FreeCAD, like many modern design applications such as Revit or CATIA, is based on the concept of Workbench. A workbench can be considered as a set of tools specially grouped for a certain task. In a traditional furniture workshop, you would have a work table for the person who works with wood, another one for the one who works with metal pieces, and maybe a third one for the guy who mounts all the pieces together.
In FreeCAD, the same concept applies. Tools are grouped into workbenches according to the tasks they are related to.
The following workbenches are available:
- The Part Design Workbench for building Part shapes from sketches
- The Draft Workbench for doing basic 2D CAD drafting
- The Mesh Module for working with triangulated meshes
- The Part Module for working with CAD parts
- The Image Module for working with bitmap images
- The Raytracing Module for working with ray-tracing (rendering)
- The Drawing workbench for displaying your 3D work on a 2D sheet
- The Robot Module for studying robot movements
- The Sketcher Module for working with geometry-constrained sketches
- The Arch Module for working with architectural elements
- The OpenSCAD Module for interoperability with OpenSCAD and repairing CSG model history
- The Assembly Module for working with multiple shapes, multiple documents, multiple files, multiple relationships...
- The FEM Module provides Finite Element Analysis (FEA) workflow
- The Ship Workbench FreeCAD-Ship works over Ship entities, that must be created on top of provided geometry.
- The Plot Workbench The Plot module allows to edit and save output plots created from other modules and tools.
- The Spreadsheet Workbench for creating and manipulating spreadsheet data
New workbenches are in development, stay tuned!
When you switch from one workbench to another, the tools available on the interface change. Toolbars, command bars and possibly other parts of the interface switch to the new workbench, but the contents of your scene doesn't change. You could, for example, start drawing 2D shapes with the Draft Workbench, then work further on them with the Part Workbench.
Note that sometimes a Workbench is referred to as a Module. However, Workbenches and Modules are different entities. A Module is any extension of FreeCAD, while a Workbench is a special GUI configuration that groups some toolbars and menus. Usually every Module contains its own Workbench, hence the cross-use of the name.