I was trained on SolidWorks through school, and loved using it primarily for its ease of use. Learning some of the more complicated features took some patience and time, but I remember picking up on some of the more basic tasks on my own. While DraftSight lacks some of the intuitiveness of its more powerful cousin, I’m impressed by its quality, given that it’s a free program.
The problems I encountered with using SolidWorks were that it’s not available cross-platform (any Mac users I have known to use it are required to install Windows first and run Boot Camp or a virtual machine), and it’s a beefy program, using a lot of RAM. There’s a reason that it’s one of the industry standards, but I remember dealing with frequent crashes in the earlier Windows operating systems, and on a bad day, it would take me several minutes to rotate a model through 360 degrees.
In contrast, DraftSight is simple enough to be really small (it only takes up about 200 MB). It also can be run without any noticeable effect on memory allocation, and so far, I haven’t experienced any crashes, freezing or lag. It’s also Mac compatible, takes about a minute to download and install, and again, it’s free. If you create a free login, you can also visit their forum, where they have video tutorials, discussion boards and links to some impressive examples of work.
You can download it here and try for yourself. Since I don’t use CAD professionally, I’m interested to hear from those of you who do.