Glossary September 25, 2021
Updated 27 March 2024 by James Ocean

35 Best 3D Architecture Software in 2024. Architect Software Programs

Table of Contents

Introduction

While architecture is an ancient job, it has been chiefly dominated by written and drawn documents. Fortunately, technological evolution has overthrown work with pen and paper, and the entire range of architecture-related documents can now be created and modified digitally.

Since architectural development is a fairly complicated process that encompasses multiple different stages of modeling, there are a massive number of software solutions available on the market for different purposes and end goals. As such, choosing the correct one is a burden for a lot of people.

Luckily enough, we’ve prepared a list of the top 35 3D architecture-related software applications that covers many different branches and subdisciplines of architecture.

Benefits of architecture software

Architectural design software has made a major contribution to the transformation of the entire sphere in recent years, allowing bigger, better, and more detailed projects to be created and managed with ease. Here are some of the more prominent benefits of architectural software:

  • Higher drawing accuracy compared to traditional drawing methods
  • Ability to create and replicate 3D drawings with relative ease
  • Easier data sharing and greatly simplified data usage
  • Drawings are significantly harder to damage or destroy when they are in digital form
  • Digitalization offers greater accessibility, and the data storage process is less complicated

At the same time, it would be fair to mention several issues with architectural software as a technology, and most of these issues are also borderline impossible to fix, so all anyone can do is get used to them:

  • High purchase/maintenance costs for the software itself
  • Many of the disadvantages of computers, such as susceptibility to virus attacks and hacks, as well as general issues such as software instability, hardware crashes, etc.
  • Architectural software is often rather hard to learn and get used to

CAD software has been a massive help for architects all over the world, offering its users many benefits, including easier communication, better collaboration between architects and other project participants, faster and more efficient drawing in general, and better presentation of the future results to clients.

BIM and CAD

One important matter that needs to be remembered before choosing is the difference between BIM and CAD, since BIM and CAD solutions make up the majority of our software list. While CAD solutions are used to create accurate representations of ideas and designs of detailed 3D models and renderings, BIM is used to fill these models with various information, such as information about HVAC, wiring, plumbing, material costs, and so on.

BIM is often a connection between the construction process and CAD, since it makes the most of the accuracy of computer-aided design and applies it to real-life dimensions and specifications.

BIM can perform a multitude of functions that are not necessarily related to architecture as well. Another way to understand BIM is to look at it as a workflow that helps teams with project visualization and as an issue-solving solution, to a degree.

Now that the introduction is over and done with, it’s time to move on to another topic: choosing the correct architectural software for your specific situation.

How do I choose the best architectural software?

The process of figuring out the specific software solution for your needs can be problematic, since the market for this kind of software is massive, and it is rather difficult to predict which features you will need in your future work as an architect. The choice of software is often one of an architect’s first major decisions.

At the same time, it is important not to be lured in by the software with the most reviews or the most positive rating in general, since it may lack certain features that only you need in your work, or it may simply be a solution that is too expensive for you to maintain payments for.

There are several different factors you must remember when choosing a particular architectural solution, and each of these involves two or more questions you must ask yourself to figure out your final choice. In the list below, we present seven different factors:

Industry standards

Of course, one of the biggest deciding factors is the software that other experts in the field are using. This also includes what is popular in your specific region or your study environment, what is popular with large enterprises, and what software is currently in high demand.

Another interesting point that must be clarified here is the level of support and explanation available for a particular solution. It is not unusual for very popular software to have little or no educational material available, so this question is something that every potential client must research beforehand.

Personal preference

Your past experience with specific software can also be a large deciding factor, especially if you have already found a piece of software that you are comfortable working with. This statement also works in another way: maybe your current solution has certain features or design choices that you do not want in architectural software.

It is borderline necessary for a company in need of architectural software (or any other enterprise-level software, for that matter) to figure out what they want the software for. An overall wealth of features may be useless to you if the solution is not suitable for your specific use case. Here are a few examples of questions that may help in figuring out what you may need from an architectural solution:

  • What problem do you want to solve with the software? Is there a solution you are currently using for the same purpose? What are the specific problems of that solution?
  • How much cooperation is necessary for this particular task? Do you have to communicate with other team members on a regular basis or is it optional?
  • What is your own profession or occupation? What area of the architectural industry are you working in? Are you working on a team or as an individual?

Difficulty of working with software

It is normal for architectural software to be rather sophisticated and difficult to learn from the get-go, though there are a few examples of software that is relatively easy to get into. Software such as SketchUp can be rather simple for beginners and provides enough information for the user to be ready for some of the more complicated architectural platforms.

It is important to remember that simplicity does not equal lack of quality. This statement applies to plenty of industries, including the architectural software industry. However, it is useful to have a clear understanding of your own skills in terms of architectural software when choosing a software solution, so that there are no additional inconveniences with your future software based solely on it being too difficult for you to work with.

Current hardware

Another common variable for architectural computer programs is their demand for powerful hardware. It is strongly recommended to learn the software’s recommended specifications before purchasing it, since architectural programs tend to be extremely demanding on this front.

This is also where you may arrive at the important choice between on-site software and cloud-based solutions. The former is usually more versatile and offers more features on average, but it is also completely dependent on the performance of your current hardware. The latter is often not as feature-rich, but compensates for this by being more versatile and costing less up-front (there is no need to purchase expensive hardware).

There is also the problem of “perpetual licenses” that often result in users purchasing subscriptions anyway (to receive customer support and regular feature updates). This tactic is far from consumer-friendly, but there are many solutions that do so anyway, especially when it comes to enterprise-level software.

Capabilities of software

The architectural design software market is extremely large, including many different variations of software, different features, and so on. It can be a tool used mainly to create concepts, it can be used for actual designs, it can have presentation capabilities, it can have the ability to render actual objects, and so on. These parameters are just examples of many different sides of architectural software, and the topic must be thoroughly inspected before committing to actual software purchases.

A good way to approach this issue is to separate all of the features that you want from an architecture solution into two categories: “nice to have” and “must have.” This will give you much more understanding of the specific features you should look for and what is not strictly necessary for day-to-day work and not worth investing in. Reviewing the capabilities of your current architectural software may also reveal some of the features you are looking for.

Price of the software

It is important to remember that while the market for architectural software programs has both paid and free products, this does not mean that paid products are always better than free ones. Additionally, the price of architectural software does not always directly correlate with the quality or versatility of the software.

There are also plenty of solutions that offer tiered pricing of sorts and hide certain features behind a higher paywall than the standard package. As such, thorough research on this issue is highly recommended.

Compatibility of software

Since the market is rather large, compatibility should be one of the biggest deciding factors for any architect. Architects rarely work independently, and many projects involve collaboration between different architects and other professionals in the field.

Compatibility is therefore extremely important when choosing architectural software, since your software will be a detriment to the efficiency of the whole project if it lacks compatibility options. This is why we are presenting our massive list of the best architectural computer programs, adding a detailed explanation of each application’s capabilities.

Methodology for choosing best 3D architectural software

The market for architectural software is vast, diverse, and highly competitive, making it a daunting task to select the best solution for a particular company’s needs. This article aims to mitigate the problem to a certain degree by presenting a selection of respectable architectural tools and solutions while explaining the methodology behind our choices.

Customer rating

Customer ratings provide an overall view of public opinion on a product. In this case, we are talking about BIM software, of which there are different options available. Gathering customer ratings from resources like G2, TrustRadius, and Capterra is a quick and easy way to showcase average public opinion of a particular solution.

Capterra is a platform that aggregates reviews and makes sure that the authenticity of the reviews is maintained by conducting various thorough checks on all users. The platform does not remove any customer reviews at the request of the product. There are currently over 2 million registered reviews on Capterra across a thousand different categories.

TrustRadius is a review platform that guarantees the authenticity of each review through extensive multistep processes. The platform also has an in-house research team to ensure that the reviews are informative and useful. It is important to note that vendors cannot edit or delete customer reviews on TrustRadius.

G2 is a reputable review platform with a vast selection of 100,000+ vendors to choose from. It has accumulated more than 2.4 million verified user reviews and employs a built-in review validation system that ensures the authenticity of every review. G2 also provides a range of other services including tracking, investment, and marketing, if needed.

Key features, benefits, and shortcomings

Listing the key features of a solution along with their advantages and disadvantages can be quite challenging. Moreover, the term “architectural software” covers various types of software which each have unique purposes and sets of features. However, there are certain features that are considered basic enough to be present in most examples of the software:

  • Modeling and visualization allow for the creation of digital representations of buildings and landscapes, enabling the visualization of designs from different perspectives. 2D drafting tools can assist in creating detailed plans and sections.
  • Collaboration and communication features enable architects, engineers, and other stakeholders to work together effectively. Shared models, markups, and version control ensure everyone is on the same page, and design changes can be communicated with ease.
  • Building information modeling (BIM) integrates the various aspects of a building into a single, intelligent model, including materials, costs, schedules, and sustainability. This allows for a more holistic approach to design and construction.
  • Architectural software integrates building codes and regulations to ensure that designs adhere to the relevant standards, avoiding costly rework and delays during construction.
  • Seamless data exchange between different software programs is essential for architects who work with a variety of tools, from structural analysis to energy simulations. This type of interoperability streamlines the efficiency of workflow by eliminating the need for manual data entry.

Pricing

The cost of software is a crucial factor that directly influences a customer’s decision to purchase a solution or not. There are various examples of architectural solutions that are relatively expensive and offer different sets of features. This issue can be subjective and depends on the individual case. Our pricing information includes the features provided at each pricing tier (when possible), which enables customers to compare the cost of a solution with its set of features.

Documentation and customer support capabilities

Both documentation and customer support are important when it comes to choosing and describing architectural software. The former provides an overview of how easy it is to find information about a specific feature or capability, while the latter covers the speed and efficiency of problem solving from the customer’s standpoint. It is important to go over these parameters when describing software, in general, since these areas are both often overlooked and do not get enough attention as it is, especially considering how much damage poor documentation or ineffective customer support can bring to the end user.

Personal opinion of the author

This issue may vary from one example to another, offering a short overview of the application, some interesting fact that has not yet been mentioned, or something else entirely. The main goal of this category is to present the author’s opinion on the subject as an additional, more subjective point of view on the product.

35 best 3D architecture software

  1. FreeCAD

freecad landing page

FreeCAD is 3D architectural software that is designed around parametric modeling, and it can be used to design any building in three dimensions. It also has a modular architecture that allows for the software’s functionality to be expanded by the addition of specialized modules. One of these modules allows for the full range of BIM capabilities.

FreeCAD also works with objects that are not regular geometrical shapes, which allows for much more creative freedom when it comes to 3D modeling. Add the fact that it is free and has open source code, and it is clear to see how FreeCAD is becoming a staple entry point with no additional cost.

Customer ratings:

  • Capterra4.3/5 stars based on 139 customer reviews
  • TrustRadius7.8/10 stars based on 10 customer reviews
  • G24.2/5 stars based on 57 customer reviews

Advantages:

  • Cross-platform capabilities: it is available for practically any OS out there
  • It is a free solution, a massive benefit
  • Versatility: it can be useful to architects, engineers, designers, constructors, etc.

Shortcomings:

  • Interface as a whole can be unintuitive
  • Steep learning curve
  • Working with large project files may cause crashes or system slowdowns

Pricing:

  • FreeCAD is, as the name suggests, completely free and open source.

Documentation and customer support capabilities:

  • FreeCAD is free software at its core, which is why it does not offer any kind of traditional customer support.
  • However, what it does offer is an extensive community of developers and other customers that can be helpful in a variety of situations. Of course, due to the fact that this help and support is purely voluntary, there are no limitations on how long responses might take or how helpful they will be.
  • FreeCAD has a variety of useful resources listed on the official website, including reference materials with detailed information, extensive user guides, and step-by-step tutorials.

Customer reviews (original spelling):

  • Michael K. – “Love it. I used Pro/ENGINEER in the early 90’s and it was such a wonderful leap over AutoCAD but hugely expensive. I used my outdated copy of AutoCAD for years until I discovered FreeCAD 5 or 6 years ago. Initially it was a steep learning curve but with the abundance of videos on YouTube and perseverance I am now quite adept at using it. I have designed/built a semi-automatic machine for my production and have several 3D printed tools used in that machine. FreeCAD has been a Godsend for developing and evaluating my ideas and I would definitely recommend it if you are a small business with minimal or no budget for expensive CAD software.
  • Matthew H. – “I’ve only been using FreeCAD for a short time, so I’m by no means an expert, but I’ve seen that this is a great software and I donated to its development because of that. The community that uses FreeCAD is always helpful and the resources available for learning are plentiful. I feel like more was available for this than some other professional products simply because of the wide community adopment.
  • Rubén E. – “I usually work with non-very complicated designs and I am used to created them from the typical 2D sketches, but I can highlight some features I like and the ones that helped me more: it is possible to import an STL file (a mesh) and convert it to a solid, which you can work with later (very useful if you want to modify any design found on the Internet); there are many plugins that help to improve FreeCAD, i.e. I use KiCadStepUp tool to import a KiCad PCB easily and be able to see the entire design with it’s electronic part, which includes every electronic component.

My personal opinion on FreeCAD:

FreeCAD falls into a very specific category of architectural software solutions. It is free software with no caveats involved, which is always a plus for a potential user. At the same time, the solution’s lack of a price does mean that it is somewhat limited when it comes to several aspects of customer service. There is no round-the-clock customer support to begin with, and the lack of a centralized information source makes it somewhat difficult to start working with. At the same time, FreeCAD is a surprisingly competent 3D modeling tool if the user itself has the time to invest in learning how to work with it.

  1. SketchUp

sketchup landing page

SketchUp is a popular architectural drawing software application, and it can be used in many different ways. Its main selling point is its vast library of extensions that allow users to customize the abilities of SketchUp, tailoring it to their tastes. Technically speaking, this enables SketchUp to provide BIM-like features for just a fraction of the cost of full-fledged BIM software.

Additionally, SketchUp offers multiple drawing styles (from photorealistic renders to promotional graphics) and several rendering engines (as extensions). This allows the software to take advantage of everything SketchUp’s extension library has to offer.

Customer ratings:

  • Capterra4.5/5 stars based on 1,015 customer reviews
  • G24.5/5 stars based on 1,177 customer reviews

Advantages:

  • Massive library of 3D objects
  • User-friendly interface
  • Extremely versatile set of modeling tools
  • Collaboration capabilities with the help of Trimble Connect

Shortcomings:

  • Little to no basic tutorials about the software’s general capabilities
  • No native support for importing from or exporting to most of the 3D CAD/BIM solutions on the market
  • Functionality can be extended with the help of plugins, most of which are not free
  • Not a complete BIM solution and relies a lot on plugins that rarely, if ever, work together

Pricing:

  • SketchUp offers four different pricing tiers:
    • “Free” is the most basic set of features for all users
    • “Go,” at $119 per year,  is a rather minor extension of the free version without the limitations on 3D models and cloud storage capacity
    • “Pro,” at $349 per year,  is a more serious approach, with a desktop application, design insights, 2D documentation, and an entire warehouse of extensions
    • “Studio,” at $749 per year, is a Windows-only tier with real-time photorealistic visualization, easy file importing from Revit, and many other features

Documentation and customer support capabilities:

  • SketchUp offers its users a variety of customer support options. There is a dedicated support center available on a separate website, and customers can contact it via email, phone call, or the online form.
  • There is also plenty to work with in terms of documentation. SketchUp has a variety of resources available to end users, including a FAQ section, a knowledge base, a number of user guides, and even video tutorials on different topics.

