Best Software for Architects and Designers

As an architect, how do you know which software should you use?

In this article you will learn about the best software for architects, why do you need it, its main purpose, level of difficulty, ease of learning, and links for download 

Architecture software has become essential in the modern digital world, making it easier to draw, save, and print plans for your designs. Additionally, while there are various digital design packages out there, architects need something more dedicated than normal graphic design software. We need more than a beautiful plan, as we all are running out of time and need to do the difficult tasks in the minimum time possible, looking for efficiency and automations. We divide the most popular software in the industry into 7 main groups:

  1. 2D Drafting

  2. 3D Modelling

  3. Parametric Design and Visual Programming 

  4. 3D Visualization (Rendering) 

  5. Presentation, Graphics and Layout design

  6. Video Editing and Animation

  7. Sound Editing

 

software for architects
software for architects
autocad download

AutoCAD

Founded in: 1982
Main usage: 2D Drafting tool
Educational Students Version: Available
Ease of use: Easy
Specialty: Drafting is usually the first stage of architectural design, drawing sketches, plans, sections, elevations, details, layouts and generating 2D architectural documents.  

Download Autocad

 

 

software for architects

 

sketchup logo

Sketchup

Founded in: 2000
Main usage: 3D Modelling with an option for 2D drafting and Layout design
Educational Students Version: Available
Ease of use: Easy
Specialty: Fast and simple tools, friendly interface and lots of 3D models available online. Lots of free 3D models can be found in 3D Warehouse

Download Sketchup

 

rhinoceros 3d

RhinoCeros

Founded in: 1980
Main usage: 3D Modelling
Educational Students Version: Available
Ease of use: Easy/Moderate
Specialty: Complex and non perpendicular models are easier to achieve in Rhino thanks to its intelligent tools. Rhino is used primarily in architectural firms, industrial design, and jewelry design.

Download Rhinoceros

 

Revit free download

Autodesk Revit

Founded in: 2000
Main usage: BIM (3D Modelling + 2D Drafting + Analytics)
Educational Students Version: Available
Ease of use: Moderate/Hard
Specialty: One cannot sum up what BIM is in one sentence, but think about it like combining Autocad, with 3D modelling features along with effective tools to handle large projects at ease. In BIM software each view is generated from the 3D model itself, so when you change an object in one view it will do the job for all the other views. Layout design, smart schedules, project timeline, collaborative platform are also part of it. Revit is a collaborative software for many disciplines and includes tools for architecture, engineering, MEP, HVAC, electrical and landscape design. 

Download Revit

 

archicad

ArchiCAD

Founded in: 1987
Main usage: BIM (3D Modelling + 2D Drafting + Analytics)
Educational Students Version: Available
Ease of use: Moderate
Specialty: The world first BIM software. Like other BIM software, views, plans and sections are created automatically and upgraded with every change to the model. Unlike Revit, ArchiCAD runs also on OSX, has a friendlier user interface and is oriented towards architects. It has a very well developed support for IFC, good drafting, layout approach and decent rendering. Also it has very flexible and efficient parametric objects (GDL objects don`t affect file size).

Download ArchiCAD

 

vectorworks free download

Vectorworks

Founded in: 1985
Main usage: BIM (3D Modelling + 2D Drafting + Analytics)
Educational Students Version: Available
Ease of use: Moderate
Specialty: Opposite to popular belief, BIM is much more than 3D design. BIM is a process of the construction development project. It involves the planning of the project right through to the construction, operation, and maintenance with the considering the full procedure of the cost, process, and plan. Vectorworks includes several versions that can be suitable for architects and also landscape architects. If you are comparing Vectorworks to Revit, the most relevant comparable product would be Vectorworks Architect.
 Vectorworks Landmark is intended for architectural landscape design and GIS planning. And Vectorworks Fundamentals offers users the ability to sketch products, build models and create an analysis of them.

Download Vectorworks

 

civil 3d download free

Civil 3D

Founded in: 2005
Main usage: CAD + BIM for Landscape Architects
Educational Students Version: Available
Ease of use: Moderate
Specialty: The Civil 3D software is a solution that creates civil engineering design and documentation that supports Computer-Aided Design (CAD) and Building Information Modeling (BIM) workflows. It is suitable for landscape design, infrastructure and engineering. 

Download Civil 3D

 

software for architects
grasshopper rhino free download

Grasshopper

Founded in: 2004
Main usage: Parametric design and Visual Programming
Educational Students Version: Free
Compatibility: Runs within Rhinoceros 3D (Rhino Version 6 and up includes Grasshopper as a built in Plugin) 
Ease of use: Moderate
Specialty: Grasshopper is an algorithmic modeling plugin for Rhino that uses a visual programming language, developed by David Rutten as an official plugin of Rhino. It is a parametric design tool. Grasshopper allows you to reference Rhino geometry objects from it (points, curves, surfaces, etc.), create geometry or bake Grasshopper geometry back into Rhino. Use Grasshopper to automate tasks, define and change your design by parameters instead of manual change, save time and also perform some analytics. 

Download Grasshopper

 

dynamo revit free download

Dynamo

Founded in: 2013
Main usage: Parametric design and Visual Programming
Educational Students Version: Free
Compatibility: Runs within Revit, Maya and Civil 3D (Revit 2020 now includes Dynamo and receives updates as Revit does)
Ease of use: Moderate
Specialty: Dynamo extends the power of Revit by providing access to the Revit API (Application Programming Interface) in a more accessible manner. Rather than typing code, with Dynamo you create programs by manipulating graphic elements called “nodes”. It’s an approach to programming better suited for visually oriented types, like architects, designers, and engineers.

