CAD software (Mac) options for importing a DD aerial map

I am looking for some Mac CAD software that I can import a DD aerial map into (either a a GEOTiff or a JPG, with the associated data files) to use as a to-scale base layer upon which I would then draw a site plan for an outdoor event.

AutoCAD 3D Civil looks like it would do it, but it is crazy expensive. I have also looked at Vectorworks Landmark, but again is more expensive and more than I need. I have the Mappublisher plug-in for Illustrator which in theory does what I needs but seems overly complicated to set up each plan each time (and also pretty expensive)

Ideally software with a perpetual license for under $1200, or less $300 per year subscription. AutoCAD LT is about the price range, but it can’t deal with georeferenced files.

It doesn’t need to be 3D

Needs to be able to import/export and work on .dwg files (or at least .dxf files)

It is not critical that it keeps/uses the geo location (it is the scale that is more important), but ideally it would as this makes importing a future aerial map file so much easier if it is just paced and scaled appropriately.

Any suggestions would be great.

Do you really need CAD and Engineering functionality? I would suggest you look into QGIS first. You can do everything you need to do for mapping there including making points and linework.

Traditional CAD like you will find for a Mac does not have survey functionality that is the basis of what we do here. You could run parallels, but performance may be terrible and you will most likely have issue with drivers for the video cards required.

Why not just buy an inexpensive machine that will suffice? If you get something with at least these specs you will be fine.

i5 or i7 Quad Core
16GB of RAM (8GB might be enough as long as you get at least a 500GB hard drive and can allocate 4GB a cache RAM)
Nvidia 2GB graphics card

Hi MichaelL,

thanks for your reply.

I’d really prefer to stick to Mac only, I have run with two machines in the past as well as Pararllels or other PC emulation software, but it always comes up with problems.

CAD and .dwg/dxf files are fairly standard within the events industry and often venues or Councils will have a basemap / template they can provide you to work with, so in order to be efficient and compatible with venues and other event staff (who we are often sharing files back and forth with) we have to comply!

I realise that what I am trying to do seems to fit in-between or across CAD world and GIS world, but those worlds to me just seem too interconnected for there not to be more software that straddles both!

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I think part of the problem is that drone data crosses more over into survey and civil engineering than most people realize. QGIS works great with and can open and produce DXF’s which pretty much any CAD program can open.

LISP for Autodesk ® AutoCAD ® 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013

Works on PC and Mac

The archive contains installation help.

GeoRefImg-spatial reference for AutoCAD and Architecture-automatically change the position of bitmaps (with World anchor files) The image and the anchor file must be located in the same folder.

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Good find! Still mindful that the image still has to be in a Cartesian coordinate system and there remains the matter of survey and engineering functionality like cogo, surfaces and volumetrics.

If all you’re needing is the image to-scale as a background that can be done in any CAD package just by scaling. For an individual site plan it doesn’t have to be globally located. Surveyors can take care of that.

Bricsys BricsCAD is a good AutoCAD alternative.

Hi, MichaelL!

I use orthophotoplanes as a substrate together with topographic surveys for 2D design of power lines. I use the local rectangular coordinate system. Orthophotoplanes cut into tablets of 5000 x 5000 pixels. If there are a lot of tablets, then I load them into the Autocad in parts of 10-20 tablets on separate layers. I make the layers invisible and turn on the visibility of the tablets in the part of the drawing where I work. You can load a lot of tablets, but the number of simultaneously visible tablets depends on the power of the computer.

There are free Autocad plugins for uploading multiple images (folders) with binding files at the same time.

You can use these plugins to create buttons in Autocad. It’s difficult, but I did it.

If you are interested, I can post links.

Best Regards, Sergey

We have all the software that we require, but that might be helpful to others as long as it works on Mac per this thread. Otherwise you could create another thread with more detail.


I recommend VectorWorks for the MAC. It is CAD/BIM software that import geotiff and all data DD produces perfectly. Respectfully, I really do not agree with MichaelL statement :“Traditional CAD like you will find for a Mac does not have survey functionality that is the basis of what we do here.” Have a look of VectorWorks GIS capabilities and you will be more than satisfied.

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So you’re saying VectorWorks has coordinate files, CRS transformations and scaling, point creation and surface management functionality? That would be an awesome find!

After looking at VectorWorks it does not have all the functionality to run a highly accurate mapping program that will integrate with design CAD and survey functionality. Better options that are half and a third of the price for perpetual licenses are,

Carlson Civil
BricsCAD Pro

Hey Sergey,

thanks for the reply. Yes I had looked at such solutions (LISP / georefimg), however it requires the full basic AutoCAD software. In Australia this is $AUD3085 per year, compared to AutoCAD LT which does most of what we need for event site maps (except GIS/georeference file intergration!) and is $620 / year. $3000+ per year for any software is just ridiculous! I understand if you are an high-paid Architect using it all day every day, then it could be justified, but for so many other casual/sporadic users it is not viable, presumably why the create the LT version. Back in the days of perpetual licences it might be different, but the greedy subscription models have made things much more difficult for non-regular users of lots of software :frowning:

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Hi Icaruscam,

thanks for your reply.

Yes I have played around a bit with Vectorworks, the Landmark version in particular does work pretty well with georeferenced imagery - I think the closest I have come across for what I need. But the pricing model is pretty expensive. While it is not an annual subscription, you effectively do need to pay the maintenance fee every year or the software becomes in compatiable with you OS pretty quickly and you can’t pay for an upgard you need to buy a full version again.

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I have verified that BricsCAD will run well on a Mac. I just tried v21 on Catalina. I do not have Big Sur yet, but you could get the trial.

BricsCAD Trial