In fact, SketchUp has a popular YouTube channel that is officially linked on the official website, offering a variety of video guides for free. The example below is the single most popular tutorial on that YouTube channel and presents the basics of drawing in three dimensions in SketchUp.

It should be noted that some design elements or tools may differ from the most recent version of the software (since the video itself is over 7 years old and uses SketchUp Pro 2016), but most of the ideas and recommendations are still just as helpful.

Customer reviews (original spelling):

  • Laynee N. – “for a period of time while I was studying architecture , I didn’t have much time to learn rendering professionally , I was short on money and my computer wasn’t that strong , sketch up helped me go through that time , providing me with basic renders I needed .
  • Chanaka A. – “Currently SketchUp is the best software for 3D modelling which is equipped with loads of features which are unavailable in alternative software. And requiring low performance while working very smooth is great. Some complications will occur if you do complex designs but for general purposes this is the best. Can be used even by a beginner without facing issues.
  • Vikash K. – “I think this is one of the most basic 3d software you can use. Learning it is so easy that you can start building in it just after an hour of learning.And the results you can get from these are in par with the leading 3d modelling software. If you need rendered views of your project its a very good software.

My personal opinion on SketchUp:

SketchUp might just be the most popular drawing and sketching software in the industry. One of the biggest reasons why it is so popular in the first place is the fact that the base version is completely free for everyone. It is limited in its capabilities, but even the software’s basic set of features does a good job in showing how versatile and powerful the solution can be at its full potential. The “Pro” version of SketchUp is often considered the “main” version in the eyes of the community, since this is the lowest subscription tier that offers a complete standalone desktop application as part of the package.

  1. Revizto

revizto landing page

Revizto is a multifunctional collaboration platform that offers a unified source of BIM information for different parts of a project team. Its amazing 3D tracking allows project team members to identify various issues in both 2D and 3D and allows clash groups to be addressed, among other features.

It also provides the ability to access data from almost anywhere, the opportunity to explore models using VR, the possibility of integration with several other popular BIM systems, and support for the majority of existing CAD software via plugins: Revit, AutoCAD, Tekla, and Vectorworks, to name a few.

Customer ratings:

  • Capterra4.3/5 stars based on 31 customer reviews
  • G24.2/5 stars based on 21 customer reviews

Advantages:

  • Specific clashes or issues can be personally assigned to workers/departments
  • Centralized information access and an extensive collaboration-forward toolset
  • Extensive issue tracking capabilities
  • Long list of integrations with different CAD/BIM platforms and solutions

Shortcomings:

  • Setting up data filtering could be easier
  • The software may slow down with larger projects
  • Reporting features are not particularly customizable
  • The overall user interface is vastly different from most solutions on the market, and it may take some time to get used to after switching from Navisworks or similar solutions

Pricing:

  • Revizto does not publicly provide pricing information. The only way to obtain such information is to request a quotation from the company and/or schedule a demo of the solution.

Documentation and customer support capabilities:

  • Revizto offers a designated support portal as a part of its solution, but the overall level of service may differ depending on which level of subscription the user has. The support team can be reached via email, a live chat, or the online ticketing system on the customer support portal.
  • Revizto’s documentation includes webinars, video tutorials, user guides, a FAQ section, and a community forum.

Customer reviews (original spelling):

  • Steven B. – “We are now only using this software for as-built purposes and we are trying to enforce it that the subs sign in to be able to do shop drawing changes that come in from out in the field. We want our superintendents more involved in the coordination process and this is how we plan to get them in there.
  • seiya o. – “fast, easy, and accurate visual coordination at ease by using Revizto. We were able to have our client provide positive feedback. customer service was great. I especially thank to rep for all the help that he provided in the early days of Revizto.
  • Bill M. – “Our project collaboration efficiency increased, as did our quality and confidence with our designs as a result of the “single source of truth” approach that Revizto provides.

My personal opinion on Revizto:

Revizto is an exceptional BIM solution with a specific set of features in mind. It does not have the capabilities to compete with full-fledged BIM solutions such as Revit, but it does an amazing job within its own range of features. Revizto’s main focus point is its issue tracking and clash detection capabilities, combined with an extremely useful collaboration platform that is accessible to all project participants. It also has its own share of unusual features, such as extensive VR support, which allows for immersive walkthroughs using practically any project model that supports it.

  1. TAD

tad landing page

TAD is a somewhat unique approach to BIM architectural software for several reasons. For one, it is extremely old by current standards, and it is also said to be made exclusively for architects. TAD’s creators claim that other architecture computer programs on the market are more about engineering and less about architecture in the first place.

This is why TAD can be used to create the design of a building, without the need for unnecessary details about actually creating one in the first place. TAD incorporates many different design elements from scratch and provides a holistic solution for all of your architectural needs.

Key features:

  • Flexible design system
  • Numerous addons to extend functionality
  • Powerful design preview capabilities
  • Impressively small file sizes

Pricing:

  • TAD is completely free and only requires registration for the Discord community for the download option to become available.

Documentation and customer support capabilities:

  • As a free solution, TAD’s customer support capabilities are relatively basic and mostly limited to partial email support and community forums.
  • The situation with documentation is slightly better, since there are plenty of online resources available on the subject of TAD’s capabilities, and there is even a dedicated Knowledge Base website with a FAQ section and several useful resources.

My personal opinion on TAD:

TAD is another example of a free solution in the highly competitive market for architectural software. It does claim that its approach to design is far more “architect-oriented” rather than “engineer-oriented,” providing a set of features that may not be of particular use to anyone but architects. It is a relatively basic solution with a variety of potential add-on extensions, but it does take a lot of time to get used to how it works (especially for users that have already worked with other, more popular software in this sphere).

  1. Concept3D

concept3d landing page

Concept3D is a comprehensive software platform that provides 3D renderings of interactive maps and VR-enabled tours. At its core, it is multifunctional architectural planning software that offers wayfinding, virtual engagement, accessibility customization, and advanced data integration. Concept3D’s team is also extremely responsive and helpful, providing support to their clients at a moment’s notice if the need arises.

Customer ratings:

  • Capterra4.8/5 stars based on 38 customer reviews
  • G24.4/5 stars based on 99 customer reviews

Advantages:

  • Extensive customization capabilities
  • Customer support throughout and after onboarding is incredibly helpful
  • Map updates are quick and easy to perform

Shortcomings:

  • CMS may feel somewhat dated and is not particularly intuitive
  • The solution’s module-like structure can make it more difficult to figure out what modules can be accessed at any given moment
  • Reusing pins in different categories could be easier and more convenient

Pricing:

  • There is no public pricing information available on the official Concept3D website. The only way to obtain such information is to request a quotation directly from the service.

Documentation and customer support capabilities:

  • Concept3D offers its users a somewhat basic customer support package. There is a dedicated help center website that works with user queries using a ticketing system while also providing a number of articles on some of the most commonly asked questions.
  • The software’s website also has a blog section with helpful materials, a variety of case studies, several downloadable resources to work with, a number of webinars, and more.

Customer reviews (original spelling):

  • Bart P. – “My university has been a Concept3D customer for about eight years. With the help of their support team, we have achieved our goal of presenting an informative interactive experience in which prospective students can “visit” the campus from wherever they are. The illustrated map shows that classic design of our campus buildings. Panoramic photos show the natural beauty of the campus and highlight some attributes of special interest. For example, prospective students can use this tool to tour the interior of student residence halls.
  • Jason T. – “The account management team at Concept3D was extremely helpful to us during the implementation process. They visited our campus for several days to walk our implementation team and numerous University stakeholders through the steps necessary to get our interactive map up and running. They helped us to develop a plan that allowed us to launch the product at 21 Penn State campuses. Even now that the product has been live for more than a year, Concept3D continues to be very receptive to our questions, needs and suggestions.
  • Jason C. – “Concept3D was awesome with our initial implementation and setting up our map to make sure our map was as accurate and realistic as possible. Since then, they’ve helped us evolve our map with new features and tools to make it a great tool for both wayfinding and general marketing.

My personal opinion on Concept3D:

Concept3D takes a very peculiar approach to its positioning in the market. The core of the solution is a multifunctional architectural planning system that can generate interactive maps, VR walkthroughs, wayfinding, and more. It differs quite a lot from most of the architectural software on this list, since it lacks a lot of design and BIM features. At the same time, it still falls under the umbrella of the term “architectural software,” and its unusual set of features helps it  find clientele in the industry with ease.

  1. Lumion

lumion landing page

Lumion is a dedicated piece of software for architects that offers mainly visualization and 3D rendering as its main features. It claims to be compatible with models from multiple different modeling systems, such as Revit, 3DS Max, Rhino, and ArchiCAD, and it offers stylish effects, realistic models, and a multitude of materials/objects in its built-in content library. One of Lumion’s most significant selling points is the ability to use it without architectural skills as a prerequisite, which allows everyone to start creating panoramas and images in no time.

Customer ratings:

  • Capterra4.7/5 stars based on 152 customer reviews
  • G24.5/5 stars based on 83 customer reviews

Advantages:

  • The overall structure of the solution is similar to how a gaming engine works, making it easier to navigate for someone familiar with how navigation in video games works
  • Render quality is astounding
  • Revit files are easy to import and work with

Shortcomings:

  • Object rotation is not as easy as with SketchUp or AutoCAD due to the lack of a “snapping” mechanism
  • High-resolution 3D models make the solution a lot slower than usual
  • Lumion has high system requirements to run smoothly

Pricing:

  • Lumion offers two different pricing plans
    • “Standard,” at €62.42 per month, offers limited rendering effects, one-third of the content library, and access to all of the current and future updates to the software
    • “Pro,” at €124.92 per month, offers the complete set of Lumion features with full rendering capabilities, the full content library, and many other capabilities

Documentation and customer support capabilities:

  • Lumion’s customer support package is nothing particularly interesting or unusual. It has a dedicated support center on a separate website, as well as multiple contact options, including email and an online ticketing system.
  • The software’s documentation is also relatively standard, with an extensive knowledge base that provides FAQs, tutorials, articles, and other resources that can be helpful in learning or improving upon Lumion’s capabilities.

Customer reviews (original spelling):

  • Chanaka A. – “If you are expecting a high-quality, fast rendering for the designs, Lumion is the option you should choose. It’s faster and has many preloaded elements which will aid in designing a perfect simulation. But you got to have a device with high performance to use Lumion and Lumion works only on Windows operating system.
  • James L. – “For fast renderings, especially early on, Lumion is great. Additionally, the plants and trees render fantastically. The only downside is the potentially cartoonish nature of the final product. We have found that some materials do this more than others, but it’s hard to know which will work without a lot of wasted time doing test renders.
  • Ziggi W. – “I get the job done extremely quick. With no previous 3D experience I was able to learn Lumion in the matter of hours and it generated first income in the matter of days. We had a project with 3D elements in it and with extremely short deadline . I don’t know of any other software that would allow us to make it done so fast (both thinking about how easy it was to start using and rendering times of complicated structures). I love the “what you see I what you get” aspect of it, and that you see it in real-time, without wasting time to pre-render things.

My personal opinion on Lumion:

Lumion’s two main fields of specialization are rendering and visualization. It is relatively small architectural software with a user-friendly interface and a convenient user interface. Lumion can be integrated with a number of other architectural solutions such as Rhino or ArchiCAD, and its overall content library is surprisingly varied. It also has its own share of basic problems, such as the overall high system requirements and the inevitable software slowdown when working with large and complex files.

  1. MicroStation

microstation landing page

Going for a more universal approach, MicroStation from Bentley is a software package that combines the work of engineers and architects within a single environment, which allows teams to be faster and more efficient than ever before. As modeling software, it enables users to generate almost any geometric shape possible and even re-shape existing models by modifying the values of the dimensions, which makes reusing models that much easier.

Customer ratings:

  • Capterra4.4/5 stars based on 173 customer reviews
  • TrustRadius8.6/10 stars based on 23 customer reviews
  • G24.0/5 stars based on 299 customer reviews

Advantages:

  • Easy to integrate new components with existing ones in the same project
  • Minimal hardware requirements are surprisingly low
  • Supports a multitude of file formats

Shortcomings:

  • Highly complex models slow the solution down a lot
  • Graphics quality leaves a lot to be desired
  • Difficult to work with large files

Pricing:

  • Bentley MicroStation comes in a single 12-month subscription license that costs €2,702. The license includes the integration of different data types, collaboration on designs, modeling capabilities, plenty of design options, centralized access to many deliverables, and 3 redeemable “keys” (training credits from Virtuosity).

Documentation and customer support capabilities:

  • Despite its complexity, MicroStation’s customer support capabilities are relatively basic. There is a dedicated support center and multiple contact options to choose from: emails, online tickets, and phone calls. The speed of responses may differ depending on the customer’s subscription version.
  • MicroStation offers a variety of articles on different software-oriented topics, as well as user manuals, learning resources, FAQs, tutorials, and an online community forum.

Customer reviews (original spelling):

  • Faisal A. – “I have been working on traffic engineering design and details development. this software is powerful and save me a lot of time. I can work on multiple DGN files without the need to open and close each file every time. once someone get experienced with it, one person production can equal to 3 person production. it saved me a lot of time. I use it with FDOT SS4 and it make plans productions a breeze with all the cell libraries and ready to use features.
  • Arturo S. – “MicroStation, a powerful CAD software, provides effective solutions to design and modelling challenges in architecture, engineering, and construction. With its versatile suite of tools, users can streamline infrastructure planning, create accurate designs for roads and bridges, and efficiently annotate drawings. The software’s interoperability facilitates seamless data exchange and collaboration. Parametric modelling enables quick design modifications while preserving intent, increasing productivity. MicroStation’s visualisation tools offer realistic representations for effective communication and decision-making. These benefits, including increased productivity, enhanced accuracy, improved collaboration, and immersive visualisation, make MicroStation a valuable asset in achieving successful project outcomes.
  • Aditya M. – “MicroStation has been a lifesaver for me for Road Projects. I had used AutoCAD for Raod Design and it was very tedious work. MicroStation is easy with Complex Road Alignment, Vertical and Horizontal alignment, cross-section development, Profile Design, and quantity survey. Your single model design can all of it. It reduces the use of other software and programs.

