There's design software and then there's design software for architects. The architect software we feature here is the best-of-the-best, but it ain't cheap either. These are the top software options for architects.
Architects are as close to visionaries as you can get. They bring designs in their imagination to life with breathtaking detail. But for them to work efficiently, they need the proper tools to help others see and understand their vision.
This is an essential part of their profession as it is the stage where they work closely with clients and businesses to understand the needs of the project, make adjustments based on customization requests, and predict costs and potential hindrances throughout the course of the project.
Some common features found across the board with architect technology are:
- 2D design and 3D modeling
- Presentation Tools
- Project Management
- Document Management
- Data Import/Export
- Landscape Design
- Virtual Tour
- BIM modeling
With the vast and different forms of technology available today, though architects have an ever-expanding array of software options to choose from, it can be confusing to understand which one is best suited for their needs.
This is why we’ve shortlisted thirteen of the best software options in our opinion and listed their pros and cons so that you can choose the one that suits you the best.
Table of Contents
1. Sketch Up Pro
Alt text: Architect design software
Though there is also a free version of the software available, Sketch Up Pro has much more to offer. Previously known as Google Sketch up, this software is a useful tool that can be used efficiently from the earliest stages of design all the way to project completion. It’s useful for a wide range of drawing applications such as architectural, interior design, and landscape design among others.
- Create 2D and 3D design
- Document management
- Can be slow to render
- Lack of variety in tools
2. ConceptDraw DIAGRAM
Though it is used as a diagramming software for business needs, this program also offers a high quality set of professional drawing tools, templates, and object libraries. It features 2D modeling, document management, drafting, presentation tools and project management.
- Easy to use
- Wide library of icons and objects
- Extensive templates
- Occasional system errors
Create comprehensive, multi-discipline BIM models, documentation, and other deliverables using MicroStation. It features 2D drawing, 3D modeling, BIM modeling, document management, presentation tools, project management and drafting.
- Very stable
- Easy to use
- Slow to load large files
- Lack of keyboard shortcuts
4. ACTCAD Professional
This is a feature rich and powerful 2D drafting and 3D modeling computer-aided (CAD) software with a number of fully loaded functions and features. It is specially meant for architects and interior designers. It offers more than 550 colors for different specifications and has the latest high speed technology to ensure a powerful and stable CAD platform for the user.
- Smooth performance
- Familiar interface
- Supports wide variety of file formats
- Occasionally crashes
- Restricts certain commands like AutoCAD
- Can be slow when dealing with heavier files
5. AutoCAD Architecture
Even though this is a pretty complex software, AutoCAD is a very versatile software that allows the designer to utilize a number of efficient tools during the designing and drafting process. It is also available in a number of specialized versions. The setup is intuitive and easy, even though the overall software can be complex, the overwhelming positive reviews speak for the popularity of this software.
- Compatible with variety of files
- Versatile and precise
- Files are version-specific and will not open on other computers using older versions of the same software.
6. Space Designer 3D
Alt text: Design software interface showing floor plan with car
Draw your floor plans in 2D and walk through interior spaces in 3D with this effective software. It comes packed with features like bills of materials, presentation tools, comparison view, design template, and drafting options. The software doesn’t just help you build accurately, it also helps to find and improve any structural issues in the design. This is a great bonus for maximizing functionality of your designs and projects.
- Modern interface
- Easy to use interface
- Limited design options
7. Chief Architect
This software can be used both by DIY home design enthusiasts and professionals alike. It is the most popular product for residential home design offering 3D modeling, component library, landscape design, virtual tour, and drafting.
- Easy to use
- Great customer support
- Slow rendering
- Risk of losing data because of corrupted fixtures
- While it’s easy to use overall, there are some overly complicated features that may take some time to get used to
Lumion is a powerful architectural visualization tool that promises to have you ready to use the software in 15 minutes. It has an easy interface coupled with a wide variety of options that breathe life into your designs. It allows you to build a 3D environment and then create beautiful images, impressive video and live walkthroughs. In a matter of minutes, you can have your design visualized in breathtaking 3D and give your clients the best means to understand what you have to offer them.
