Very frequently I can see the need to referencing plans. Mostly to give context to questions. Like the OP did in this question: How to make a long shallow cut on a narrow piece of wood with a circular saw

Now that was pretty basic but it helped give context. I was curious if anyone was aware of a tool or utility that could render something like this:

Square with holes!

SketchUp comes to mind first thing. It even appear that this came from SketchUp. As of the time of this post it seems like a very capable tool but with a learning curve that might not appeal to some users.

So are there other tools for doing even just basic 2D drawings that come to mind? I was hoping for something capable to whats above with maybe a little more sophistication then, say, MSPaint.

The Plan in MSPaint

I'm aware I might get answers like "SketchUp isnt so bad" just phishing for other possibilities. Maybe hoping this might be a question to refer other to. Maybe there is something quick and dirtier... just not as dirty and "The Plan" above

Edit from comment discussion

In general I could see this topic coming up with new user who see our question and want to know how to add this type of context to their post. "I have 2 pieces of wood meeting at a 45 degree angle" could leave room for interpretation. A simple tool where they could draw/design could save a comment based clarification discussion. For ease of use I would guess the "tool" in question would not need to conform to scale or (necessarily) measurement constraints. I am not suggesting making proper plans. Just clean diagrams for community clarification.

  • 5
    Something web-based like electronics.SE's circuit diagram tool or chess.SE chessboard visualizer would be nice. Commented Mar 20, 2015 at 3:10
  • I didn't even conceive that something could exist natively in the SE network for that. I was more considering an outside resource
    – Matt
    Commented Mar 20, 2015 at 3:16
  • There is probably a better place to ask this on se than ww-meta, you know...
    – keshlam
    Commented Mar 20, 2015 at 14:23
  • @keshlam possibly. If nothing else maybe this could be later marked as dup then and bread crumbed to MSE.
    – Matt
    Commented Mar 20, 2015 at 14:27
  • @Matt Meta is not for topics like this - it's for discussions about the main site.
    – Joe
    Commented Mar 20, 2015 at 14:30
  • I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it is not about woodworking.stackexchange.com
    – Joe
    Commented Mar 20, 2015 at 14:30
  • @joe I was just trying to improve the quality of the questions here. Thats why I was making a meta question. We can close it
    – Matt
    Commented Mar 20, 2015 at 14:31
  • If you're looking to determine something we should recommend to other users, that would probably be okay - the question just doesn't clearly say that.
    – Joe
    Commented Mar 20, 2015 at 14:36
  • @Joe if that would make the difference on this being useful then I can make that simple edit. I thought it would carry more weight if it was me asking.
    – Matt
    Commented Mar 20, 2015 at 14:42
  • Added, hopefully, some better justification for the question
    – Matt
    Commented Mar 20, 2015 at 14:47

2 Answers 2


It sounds like what you're looking for is a drafting program -- sketch in 2d with precise constraints between elements. Unfortunately those have become either specialized (eg pc board design) or uncommon as fancier tools were released. Your best bet might be tolook for one that was written as a student's term project.

SketchUp isn't designed for 2d drafting, but can be persuaded to do it and has most of the tools you'd want for that task. And is worth learning (he says, not having spent enough time on it himself). I'm not sure a dedicated drafting tool would actually be a lot easier to learn and use.

  • My partial intention of this post was personal interest but also canonical. As I said in my post I was expecting an answer like this. Full fledged drafting tool was not what I was looking for. Something quick to add a small picture. A more professional version of my paint. Manually adding constraints was not a concern for me.
    – Matt
    Commented Mar 20, 2015 at 14:29
  • Hm. There are manymany paint programs on the web (it's a fairly standard student project), plus other things that can be (ab)used for the purpose such as presentation tools, photo manipulation tools, etc. Without the specific goal target of drafting, I don't think there's an easy way to recommend one over another... There's always pencil and graph paper, of course.
    – keshlam
    Commented Mar 20, 2015 at 14:41
  • Like you said: "It's in the magazine" popularwoodworking.com/sketchup-tutorials. I also rephrased the question to be more of use to other instead of just me. Other might be resistant to SketchUp. Maybe there is not an answer to what I was looking for.
    – Matt
    Commented Mar 20, 2015 at 14:55
  • Is there a way to force dimensions in SketchUp? I've always resorted to dimensioning and then dragging until I get the dimension I want. This lack of functionality is what killed usability for me.
    – Doresoom
    Commented Mar 20, 2015 at 15:37
  • @Doresoom yes, after you click to make the first point, you can type a number to set the dimension. Make sure you run through some tutorials; people who really know SketchUp (or any drawing program) can work really fast after some practice.
    – rob Mod
    Commented Apr 10, 2015 at 0:29

Having learnt CAD from the ground up starting with AutoCAD, which is actually one of the more basic general-purpose 2D (and 3D) drawing/drafting programs, I really don't think that there's going to be anything which fits your requirements of being "capable" like Sketchup whilst also being easy to learn. Also IME free CAD software is sorely lacking in features and even harder to use than the more polished paid-for programs.

Like with programming, you can't just learn an "easy language" without first learning some of the principles (like what a variable is). It's the same with CAD, you need to learn at least some of the principles of CAD (co-ordinate systems, dimensions etc.) in order to really be able to use it at all. It's not practical to suggest that your average Stack user goes and learns some CAD software just to illustrate their post.

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