My personal opinion on MicroStation:

MicroStation from Bentley is architectural software that not many mention at all. It is a comprehensive software package for engineers and architects, and it is capable of modeling practically any structure or element out there, while also providing plenty of compatibility options to work with. It is not particularly taxing on hardware resources, but it does have its fair share of problems when it comes to render quality and performance issues with large project files.

  1. CATIA

catia landing page

CATIA is popular software created by Dassault Systèmes to create incredibly accurate and complex models of almost anything in the world. It is widely used in many different sectors, not just architecture, but also aerospace, high tech, automotive, etc. Additionally, CATIA offers a practical collaborative environment via the cloud version of its software.

Customer ratings:

  • Capterra4.6/5 stars based on 209 customer reviews
  • TrustRadius7.6/10 stars based on 53 customer reviews
  • G24.2/5 stars based on 244 customer reviews

Advantages:

  • Tool with great versatility in the hands of someone who knows how to work with it
  • Convenient and detailed model visualization capabilities
  • Can be integrated with many other CAD/PLM tools

Shortcomings:

  • It takes a long time for an average user to get used to the interface and the logic behind it
  • Requires high-end hardware to work properly
  • Some features seem unnecessary in the context of a CAD solution

Pricing:

  • CATIA is a solution that includes many different modules and parts, and the only official way to obtain pricing information is to contact 3DEXPERIENCE’s sales team and request a personalized quotation.

Documentation and customer support capabilities:

  • CATIA is a creation of Dassault Systèmes and offers a relatively normal set of capabilities when it comes to customer support. There is a designated customer support portal and three different ways to contact it: email, phone call, and a ticket system.
  • The website also offers a variety of information on CATIA’s capabilities, including tutorials, articles, videos, a FAQ section, and user guides.

Customer reviews (original spelling):

  • Koutarou K. – “In terms of user satisfaction, much focus was made on reducing the need for rendering and animation function characteristics. The mouse cursor is used as an extra visual reason, and each function will provide simple rendering results. Changing the drop-down menu creates a stunning aesthetic, and the set animations are customizable.
  • Özgür E. – “If you’re in automotive industry and not have your own design tool; then Catia is your must to use design software. It is the most complex and capable design tool and perfect for surface modelling. Yes it is not much user friendly and hard to become an expert user; but these doesn’t enough to drop Catia V5 from number one seat…
  • Mohd Nubli B. – “Overall, as a user I have had a positive experience with the Catia software. It is a powerful and versatile CAD/CAM software used by many industries for product design and development. It is also highly customizable, so this will allow users to tailor the software to their specific needs. It also offers a variety of features and tools that make it easy to create complex designs. However, it is expensive software and can be difficult to learn and use, making it difficult for new users to get up to speed quickly.

My personal opinion on CATIA:

CATIA is an extremely versatile architectural solution from Dassault Systèmes. It has plenty of customers in different industries, including architecture, automotive, high-tech, aerospace, and plenty of other industries. It offers plenty of integration capabilities, and provides detailed model visualization capabilities. There is even a cloud version of the software that assists with collaboration and data sharing, both of which are very basic BIM capabilities.

  1. Cedreo

cedreo landing page

Cedreo is 3D design software that targets multiple groups of people: real estate agents, interior decorators, remodelers, contractors, and more. It has a relatively simple but effective user interface, allowing even inexperienced people to create concepts and designs quickly. Every concept includes floor plans, 3D renderings for both interior and exterior, and so on.

Customer ratings:

  • Capterra4.5/5 stars based on 43 customer reviews
  • G24.8/5 stars based on 4 customer reviews

Key features:

  • Floor plan creation in 2D and 3D
  • Streamlined sales processes and lower pre-sale phase costs
  • Photorealistic 3D renders
  • Saves external design costs in many ways

Pricing:

  • Cedreo offers four different pricing plans
    • “Free” is €0. It is limited to one project, one user, and five renders, and it has limited furnishing/materials
    • “Personal,” at €69 per project per user, is a basic paid choice that allows 1 project, 1 user, 20 renders per project, watermarked renders, and blueprint downloads
    • “Pro,” at €69 per month billed annually, is the best option for a single professional designer. It offers no-watermark renders, unlimited objects for furnishing and materials, 40 renders per month, and unlimited projects
    • “Enterprise,” at €89 per user per month billed annually, is a full-scale solution for teams or companies with priority support, permission management, project sharing, 80 renders per user per month, blueprint downloading, and more

Documentation and customer support capabilities:

  • Cedreo’s customer support does not offer anything unique or exceptional. It is a standard help center that combines a source of knowledge with a way to contact the customer support team directly, whether via the designated form or the ticketing system.
  • Cedreo’s documentation is also relatively standard as far as helpful materials go: there is a FAQ section, a variety of articles, a separate training & support offering, etc.

Customer reviews (original spelling):

  • Keerhan M. – “I am using Cedreo as a graphical tool to communicate with my clients and my team, as well as a way to produce simple drawings, without having to go to the architect.
  • Maria T. – “Cedreo has been amazing customer service wise. Whether or not is was a support issue, adding additional artwork, or just general account questions they are always responsive and timely. They really make sure you are apart of the team and that your feedback is heard. Their instructional videos are very helpful when it comes to learning the programming as well.
  • Alexander W. – “Cedreo’s ease of use caused me to start my business and that is what I use right now. It is expensive and somewhat clumsy, so I am looking at other softwares to continue my business.

My personal opinion on Cedreo:

Cedreo falls into a specific category of software that is only partially involved in the architecture industry as a whole. The solution’s main audience are real estate agents and interior decorators, although it can still be used by contractors and other specialists in the industry. It is not as useful for the “construction” part of the architecture industry as some other tools on this list, but the capability of generating detailed renders and the creation of floor plans may still be helpful in many different situations, if nothing else.

  1. Shapespark

shapespark landing page

Shapespark is relatively case-specific architectural software that allows users to create interactive web walkthroughs based on 3D architectural models. It is fairly simple to work with, and the materials and lighting of the tour can be configured beforehand. After that, every virtual tour can be easily shared with anyone else, including partners, clients, or anyone else.

Customer ratings:

  • Capterra4.4/5 stars based on 8 customer reviews
  • G24.6/5 stars based on 11 customer reviews

Advantages:

  • Easy access to the design process and a variety of convenient tools for different purposes
  • User-friendly interface
  • Does not require a high-end device to work properly

Shortcomings:

  • Lighting system needs a number of improvements
  • Slows down after prolonged use
  • Relatively high price

Pricing:

  • Shapespark’s subscription pricing plans can be split into four categories
    • “Starter,” at €26 per month billed annually, includes 3 online hosting slots, a feature for embedding in websites, a cloud editor, and more
    • “Standard,” at €45 per month billed annually, adds video meetings, personal logos, no watermarks, and 25 hosting slots
    • “Plus,” at €89 per month billed annually, includes team management capabilities, Javascript/HTML customization, viewer API access, a custom domain, etc.
    • “Premium,” at €223 per month billed annually, can be self-hosted on private servers and adds custom video meeting avatars, 150 hosting slots, and more

Documentation and customer support capabilities:

  • Shapespark has a dedicated support center with a separate website. The website includes a collection of articles covering the most common issues and their solutions, as well as three ways to contact a customer support representative: email, live chat, and a ticketing system.
  • The aforementioned articles can also be treated as a FAQ section of sorts, in addition to the other documentation resources that Shapespark offers, including user guides, tutorials, blog posts, and community forums.

Customer reviews (original spelling):

  • Jay J. – “Overall this has been a great experience. I look forward to Shapespark adding additional features in the future. With the current pandemic this is a really great piece of tech to have for showing architectural environments.
  • Felipe R. – “Shapespark is making sharing ideas much easier and more interesting for our clients. The new resourse of online meetings was also a great innovation.
  • Partha Protim P. – “It is one of the best architectural walkthrough softwares currently in the market. Anyone can turn a 3D model into an interactive architectural walkthrough.

My personal opinion on Shapespark:

Shapespark continues the trend of software that is not originally designed for architectural use cases offering the ability to use 3D models to generate interactive web walkthroughs. It is possible to customize some of the elements beforehand, as well, including materials and the lighting simulation. However, the tool itself can do little to nothing besides generate walkthroughs, modify them, and share them with other users, making it extremely case-specific and not particularly useful to most industry specialists.

  1. AutoCAD Architecture

autocad architecture landing page

AutoCAD is one of the oldest examples of 3D architectural software on the market, and it has many different products for specific use cases or professions. As an example, AutoCAD Architecture offers sketching, 2D drafting, rendering, and other features. It is also Revit-compatible and collaboration-friendly. AutoCAD allows users to mix solid, surface, and mesh modeling equipment to create realistic plans and models, and the same can also be done with two-dimensional plans.

Customer ratings:

  • Capterra4.6/5 stars based on 287 customer reviews
  • G24.3/5 stars based on 253 customer reviews

Advantages:

  • Wide range of features and tools for different needs and goals
  • Ability to swap between 2D and 3D representation or to use both
  • Can be connected with other solutions to further expand its capabilities

Shortcomings:

  • The overall complexity of the solution can be somewhat overwhelming at first
  • 3D visual experience can be somewhat challenging
  • The price of the solution is well above the market average

Pricing:

  • AutoCAD Architecture is a toolset that is part of the basic AutoCAD offering. AutoCAD, on the other hand, offers two different approaches to its pricing model.
  • The first is a basic subscription that can be paid for on a monthly basis, on a yearly basis, or every three years:
    • $255 per month
    • $2,030 per year
    • $6,090 per three years
  • The second involves accessing AutoCAD as part of the Autodesk Flex program, a “pay-as-you-go” option that offers a daily price in tokens for a number of Autodesk services. AutoCAD’s Flex cost is 7 tokens per day, and there are at least two token bundles available for purchase:
    • 100 tokens for $300
    • 500 tokens for $1500
  • It is also possible to purchase custom amounts of tokens, depending on the needs of a specific company, and the tokens themselves have an expiration period of 1 year after purchase.

Documentation and customer support capabilities:

  • Despite its status as one of the most versatile and expensive solutions on the market, AutoCAD from Autodesk offers a relatively basic set of features when it comes to customer support. The center of the entire effort is the customer support portal, and there are only three ways to contact the customer support team: the live chat, phone calls, and the ticketing system.
  • As for official documentation, there are several different options to choose from. These options include video materials, articles, tutorials, FAQ sections, user guides, as well as the Autodesk Learning platform and the AutoCAD Help feature (context-sensitive assistance within the software).

Customer reviews (original spelling):

  • Robert A. – “Initially, it was really difficult to help a customer appreciate how his or her project will look like and it took more time to put together sketches in a way that customers can understand. However, with this software, it has become easy to interact with customers about designs they may have in mind. with the help of this software, customers get a better idea as to how their intending projects will look like when finally executed.
  • samuel K. – “AutoCAD Architecture’s ability to create detailed 3D models, which allows architects to visualize and manipulate their designs in three dimensions. The software’s compatibility with BIM and its collaboration tools also make it an attractive option for building professionals who need to manage and track changes to building models and data throughout the design process.However, as I mentioned earlier, AutoCAD Architecture can come with certain challenges, including a steep learning curve, resource-intensive requirements, and technical issues. Nonetheless, overall, AutoCAD Architecture is a powerful and popular software in the architecture and building industry, and many professionals rely on it for their design and documentation needs.
  • Chanaka A. – “Created by the pioneers in CAD Autodesk, AutoCAD Architecture is designed for creating 2D and 3D modeling purposes. This serves its purpose as an architecture software with many specific tools and features to effectively create a design. And this needs a powerful device to run and will have some issues with compatibility and sudden crashing. But overall this serves its purpose, fast, effective, and precise in creating a design.

My personal opinion on AutoCAD Architecture:

AutoCAD is widely known and respected as one of the most popular computer-aided design solutions on the market. It can perform a variety of different actions and packs an impressively long list of features. Some of its capabilities are also separated into their own categories, such as AutoCAD Architecture. This particular branch of AutoCAD covers everything the software can do in terms of architectural tasks: rendering, drafting, and sketching, among other features. It is not the best option for every single use case and industry, but it has definitely earned its popularity and fame as a part of Autodesk’s impressive software roster.

  1. SoftPlan

softplan landing page

SoftPlan is another example of home design software initially created to replace the traditional means of designing buildings or other structures. It offers accurate construction documents, fully editable objects, and more. One of the most significant selling points of SoftPlan is its ease of use: anyone can start using the software with absolutely no previous experience in the architectural field. It can also be used as a BIM model to draw MEP plans, material lists, elevations, etc.

Customer ratings:

  • Capterra4.5/5 stars based on 15 customer reviews
  • G24.2/5 stars based on 20 customer reviews

Advantages:

  • Quick design process with different tools
  • High degree of customizability for construction plans
  • 3D visualization capabilities

Shortcomings:

  • Support for older versions of the software seems lackluster
  • A number of minor glitches in the software
  • Only available in the US and Canada so far

Pricing:

  • SoftPlan’s licensing model is fairly simple. It offers a single subscription price of $145 per month that is applicable to all new users that have started using SoftPlan since 2022.
  • Users who had the solution previously have a somewhat different price applied to them
    • $59 per month for SoftPlan+, a subscription service that includes customer support and content updates for SoftPlan
    • Additional modules can also be purchased separately for SoftPlan 2020 or older, such as SoftList ($795) or SoftPlan reView ($395)
    • All of them have been included in the newer versions of SoftPlan since 2022

Documentation and customer support capabilities:

  • SoftPlan’s customer support capabilities are relatively basic, offering three different options for contacting customer support: email, phone, and a ticket system.
  • There are plenty of different options to choose from when it comes to documentation, including context-sensitive help in the solution itself, the separate SoftPlan Learning Center, as well as user guides, FAQs, articles, tutorials, videos, and community forums.

Customer reviews (original spelling):

  • David B. – “Very easy to use 2D. 3D is somewhat difficult. Customer support is not good. Overall very happy with the software. I am a registered architect practicing for last 30 years in large and small offices. I now own my own office and use SoftPLAN.
  • Michael C. – “Softplan has made creating construction documents a breeze and very professional looking. We do high end residential and light commercial, and it has never failed us. It encourages us to put more detail into the drawings to allow us to save time later when we generate sections and interior elevations with accurate detail. My workers are so proud of what they create thanks to Softplan.
  • Aditya M. – “I have used SoftPlan for house design purposes. It is very useful for preliminary design as UI is very easy. However it can not do engineering analysis to validate your design. So its basically used for making pretty pictures.

My personal opinion on SoftPlan:

SoftPlan represents one of many attempts at creating a comprehensive solution for a sophisticated industry while also remaining intuitive and user-friendly. As a result, SoftPlan provides plenty of residential design capabilities, as well as MEP design, elevations, and multiple BIM elements to work with. The software works with 3D BIM models with ease, although it may not be of particular use to those who are not interested in home design or home building tasks.

