Which is better – desktop or enterprise software?

  • 10. July 2019

When speaking to customers and prospects, very often we have to explain the differences between enterprise CAD software and desktop CAD software because our portfolio includes both.

The general perception is that enterprise software is THE best thing, while the cheaper desktop software is something mediocre, for those who cannot afford to pay the big bucks. This is wrong. While some advanced features might be available only in the enterprise software, the major differences lie in the infrastructure around the CAD software and not in the technical features.

Let me provide some examples, for better understanding.


In a desktop environment, the user has full freedom to edit the library as he pleases: he may add or change parts on the fly, and any change is immediately visible in the library.

In an enterprise environment, the library management module allows only certain users to edit the library content. A newly created part goes through review and approval processes, which takes place in a sandbox-like module, before the part is pushed to the working library. Various teams may only be allowed visibility to subsets of the full library content, depending on various criteria.

Concurrent editing

The enterprise software allows multiple users to work simultaneously on a design. They may use a static partitioning mechanism (e.g. each designer works on a separate schematic page) or a dynamic partitioning mechanism (while I work on the layout, the software dynamically creates a “force field” around the area I edit, which prevents other users from making modifications).

Data Management

The desktop user stores his projects locally, maybe on a shared drive. If he needs to define a reuse block and then actually uses it in another design, the procedure is usually simple.

The enterprise user stores his projects in a project data management system. His visibility of this repository is limited using a permissions system: he only sees his designs, but the team manager may see the designs of all the team members. Reuse blocks are managed similar to parts.

User roles

In the desktop environment, the engineer performs several roles: hardware designer, simulation specialist, librarian, layouter. Because of this, the commercial configurations are fewer and simpler, they usually include several modules and are “monolithic” – if I open the schematic editor, I consume the full license, even if I do not use the layout editor or the analogue simulator.

In the enterprise environment, certain engineering areas (e.g. signal integrity, thermal analysis) are dedicated to the users or to a stage in the design flow (library management, layout, manufacturing preparation). Therefore, the commercial configurations are more granular, with several options, in order to optimize costs. If the librarian wants to create a part, he needs only the library module, so it would not make sense to consume a license for the full product configuration. The customer might need 10 layout seats but only two simulator seats.


The enterprise software might have more interfaces to connect to other customer systems – ERP, PLM etc. – and powerful scripting environments to create custom add-ons, which match the customer’s business processes. 

Aspect, styles

The enterprise software is able to enforce the use of certain graphical elements (colours, line widths, fonts) only, in order to comply with corporate standards or corporate identity.

The same project can be displayed differently by applying different styles (e.g. ISO or ANSI symbols), so it may be easily understood by designers or service people in different geographic locations.

The above examples demonstrate that there cannot be a good answer to the question “Which is better – desktop or enterprise software?” because the question itself is wrong.

The right question should be “Which is better for you – desktop or enterprise software?”