- Fast rendering
- Easy to use
- Great animations
- Slow performance for detailed design files
- Can’t use software on more than one computer at the same time
9. Vectorworks Architect
This cross platform software allows designers to build rich visual models with ease throughout the project lifecycle. With more complicated projects that require more attention to detail and collaboration, software like this is a life saver!
- Comprehensive features
- Preview of drawings is the same as what is printed which saves multiple edits
- Very customizable
- Takes time to learn properly
- Takes a lot of processing and storage memory
ArCADia-Architecture is a web based architecture solution that helps with creating professional architectural documentation. It’s a great basic software and worth giving up the fancier customization options for a cheaper price point that still gives you all the basics.
- User friendly
- Cost effective
- Great 3D tools
- Minimal file type support
- No BIM
- Limited user groups and forums
11. Arcon Evo
This architectural drawing software uses automatic 2D and 3D interface to design a fully interactive model with detailed finishing. It promises to be the ideal solution for all building design and floor plan needs. It is a flexible package with CAD tools for all aspects of building design including residential and large scale developments.
- Allows a large amount of control with tools
- Good software support team
- Some tools are not easy to locate
A powerful tool for interior design and architecture, Fohlio claims to be a one stop shop for all design and specification needs. It helps to streamline day to day processes and make them more efficient.
- You can add products directly from vendor websites
- Create your own centralized project library for future projects and mood boards.
- Loading speed can be slow
- Not very mobile friendly
- Limited integration options with other project management software
An information modeling software, Autodesk Revit is used by architects, landscape architects, designers and engineers. It supports a multidimensional design process, making projects easier to manage. The original software was developed back in 1997, but it has since then grown to become a much more complex, intricate platform that supports building information model (BIM) workflows.
- 3D Design visualization
- Conceptual design tools
- Cloud rendering
- Complex and takes time to understand
- Missing key functionality tools
- Does not support PDF format
Cedreo is an online 3D home design software which enables home builders to draw 3D floor plans and create 3D renderings in a matter of minutes. It helps construction and remodeling professionals save time while drafting home design projects, shorten their sales cycle, and close more deals.
With Cedreo, users can easily draw floor plans, customize indoor and outdoor spaces in a few clicks with 7,000 surface coverings and 3D objects, and quickly generate construction drawings and HQ renderings.
Cedreo is equipped with a wide range of time-saving features designed for non-technical sales representatives. It does not require prior experience with 3D technology: one hour is all it takes to draft a complete home project from start to finish, either starting from scratch or customizing an other project.
Using Cedreo, home builders can quickly modify a home design project and handle client requests without having to go back to the engineering or CAD department. 3D renderings also help customers picture themselves in their future homes and sign faster.
Cedreo is available with 2 offers: a Pro plan for single users, and an Enterprise plan for teams with advanced features (multi-user workspace, project sharing, floor plans catalog, 1to1 onboarding). Both offers include a 14-day free trial, without engagement.
Whether you want to streamline your project, customize client requests, or explore variations to your plan, using these programs is sure to breathe life into your designs like never before. But you can still improve how this individual software works for you by focusing on a few things.
The first is getting the right software for your work. Do you just need a basic interface that allows you to get a visual representation of your design up? Or do you require something intricate and detailed to follow you through over the course of your project?
Purchasing software based on what your individual client or stakeholder needs can help you decide which features will be best for you. Some software gives you the option of getting a good overall set of tools and you can buy additional specialized functions as you go along, depending on your needs. There’s no point spending on features that you will rarely or not use at all.
But once you do get your hands on a software that you are satisfied with, remember that most software options come with customer support and complimentary in depth tutorials to help you get better acquainted with the interface. Make sure to check them out because you never know what features you may be missing out on simply because you don’t know of their existence!