  1. Bluebeam Revu

bluebeam revu landing page

Bluebeam Revu is architectural planning software that is well-known in many document-intensive industries, providing improved communication, less time wasted on menial tasks, and generally digitized workflows. It allows for heightened collaboration and project efficiency and streamlines important document-related processes via easier sharing of various details about construction documents, such as bookmarks, metadata, hyperlinks, images, etc.

Customer ratings:

  • Capterra4.7/5 stars based on 962 customer reviews
  • TrustRadius8.5/10 stars based on 356 customer reviews
  • G24.6/5 stars based on 411 customer reviews

Advantages:

  • Extremely efficient markup tools
  • Studio collaboration capabilities are very convenient
  • Can mark different layers when working with CAD files

Shortcomings:

  • Support for past perpetual licenses was dropped rather recently
  • Scrolling through long reports is not exactly easy or convenient
  • User-defined shortcuts cannot be created

Pricing:

  • Bluebeam Revu’s pricing is split into three different tiers
    • “Basics,” at $240 per year per user, offers a basic set of features such as PDF creation/editing, limited collaboration capabilities, digital signatures, area/length measurements, etc.
    • “Core,” at $300 per year per user, adds specialty markups to PDFs, can perform batch comparisons, supports AECO plugin, improves Studio collaboration, and more
    • “Complete,” at $400 per year per user, offers Revu’s entire set of features, with Dynamic Fill, advanced measurement tools, advanced markup reporting, scripting commands, and so on

Documentation and customer support capabilities:

  • Bluebeam Revu has its own dedicated customer support center to consolidate its efforts. A live member of the customer support team can be reached either via phone call, email, or the ticket system.
  • The support center also works great as a massive repository of software documentation in different forms, including videos, FAQs, articles, tutorials, user guides, and customer forums.

Customer reviews (original spelling):

  • Allison M. – “Bluebeam Revu proved to be even more an essential tool during the pandemic when the team was remote. During that time clients and consultants became more familiar with it’s functions and now we are able to save money and time by reducing in person meetings.
  • Susan R. – “Its more than a PDF viewer or an annotation tool. I can do takeoff any project efficiently for estimates with all the assorted program tools. It is the best platform for Constructability Reviews through studio sessions that allows all team players to collaborate with each other to avoid conflict between each engineering discipline.
  • Kelsey F. – “Overall, great experience with Bluebeam Revu. Been a customer for the past 5 years. Never looked back or started looking for another program. Bluebeam has made my work quite simpler. Once you learn the basics, this program is so simple to do quick field measurements, combine/edit files, markup pdf’s, extract pages to separate files and so many more functions that I have still to learn.

My personal opinion on Bluebeam Revu:

Bluebeam Revu represents an aspect of architectural software that is not centered around design processes. The software uses modern technologies to simplify and improve the architectural management process as a whole, including information management, improved efficiency, reduced number of errors, boosted collaboration, and much more. It does have its fair share of issues, but there are not many solutions that can beat Revu when it comes to collaboration-oriented capabilities.

  1. Space Designer 3D

space designer 3d landing page

As the name suggests, Space Designer 3D is an architectural space-planning platform that offers visualization for client projects. Every project generates an inventory of products, dimensions, quantities, and so on. The app works as a modular platform, allowing for extensions, custom catalogs, tools and interfaces, and more. Accessibility is another massive advantage of Space Designer 3D, as it offers a user-friendly UI with an extremely low entry threshold.

Customer ratings:

  • Capterra4.5/5 stars based on 27 customer reviews
  • G23.7/5 stars based on 3 customer reviews

Key features:

  • Fully customizable product catalog
  • Easy access to design and rendering tools
  • User-friendly interface with plenty of modifications for the space-planning process
  • Automatic inventory list generation for every project

Pricing:

  • Space Designer 3D offers three pricing tiers
    • “Casual,” at €9.99 per month per project, offers only one profile, with no projects included in the package (every project is paid for separately), as well as a standard design catalog, basic technical assistance, limited export features, and so on
    • “Regular,” at €59 per month, has an extended design catalog and allows up to 10 projects at once and 5 levels for each project. It can perform area calculations, render in Full HD, export into PDF or Autocad, and more
    • “Business” is available only based on personalized quotations. It removes all limitations on levels, versions, area calculations, and exporting, while also providing API access, website integration, various design features, etc.

Documentation and customer support capabilities:

  • Space Designer 3D offers the basic combination of methods to contact the support team, including via email and phone call. It has no designated customer support website.
  • The same basic approach is applied to the software’s documentation, and there is a separate website page for FAQs, helpful articles, and more.

Customer reviews (original spelling):

  • Ben F. – “I came across this software in my search to plan and build several pieces of wooden furniture. There was a slight learning curve but within an hour I was building the pieces with to scale lumber sizes. I was able to then explode the models and calculate buy and cut lists for the project. I was struggling with conceptualizing the structures using analog media. This software allowed me to not only build accurately but find and improve structural issue areas in the designs. Great software for my use.
  • Raj J. – “I used this to design out a VR arcade we are building on hollywood blvd. Overall a good product. Wish there was a little more in the way of People and “retail” scenery. Would be nice if it would pair with Samsung VR and we could use it to walk around. Download the file and navigate.
  • Joy K. – “I used this to try and map out the remodel of our house. I’ve been working with illustration programs for years, and but I found this program too difficult and clunky to work with. Just getting the walls drawn was a challenge, and the selection of cabinetry options was way too minimal. Of the few styles offered, none of them offered the same shapes or dimensions, so I couldn’t even come close to depicting the kitchen layout we have in mind. I finally got tired of struggling with it and gave up.

My personal opinion on Space Designer 3D:

Space Designer 3D does not have many in-depth and detailed sketching or modeling tools, but it is also not striving to settle in that niche. The main purpose of a solution like this is to have a convenient way to create a quick rough sketch or concept design without any of the professional tools at hand (which is why it is also a web-based solution). The software also provides multiple data sharing and export capabilities to ensure that all involved parties have the most up-to-date information.

  1. Edificius

edificius landing page

Edificius presents itself as user-friendly but capable BIM software that can help users address design aspects and keep up with recent changes in a project.  Edificius allows users to work on a project from start to finish using a single solution, from conceptual designs to construction maintenance documentation. It allows users to take both the time and cost of projects completely into their own hands.

Customer ratings:

  • Capterra4.2/5 stars based on 6 customer reviews
  • G24.7/5 stars based on 4 customer reviews

Advantages:

  • Outstanding performance when it comes to complex projects
  • User-friendly interface
  • AI rendering and real-time rendering capabilities

Shortcomings:

  • Accessing necessary features may not be as quick as it could be
  • Difficult to work with non-standard parts/objects
  • Cannot share models in cloud storage

Pricing:

  • Edificius can be purchased either as a separate solution or in a bundle. As a separate solution, it is priced as follows:
    • €119 per month
    • €67 per month if paid for a year in advance
    • €60 per month if paid for two years in advance
    • €54 per month if paid for three years in advance

Documentation and customer support capabilities:

  • Edificius from Acca Software offers a separate technical support web page for customer support topics. There are three basic ways to contact the customer support team, via phone call, email, and a ticketing system.
  • Edificius  also offers a lot of different information as its official documentation, ranging from videos and tutorials to FAQs, articles, user guides, and community support.

Customer reviews (original spelling):

  • Roderick L. – “This software allows for efficient rendering and presentation. It’s worth a shot.
  • Verified Reviewer – “I think it’s a good software, it can be integrate with other softwares like Primus, Thermus, etc. to make your business faster. I think it can grow up in the next future to be a solid platform.
  • pippo21 p. – “This software is easy to understand graphically explanatory in architecture, structure, construction, bill of quantities, rendering, video, quantity takes off, schedule of timing and etc..

My personal opinion on Edificius:

Edificius takes on the gargantuan task of combining the massive set of features of a comprehensive BIM solution with simplicity and ease-of-use, which is not usually the case with software in this category. The result is rather unusual BIM software with something of a disbalance when it comes to ease of use: some features are relatively easy to work with, while others are unnecessarily complicated and not user-friendly at all. The solution itself is extremely competent and deserves far more popularity than it has.

  1. VectorWorks Architect

vectorworks landing page

Another example of all-in-one architectural software is Vectorworks, although this one is more well-known among Mac users. Vectorworks offers a list of comprehensive tools that help users work on projects from start to finish, from early concepts to the presentation of the finished product. The versatility of the solution is extremely high, and many different professions can find what they need in it, including architects, engineers, managers, and more. As a BIM solution, Vectorworks also offers the ability to analyze information and run “what if” scenarios at all times.

Customer ratings:

  • Capterra4.4/5 stars based on 50 customer reviews
  • G24.3/5 stars based on 110 customer reviews

Advantages:

  • Accurate rendering capabilities
  • User-friendly experience and a relatively easy solution to learn
  • One of the best options for smaller or middle-sized architectural projects

Shortcomings:

  • Newer file formats may not be compatible with older software versions due to missing features
  • Limited collaboration (BIM) capabilities
  • Tends to slow down with larger project files

Pricing:

  • Vectorworks Architect uses a worldwide network of global distributors to deliver its products around the globe. Unfortunately, that means there is little to no public information about the pricing of Vectorworks Architect, but it can be expected to differ quite a lot depending on location.

Documentation and customer support capabilities:

  • While there is no designated support portal for Vectorworks Architect, there is a designated Contact Us page with plenty of information about contacting the company itself, including phone numbers, work hours, and emails, all of which are separated depending on the type of issue that needs to be addressed.
  • Vectorworks offers plenty of different information about its software, including, but not limited to tutorials, FAQs, videos, articles, user guides, and a separate Training page on the official website.

Vectorworks also has an official YouTube channel that includes both regular and educational videos. The example below showcases the basics of how the interface of Vectorworks software operates, including most of its main work areas and other elements.

It is worth noting that this tutorial might be slightly outdated now due to the release of multiple versions of the software since, but the general idea of the solution should remain the same to this day.

Customer reviews (original spelling):

  • Imadur Rozan S. – “VectorWork is now supported with many 3rd party rendering software like lumion for the live sync rendering by installing the plugin for even better result, so whenever you make a changes, the render will follow up. And when it comes to choosing BIM softwares, especially if you’re new to it, the VectorWorks is the good choice to start for learning BIM due to their support and very complete yet detailed tutorials given on their official website. VectorWorks is mile ahead from other BIM softwares when it comes to landscape, 3D modelling and 2D details.
  • Rob G. – “We have been using the software over 20 years without hardly any issues! We can still open files from 1994!!!!!! We look at other softwares to make sure we are keeping up. When we factor in money, easy answer…..VectorWorks! We are a full BIM FIRM and VECTORWORKS does everything we need.
  • Adam J. – “This effective and intuitive CAD platform enables me to produce architectural drawings for clients with ease. I can produce incredibly detailed construction drawings that are both readable and informative and enable contractors, clients and any other 3rd party to understand exactly what is being proposed or changed.”

My personal opinion on Vectorworks Architect:

Vectorworks Architect is well-known for its massive set of features that spans the entire project realization process from start to finish. It can be helpful to architects, as well as to engineers, constructors, and more. It can run simulations, manage BIM models, analyze information, and perform educated guesswork. Unfortunately, its BIM capabilities are somewhat basic, and the software does not handle large and complex models very well. However, the ability to generate extremely accurate renders while also providing incredible variety in terms of features makes Vectorworks Architect more than useful in a variety of situations.

  1. Chief Architect

chief architect landing page

Chief Architect is a CAD solution designed specifically for architects. It can help with many different operations, but it specializes in using automated building tools for the creation of construction designs, including kitchens, baths, remodeling efforts, and other things. As software, Chief Architect is more geared towards residential design. It can automatically create floor plans, render them in a 360-degree panorama, and more. The app’s user-friendly interface considerably simplifies the work process with Chief Architect, and it can also be used to share 3D models with other parties, be they subcontractors, homeowners, or others.

Customer ratings:

  • Capterra4.4/5 stars based on 67 customer reviews
  • G24.6/5 stars based on 18 customer reviews

Advantages:

  • One of the more versatile architectural solutions on the market with many features
  • Multiple architectural styles to choose from
  • Reasonable render quality

Shortcomings:

  • Some tasks could be made more responsive and user-friendly, such as raising/lowering floors, creating attic spaces, etc.
  • Strict project file size upload limitations
  • Troubleshooting certain problems may be somewhat difficult due to the lack of community participation in forums

Pricing:

  • Chief Architect Premier is the main offering of Chief Architect. It can be purchased for $199 per month, with savings of 16% when purchasing the solution for an entire year up front.
  • Customers that already have active Chief Architect Premier subscriptions can save up to 35% on additional licenses, dropping the price per license down to $1,295 per year (with no monthly payment option).
  • Users of legacy versions of Chief Architect can also take advantage of a 50% discount for the first year of the subscription, dropping the price down to $995.

Documentation and customer support capabilities:

  • Chief Architect’s customer support differs quite a lot depending on both the software purchase method and the version of the solution used.
    • Customers that are using older versions of the software (from X11 to X13) are eligible for per-incident customer support using either email or the online ticketing system.
    • Users of the newer software versions (X14 or X15) also have access to non-priority live support (not suitable for design-related topics)
    • If the user is subscribed to the SSA program (Support and Software Assurance), then the priority live support option becomes available, and the response time for the other communication methods also decreases.
  • The software’s documentation is also surprisingly limited. There is only basic information about the solution built into the software itself, and the only other official resource available is the FAQ section of the Support page on the official website. Luckily, there are plenty of third-party options to pick from, including a popular resource called Chief Architect Learning Center.

Customer reviews (original spelling):

  • Stephen Olawale j. – “i have had to crash lot of residential design proposal, chief architect have being productive, giving me a good presentable 3D model, within a short time was amazing, I really don’t have to put in some details, it generate them graphically automatically.i have recommended this app. to a friend to avoid delay of presentation.
  • Todd S. – “I have been using Chief Architect since 2015. Before that I used AutoCAD for over 20 years. I’ve also used REVIT and Sketchup, but for what I do, which is Residential Design and Remodels, this program proved to be the most versatile. There is somewhat of a learning curve the first 6 months, but impressive when it comes to showing clients who have a difficult time envisioning 3D from 2D drawings. The customer support is really A+. They usually can figure out any problem I’m having or will consider a “work around” option that may still get me the desired effect.
  • Dixon P. – “With Chief Architect, the system does most of the work for you so you can focus on the floorplan and even in the placement of objects in the rooms, the walkthrough view is also excellent for showing a client the finished project so there is buy-in for the proposed construction or remodel. Landscaping is also easy as the Cadastral can be transferred into the plan allowing for accuracy in placing building on lot

My personal opinion on Chief Architect:

Chief Architect represents another example of a solution that mostly revolves around residential design capabilities. Its pride and joy are automated build tools that can make it extremely easy to create complex designs for bathrooms, kitchens, and other complex room configurations. It is an incredibly useful tool for remodeling purposes that also performs surprisingly well in terms of information sharing thanks to its variety of data exporting and model sharing capabilities.

