Woodworking design software – what are your choices?

using computer to check designs with woodworking design software

Using woodworking design software can save you time and money compared to working with paper and pencil designs.

It’s time-consuming to do all your renderings by hand. And depending on your skill level, it may not present your idea or proposal at its best.  Client requests for changes require a complete re-do of the drawings.  It is no longer acceptable or practical.

So if you’re looking to get woodworking design software for your company or personal use, you want to make sure you’re getting the right kind for you. Check out this list of different wood design software companies and find out which software best suits your needs.

Types of Woodworking Design Software

A few different kinds of furniture design software are available, and we’ll be examining them in three different categories:

  • CAD programs (such as Auto-CAD and SketchUp)
  • Virtual Object Design (such as SketchList)
  • Cabinet Design Software (such as CabinetVision)

We will look at the pros and cons of each type of software based on the following factors.

Level of Detail and Customization Options

How detailed are the programs? Are they only offering basic cabinet designs, or can you get more specific? Do they offer the ability to create custom layouts and sizes, or only standard templates?

Speed of Creating Designs

How fast can you put a design together using this program?  What work is required to make modifications or adjustments?

Complexity and Ease of Use

Does the program offer high-level designs, or are more specific controls and details such as joinery and contouring available? Is it easy to learn how to use or very challenging?


How much does it cost compared to the other programs available? Is it an up-front cost or a yearly or monthly subscription?

CAD Programs

CAD programs (Computer Assisted Design) are some of the most popular design software out there, and there are many different kinds. The basic idea of CAD software like SketchUp is that it takes what you would create on paper and helps you design it digitally.  They are basically engineering design programs marketed as woodwork design software packages.

Detail and Customization

Programs like SketchUp can provide great detail, as specific as you need. You can design any project that you can imagine, so there is a lot of room for customization and intricate detail if you’re willing to put in the work. There are 2D and 3D CAD programs available.

Speed and Output Quality

It will take you a while to complete your designs since you are going in and doing most of it on your own. You may not have the pre-loaded templates that other software might have.

The overall quality of the rendering depends on how much work you will put into it. With most CAD designs, you will only get the basic outline of what you are looking for, and it doesn’t do all that much work for you besides the measurements, snap to grid, and color fills.  Sometimes basic reports such as a parts list are created manually.

Complexity and Ease of Use

CAD programs are very complex, with many layers for designs and many features that many basic woodworkers will not need.

Because they are so complex and have so many layers of detail, there are many options for customization. However, CAD programs tend to be the most difficult for new users to learn.


CAD programs tend to cost up to $1,500 or more for the license, or you can pay $500 or so for a yearly payment. Some free CAD programs available will not have as many features, and others have “pro” editions for a monthly fee.

Virtual Object Design

Virtual Object Design programs help to design objects in 3D, with a wide variety of customization. These programs are typically more straightforward to use than CAD programs and offer less complexity in the features needed to maneuver them.

Detail and Customization

These programs offer just the necessary detail since there are fewer overall features than a CAD program. There are some pre-loaded templates, but they still offer lots of options for customization of the projects.

Speed and Output Quality

It is much faster to use these programs since there are shortcuts programmed to help design three-dimensional objects.

You’ll get a solid-quality image output with other features. It’s more extensive than just a rough sketch, but it is less elaborate than some furniture design software on the market.  Generally, the object design approach integrates reports such as a parts list or purchase list because this model-based approach stores this information.

Complexity and Ease of Use

It’s easy to use and not complex, making it an excellent option for those starting with cabinet design software.  The best approach used by some software allows users to work with virtual 3D boards for designing, providing instant feedback.  There are extensive reports available in the program with readouts of what you need to create the object.


This software tends to go for $200-$900 upfront.  A one-time fee avoids the uncertainty of future costs associated with paying monthly or annual fees.

Cabinet Design Software Packages

These programs are specifically designed to handle cabinet designs and other details about interior decoration. As a result, there is not much customizing available besides what type and size of the cabinet you are making.

Detail and Customization

You can essentially get a purchase list out of these programs, and not a lot of that can be customized. You can see the final renderings of the finished product and what it looks like, including what type of wood to use, hardware options, and the total cost of the end product in some programs.

These offer only standard templates for cabinet design, so there is little room for customization.

Speed and Quality of Output

Because premade templates exist, you can put designs together on the fly for any customers that might want a quick estimate.

The output shows as a fully rendered model. You can often interact with the virtual cabinet doors and see how everything would look when it’s finished. Some software even lets you pair it with other pre-loaded furniture to see how the finished kitchen or bathroom would look.

Complexity and Ease of Use

These woodworking design software programs are relatively easy since they deal with a limited number of options and tools.  They can be pretty easy to use once you know what you’re doing with them.


These programs can be pretty expensive; some go for up to $1,000 per year. The program is great if you want to design cabinet layouts for customers but not as helpful otherwise for customization.

Which Design Software Is Best?

We hope this helps clarify the differences between different types of woodworking design software, and it helps you decide which one is best for your needs. There are pros and cons for all the different software companies, including the cost, the level of detail, and how easy it is to use.

SketchUp has by far the most users, although they don’t disclose the number specifically working in wood.  SketchList 3D’s woodworking-centered design makes it easy to learn and use.  And CabinetVision works from the point of inserting and adjusting cabinets.  Each has its place.

If you’re looking for more specific information contact us directly. We’d be happy to help you with your software needs.


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