Examples of Best Architecture Apps for PC
Architecture apps have evolved significantly in recent years, despite being around for a while already. It’s fair to say that most architectural software was originally designed for Windows PCs. While that trend is starting to die down a bit, there are still plenty of architecture apps for PC to choose from if you’re using a Windows desktop device.
How to figure out what is the correct architecture app?
The architecture apps market as a whole is relatively large, with most of them designed for Windows machines. Additionally, the term covers many different software types, meaning there is no single best architecture app for Windows. However, it’s still possible to find the best architecture solution for your specific use case, and we can try to help with that effort by offering a list of helpful questions that you can answer for yourself.
How helpful and responsive is the customer support of this app?
While it may not be the most critical point for other application types, it makes a massive difference in the field of architecture apps. Architecture apps, especially CAD software, have a reputation for being notoriously difficult to work with, particularly for users with no prior experience with such software. In these cases, having a helpful customer support team is a significant advantage to any architecture app.
What exactly are you going to do with an architecture app?
There are many different types of architecture apps to choose from, such as comprehensive CAD solutions, simplistic 3D design applications, or any combination of the two. Everything here can still be classified as an architecture app for PC, and there are plenty of different types to choose from.
How necessary are three-dimensional capabilities for your work?
One of the biggest distinctions in the field of architecture applications is whether they can work in three dimensions or not. There are many specific projects and jobs that specialize in floor plans and other tasks that don’t require any 3D capabilities. In these cases, it’s possible to use various 2D architecture apps, which are also a lot cheaper than their 3D counterparts.
How large is your potential scope of work?
A similar argument applies when choosing between a free solution and a paid one. For example, if you’re not heavily focused on collaboration and only work in 2D environments, then a free solution might suffice. However, nearly all 3D architecture work requires a paid solution because that part of the market has few free apps to begin with.
How important is it for you to include BIM elements in your work?
The integration of BIM in all kinds of CAD operations has been ongoing for a while now, offering many benefits that make the integration of the two faster and more efficient. Currently, most popular architecture apps have some form of BIM capabilities. However, many less popular architecture apps may not have such features, and this must be kept in mind if your company relies on BIM.
Are you looking for industry-specific solutions or for a more general architecture-related feature set?
It’s fairly common for architecture apps, mainly CAD solutions, to be customized for a specific purpose or industry, such as construction, MEP, or architecture tasks. That’s not to say there can’t be a solution that combines several toolkits, but this tends to make apps more difficult to operate. The choice here is to either look for a very focused solution that performs one task and is generally cheaper, or a solution that packs many features you may not even use to its full extent, but would cost more and may be harder to work with.
Of course, this list is far from complete, and there are plenty of other ways that one architecture app can differ from another. But this should be enough to make regular users aware of the need to pay close attention to this process. Now we can move on to providing actual examples of the best architecture apps for PC devices running Windows.
16 best architecture apps for PC
Revit is a BIM-oriented architecture app for PC distributed by Autodesk, a massive software corporation that provides various solutions and may be the only company with multiple software offerings on this list. Revit is a highly efficient BIM solution with numerous features to assist architects, engineers, and other specialists. It can enhance collaboration, improve coordination between departments, streamline documentation, and is considered one of the best solutions in this market. It can also be somewhat overwhelming, even for users transitioning from AutoCAD to Revit (there is even a slight overlap of features between the two), but mastering it allows you to utilize the full potential of one of the most versatile BIM architecture apps on the market.
CorelCAD is a stark contrast to the previous example. While it may not be the most sophisticated solution in the world, it is still a great 2D/3D architecture solution with a number of CAD features. CorelCAD is built by the creators of Corel Painter and VideoStudio Ultimate. It can perform 3D design and 2D drafting and works well as a basic toolset for architecture-related purposes. It is not particularly expensive, can manipulate vector graphics, has plenty of sharing and collaboration features, and even supports .STL files, allowing you to work with 3D printers.
Another relatively simple yet powerful CAD solution is SolidWorks, although simplicity is a relative term when it comes to CAD as a whole. SolidWorks is a great architecture app for PC that offers a set of features for 3D modeling purposes. It has a relatively easy learning curve and also has a dedicated wizard tool that can identify structural weaknesses in buildings. However, it is still 3D modeling software first and foremost, which is why it may be more suitable for modeling materials rather than buildings.
