20 Architecture Design Software Programs (With Features)

Updated October 6, 2022

Architects use architectural design software to create blueprints and technical sketches of buildings, manage project plans and collaborate with their teams to ensure they meet their clients' specifications. Architectural professionals can choose from many software programs, depending on their level of experience and the projects they complete. Learning about architecture design software can help you choose a program or programs that help you meet your project goals.

In this article, we explain what architecture design software is and explore 20 programs and their features.

Related: 22 Jobs You Can Get With an Architecture Degree

What is architecture design software?

Architecture design software allows architects and their teams to create realistic visual representations of buildings. They enable users to create interactive blueprints to scale and include technical specifications based on the client's requests and preferences. Architects use different software programs depending on the project. For example, they may use building information modeling (BIM) software to collaborate with their teams on commercial building design projects and computer-aided design (CAD) software to draft 2D sketches of key project elements.

Related: 14 Common Architectural Positions and Career Fields

20 architecture design software programs to consider

Here are 20 popular architecture design software programs and their features:

1. AutoCAD

AutoCAD allows architectural professionals to draw and create models of objects and their components. They usually use AutoCAD for 2D visuals, but the software also offers 3D features. AutoCAD also allows users to create matrices and automatic dimensions, link forms with specification data and extract data from objects.

Related: What Is an Architectural Drafter Degree? (With Tips for Pursuing)


3DEXPERIENCE CATIA was first developed to help aviation architects design military equipment. Since then, other types of architects have started using the program to create detailed models and solve complex project issues. The full CATIA suite includes added capabilities, such as audio and interactive features, and programs to streamline operations in other industries. Some features of 3DEXPERIENCE CATIA include cloud capabilities, precise data, collaboration features and a user-friendly platform.

3. Chief Architect

Chief Architect is an architectural software program focusing on home planning and construction. Architects and interior designers can use it to create building, remodeling and design plans for new and existing houses. Users can select from different product versions depending on their needs. Some features of Chief Architect include an easy-to-use format, smart features and accessibility on multiple operating systems.

4. SketchUp Pro

SketchUp Pro is a paid version of the free web-based software SketchUp. An ideal program for amateur and entry-level architects, SketchUp Pro allows users to create 3D models using basic CAD knowledge and skills. It features a library of pre-designed features to use and focuses on the ability to conceptualize visuals quickly. Features of SketchUp Pro include 2D documentation, virtual reality design viewing and design research insights.

5. TurboCAD

TurboCAD is a software suite designed for users of all skill levels. Basic versions are user-friendly for beginner architects, and advanced versions offer complex functionality for experienced architectural professionals. TurboCAD developers consider it an updated alternative to AutoCAD, and they integrated a setup wizard for users to switch from AutoCAD to TurboCAD. Features include lighting adjustments, material-specific tools, realistic modeling and both architectural and mechanical functionality.

6. 3ds Max

3ds Max emphasizes the aesthetic of a professional's designs. Users can create highly detailed plans that feature precise detail on images and animations. The program allows users to interact with the design for a full visual concept experience. The features of 3ds Max include expansive tool sets, the ability to view previews of the concept while you work on it and the option to integrate automated processes.

7. Revit

Revit is a BIM software developed for many types of designers and construction professionals, including architects, interior designers, landscape architects and contractors. It allows teams to collaborate to create 3D building designs and share project documentation. Features include automatic floor plan, section and elevation updates, 3D visualizations that enable teams to project a concept before it's finished and a range of graphic elements.

8. Rhino

Rhino allows architectural professionals to create concepts with curved lines. Many programs accommodate concepts that involve straight lines and angles, but some users find it challenging to find software that enables them to integrate curved features like roofs and windows. Rhino is a basic tool designed for customization, so users can add design plugins to suit their project needs. Other features of Rhino include BIM capability, complex modeling features and automated detailing operations.

9. Infurnia

Infurnia is a web-based software that enables collaboration between architects, interior design teams and clients. The program allows users to convert 2D sketches to 3D representations and use drafting tools to include elevations. Interior designers and their clients can use the Infurnia catalog to place items such as furniture, appliances and decor to help them visualize how their design features might look after project completion. Other features of Infurnia include a user-friendly interface, detailed floor plans and specialized staircase tools.

