The programs used in architecture have become an indispensable tool in professional practice and although in the current market there is a diversity of options, the classic and popular architectural software are very well known.
These programs are fundamental tools in a competitive professional universe. In architecture, the programs used can be divided into 3 main areas:
- 2D Drawing
- 3D Drawing
- Management Software
The use of the software by independent architects and architectural firms can vary by city or country, but one way to gauge which software is most widely used is to look at your local advertisements for architectural job openings.
You may notice a pattern that always repeats itself about the programs that are most required in an architectural office.
Here is my ranking of the programs most used by architects, according to my own experience and studies in different countries.
In a ranking of the most used programs by architects, AutoCAD should definitely be in the first place, many people think that it is an “obsolete” program because of its age, but nothing could be further from the truth.
A new version of AutoCAD is released every year, the program is super complete, it is not a program exclusively for architects, as it is used as a drawing tool by engineers and other professions.
A modern architect should definitely know how to use this powerful and versatile CAD drawing tool, most architectural firms use AutoCAD, although many have been migrating to BIM modeling programs, anyway, AutoCAD has never been completely discarded as a drawing tool in architectural firms.
In my opinion and that of many professionals, it is the most complete 2D drawing tool used worldwide, although AutoCAD 3D can also be used.
For my personal use, I prefer to use AutoCAD 2D as my preferred tool, the use of 3D is handled in other compatible programs.
In architecture, not everything is drawing and lines, a great part of the work is also organization and documentation, for this, it is extremely important to know how to use the famous Microsoft Office software.
Every modern architect should know how to use the office software, period, is very basic software to use.
Specially Excel and Word, these two tools are widely used by architects, both in architectural firms and independently.
I would say that Excel is the most used, to keep budgets, annotations, cubing or any type of work organization, it is an extremely fundamental and complete tool.
Revit, like AutoCAD, is another program belonging to the Autodesk company, a program that works under the BIM (Building Information Modeling) methodology, a technology that has been developed in the past years.
The concept behind this program is to make projects much easier by working simultaneously on many aspects of the projects, which results in incredible time savings and better organization.
Unlike AutoCAD, Revit is focused more directly to architecture and construction, at one time it was thought that this program would be the replacement for AutoCAD, but in my personal experience I can say that it has not been so, or at least not entirely.
The reality is that many architectural firms use Revit, and not AutoCAD as a drawing tool, in Revit you can handle many design variables at the same time.
In my personal opinion, this program has not transcended as expected, although it is currently the leading program in BIM technology, it has not been able to completely supplant AutoCAD, although they are different programs in essence.
Anyway, in the city where I live, most jobs require Revit, so it is a fundamental tool for architects and architectural firms nowadays.
Sketchup is an excellent 3D program, very intuitive, easy to use and the free version is more than enough to do a great job in architecture or interior design.
Sketchup is widely used by freelance architects, interior designers, it is not so common in architectural firms, although some small studios use it.
It is a program used by many young architects, as it is very easy to use, lightweight and although it has been on the market for years, it is not as old as other programs.
Sketchup is a tool too easy to learn and powerful enough to do great work, if you don’t believe me, just look at all the work on this website in the premium plans section, all the work was modeled in Sketchup.
Above I will leave an image that I used as a reference in another topic, of one of the biggest and most complex jobs I have done in SketchUp at a professional level.
The visual aspect and the retouching of images is something fundamental in the architecture profession, in this section, the program that takes the merits is the famous Photoshop.
Any architect knowing the basics of Photoshop can retouch their project images to increase the quality.
What is sought with this program is to increase the quality and correct the images, I use it in a very basic way, but the change I can achieve in the images is amazing.
In fact, I will put an example of how I take an image directly from the 3D model and the final result I achieve in Photoshop by retouching some adjustments and adding some vegetation in PNG format, the result is incredible.
Microsoft Project is a software that belongs to the category of project management and development, this software is essential for architects who manage and administer large projects and need to meet established goals with scheduled times.
All works are executed with a scheduled time, time management tasks is a key part to meet the objectives, if you do not have the tasks scheduled and assigned to their corresponding times will be almost impossible to maintain a rhythm and order in the work.
With this software you can maintain order in the execution of project tasks, manage time and the relationship that exists between each job, it is software more suitable for architects who are dedicated to be project managers.
3D Studio Max+ V-ray
Although they are different software, I put them together because they complement each other.
3D Max is one of the most complete and professional 3D modeling software that an architect can use combined with Vray one of the most professional rendering software, you can execute high-level professional work.
Nowadays, there are more rendering options like Lumion for example, but in my opinion, 3D Max and Vray still maintain a higher level of quality.
The only downside is that the learning curve for these programs is steep compared to the rest, and the time it can take to do quality work is significantly longer, but it is totally worth it.
Lumion is “the new kid on the block”, I have been using it since its inception, it is so intuitive that I learned to use it in just 2 hours the first time.
As an architect, being a user of 3Ds max and Vray at the beginning I was not very fascinated with the quality of Lumion, but lately, its quality has been improving a lot to the point of being a program to obtain quite acceptable renders.
The best thing about the program is its speed to get the renderings and animations, something that was impossible to achieve in any other software, that’s why this program has gained so many followers among architects and has grown in popularity enormously.
On the negative side of the software are the high demands of equipment that it has, you need a fairly powerful computer to get the most out of this software.
Archicad: this software is a BIM technology program just like revit, in fact, Archicad came first before Revit, but it was a bit behind in the competition, although it is still used by many architects.
Cinema 4D: I have seen some spectacular works with this software, it is a software similar to 3Ds Max, for modeling and rendering.
Indesign: This program is widely used by many architects and architectural firms for the layout of work and to present projects in a very professional way, if you want to create a professional portfolio this is the right program.
Illustrator: Illustrator has a tool for automatic vectorization of images that every architect should know, it has really been very useful for the sole use of this tool.
Rhinoceros 3D+ Grasshoppers: Rhinoceros is a popular 3D modeling software with powerful tools, the strength of this program is in mathematical and parametric modeling, where you can create incredible organic shapes.
What other software for architects is needed?
The programs listed above are among the most used by architects globally, but there are some other needs that have not yet been fully covered for architects.
Although the way projects are presented and technology has advanced greatly, many architects enjoy presenting floor plans in full color.
Many architects enjoy presenting full-color floor plans, this can be done in programs such as Photoshop and illustrator, but it requires knowledge, time and dedication.
In the past, there was a program from Autodesk called Impressions where you could make architectural and landscape plants with bright colors as if they were handmade.
This program was very easy to use, intuitive, and very fast since it had blocks of different sets of trees, people, cars, both in plan and elevation.
I do not know for what reason this program was discontinued and there is not something similar, currently, to make this type of floor plan I do it in Photoshop, but it is quite time-consuming.
In the future, it seems to me that the trend in relation to architectural programs will be to virtual reality or space simulation.
Although there will always be the charm and beauty of presenting the projects emulating the hand drawing or the lines, this has a charm and beauty very difficult to emulate with other types of programs.