have made on A4 portrait. I have imported the .svg file from FreeCad Wiki, but how do I make it the active drawing ? How do I make a "page" that isn't an A3 drawing ?
    Thank you for the help, and the time you invest.
    if it helps; Vista, and unstable version .14.

  14. Did you placed the SVG in Mod/Drawing/Templates? What you see when press small traingle on the right "A3 button" side?

  15. When I press that small triangle, the only option available to me is A3 landscape. Where can I find mod/drawing/templates ? This is a file with Freecad that I save to or code that I write in ?

  16. Create an A3 page, then change it to your template like this.

  17. Templates:

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  21. I am not sure that Dasault system (the most used CAD in airplane industry) will manage this error source. Dasault is a French company that use it's product for simulation. Then they have to use a standard MKSA physical unit.