  1. Solidworks

solidworks landing page

Solidworks is a comprehensive CAD toolkit that attempts to balance high complexity with ease of use. While it is more of a general 3D modeling tool, it is also useful to architects in many different ways. Another of its advantages is its price, which is relatively low for the market it operates in. It is worth noting that there is a learning curve when it comes to working with Solidworks. It is not overly steep, but it is there nonetheless.

Customer ratings:

  • Capterra4.7/5 stars based on 724 customer reviews
  • TrustRadius8.1/10 stars based on 403 customer reviews
  • G24.4/5 stars based on 553 customer reviews

Advantages:

  • Great for performing simulations with different material parameters
  • One of the best solutions on the market when it comes to 2D/3D environment management
  • Large number of different tools to work with

Shortcomings:

  • Complex license management system
  • Substantial demands on user hardware
  • Some tools are difficult to understand or work with

Pricing:

  • The Solidworks 3D CAD solution is industry-leading software presented by the 3DEXPERIENCE platform. It has three different offers
    • The Standard Offer includes 3D Creator, 3DEXPERIENCE Solidworks Standard, 3DSwymer, and Collaborative Industry Innovator
    • The Professional Offer adds 3D Creator to the package and changes the version of 3DEXPERIENCE Solidworks from Standard to Professional
    • The Premium Offer also changes the version of 3DEXPERIENCE Solidworks to Simulation Designer, while also adding the Premium version of the solution
  • Unfortunately, there is no public pricing for any of these offers. The only way to obtain such information is to request a quotation from the company

Documentation and customer support capabilities:

  • Solidworks offers an all-in-one customer portal that provides both customer support and documentation. Customer support can be reached via email, phone call, or a ticketing system, and there is also a live chat option (available only to users with active Solidworks subscriptions).
  • As for documentation about the software, it can only be described as extensive. There is a separate website that contains a variety of tutorials and user guides on the subject, and the customer portal also offers plenty of articles, videos, and FAQs to work with.

Customer reviews (original spelling):

  • Shubham A. – “We’re creating Robots and industrial solutions for our clients. Some models require kinematic links and joints in order to show the motion in a robot. Therefore, with the help of software, we’re almost doing 60% of our company’s work on the software and it;s generating 70% of revenue using this.
  • Renato B. – “SolidWorks was the first CAD software i ever used, in the start if you use others you are going to think that all the other are too hard to use, but as you become a experienced designer things start to become way better in other softwares.
  • Subhair S. – “I have best user experience on using solidworks. It is one of the cheapest and best solid modelling software available in the market. We use solidworks for designing machineries, conveyors and fabrication drawings. Solidworks simulation tools help us to do stress analysis with that data we can easily able to design stress carrying members.

My personal opinion on Solidworks:

Solidworks is mostly known for its capabilities in product design and mechanical modeling. It is a sophisticated 3D CAD solution that can model and render extremely complex designs and projects, which makes it more than competent for a number of architectural tasks, especially those that revolve around sophisticated buildings and structures. It can be difficult to work with, and its licensing system leaves a lot to be desired, but the sheer capability of the complex modeling solution is enough to place Solidworks as one of the best solutions in its niche.

  1. Revit

revit landing page

Revit is another popular example of the architectural software programs created by Autodesk. This one offers comprehensive rendering, modeling, and construction features, combined with a collaborative aspect. This aspect allows the entire team to be aware of any changes or design updates in a project. Revit is also AutoCAD-compatible and offers both 2D and 3D modeling tool sets, among many other useful features.

Customer ratings:

  • Capterra4.6/5 stars based on 430 customer reviews
  • TrustRadius9.0/10 stars based on 208 customer reviews
  • G24.5/5 stars based on 842 customer reviews

Advantages:

  • Detailed model creation capabilities
  • Massive number of integrations with other solutions and information types
  • Versatility of the solution as a whole
  • Praise-worthy customer support

Shortcomings:

  • Higher than average system requirements for the PC version of the software
  • Version compatibility works only one way: upgrading older models is possible, but downgrading existing models is not, which can be a problem with some more complicated models that are not updated as often as others
  • The solution is not particularly user-friendly and has a rather high entry threshold
  • Limited automation capabilities

Pricing:

  • Revit offers two different pricing approaches.
  • The first is a basic subscription that can be paid for on a monthly basis, on a yearly basis, or every three years:
    • $365 per month
    • $2,910 per year
    • $8,730 per three years
  • The second involves accessing Revit as a part of the Autodesk Flex program, a “pay-as-you-go” option that offers a daily price in tokens for a number of Autodesk services. Revit’s Flex cost is 10 tokens per day, and there are at least two token bundles available for purchase:
    • 100 tokens for $300
    • 500 tokens for $1500
    • It is also possible to purchase custom amounts of tokens, depending on the needs of the company, and the tokens themselves have an expiration period of 1 year after the purchase.

Documentation and customer support capabilities:

  • Similar to other Autodesk products, Revit uses the centralized Autodesk customer success portal for its customer support topics. All four contact options are available on the website: email, phone call, tickets, and a live chat (for active subscription users only).
  • Revit offers plenty of different materials in terms of training and documentation. The software itself has in-context help suggestions, the customer success portal provides a variety of tutorials and articles to choose from, and there are also separate web pages for other sources of information.
  • Autodesk Learning offers a complete platform with courses, certifications, and video tutorials for specific Autodesk products.
  • Autodesk Knowledge Network provides multiple manuals and user guides.

Autodesk also has its own YouTube channel that offers a variety of videos on different topics. Most of them include conversation topics or announcements, but there are videos that can be considered educational. For example, the video presented below is one of the most popular pieces of content on the Autodesk channel. It explains what BIM is and how it works in the simplest of terms.

Customer reviews (original spelling):

  • Nayeemullah I. – “Revit is a powerful tool for building design and construction, but its complexity and cost may make it less suitable for individual users or smaller firms. Its collaborative capabilities and advanced visualization tools can be particularly useful for larger, more complex projects.
  • Aditya M. – “Revit facilitates better collaboration between all stakeholders involved in a building project. The use of it’s visualization and rendering capabilities helps to understand the design intent and also communicate ideas more effectively.
  • Danielli S. – “My internal workflow is more fluid after a while working with Revit, I have ease and agility in building the architectural and furniture models. The graphic result that I achieve with the software has become the identity of my project presentations.

My personal opinion on Revit:

Autodesk has something of a reputation when it comes to software for specific markets. Not only does it offer one of the best CAD solutions in the world (AutoCAD), but there is also the fact that Revit (another Autodesk product) is one of the best-known BIM tools in the industry. It is fast, versatile, and feature-rich, offering its users extensive BIM capabilities. There are plenty of issues that users may have with Revit, including the overall complexity of the solution, its high price, and the inevitable slowdown when dealing with complex project models. However, none of its disadvantages remove from Revit’s position at the top of the BIM software market.

  1. ActCAD

actcad landing page

ActCAD is professional CAD software that offers 2D and 3D modeling capabilities, among other features. It can be used by a variety of professions and occupations, from students and technical consultants to architects, civil engineers, interior/exterior designers, and more. It is relatively easy to use, and it has a very user-friendly interface, which allows for a much easier transition from AutoCAD and similar software applications.

Customer ratings:

  • Capterra4.2/5 stars based on 210 customer reviews
  • TrustRadius8.8/10 stars based on 4 customer reviews
  • G24.5/5 stars based on 49 customer reviews

Advantages:

  • Interface is very similar to AutoCAD
  • Perpetual licensing and multiple licensing models to choose from
  • Relatively cheap when compared with market averages

Shortcomings:

  • Licensing models may be confusing and somewhat restrictive when multiple devices are used under the same license
  • Some add-ons create application crashes when used
  • There are not many advanced features, which makes ActCAD seem more like beginner’s software than its competitors

Pricing:

  • ActCAD’s licenses are all perpetual and there are multiple ways to obtain them
    • The “Key Based License” is a licensing model based on unique serial numbers
    • The “Dongle Based License” is a licensing model that relies on physical USB Dongles to act as installation/activation keys for the software
    • The “Network Floating License” is a licensing model that can be used on Local Area Networks. It is activated either using USB dongles or license keys
    • The “Live License” is a cloud-based licensing model that works with the ActCAD Cloud License Server to activate up to 5 computers per license
    • The “CAD OEM License” represents the IntelliCAD core engine sold with the help of resellers
  • There is no official pricing available on the ActCAD website for any of these licensing models

Documentation and customer support capabilities:

  • ActCAD does not have much to offer in terms of customer support. The only way to communicate with a member of the customer support team is via email. There is also a Self-help module in the Client Login area, but this can answer only basic questions about the software and its capabilities.
  • The same could be said for ActCAD’s documentation, as there is very little to work with. There is a collection of videos on ActCAD’s YouTube channel, but most of them are relatively sporadic, and they are not organized in any meaningful way. The official website offers next to nothing in terms of training or learning materials, either.

Customer reviews (original spelling):

  • Germán R. – “At least for the kind of work I do, It’s a cheap-good solution. Simply put, you get the job done with it. It’s easy to use (if you are already familiar with AutoCAD) and you can generate a proffesional product using the program without paying too much. The best part is, you don’t have to pay a subscription.
  • Ujval D. – “I am associated with manufacturing industries from last fre years and were used other applications to draft but act cad is cost effective alternative and effective to save space in system. I have adapted actcad for my routine job and there is no cons i have observed for using. I already have recommended same to few of our partners companies and hoping they will also love to use as I do.
  • Gary H. – “My overall experience has been good. I do which that ACTCAD could maybe break out of the box a little and not try so much of being the same as other known or most used programs as much as finding something that makes this stand out from others. I think it would be nice to have a #D software that you could accomplish better rendering capabilities than another with better graphics and ease of use. I believe this would be a game changer, and also capable of “VR” Virtual Reality type design capabilities and you could call it Virtual Design Mode.

My personal opinion on ActCAD:

ActCAD is often referred to as a simple CAD solution. The fact that CAD software has a reputation for being complex and difficult to get into makes this kind of statement extremely questionable. However, ActCAD does deliver what it promises, offering a simple CAD drafting solution in two and three dimensions that also shares a lot of interface design choices with AutoCAD. The lack of complex or sophisticated features cements ActCAD’s reputation as a beginner CAD solution that is far cheaper than any version of AutoCAD version, but it is still quite a competent solution in its own right.

  1. Rhino

rhino landing page

While the majority of CAD applications are tailored to deal specifically with straight lines and shapes, Rhino was designed as a tool for working with curved lines from the get-go. This makes Rhino that much easier for modeling things that are unusually curved, like supercars, human faces, or intricate parts of building design. Rhino can work with complex non-straight shapes and lines in building design with surprising ease. It can also be customized to anyone’s liking with an add-in system that allows Rhino to be task-specific and somewhat customizable for specific purposes.

Customer ratings:

  • Capterra4.6/5 stars based on 88 customer reviews
  • TrustRadius9.1/10 stars based on 47 customer reviews
  • G24.4/5 stars based on 182 customer reviews

Advantages:

  • Perpetual licenses
  • Relatively easy to learn
  • High versatility in both 2D design and 3D modeling

Shortcomings:

  • More detailed models may cause the solution to slow down drastically
  • Interface as a whole looks somewhat dated
  • No native rendering engine with good quality

Pricing:

  • Rhino3D’s pricing model is fairly simple: a perpetual license for the software costs $995 for either Windows or Mac version, there are no maintenance fees, and both newer versions and customer support are included in the package
  • It is also possible to upgrade older versions of the software for $595 per user

Documentation and customer support capabilities:

  • Rhino’s customer support capabilities are not particularly exceptional, but they are still competent enough to be helpful. There is a designated page on the Rhino website that provides an overview of what kind of support the software offers.
  • This includes a collection of ready-made articles on some of the most common issues, as well as multiple options for contacting a live member of the customer support team (depending on location). Two of the most common contact methods are phone calls and email.
  • As one of the more popular CAD solutions, Rhino has an active community that helps each other in many ways. The official Rhino documentation covers context-sensitive suggestions in the software itself, as well as FAQs, videos, user guides, and articles on different topics or features.

Customer reviews (original spelling):

  • Ilgaz K. – “It’s an amazing 3d Drawing app that with version 7 consists of Nodes (grasshopper) and procedural design). Rhinos render is pretty and easy to use. Overall this program is worth every penny however it needs some time and build to be worth to use it on Industrial Enginering actively(over Solidworks).
  • Deniz D. – “It’s a great experience , i’ve learnt a lot about it like how to use parametric design & merge it with industrial objects for example chairs , sneakers so far and so on . The software is wonderful thats why i keep cheering it.
  • Gal Z. – “The logic of the program and the way its organized is super helpful. Rhino allows me to create objects in multiple ways but there are too many issues that force me to switch programs constantly so as to be able to fully define my objects without errors.

My personal opinion on Rhino:

Rhino’s main point of interest is its reliance on NURBS geometry in all of its modeling capabilities, making it possible to create extremely accurate and complex models for future use. Rhino is well-known CAD software that focuses on three main target areas: modeling, concept design, and prototyping. Architects are just one example of the professions and specialties that can take advantage of Rhino’s capabilities in their work. Unfortunately, Rhino does not have a native rendering engine, and the overall interface of the software may look dated in comparison with other solutions on the market, which may be deciding factors for some users.

  1. Tekla Structures

tekla structures landing page

Tekla Structures (formerly Tekla BIMsight) is BIM construction software that creates and manages three-dimensional models for various use cases. Tekla Structures can be used not only by architects, but also by engineers, fabricators, contractors, suppliers, etc. Additionally, Tekla is web-based, making it more versatile and mobile than the majority of the market. It offers an abundance of features, including, but not limited to, quantity takeoffs, concrete modeling, construction layout, etc.

Customer ratings:

  • Capterra4.5/5 stars based on 36 customer reviews
  • G24.5/5 stars based on 63 customer reviews

Advantages:

  • Easy way to visualize different ideas and structures
  • User-friendly interface
  • Variety of plugins to enhance functionality

Shortcomings:

  • Struggles with larger project models
  • Incapable of opening more than one model at a time
  • Not the most efficient tool on the market

Pricing:

  • While there is no public information about Tekla Structures’ pricing on the official website, there is plenty to learn about Tekla’s licensing models and subscription plans
  • The different subscription plans are:
    • “Carbon” is a great option for basic collaboration purposes that can do little to no actual model modification
    • “Graphite” is a design documentation/modeling solution that also includes the features of the previous option
    • “Diamond” is a high-tech product information and detailing tool, on top of all the features above
  • There are also three different approaches to licensing:
    • The standard license is a user-based model that can be activated on one device at a  time, can change users 4 times a year, and can only be used in the country of the licensing contract
    • The worldwide license is self-explanatory: it is a license that can be used from any location in the world
    • The flex license removes the limitation on the number of user assignments

Documentation and customer support capabilities:

  • Tekla has a respectable selection of options when it comes to both customer support and documentation. The former is provided by a designated customer portal with three different contact options: phone call, email, and online tickets.
  • Documentation is offered in the form of user guides, FAQs, videos, articles, tutorials, and even a separate learning resource on the official Tekla website with training courses and case studies.

