Best SolidWorks alternatives for macOS
SolidWorks is a CAD application focused on modeling solids. Notably, it does not require its users to do any 3D modelling. Instead, the geometry of the part is defined by a series of parameters and relations. Properly specifying these will allow the part to stay functional even after changes, which means that it can be quickly tweaked. More complex components, such as assemblies of multiple moving parts, can also be created. Thanks to this data-focused approach, making them is very easy. Special parameters called mates define how the parts move in relation to each other; once again, the user simply needs to specify them. Though SolidWorks is not available on Mac, a number of competing applications are. Out of all SolidWorks alternatives for Mac, AutoDesk Fusion 360 is probably the most capable, though SimLab Composer and FreeCAD are also decent.
AutoDesk Fusion 360
AutoDesk Fusion 360 is a cloud-based application with CAD, CAM, CAE, and PCB design features. Just like SolidWorks, it is capable of performing parametric modelling and simulating these parts, though it is not limited to these tasks. Admittedly, you may not want the extra functionality if you were comfortable with SolidWorks, but it has other advantages as well. The most obvious one is its price – the annual subscription fee will cost you $545, which is much cheaper than SolidWorks.
SimLab Composer is not exactly a replacement for SolidWorks – it’s merely a 3D visualizer, not a CAD program. Of course, that can still be useful. Indeed, it’s a great way to transform 3D models from the CAD program of your choice into beautiful product renders and animations. You can see how well SimLab Composer integrates into your workflow by using its free trial.
FreeCAD proudly calls itself “an open-source parametric 3D modeler”. Unfortunately, it is not without issues. It has a rather glaring topological naming problem; additionally, it is outright impossible to link certain objects to each other. In the end, you can’t expect too much for free. This application should be good enough for hobbyists, but professionals are advised to look elsewhere.
Didn’t find a suitable alternative? Install Windows on Mac instead
If none of these alternatives work for your use-case, you still have one option left – installing Windows on your Mac. The easiest way to do this is by using a virtual machine. In very simple terms, a virtual machine is a separate window that runs Windows inside of your macOS. Windows programs like SolidWorks, as well as certain games, can be launched inside of that window.
Parallels Desktop is the best program for creating virtual machines currently on the market. It is extremely easy to use – you will be able to install Windows on your Mac with just a couple of clicks. What’s more, you will be able to switch between macOS and Windows on the fly, and even exchange files between the two systems. Thanks to this capability, there’s no need to search for SolidWorks alternatives for Mac. Why do that when you can simply run SolidWorks on Mac?
VMWare Fusion is another capable virtualization program, though it is not as streamlined as Parallels Desktop.
Unlike all programs mentioned above, BootCamp is not a virtualization program – it installs Windows directly on your Mac. Though this results in greater performance, there are disadvantages to this method too. For one, you will need to reboot every time you want to switch from macOS to Windows and vice versa. It also works only on older Mac computers with Intel processors; Apple Silicon Macs do not support BootCamp.
Follow these steps to install Windows on your Mac using BootCamp:
Please note: Users of OS X Yosemite 10.10 (or an older OS X version) will need to create a bootable Windows USB.
- Download this Windows ISO file.
- Open Boot Camp Assistant (Go to Applications > Utilities).
- Define the Windows partition size and choose the Windows ISO file you’ve downloaded.
- Format the Windows partition and go through all Windows installation steps.
- When Windows boots for the first time follow on-screen instructions to install Boot Camp and Windows support software (drivers)
There are several SolidWorks alternatives for Mac, but AutoDesk Fusion 360 is the best one. It offers similar functionality and has the advantage of being significantly cheaper.
You can also install Windows on Mac using a special program called Parallels Desktop. This will allow you to run most Windows programs on your Mac and forget about searching for alternatives.