10. Archicad 23

Archicad 23 is a BIM software that allows architects to design concepts that include accurate construction specifications and estimates of building material quantities. The program also shares openings that require documentation, such as voids and recesses) with engineers and other construction professionals working on the project. Other features of Archicad 23 include real-time renderings, rapid editing capabilities, collaboration, the ability to ensure designs adhere to building codes and the integration of design documents.

11. Civil 3D

Civil 3D is a versatile design program that combines CAD features and civil engineering functionality. The company that offers the product, Autodesk, designed it to work with other Autodesk software, including AutoCAD, Revit and 3ds Max. It allows designers, engineers and clients to collaborate on design concepts and project documentation. Other features of Civil 3D include incorporating land survey images into designs and visualizing how their design concepts may interfere with those of others on the team.

12. Homestyler

Homestyler is a lightweight software geared toward interior design enthusiasts and professionals. The web-based platform is free to use and allows users to create 2D and 3D designs with accurate, scaled measurements. Homestyler is also available as a mobile app on multiple operating systems, so clients and users can view designs from their phones. Other features of Homestyler include a decor library and photo-realistic visualizations.

13. Live Home 3D Pro

Live Home 3D Pro is an interior design tool to create accurate floor plans and home layouts. It also features a furnishing library with design features, like furniture and appliances, and drawing tools. Users can adjust lighting settings to reflect how daylight affects their design and create walkthroughs during daytime or nighttime hours. Other features include converting 2D designs to 3D and saving files in different formats.

14. Adobe Substance 3D

Substance is a suite of Adobe design software that focuses on the ability to add precise textures and specific materials to design projects. Besides the design program, users can also access other Substance apps like Source, a materials library, and Alchemist, which gives designers and architects a platform for collaborating on design collections. Substance can integrate with other software applications, like 3ds Max and Revit, so users can access their features on a single platform.

15. V-Ray

V-Ray is a 3D-rendering software that allows users to turn their designs into interactive, photo-realistic concepts. V-Ray functions only as a plugin for other programs unlike other architectural software. Architects and designers who use popular software programs like SketchUp, Rhino, Revit and 3ds Max can install V-Ray as a plugin app. This allows them to quickly and efficiently make precise, professional 3D renderings of any size. Interior design professionals can also use V-Ray to enhance their designs.

16. Maya

Maya is a visual design software that interior designers, architectural professionals and engineers can use to create 3D models of their designs. Most professionals who use Maya use it for animation projects, so it doesn't have the same precise measuring tools as some architecture software. Architects may use Maya to create quick sketches of design concepts instead of detailed renderings. Users can also use the V-Ray plugin with Maya for fast 3D visuals.

17. Morpholio Board

Morpholio Board is a digital toolkit architects can use to conceptualize, collaborate with their teams and present design ideas to colleagues and clients. Many interior designers also use Morpholio Board, which is available as an app or desktop program, to create and edit their designs. The app gets its name from its mood board function, which allows users to turn their ideas into designs and project documentation. Morpholio Board also features a library of furniture and decor from high-end brands, which allows clients to visualize the completed project.

18. Grasshopper

Grasshopper is a plugin for Rhino that allows architectural project managers to create parametric models. By dragging components onto a canvas and connecting them, users can create visual algorithms they can apply to their design concepts. Parametric modeling features are ideal for complex architectural projects, and the ability to use Grasshopper in Rhino allows designers to create state-of-the-art building and architectural feature concepts.

Related: How To Become an Architectural Project Manager

19. Dynamo

Dynamo is a visual programming tool designed for use with Revit. It gives users access to the Revit Application Programming Interface (API), which allows them to create programming for Revit using visual codes instead of typing coding manually. As visual professionals, many architects and designers prefer this approach to traditional programming. Users create code nodes, or chunks of code, and save them to libraries for easy access.

20. Fusion 360

Fusion 360 is an Autodesk design program for product design and manufacturing. Although architects typically use other Autodesk programs to create designs, they can use Fusion 260 to create specific design-related products, such as doorknobs and hinges. Like other Autodesk programs, Fusion 360 allows users to upload 2D sketches and convert them to 3D models. Other program features include parametric modeling capabilities, cut sheets, realistic rendering and 3D printing options.

Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.


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