BricsCAD Shape: A New Concept Modeler – But SketchUp Is Still the One to Beat

Bricsys releases BricsCAD Shape for 3D conceptual design.

The desktop interface of BricsCAD Shape, with some meticulous design work courtesy of the author.

The desktop interface of BricsCAD Shape, with some meticulous design work courtesy of the author.

CAD software provider Bricsys has released a new 3D conceptual modeling tool primarily for architects. BricsCAD Shape is meant for quick 3D design work. It follows in the vein of similar tools like SketchUp and Autodesk FormIt.

Like its competitors, BricsCAD Shape attempts to make it easy for designers to generate their ideas in 3D, offering a library of common architectural components and materials alongside straightforward shape generation tools. According to Bricsys, where BricsCAD Shape differentiates itself is that its “CAD-accurate from the start.” That’s because it uses the same parametric and modeling engine (ACIS) in Bricsys’ BricsCAD Platinum CAD software.

BricsCAD Shape files also open directly in Bricsys’ BIM platform, BricsCAD BIM, which the company claims will accelerate your BIM workflow. Autodesk FormIt, on the other hand, is natively integrated with Revit, Autodesk’s flagship BIM platform.

In that respect, the biggest difference between Shape and FormIt is the price. BricsCAD Shape is completely free, whereas FormIt is tiered into a free and pro version. If you want the extra power of FormIt Pro, you’ll have to shell out $2690 per year for the Autodesk Architecture, Engineering, and Construction Collection—though that gives you the extra benefit of Revit, AutoCAD, and a bunch of other Autodesk products.

Splitting the difference on price is SketchUp, one of the most popular and accessible conceptual 3D modelers around. While SketchUp is also tiered into a free and pro version, the upgrade to pro will cost you only $695 for a perpetual license. That comes with a year of maintenance, but if you want to continue to reap the benefit of support and upgrades after that, it’ll cost $120/year. 

The free version of SketchUp, running in-browser.

The free version of SketchUp, running in-browser.

Other than price, how do the tools compare? The new user will find SketchUp to be the most intuitive, by far. It also runs in your browser, which is nice if you don’t want yet another program clogging up your hard drive. SketchUp is clean, responsive, and has a large community of users, so it’s not hard to see why it’s favored by so many.

FormIt also runs in your browser, but it’s not quite as intuitive as SketchUp. It also doesn’t offer as large a selection of materials or components as SketchUp (not for free users, anyways). Though Revit users will probably appreciate the integration, my money would go to SketchUp.

The free version of Autodesk FormIt, running in-browser.

The free version of Autodesk FormIt, running in-browser.

Which brings us back to BricsCAD Shape. Shape is only available on Windows (with plans to expand to macOS and Linux), so you’ll have to sign up for a Bricsys account and download the program to try it out. Not just for this reason, BricsCAD Shape was my least favorite of the three tools. The program seemed to run a little slow on my fairly modern laptop, with a noticeable lag that made it difficult to use. However, it does offer more material and library content than the free version of FormIt.

To be fair, SketchUp has been around for almost two decades, while FormIt was only released a few years ago and BricsCAD Shape only a few days. So, if my rather hasty comparison follows that order, perhaps it’s simply because software naturally evolves over time to better fit its user base.

To learn more about BricsCAD Shape, read the Bricsys blog post. For more information on SketchUp and FormIt, read “Is Autodesk Trying to Take Out SketchUp?” And if you have your own opinions about any of the three conceptual modeling tools, don’t be shy: leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Written by

Michael Alba

Michael is a senior editor at He covers computer hardware, design software, electronics, and more. Michael holds a degree in Engineering Physics from the University of Alberta.