Customer reviews (original spelling):

  • Fabián Q. – “This software takes me step by step throughout the construction process helping to program each task with precision, efficiency and reliability. There can be no other result than optimal quality and significant savings of resources and time.
  • Richard F. – “My overall experience with concrete contractors is great considering I am on one of my best friends growing up as father has owned a concrete plan for about 1520 years now and myAnd my best friend is the vice president of our company so I’ve learned a lot and I’ve also had lots of experience and mainly good experience with concrete contractors
  • Verified Reviewer – “For the areas of the software that i have learned to use, it benefits me greatly. The time it takes to do the same work in a 2D software such as AutoCad is unbelievable. A simple beam/column setup or handrail for a set of stairs can be done in minutes rather than hours or days. Plus, the ability to export machine files such as NC1 and DXF has increased the speed of our shop.

My personal opinion on Tekla Structures:

Tekla Structures is a rather unusual example of a BIM solution. The sheer fact that it is web-based makes it far more unusual than most of the competition, and the fact that its set of features rivals a lot of its standalone competitors’ capabilities makes it even harder to believe. In all fairness, there are also plenty of limitations that Tekla’s solution has to work with all the time, including the mediocre overall performance, the inability to open more than a single model at a time, and the inability to handle large and complex models without slowing down to a crawl. And yet, Tekla’s capabilities in project information management and drawing generation are enough to make it a solution of choice for a variety of specialists in different industries.

  1. Tinkercad

tinkercad landing page

Tinkercad is another example of a completely free 3D modeling tool that is mostly aimed at beginners in architectural design. Most of the time, Tinkercad is used to improve skills and develop knowledge about more complex modeling techniques, among other things. Since it’s free, there is no excuse not to use it in the first place. It is basically a free sandbox for users to improve their skillsets.

Customer ratings:

  • Capterra4.7/5 stars based on 46 customer reviews
  • TrustRadius9.3/10 stars based on 11 customer reviews
  • G24.5/5 stars based on 110 customer reviews

Advantages:

  • It is completely free
  • Its simplicity is very attractive to many non-professional users
  • It can also scale up to be more detailed and professional when necessary

Shortcomings:

  • There are plenty of limitations, from the inability to create circles to the lack of an assembly feature
  • Object placement could be more detailed than it is now
  • A good Internet connection is a requirement for a consistent user experience

Pricing:

  • Tinkercad is a completely free web app that was created with the goal of introducing people to Autodesk’s interface and modeling capabilities

Documentation and customer support capabilities:

  • The completely free nature of Tinkercad makes the issue of customer support rather problematic. There is an email address users may send their inquiries to, but the speed of the response is not guaranteed whatsoever. Community support is a viable alternative for solutions like these, but it is not a part of the software provider’s services, which is why it is not covered here.
  • However, we can cover Tinkercad’s documentation and training information instead. There are plenty of different resources to work with, and most of them are included in the Tinkercad web service itself. This includes sections such as FAQs, blog posts, tutorials, user guides, and an active community of like-minded users and developers.

Customer reviews (original spelling):

  • Avijit D. – “During this pandemic situation, with this tool i am able to show others how to use arduino circuits and use them, without providing them the real time hardware. They are loving the way of studying it. and also for my projects i did a simulation program that impressed the teachers.
  • Verified Reviewer – “I have commercial software that is fairly expensive and will produce highly detailed and far more intricate models than you can with Tinkercad. But, unless it is highly detailed and requires exacting specifications, I’ll bang it out on Tinkercad. Heck, I have a 3D printed model of my 3 story home. Each floor and the roof sections are seperate allowing you to open it up and see each floor. That model includes the stairwell, stairs and handrails with balasters for the stairs and open loft on the 3rd floor. The exposed wooden beams, vaulted ceilings, and even the huge front deck are all included, right down to the wood stove in the living room.
  • Karee S. – “Overall, it works and I’ve had a good experience with it. I think for elementary students more needs to be streamlined and simplified before I fell comfortable using it with my younger kids in my STEM classroom. I enjoy that it is a great free resource and think it is great exposure to CAD design but can cause frustration with how to toggle around different tools and such.

My personal opinion on Tinkercad:

Tinkercad is another example of an architectural tool owned by Autodesk. Unlike most of its peers, Tinkercad is completely free, which makes sense in the context of its main purpose: education. The main goal of Tinkercad was always to provide an environment for developing and improving CAD skills, tackling more complex projects as time goes on. It is a web-based solution in its entirety, making it extremely dependent on a stable Internet connection, and the software has plenty of other limitations. However, none of the disadvantages and inconveniences can even come close to beating the single biggest advantage of Tinkercad: its complete lack of a price tag.

  1. Enscape

enscape landing page

Enscape presents a slightly different approach to rendering and visualization. The main difference between Enscape and other architectural software programs is that Enscape is not a full-fledged application but a plugin that can be attached to most popular design/CAD applications, such as SketchUp, ArchiCAD, Revit, Rhino, and more. It is an extremely popular and easy way to turn regular 3D models into experiences, whether via virtual tours or even with the use of virtual reality. Enscape integrates design processes and visualization into one single entity, empowering workflows and generating enchanting visuals, all of which helps Enscape remain one of the best 3D architectural software providers on the market.

Customer ratings:

  • Capterra4.5/5 stars based on 62 customer reviews
  • G24.7/5 stars based on 173 customer reviews

Advantages:

  • User-friendly solution
  • Not particularly demanding in terms of hardware specifications
  • Works with most popular CAD/BIM solutions on the market

Shortcomings:

  • Customization options are somewhat limited
  • The overall cost of the plugin may be a problem for smaller businesses
  • Some materials are not particularly detailed

Pricing:

  • Enscape has three different pricing tiers by technicality, even though only two of them are actually different subscription tiers
    • The “Free” tier is arguably not a price tier at all but simply a different name for the 14-day free trial which must be turned into an active paid subscription to continue working after these two weeks
    • A “Fixed-Seat,” at €78.90 per month per user (it is much cheaper if paid for an entire year in advance, down to €42.90 per month), is a license bound to a single computer. It offers free upgrades, expert support, and all of Enscape’s features
    • “Floating,” at €76.90 per month per license, is a single license can be used on multiple computers. It can be billed only yearly and includes everything that the Fixed-Seat license offers

Documentation and customer support capabilities:

  • Enscape offers a relatively basic set of features in terms of customer support. There is a dedicated customer support portal that acts as a centralized customer support location. The customer support team itself can be reached using live chat, email, or the online ticketing queue.
  • The customer portal also offers plenty of information about the software itself, including helpful articles, documentation, user guides, tutorials, FAQs, and videos on different topics.

Customer reviews (original spelling):

  • Sid K. – “With Enscpe, we can make our 3D CAD models look life-like as the quality of rending form this software is near realistic. It is also very quick and easy to integrate with other design software to make full use of its features.
  • Laylee N. – “since im the only 3d architect in my firm , and i work with civil and mechanic engineers its really important for me to be able to present a physical outcome on my imaginations and Enscape helps me do that considering the fast rendering process . to be more informal , enscape help me make big changes in a short time to show to people how has low sense on visualization .
  • Alison L. – “In general, Enscape has made rendering infinitely easier than it was previously. We use to live in a world where we were unable to show all clients 3D images due to scale and duration of projects. After implementing Enscape into our daily work flow there is no reason we cant walk through the entirety of the building with every client. This has shown us huge improvements in client engagement and satisfaction. Working on education projects, Enscape has allowed us to quickly produce images and video to create an overwhelming sense of excitement among school students and staff!

My personal opinion on Enscape:

Rendering plugins are a legitimate category of software in this industry, and there are plenty of options to choose from. Not only are most of the built-in rendering options unable to keep up with the third-party alternatives, but there is also the fact that a lot of large CAD/BIM solutions can be easily integrated with to produce the best of both worlds. Enscape is one such example, providing exceptional visualization and rendering capabilities to popular CAD solutions such as Rhino, SketchUp, AutoCAD, and many others. It is fast, accurate, and not particularly difficult to work with, and it is a great option for CAD users that feel like the built-in rendering engine is insufficient for their specific purposes.

  1. PlusSpec

plusspec landing page

PlusSpec is another example of multifunctional 3D BIM software primarily used for designing, estimating, and building projects. It is highly affordable, packs many useful features, and requires little to no knowledge to start working with it. It allows users to create both 3D models and 2D drawings, it can identify errors in floor plans, and it allows for freedom and flexibility that is unavailable with traditional design methods.

Customer ratings:

  • Capterra4.8/5 stars based on 4 customer reviews

Key features:

  • Easy to work with
  • Improves upon the features of SketchUp
  • Supports 3D walkthroughs for better design readability
  • Capable of associating prices with most objects in a model

Pricing:

  • PlusSpec has a fairly simple pricing model. PlusSpec Pro can be purchased either as a monthly or an annual subscription
    • “PlusSpec Pro Freedom Plan” is $110 for a monthly subscription
    • “PlusSpec Pro Annual” is $870 for an annual subscription
  • Both subscriptions offer the same complete set of features and include a 7-day free trial

Documentation and customer support capabilities:

  • PlusSpec has a customer portal for support questions, but the only way to contact the customer support team is to use a request form with an unspecified response time.
  • The same is true of the documentation and official materials available. There are only a few articles, as well as a number of tutorial videos separated into categories on the official website.

My personal opinion on PlusSpec:

PlusSpec is a relatively unknown BIM solution with a plethora of useful capabilities. It offers most of the standard BIM capabilities such as centralized data sharing, information management, workflow streamlining, and much more. It also supports 3D walkthroughs and pulls pricing as object information into the models themselves. It is not the most complex or versatile BIM option on the market, but its low price tag more than makes up for it.

  1. Chaos V-Ray

Chaos V-Ray is another great example of software that is not technically software in the first place: it is a 3D rendering plugin that can be installed in all major 3D CAD solutions, including 3ds Max, Revit, Rhino, SketchUp, and more. It is a great way to create high-quality renders with many cutting-edge features, such as real-time ray tracing. It is a highly popular plugin in many industries, not only architecture, but also visual effects, advertising, and more.

Customer ratings:

  • Capterra4.7/5 stars based on 28 customer reviews
  • G24.5/5 stars based on 93 customer reviews

Advantages:

  • Plenty of useful features for various 3D rendering use cases
  • Impressive customer support
  • Easy to assign different materials or textures to models

Shortcomings:

  • Extremely demanding in terms of computer hardware
  • Built-in libraries can be somewhat limited
  • Most effects take a while to apply

Pricing:

  • V-Ray has three main pricing tiers for commercial use:
    • “Solo,” at €74.90 per month per single fixed computer, includes all V-Ray integrations, customer support, and access to the Chaos Cosmos content library
    • “Premium,” at €109.90 per month with a floating license, expands upon the previous offering by adding Chaos Vantage (real-time ray tracing), Chaos Scans (photorealistic material library), Chaos Player (fast and smooth playback for high-quality image sequences), and Chaos Phoenix (simulated oceans, fire, smoke, etc.)
    • “Enterprise,” at €44.90 per month per floating license, mirrors the entire set of features of the previous version, but can be purchased only in a bundle of at least 5 licenses (or more)

Documentation and customer support capabilities:

  • The dedicated support portal is the main location for V-Ray’s customer support topics and inquiries. Active V-Ray subscribers can use the live chat to contact the customer support team, and contact methods such as email and tickets are available to everyone.
  • One of many reasons why V-Ray is so popular is its accessibility in terms of documentation and learning materials. There are plenty of materials on the Getting Started page of the website, including case studies, official documentation, and even webinars. Other helpful data can also be found in the support center in the form of manuals and user guides, as well.

Customer reviews (original spelling):

  • Shubhi J. – “Overall its was good while sometimes it takes a toll on you figuring out the perfect settings for the render.
  • Lindsay W. – “With vray, I have the ability to create realistic renderings for clients all over the world. The quality and value that vray gives my renderings is unmatched.
  • Favio R. – “We have created our best renders with v-ray and we have used it with all of our modelling software which is great because it does not limit us on that.
  • Ryan M. – “I would say overall, I was always very pleased with the end result. Thought it might have taken more time to produce a image, it was well worth the trade off. Now that there are so many other engines out there, V-Ray needs to look towards getting more end users by adopting a business model like D5 or Unreal Engine.

My personal opinion on V-Ray:

V-Ray joins Enscape on the relatively small list of rendering engines/modules presented in this article. V-Ray is arguably one of the better-known rendering engines in the industry, offering photorealistic features and plenty of control over effects, materials, lighting, and so on. It can be integrated with many CAD and BIM solutions, and architects specifically are praising it for the ability to generate presentable and impressive visuals in no time.

  1. ArchiCAD

archicad landing page

ArchiCAD by GRAPHISOFT is considered the first BIM application for architects, and it has been at the top of its game ever since. ArchiCAD is a professional BIM solution from one of the best 3D architectural software providers on the market, offering intuitive design, automated documentation processes, accurate information management features, and more. It is widely used to combine the efforts of engineers and architects by allowing for easier collaboration and by introducing an improved workflow for it all. Other features that ArchiCAD offers include graphics overriding, data modeling, attribute management, and much more.

Customer ratings:

  • Capterra4.5/5 stars based on 277 customer reviews
  • TrustRadius8.8/10 stars based on 26 customer reviews
  • G24.6/5 stars based on 245 customer reviews

Advantages:

  • Vast modeling capabilities and toolsets
  • User-friendly navigation between different tools
  • Can be helpful for the entire project duration, from design to construction
  • Supports both 2D and 3D project viewing

Shortcomings:

  • Layout drawing updates are not instantaneous and may take a long time to implement
  • 2D drawing capabilities are limited
  • Object library would benefit from being more customizable
  • Detailing tool is tedious and not flexible

Pricing:

  • ArchiCAD offers three different licensing options: a commercial subscription-based license, a one-year renewable free educational license, and a fully-functional 30-day trial license.
  • ArchiCAD’s commercial license can be purchased in three different forms:
    • ArchiCAD, at $225+ per month (before tax), is a basic version of ArchiCAD
    • ArchiCAD Solo, at $200+ per month (before tax), is a limited version of ArchiCAD with most of its sharing features turned off
    • ArchiCAD Collaborate, at $225+ per month (before tax), is a combination of ArchiCAD and BIMcloud

Documentation and customer support capabilities:

  • The customer support from ArchiCAD differs quite a lot depending on whether the user has an active subscription or not.
    • Users with active GSA subscriptions (Graphisoft Service Agreement) are provided with the option of contacting a dedicated support specialist online or via phone call.
    • Users without active GSA subscriptions have access only to an online ticket system and a live chat (may be limited in specific regions).
  • Despite its overall success, the official information about ArchiCAD in terms of documentation or learning materials is very limited. There is an active community with multiple third-party resources on this topic, but they are in no way affiliated with the company itself. Graphisoft provides a knowledge base in the form of an “articles” section on a separate web page, as well as a FAQ section, and a few resources that can be downloaded.