“AutoCAD is one of the most popular CAD solutions on the market. This architecture app for PC is also distributed by Autodesk and has numerous features that distinguish it from the competition, such as pre-built objects and automated object generation that allows for quick and efficient creation of doors, walls, windows, and even various mechanisms. Due to its popularity, there are also numerous other architectural solutions that are compatible with the files that AutoCAD creates. While it can integrate with other Autodesk solutions, AutoCAD is still a 2D architecture app first and foremost, with little to no features that would be useful for BIM. The solution itself has a rather steep learning curve, but it is extremely effective at peak performance.
TurboCAD Deluxe is considered one of the best solutions for people with little to no experience in architecture apps for PC. It is a reasonably-priced CAD software that can work in both 2D (drafting) and 3D (modeling), supports numerous CAD file formats, and is 3D printing-compatible. TurboCAD has plenty of accessibility options, but it may not be as feature-rich as some of the bigger players on the market – for example, it lacks the ability to execute command-line operations, a standard feature for upper-echelon CAD solutions. Although TurboCAD Deluxe is distributed using a one-time payment license, there are other versions of the software that can be paid for using a subscription-based pricing model.
6. Civil 3D
Autodesk, as a company, has numerous solutions for a wide range of use cases – and Civil 3D is an excellent fit for civil engineering-related tasks. It is a comprehensive architecture app for PC that can perform drawing and modeling tasks that your regular CAD solutions can do, and more. Civil 3D can integrate with other Autodesk products, such as 3DS Max, Revit, or AutoCAD. It can create 3D models of both designs and environments, streamline documentation pipelines, and perform many other tasks, such as integrating on-site survey images as a part of constructional geometry, service schematics, terrain modeling, and more. Although it may not be the most sophisticated solution when it comes to working with the cloud, this is a minor issue in an otherwise extremely versatile and multifunctional architecture app for PCs running Windows.
FreeCAD is one of the few solutions on this list that is both completely free and open-source. It is a 3D modeling and architecture software that may not have as many capabilities as its counterparts, but its price more than makes up for it. Additionally, FreeCAD is a platform that is actively supported, has plenty of its own useful features, and works on all three popular desktop operating systems – Linux, Windows, and macOS. One of the best use cases for FreeCAD is to reverse-engineer existing models to monitor how changing one parameter affects other elements of the structure.
SketchUp is a rather unusual architecture app for a number of reasons. First of all, it completely avoids the ever-present burden of most architecture applications in that they have an extremely steep learning curve. SketchUp is a user-friendly 3D modeling program that is pretty much unparalleled when it comes to prototyping and sketching. Another unusual factor is that there is a completely free version of the software, which is only limited to personal use, to be fair, but it is still a great way to try out a solution before deciding to commit to it or not. This pricing approach has created a massive and helpful community around SketchUp that is always ready to help newcomers with all kinds of questions and issues. However, SketchUp is still not the best tool to design the entire building or project, and it has little to no collaborative features. Despite these limitations, the benefits of SketchUp still outweigh the disadvantages to a certain degree.
Continuing the trend of showcasing different solutions from Autodesk, Tinkercad is a beginner-friendly 3D design tool that was created for the sole purpose of helping people develop basic architecture and design skills when it comes to working with CAD software. Many users treat Tinkercad as a sandbox of sorts, a place where anyone can learn the basics of working with architecture apps for PC. In addition to basic CAD tasks, Tinkercad also provides simplified coding and electronic capabilities. The fact that it is a web application makes it possible to use it on practically any device that has a web browser.
10. Chief Architect
For users and companies more interested in designing and modeling residential properties rather than commercial ones, Chief Architect is an excellent solution that can create construction drawings, floor plans, both 2D and 3D models, 3D renders, and more. Chief Architect’s focus on residential properties makes it especially popular among interior designers and remodelers, in addition to architects. It is also relatively inexpensive compared to other solutions in this market and comes in two different versions – “Premier” for both exterior and interior design, and “Interiors” for just interior tasks. It is also one of the few solutions that still offer perpetual licenses for sale, in addition to subscription-based licenses. Chief Architect’s advantage is also its biggest weakness – because the solution is positioned as more suitable for residential structures, it may not be as suitable for creating commercial projects.