Download Dynamo

 

 

best software for architects

 

lumion free download

Lumion

Founded in: 2010
Main usage: 3D Visualization (Rendering)
Educational Students Version: Available
Compatibility: Runs with Sketchup, Revit, ArchiCAD, AutoCAD, Rhino, Vectorworks
Ease of use: Easy
Specialty: Lumion is 3D rendering software made especially for architects and designers. If you have a 3D model of your design, Lumion can help you quickly bring it to life and show it in a richly detailed, captivating environment. Includes Livesync options with most software. 
 

Download Lumion

 

enscape vs lumion

Enscape

Founded in: 2017
Main usage: 3D Visualization (Rendering) 
Educational Students Version: Available
Compatibility: Runs with Sketchup, Revit, ArchiCAD, Rhino, Vectorworks
Ease of use: Easy
Specialty: Enscape has been famous for its great capability with water rendering and generating videos and walkthroughs in no time. It includes also a virtual reality tool, great asset library and very friendly interface.  

Download Enscape

  

corona renderer

Corona

Founded in: 2012
Main usage: 3D Visualization (Rendering) 
Educational Students Version: Not Available
Compatibility: Runs as a standalone software and available as a plugin for Cinema 4D and 3ds Max
Ease of use: Easy
Specialty: Corona render delivers high quality, physically-based shading in production rendering, its features are integrated into Autodesk 3ds Max and Cinema 4D. It supports both unbiased path tracing and biased UHD cache to deliver a pretty fast but very accurate GI results. It has a stand-alone frame buffer where you can tweak your renders until they are completely clean (Corona uses the Progressive render mode). The interface and the overall logic is similar to the famous Maxell Render.  

Download Corona

  
vray download

Vray

Founded in: 1997
Main usage: 3D Visualization (Rendering) 
Educational Students Version: Not Available
Compatibility: Runs as a standalone software and available as a plugin for Revit, Sketchup, 3Ds Max, Rhino, Cinema 4D and more
Ease of use: Moderate
Specialty: Vray takes a bit more time to figure out compared to Lumion and Enscape, but for those who want to get the most our of their rendering it is worth the trouble. Through Vray you can control everything, the texture, the light, the reflections, the enviroment, etc. Unlike most visualization plugins, VRay’s plugin has an abundance of options and hence the reason many architects have anchored its steep learning curve to the wealth of knobs, levers, sliders, and check boxes.

Download Vray

  
3ds max free download

3Ds Max

Founded in: 1996
Main usage: 3D Modelling, Animation and 3D Visualization (Rendering) 
Educational Students Version: Available
Compatibility: Runs as a standalone software 
Ease of use: Moderate
Specialty: Mental Ray is probably the best rendering which is default in max but takes more time than Vray. 3Ds Max generally have better furniture models (more geometric detailed) to download, and responds way better to heavy model's files. 

Download 3Ds MAX

 

 

best software for architects

 

photoshop for architects

Adobe Photoshop

Founded in: 1987
Main usage: Presentation, Graphics and Layout design
Educational Students Version: Available
Ease of use: Moderate
Specialty: In Photoshop you can edit your images, as it is the best raster editing software. You can create beautiful effects, enhance your renders (post production), combine images, make architectural collages, post-digital drawings, abstract drawings, enhance your plans, sections and elevations, create layouts, presentations and diagrams. Adobe Photoshop is a part of the Creative Cloud program. 

Download Adobe Photoshop

 

illustrator for architects

Adobe Illustrator

Founded in: 1985
Main usage: Presentation, Graphics and Layout design
Educational Students Version: Available
Ease of use: Moderate
Specialty: In Illustrator you can create and edit your vector graphics. You can create beautiful effects, make architectural collages, post-digital drawings, abstract drawings, enhance your plans, sections and elevations, create layouts, presentations and diagrams. You export CAD drawings from other software and continue to edit them in Illustrator. Adobe Illustrator is a part of the Creative Cloud program. 

Download Adobe Illustrator

 

indesign for architects

Adobe Indesign

Founded in: 1999
Main usage: Presentation, Graphics and Layout design
Educational Students Version: Available
Ease of use: Moderate
Specialty: In Indesign you can create and edit large documents and also your vector graphics. You can create beautiful presentations, create layouts, booklets, books, portfolio, pamphlets and diagrams too. It has all the effective tools and utilities to make working on large douments easier and faster. Adobe Indesign is a part of the Creative Cloud program. 

Download Adobe Indesign

 

 

best software for architects

 

premiere pro for architecture

Adobe Premiere Pro

Founded in: 2003
Main usage: Video and Animation
Educational Students Version: Available
Ease of use: Moderate
Specialty: In Premiere you can create and edit videos and animations and also combine your raster and vector graphics from Illustrator and Photoshop. You can create beautiful dynamic presentations, GIFs, add some dynamics to static architectural drawings. Adobe Premiere Pro is a part of the Creative Cloud program. 

Download Adobe Premiere Pro

 

after effects architecture

Adobe After Effects

Founded in: 1993
Main usage: Video and Animation
Educational Students Version: Available
Ease of use: Moderate
Specialty: In AE you can create and edit videos and animations and also combine your raster and vector graphics from Illustrator and Photoshop. You can create beautiful dynamic presentations, GIFs, add some dynamics to static architectural drawings. AE is more animation oriented than Adobe Premiere Pro. After Effects is a part of the Creative Cloud program. 

Download Adobe After Effects

 

adobe audition

Adobe Audition

Founded in: 2003
Main usage: Sound Editings
Educational Students Version: Available
Ease of use: Moderate
Specialty: In Audition you can edit the vocals from your Premiere and After effects projects. Audition is a part of the Creative Cloud program. 

Download Adobe Audition

 

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