Customer reviews (original spelling):

  • Sadaf G. – “As an Architect, I have been able to use ArchiCAD for conceptual designs, detailed drafting, interior layouts as well as generating high-quality elevations, sections and 3D views for all my projects, including presentation drawings. In fact, 3D modelling and rendering have been made simple thanks to ArchiCAD. Visualization, (placing cameras) and gathering documentation are also uncomplicated. Rendering tools are useful and there is no need to get extra plug-ins for performing the same tasks that can be done within the software itself. I consider ArchiCAD to be better than its counterparts, e.g. Revit mainly because it is uncomplicated to use, with the same functionality at an economical investment.
  • Tim S. – “Excellent. Clarity over hand drafting. ease of changing any elements to the client’s or our own wishes. Creating modules like kitchen or bathroom layouts and popping them in wherever needed, often with fewer modifications. Exploring complex spatial configurations.
  • Krzysztof K. – “I met Archicad during my studies, I was and still am impressed by the possibilities of this program, which is still being developed. In my work, I use it to visualize interiors as they would look after renovation or home staging, it is possible because there is a large database of libraries of objects such as windows, doors, furniture, etc. This allows clients to make better decisions. I also use it to create dimensioned floor plans in 2 and 3D options. Before the meeting, customers review the plans and more specifically interested people come to the meetings, which saves everyone time.

My personal opinion on ArchiCAD:

Most experts in the industry consider ArchiCAD the first CAD solution that was released for commercial use. It is still quite competent to this day, offering both CAD and BIM capabilities in a single package, even if not without some flaws. Its object library is somewhat lackluster, and performing operations such as detailing can be a very tedious process. On the other hand, ArchiCAD is relatively user-friendly, it can cover the entire project realization process from start to finish (as a complete BIM solution), and its overall modeling capabilities are nothing to be ashamed of.

  1. Bricscad BIM

bricscad bim landing page

Bricscad BIM is supposed to contribute majorly to saving time in building design. It is a great solution for virtual building creation, with all the intricacies and little details that make each building unique. Bricscad combines the accuracy of regular CAD software with the power of free-form modeling. It also uses Artificial Intelligence to help its users with the more efficient recreation of details in their models.

Customer ratings:

  • Capterra4.7/5 stars based on 17 customer reviews
  • G24.5/5 stars based on 130 customer reviews

Advantages:

  • Supports both Linux and Windows devices
  • Can host hundreds of third-party utilities if necessary
  • Interface resembles AutoCAD a lot, making it easy for some people to start using the solution

Shortcomings:

  • Linux performance is not on par with the Windows version
  • Layout customization is quite limited
  • Autosave leads to stuttering and may take a while to complete each time depending on the project size

Pricing:

  • Bricsys offers five different versions of its software:
    • BricsCAD Lite
    • BricsCAD Pro
    • BricsCAD Mechanical
    • BricsCAD BIM
    • BricsCAD Ultimate
  • Both the BIM and Ultimate versions of the solution (the only ones that offer any kind of BIM capacity) can be purchased for periods of 1 or 3 years and as perpetual licenses. Both solutions also have access to Network Licenses, allowing for multiple users on the same network to work with BricsCAD, but a separate license server is required to use this version of the subscription.
  • BricsCAD BIM can be purchased for:
    • $1,060 per year per person as a single license, $2,120 per year per network license.
    • $2,860 per three years per person as a single license, $5,720 per three years per network license.
    • $2,382 per lifetime single license, $4,764 per lifetime network license.
  • BricsCAD Ultimate allows the following combinations of prices and licensing options:
    • $1,180 per year per person as a single license, $2,360 per year per network license.
    • $3,170 per three years per person as a single license, $6,340 per three years per network license.
    • $2,646 per lifetime single license, $5,292 per lifetime network license.

Documentation and customer support capabilities:

  • As one of several software solutions from Bricsys, BricsCAD BIM uses the same centralized help center shared between all Bricsys products. BricsCAD users with active maintenance contracts can contact customer support using the live chat, and other clientele can reach the same customer support team using either email or online tickets.
  • The same support portal provides a selection of resources to choose from when it comes to documentation and learning materials. This includes educational videos, tutorials, FAQs, articles, user guides, and more.

Customer reviews (original spelling):

  • Laurel L. – “BricsCad BIM enables building information modeling from design to documentation. This concept added to the features of BricsCad ultimate leads to excellent results.
  • Mohammad M. – “I’m very satisfied with what BricsCAD has to offer in terms of features & overall user experience. It’s an extremely cost-effective CAD utility that’s proven to be easy to learn & use for creating 2D (& 3D) drafts. Furthermore, I’ve noticed how relatively smaller DWG files are when saving a drawing via BricsCAD compared to other CAD programs I’ve used in the past which ultimately contributes to saving storage on my local disk drives.
  • Ammon N. – “I learned CAD in a more popular and different, but similar application. BricsCAD works in a similar way and has almost all of the same features that I liked about the other software.

My personal opinion on BricsCAD BIM:

AutoCAD is widely considered the most popular CAD software tool in the business. In this context, it is not very difficult to see why some software providers try to rely on the similarities of their interfaces with AutoCAD as part of their appeal. BricsCAD BIM is one such example, offering a rather noteworthy BIM solution that can perform 2D drafting, 3D modeling, and plenty of BIM capabilities such as centralized data management. It supports both Linux and Windows devices, which is a rather rare occurrence in this field of work, and its overall price is relatively low considering the total set of features it provides.

  1. All Plan

all plan landing page

This architectural planning application might seem somewhat limited at first since it works only with Windows, but do not let that dissuade you. It is a versatile bundle of features developed by the company Nemetschek with the intent of producing a flexible tool for different levels of project. It works with both 2D and 3D designs of variable difficulty while also being capable of working on topography, conception, drawings, and so on.

Customer ratings:

  • Capterra3.2/5 stars based on 6 customer reviews
  • G24.4/5 stars based on 25 customer reviews

Advantages:

  • Range of features and capabilities allows the solution to be flexible and applicable to many use cases
  • Impressive scalability of the solution makes it useful for both a single-person crew and for an entire team of architects
  • The solution’s interface is easy to work with and is not particularly overwhelming to newcomers

Shortcomings:

  • Some more specific features are still missing after decades on the market (daylight calculations, for example)
  • Lack of innovation makes it less than the most compelling choice on the BIM market
  • Solution slows down a lot with larger, more complex projects

Pricing:

  • There is no public pricing information on the official Allplan website. The only way to obtain such information is to request a personalized quotation

Documentation and customer support capabilities:

  • AllPlan offers a separate subscription service that provides software updates, technical support, and a content library. Customers that are subscribed to this service can choose between online tickets, email, and phone calls to contact the customer support team.
  • Users of the same subscription have access to a variety of documentation materials and user guides. Information can also be found using the official knowledge base or the FAQ section on the website.

My personal opinion on AllPlan:

Interdisciplinary collaboration and parametric modeling are two of the biggest fields that AllPlan focuses its efforts on. It is comprehensive BIM software that offers its users a wide variety of capabilities and features, ranging from drawings and concepts to topography, estimating, and more. That is not to say that it is the ultimate BIM solution, as it still has its fair share of flaws, including missing features, slow update speeds, and a general lack of helpful materials on the solution on the Internet.

  1. 3DS Max

3ds max landing page

3D Studio Max (or 3DS Max) is another example of the CAD software developed and provided by Autodesk. While it is true that 3DS Max has several similarities with AutoCAD, the former is more common in the video games industry thanks to its pre-visualization capabilities. Additionally, the software is great for general architectural needs, and its popularity makes it easy to find helpful courses online that teach how to use the software for free.

Customer ratings:

  • Capterra4.7/5 stars based on 100 customer reviews
  • TrustRadius8.7/10 stars based on 33 customer reviews
  • G24.2/5 stars based on 277 customer reviews

Advantages:

  • Easy collaboration and integration between disciplines
  • Plenty of useful features such as 2D pan zoom snap or 3D animation capabilities
  • Great rendering quality

Shortcomings:

  • Keeping up with price changes is a challenge
  • High hardware requirements and large size of the software itself
  • Long rendering times

Pricing:

  • 3DS Max offers two different pricing approaches.
  • The first is a basic subscription that can be paid for on a monthly basis, yearly basis, or every three years:
    • $235 per month
    • $1,875 per year
    • $5,625 per three years
  • The second involves accessing 3DS Max as a part of the Autodesk Flex program, a “pay-as-you-go” option that offers a daily price in tokens for a number of Autodesk services. 3DS Max’s Flex cost is 6 tokens per day, and there are at least two token bundles available for purchase:
    • 100 tokens for $300
    • 500 tokens for $1500
    • It is also possible to purchase custom amounts of tokens, depending on the needs of the company, and the tokens themselves have an expiration period of 1 year after the purchase.

Documentation and customer support capabilities:

  • Like Autodesk products, customer support for 3DS Max is managed using a centralized customer success portal. It allows for emails, phone calls, and online tickets to be used to contact the customer support team, and active Autodesk Subscription users can also use the live chat.
  • The customer success portal also provides convenient access to a variety of learning materials about 3DS Max, including tutorials, FAQs, articles, videos, user guides, and a separate Autodesk Learning platform.

Customer reviews (original spelling):

  • Roldan A. – “It was a good experience. 3DS Max was the very first software I have used. During that time there is not much tutorial found in YouTube, so I have to figure out things on my own. But, yes, it was very much doable. Persistence is key to learning. You cannot be lazy in reading documentations. But with todays copious amount of learning videos and institutions, it shouldn’t be easy to learn 3DS Max. Persistence and time are keys to learning. It takes time and persistence as 3DS Max is not an easy software to learn.
  • Adnaan E. – “3ds Max is an incredibly powerful 3D modeling and animation software that is industry-leading. It provides users with a wide range of tools and features to help create complex 3D models and animations. While the learning curve may be a bit steep and the price tag may be a bit high, it is an excellent choice for professionals who need a powerful and feature-rich 3D modeling and animation software.
  • Lindsay W. – “I love the flexibility of 3ds Max. Whether it’s architectural or character design, this program can render great results. I currently use this program for architectural modeling, but there are many times where I enjoy the ability to custom design something very unique within the same program.

My personal opinion on 3DS Max:

3DS Max is a 3D modeling solution from Autodesk that is supposed to be the main competitor of solutions such as Rhino. It has a highly complex rendering and animation toolset for creating extremely detailed visuals, and its modeling capabilities are some of the most detailed and customizable to date. It does take a long time to render most of its projects, and it is also extremely expensive, even by this market’s standards. All in all, it is not the best solution Autodesk provides to architects, but it is also definitely far from the worst.

  1. Esri ArcGIS CityEngine

arcgis cityengine landing page

With two separate versions of its product for different skill levels, ArcGIS CityEngine is a powerful visualization and 3D production tool that can easily create detailed buildings with strong communities around them. This architectural planning application is great not only for architects but also for urban planners and the entertainment industry as a whole, and it is capable of rendering and sharing realistic cityscapes. These renders can help in figuring out what structures are feasible to build in the first place before the construction process begins, making it an invaluable tool for almost any project.

Customer ratings:

  • Capterra4.6/5 stars based on 497 customer reviews
  • TrustRadius9.1/10 stars based on 140 customer reviews
  • G24.2/5 stars based on 22 customer reviews

Advantages:

  • Easy city development with design and planning using highly detailed 3D models
  • Speed of 2D drafting/editing is impressive and very convenient
  • General versatility and flexibility of tool

Shortcomings:

  • Steep learning curve with an interface that is far from intuitive
  • The solution itself is relatively expensive
  • Mass rendering can slow down even the most powerful systems

Pricing:

  • ArcGIS CityEngine can be purchased as a single-use license, as an online subscription, or as a perpetual license with 12 months of maintenance included. Unfortunately, there is no public pricing information available for any of these options, meaning that the only option to obtain pricing information is to contact ArcGIS directly and request a personalized quotation.

Documentation and customer support capabilities:

  • The Technical Support page on the ArcGIS website provides centralized access to multiple information sources when it comes to customer support and documentation. There are three main approaches to customer support: an online ticketing (case) system, a live chat, and phone calls (all three are subject to workday time frames and other limitations).
  • The page also leads to a knowledge base provided by Esri themselves, offering a variety of articles and other materials that are educational or useful. Other documentation that Esri provides for CityEngine includes FAQs, tutorials, user guides, and even sample scripts.

Customer reviews (original spelling):

  • Dave F. – “Our field crews and engineering staff couldn’t function without it. Out utilities assets with all of their attributes are on our digital maps. On it we document structures attributes, condition over time, maintenance schedules, and even hyperlink photo and video inspections to each asset. Invaluable information no further away than a click of a button, no matter where in our world that you are!
  • Noam B. – “Despite its drawbacks, ArcGIS is an incredibly powerful GIS software that is packed with features and is perfect for both experienced GIS professionals and newcomers alike. Its user-friendly interface makes it easy to use and its expansive library of tools and features make it an invaluable tool for anyone working with geographic data.
  • Timmy T. – “After about 100 hours of being hopelessly lost in the menus, import/export functions, and display properties, an average user will probably be able to impress their colleagues with a tidy and professional display of 2-d or 3-d data in a relevant map background, which very few other freeware programs are capable of creating.

My personal opinion on ArcGIS:

As its name suggests, ArcGIS CityEngine was created to work with urban projects in the first place. It is a surprisingly versatile modeling tool that creates detailed and functional urban environment plans in no time. Its main purposes and use cases are visualizations of large-scale developments in the urban sphere, as well as city planning and urban design as a whole. The software itself is a lot faster than most of the competition, and a lot of its features are not particularly difficult to work with. That being said, the software’s focus on urban projects does make it a lot less competitive than it could be in the broader architectural software market.

  1. Floorplanner

floorplanner landing page

Floorplanner may lack the scope of traditional architectural CAD software, but it is still a great tool for aspiring architects interested in interior design. It is a great solution that combines user-friendliness and effectiveness in a single package. Additionally, it is cloud-based software, meaning it is easier to play around with various ideas for furniture, decoration, walls, floorings, and more. The software has a library of different objects and can also export every project into the widely used PDF format, making it a great choice for various collaboration efforts.