11. Rhino 3D
Returning to a more professional side of the industry, we have Rhino 3D – a powerful 3D rendering tool designed to work with all kinds of curved lines and complex surfaces, including people’s faces, complex automobile designs, and more. As an architecture app for PC, Rhino 3D creates a stark contrast to most CAD solutions on the market, which usually deal with linear and rectangular objects with limited complexity. Rhino’s ability to expand its functionality via add-ons and the fact that it is not a specialized software makes it stand out even more, providing unprecedented flexibility and the ability to customize the software’s capabilities for every task.
12. Fusion 360
Fusion 360 is a combination of features in the field of architecture, including fabrication, testing, design, and more. It is a useful collaborative work environment brought to life by cloud technology, making it possible for professionals in different fields to collaborate on a specific project. The fact that it is cloud-based makes collaboration even easier, as every project participant can access the design data with almost any device type, including smartphones and tablets. It receives regular updates and can be used to produce realistic renders of various models for the sake of presentation or visualization. Moreover, Fusion 360 is relatively inexpensive as a service, with a cost of just $545 per year, which is a rather low price for this market.
Although V-Ray is technically not a standalone software, its vast capabilities make it difficult to ignore. It is one of the most sophisticated software tools for rendering purposes and can be used in tandem with several solutions from this list, such as SketchUp, 3DS Max, Rhino, and other architecture apps for PC, such as ArchiCAD. V-Ray has an incredibly wide color palette and a variety of clean textures, both of which are essential for creating photorealistic representations of designs. However, V-Ray is not user-friendly, and it has a steeper learning curve than even some of the CAD-specific solutions. Despite this, V-Ray is not particularly expensive and can be purchased as a complete pack of plugins or a separate plugin for each specific solution.
CATIA is a unique solution in its own way. It was originally created to serve as a precision modeling solution for military hardware, making it suitable for working with complex models in architecture. The fact that CATIA had a set of collaboration tools from the beginning over thirty years ago makes it even more outstanding. It keeps growing on a regular basis, too, improving existing features and adding new ones such as cloud support. The user interface is not that different from what is considered standard for CAD – it is not particularly user-friendly but not that complicated either. However, CATIA does not have any public pricing, which can be a disadvantage to some users.
15. 3DS Max
Last but not least, 3DS Max is an Autodesk software that specializes in building design and 3D modeling for cases such as photorealistic open spaces. 3DS Max can also be credited as one of the first 3D modeling solutions to offer hardware acceleration. Now, it is most famous for creating stunning animations and breathtaking visuals, making it one of the best solutions for architectural rendering. 3DS Max has basic capabilities and several different “collections” of features to further customize your experience, whether for Engineering and Construction or Media and Entertainment. Unsurprisingly, the former set includes most of the aforementioned solutions, such as Revit, Civil 3D, and AutoCAD, as well as the capability to perform vehicle path calculations, steel detailing, structural analysis, building performance analysis, and more.
Revizto is a comprehensive BIM platform used to centralize and utilize BIM data to offer the best collaborative experience. It includes clash detection, advanced issue tracking, and can act as a centralized source of truth for every project participant. One of the more uncommon features of Revizto is the ability to explore project models in Virtual Reality, making it possible to create true-to-scale walk-through models in seconds. Revizto’s benefits as an architecture app are not particularly straightforward but still effective. It can act as a great collaboration platform with various features, such as the ability to experiment with different materials and designs using the project’s 3D model. It can also provide the basis for BIM schematics using point clouds and simplify the overall workflow, including site verification, renovations, and more.
The architecture apps for PC market is massive, with all kinds of solutions included, both free and paid, ranging from difficult to work with to user-friendly. Almost every app has its specific merits that can be beneficial for one company and completely useless for another. TurboCAD or Tinkercad are at their finest when used by users with little to no modeling or architectural experience, while Rhino and AutoCAD would be most effective when used by specialists with a lot of prior experience in this field.