Customer ratings:

  • Capterra4.1/5 stars based on 25 customer reviews

Key features:

  • Ease of use with access to different walls, windows, doors, etc.
  • Simple measurement system
  • General speed of solution
  • User-friendly interface with drag-and-drop features

Pricing:

  • Floorplanner’s pricing model is somewhat complicated and includes six different pricing tiers in two groups
  • Individual pricing includes three plans that are suitable only for singular specialists
    • “Basic” is a free solution with full editing functionality, the full asset library, and basic exporting capabilities
    • “Plus,” at $5 per user per month, removes the limitation on the number of favorite items, allows for image exporting without timelock, and provides 4 credits per month
    • “Pro,” at $29 per user per month, offers custom templates, Roomtype sets, custom Roomstyles, and other features (+29 credits per month)
  • Pricing for companies covers only versions that are suitable for teams or companies, and not individuals
    • “Team,” at $59 per month, provides up to 10 users with Pro status, as well as user management capabilities, reporting, and 59 credits
    • “Business,” at $179 per month, provides up to 100 users with Pro status and includes custom 3D assets, branded environments, and 199 credits
    • “Enterprise,” at $599 per month, has no limitation on the number of Pro users and offers API access, volume discounts for credit bundles, SSO support, and more (+799 credits)
  • Credits are used to promote specific accounts to higher levels to unlock more features, such as high-quality exports. All projects start at level 1 for Individual plans and at level 2 for company plans

Documentation and customer support capabilities:

  • Floorplanner continues something of a trend of popular software with little to no public documentation or customer support capability. The only option for customers to contact Floorplanner is to use an online form on the website with no indication of how long it might take to receive an answer.
  • The same logic is also applied to the official documentation: there is little to nothing to work with in the first place. Some basic tutorials and guides can be found in the software itself, but most of the common knowledge resources such as videos or tutorials cannot be found on the official Floorplanner website.

Customer reviews (original spelling):

  • Giorgi D. – “I made my future home project with it and it looks great! Yes this is not CAD and most probably you will not be able to make final project for constructing, but least and not last you can play with design, choose shapes and structure, try materials, plan layouts and make calculations. You can do almost everything for the first steps of your project. I am really excited and satisfied with this product!
  • JR Nonato II F. – “We used Floorplanner to prepare for moving homes — it helped us to visualize the space and make sure that our stuff would fit. Definitely more convenient than literally moving furniture all around the apartment just to find a fit.
  • Shannon M. – “Will be using this for a new home construction website and I really think the viewers will love seeing the plans in 3D, it will help them understand more what the layout of the house it.

My personal opinion on Floorplanner:

Floorplanner continues the trend of interior design solutions being considered a part of the broader architectural software field. It is a web-based tool that can be incredibly helpful to homeowners and interior designers. It can create floor plans, export information in the widely used PDF file format, and use its own vast library of objects for interior design purposes. With that being said, this is as far as the software can go, and its usefulness outside of these specific use cases is practically nonexistent.

  1. Civil 3D

civil 3d landing page

Autodesk might be one of the best-known companies in the field of architectural software since they provide so many different variations of CAD software. This example is Civil 3D, software offering more than just classic CAD features. As the name suggests, Civil 3D emphasizes civil engineering as a whole, which is why the software is capable of generating 3D models of environments and designs while also being capable of synchronizing with BIM workflows for better collaboration, design-driven documentation, and more. As with many other software products offered by Autodesk, Civil 3D works best when combined with the company’s other products, such as Revit, AutoCAD, 3DS Max, etc.

Customer ratings:

  • Capterra4.6/5 stars based on 37 customer reviews
  • G24.3/5 stars based on 293 customer reviews

Advantages:

  • Extremely accurate surface creation capabilities
  • Renderings can be done in either 2D or 3D and both are surprisingly fast
  • Allows for the creation of personal object libraries
  • Compatible with different data formats

Shortcomings:

  • High hardware requirements for the desktop application
  • Working with bigger projects is difficult
  • Learning all of the features is a long and difficult process

Pricing:

  • Civil 3D offers two different pricing approaches.
  • The first is a basic subscription that can be paid for on a monthly basis, yearly basis, or every three years:
    • $350 per month
    • $2,780 per year
    • $8,340 per three years
  • The second involves accessing Civil 3D as a part of the Autodesk Flex program, a “pay-as-you-go” option that offers a daily price in tokens for a number of Autodesk services. Civil 3D’s Flex cost is 9 tokens per day, and there are at least two token bundles available for purchase:
    • 100 tokens for $300
    • 500 tokens for $1500
    • It is also possible to purchase custom amounts of tokens, depending on the needs of the company, and the tokens themselves have an expiration period of 1 year after the purchase.

Documentation and customer support capabilities:

  • Civil 3D is the last product on this list that was made by Autodesk. It uses Autodesk’s customer success portal as a centralized source of information and communication. As usual, the live chat is available only to users with active subscriptions, but all customers have access to other communication methods such as email, phone calls, and online tickets.
  • The customer success portal provides a variety of useful information about all Autodesk products. This includes Civil 3D and its capabilities, which is covered in the form of videos, user guides, tutorials, FAQs, articles, and more. There is also a separate learning platform from Autodesk, as well, that can be used to obtain certification and go through more in-depth training based on specific topics of interest.

Customer reviews (original spelling):

  • Kalitt M. – “Overall my experience with the software has been positive, I have used it for over 3 years and it has helped me to accomplish my work duties and tasks. It is a very complete and comprehensive software, you can always keep learning about it.
  • Joseph E. – “In most cases, I utilize Autodesk Civil 3D for pipeline and structure design because of its accuracy and streamlined design process. Designing pipelines can be complicated and very time-consuming. Hence, I was glad that Civil 3D came to my aid as most of these minor pipeline details cannot be properly done on Autocad.
  • Condrae R. – “Civil 3D is used daily to create design drawings and analyze survey data to inform our design decisions. It is also used for volume calculations and shapefile generation. It is overall an great piece of software to use and is value for money.

My personal opinion on Civil 3D:

Civil 3D finishes the ongoing Autodesk trend in this article, offering a comprehensive civil engineering solution with a rather specific use case. Civil 3D is CAD software which pays a lot of attention to the creation of roads, sites, and other civil engineering projects. It is a fast and accurate CAD solution that can be extremely difficult to work with due to its overall complexity. It can work well with other Autodesk solutions, if necessary, but using it outside of civil engineering projects is very questionable.

  1. ZWCAD

zwcad landing page

ZWCAD provides a more traditional take on a classic CAD interface aimed mostly at beginners in the field. It offers standard CAD capabilities, support for DXF/DWG file formats, and multiple additional tools such as QR code conversion, barcode scanning, smart select, and more. ZWCAD is a 2D/3D drafting tool that can work with several different image formats. It can attach annotations, manipulate groups of blocks, use tables, and more. Other features of the software include object isolation, file comparisons, match property, and more.

Customer ratings:

  • Capterra4.5/5 stars based on 14 customer reviews
  • G24.4/5 stars based on 124 customer reviews

Advantages:

  • Impressive scalability
  • Affordable price and perpetual licensing
  • Interface similar to AutoCAD
  • Performance higher than most competitors

Shortcomings:

  • Large projects slow the software down
  • Some 3D formats are not supported (STP, WRL, STL, etc.)
  • Initial onboarding may be complicated due to the lack of documentation
  • Some features have to be toggled ON before being used, which may not be the most convenient options for some users

Pricing:

  • ZWCAD has three different pricing tiers
    • “Standard,” at $899 per license, offers the basic set of features with full DWG compatibility, 2D drafting/design, API access, etc.
    • “Professional,” at $1,199 per license, combines all the previous features with 3D visualization APIs (ZRX, .NET, VBA)
    • “MFG,” at $1,499 per license, combines the “Pro” version with mechanical toolsets and a library of mechanical tools (ISO/GB/DIN)
  • All ZWCAD licenses are perpetual, and it is possible to upgrade legacy versions of the solution for an additional price

Documentation and customer support capabilities:

  • Despite the overall design of the customer support page, ZWCAD offers a fair share of information in the form of both documentation and customer assistance. Users can contact the customer support team using live chats, phone calls, emails, and online tickets.
  • ZWCAD takes a rather peculiar approach to its documentation, offering very limited information about the subject as a whole and providing only the basic combination of FAQs and articles as most of its resources. It is also possible to acquire sample drawings and UI customization resources using the official website.

Customer reviews (original spelling):

  • Kavita P. – “We are very happy with using ZWCAD for all our drawing and drafting needs. It is one of the best alternatives to AutoCAD and somehow it doesn’t even slow down the machine (like how AutoCAD does). The only drawback – lack of a viewer.
  • blake s. – “Great modeling software that allows you the ability to review structures in wireframe and flat space to allow transparency of your project depending on the situation and what you’re trying to communicate to your team. It tends to lag up my computer a bit but that may be due to my computing specs. Freezing of the program through complex and intricate modeling is really the only downside here, but I’m running a 970 nvidia and processor so I’m not sure why I’m experiencing these issues, I’ll follow up with customer support.

My personal opinion on ZWCAD:

Knowing that CAD solutions are known for their complexity and long lists of features, it is rather difficult to imagine a CAD solution that could be considered “budget-friendly.” And yet, ZWCAD markets itself as one such option, providing a respectable set of features for a relatively low price tag. It may not be as effective for users that are already familiar with how CAD software works, but it can be a great option for beginners or teams with very limited budgets, since ZWCAD is fast, scalable, and surprisingly effective at handling smaller CAD models and projects.

  1. CAD Cabin

cad cabin landing page

Another variation on the classic CAD software package formula on this list of the best architectural software programs is CAD Cabin. It has on-premise CAD capabilities for different levels of architect, from beginner to expert, as well as a drag-and-drop environment, several pre-installed visualization options, and a host of both basic and advanced tools to make sure that every architect can use the program in some way or another. The software can work with both 2D and 3D environments, including cross-sections, floor plans, and other parts of home design. It also has vast integration capabilities, virtual walkthroughs, and support for multiple file formats. It is updated frequently to ensure that all of the software’s guidelines, specifications, and resources are as up-to-date as possible.

Key features:

  • Variety of features and solutions for home design purposes
  • Project visualization in 3D
  • Impressive technical support

Pricing:

  • There are three different versions of the CAD Cabin 3D Architect application
    • “Basic version” – £89 for a basic perpetual license of 3D Architect, with 2D floor plan designer, floor plan conversion, virtual tours, object libraries, roof designer, etc.
    • “Expert version” – £149 for a perpetual license that includes scalable and versatile home designer software with a myriad of house design features
    • “Pro version” – £299 for the complete 3D Architect offering with plenty of tips and objects to work with in different fields of home design and architecture

Documentation and customer support capabilities:

  • Contacting CAD Cabin for customer support is not an easy task. The only option listed on the official website is a rather basic “Contact” form with no specific time frame in which answers are provided.
  • The situation with documentation is slightly better. CAD Cabin offers a FAQ section on its website, as well as a variety of tutorial videos, articles, and DIY ebooks as a means of consultation and learning.

My personal opinion on CAD Cabin:

CAD Cabin represents solutions that are not well-known in the industry as a whole, despite offering a respectable combination of features and a decent price tag. CAD Cabin seems to be capable of supporting different levels of CAD designs, including both beginner and expert levels in CAD modeling. The software tries its hardest to introduce new and improved features on a regular basis, and its most expensive version is several times cheaper than most of its competitors. The lack of user reviews as a whole makes it somewhat difficult to see what caveats the solution may have, which is why it would be a good idea to approach these kinds of solutions with a moderate level of skepticism.

Visualization of comparison

Since our total list of solutions includes 35 options, it would be better to create some form of visualization for this entire article. Unfortunately, creating a table or diagram of 35 different solutions is an exceptionally difficult task, and it would also be difficult to read and comprehend. As such, we have chosen a selection of 10 solutions from this list, and we present them in a relatively convenient manner as a comparison table with multiple parameters:

SoftwareLearning curveCostCAD capabilitiesBIM capabilitiesBiggest advantage
ReviztoModerateModerateLimitedCase-specificCollaboration and issue tracking
AutoCADSteepHighYesNoVersatile modeling and drafting
SketchUpRelatively easyLowYesNo (in base)User-friendly drawing and sketching
TinkercadRelatively easyFreeLimitedNoCompletely free with basic CAD capabilities
SolidworksSteepModerateYesNoPowerful 3D modeling toolset
RevitSteepHighYesYesVersatile range of BIM features
VectorworksModerateHighYesYesExceptional rendering
FreeCADModerateFreeYesNoCompletely free, perfect for beginners
Bluebeam RevuRelatively easyLowNoNoImpressive document management
ArchiCADModerateModerateYesLimitedExceptional modeling with basic BIM

Conclusion

As you can see, the architectural software market is vast and varied, and it is often combined with the BIM software market, CAD market, and so on. It is difficult to showcase the true scope of the market, since every little niche or use case has several competing examples of software, at the very least.

For example, Autodesk’s CAD software is usually the go-to choice for creating and managing 2D drafts, while another Autodesk creation – Revit – is a classic software application for BIM tasks. At the same time, many people use SketchUp for general 3D modeling operations, and Adobe Photoshop is famous worldwide as the #1 image editing software. Here are several different examples of the architectural solutions we have gone over, along with their best use cases:

  • Revizto – best in collaboration and clash detection in BIM environment
  • ArchiCAD – best for complex BIM workflow management
  • SoftPlan – best for residential design documentation
  • Concept3D – best for parametric design
  • Revit – best for comprehensive BIM use cases
  • AllPlan – best for complex building projects
  • ZWCAD – best for cheap CAD use cases
  • V-Ray – best for photorealistic rendering
  • Bluebeam Revu – best for construction document annotation
  • BricsCAD BIM – best for AutoCAD-like interface with architectural modeling
  • AutoCAD – best for complex 2D/3D design
  • Shapespark – best for interactive 3D model generation

Of course, these solutions are not for everyone, especially in a field as massive as architecture, but they may serve as a good starting point for architects to figure out what best fits their specific cases.

While the abundance of choice might seem overwhelming at first, we hope that this list will help you choose the best 3D architecture software for your specific use case.

Why you can trust us

At Revizto, the team is committed to providing an objective view of various information, including products and technologies. They employ expert insights, product data, and strategic methodologies to create informative market overviews, ensuring visitors have access to comprehensive information for making informed decisions. Their materials encompass various factors like pricing, customer reviews, unique features, and more. The review process is conducted with a detailed methodology led by James Ocean, the BIM/VDC Specialist at Revizto.

James Ocean, as the Head of BIMspiration, plays a crucial role in supporting and educating the internal team and clients. He guides them on how to best leverage Revizto to maximize workflows, reduce costs, and successfully complete projects of all types.


About the author
James Ocean

BIM/VDC Specialist. James Ocean is Head of BIMspiration at Revizto and keeps everything moving onwards and upwards. From supporting and teaching our internal team as well as our clients, James shows us the ins-and-outs and how to best leverage Revizto to maximize workflows, cut costs, and get all types of projects through the finish line.

35 Best 3D Architecture Software In 2024. Architect Software Programs The market for 3D architect software is massive, and the fact that it often crosses paths with other markets, such as BIM software and CAD software, does not help matters in the slightest. Luckily enough, we’ve prepared a list of the best 3D architecture software, and we’re going to thoroughly explain each one. 2024-03-27
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