Our Top Picks

3D Studio Max Logo
3D Studio Max
  • Deployment: Windows, Mac, web-based, cloud, SaaS
  • Customer service: Online, phone during business hours
  • 3D modeling
3ds Max is a heavyweight in architecture software, popular in games and home design, and has put in over 20 years of service. It offers a deep toolbox of advanced functionality — which inevitably can get messy in terms of dashboards and presentations — and it can produce results superior to those of competitors if handled correctly. Most students can use 3ds Max free via the Autodesk Education program.

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Very popular, with many active forums, tutorials, etc.
  • Well supported by other common software in architecture and design

Cons

  • One of the more expensive options in our list, although the longer contracts mostly make up for it

What Customers Are Saying

Most users seem to agree that 3ds Max is an industry-leading solution to 3D architecture design. Users love the ability to create custom scripts and plugins. Others love the rendering produced in Chaos V-Ray. Despite users stating that the learning curve is pretty steep, the experience is extremely positive overall.

Summary

3D Studio Max Logo
3D Studio Max
  • Starting Price
    • Monthly: $205
    • 1 YEAR: 1,620 (Only $135/Month value)
    • Best Value - 3 YEAR: $4,375 (Only $122/Month value)
  • Free Trial/Demo
    30-Days free trial
  • Deployment
    Installed - Mac
    Installed - Windows
    Web-Based, Cloud, SaaS
  • Support Options
    Business Hours
    Online
  • 3D Modeling
    Yes
Features
  • Deployment: Windows, Mac, web-based, cloud, SaaS
  • Customer service: Online, phone during business hours
  • 3D modeling
ArCADia BIM Logo
ArCADia BIM
  • Deployment: Windows
  • Customer service: Online, phone during business hours
  • 2D drawing
ArCADia BIM is a modular system specifically developed to support building information modeling (BIM) requirements in construction. It excels in document management via the ArCADia LT module, a smaller version of ArCADia BIM. It is an intuitive CAD program that allows you to create a 2D building documentation and save files to the DWG format. The architecture module itself covers core requirements, as well as many ready-to-go and customizable scripts. Architects maintain constant visuals in a relatively powerful and thorough 3D preview that can be tweaked, turned, and opened in real time. The software can provide automatic dimensioning and descriptions of many common elements.

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Specific solutions for architecture and other industries
  • Many automatic functions and/or possibilities to automate systems

Cons

  • Can be relatively expensive, depending on the modules required

What Customers Are Saying

Users love that ArCADia BIM has a similar interface to AutoCAD, as mentioned in the majority of positive reviews. They also really like how easy it is to create a 3D render from a 2D drawing with little effort. One user stated that they wished the lighting properties were a little easier to merge against different properties, but once they learned the correct property values, the experience improved greatly.

Summary

ArCADia BIM Logo
ArCADia BIM
  • Starting Price
    • Custom quote
  • Free Trial/Demo
    Free trial available
  • Deployment
    Installed - Windows
  • Support Options
    Business Hours
    Online
  • 3D Modeling
    Yes
Features
  • Deployment: Windows
  • Customer service: Online, phone during business hours
  • 2D drawing
Envisioneer Logo
Envisioneer
  • Deployment: Windows
  • Customer service: Online, phone during business hours
  • 2D drawing
Envisioneer is one of the lesser-known options on our list, but it could be the best choice in some cases. It's primarily used for 3D development and home design, where it provides BIM functionality and varying degrees of collaborative tools, depending on the subscription type. Envisioneer is one of the most cost-effective choices for nonprofessionals, such as a couple taking on a renovation.

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • The multiple pricing levels provide a relatively easy entry point for nonprofessionals
  • Many specific tools for construction/subcontractor usage

Cons

  • Limited document management features compared to others on the list

What Customers Are Saying

Users love Envisioneer's overall support and response time regarding issues and troubleshooting bugs. They also appreciate that the hotkeys are similar to AutoCAD for easy integration onto the platform. Some users did complain that drafting times were a bit slower than they were used to. The same user also said that what the software lacks in modeling it makes up for in the ability to directly import SketchUp models.

Summary

Envisioneer Logo
Envisioneer
  • Starting Price
    • Not disclosed
  • Free Trial/Demo
    30-Days free trial
    Demo available
  • Deployment
    Installed - Windows
  • Support Options
    Business Hours
    Online
  • 3D Modeling
    Yes
Features
  • Deployment: Windows
  • Customer service: Online, phone during business hours
  • 2D drawing
Sketchup Logo
Sketchup
  • Deployment: Mac, Windows, web-based, cloud, SaaS, iPhone/iPad, Android
  • Customer service: Online, phone during business hours
  • 3D modeling
SketchUp is another cost-effective choice for many small to mid-size businesses — particularly those that don't need any features from the Studio package — but it's otherwise priced comparably with others at the Pro level. It's important to consider web-based vs desktop 3D modeling at SketchUp, because the superior desktop version is only available at Pro and above. Subscribers on all SketchUp plans can use the 3D modeler in any modern browser.

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Access to large repository of pre-built models
  • Studio plan provides actionable analysis of energy/thermal/load

Cons

  • Shop and Free plans require constant internet connection and lack features such as document management and 2D/text design

What Customers Are Saying

The biggest praise we've found for SketchUp is its accessibility — users love the lack of heavy hardware requirements. Users also really like that SketchUp has the ability to run in a browser, allowing for modeling on the go. One user stated that they wished there were more font options in the online version compared to the desktop version but overall was happy with the software's functions and price.

Summary

Sketchup Logo
Sketchup
  • Starting Price
    • SketchUp Free
    • SketchUp Shop: $119USD/year
    • SketchUp Pro: $299USD/year
    • SketchUp Studio: $1199USD/year
    • SketchUp Studio For Students: $55/yr USD
    • SketchUp Studio For Educators: $55/yr USD
  • Free Trial/Demo
    30-Days free trial
  • Deployment
    Installed - Mac
    Installed - Windows
    Web-Based, Cloud, SaaS
    iPhone / iPad
    Android
  • Support Options
    Business Hours
    Online
  • 3D Modeling
    Yes
Features
  • Deployment: Mac, Windows, web-based, cloud, SaaS, iPhone/iPad, Android
  • Customer service: Online, phone during business hours
  • 3D modeling
SmartDraw Logo
SmartDraw
  • Deployment: Windows, web-based, cloud, SaaS (supports Mac and tablets via browser)
  • Customer service: Online, phone during business hours, 24/7 (live rep)
  • 2D drawing
SmartDraw is primarily intended to be a replacement for Microsoft Visio, which is a diagramming tool, and it offers some additions for architects and engineers that aren't commonly seen in this type of software. Users can draw and scale their diagrams with presets and automatic and customized settings. Extensions can automate many parts of the workload, and further customization is possible via the SDK using JavaScript and REST extension.

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Relatively easy to integrate with existing systems, such as Office and Google apps
  • The large variety of templates is useful for less experienced users

Cons

  • Lacks 3D modeling and document management

What Customers Are Saying

Most users really enjoy using SmartDraw's powerful automation features and appreciate that it's compatible with other software systems. Others praised the online workflow diagrams. One user stated that they loved how flexible the software was to use and used it for constructing crime scene renders in a criminal justice class.

Summary

SmartDraw Logo
SmartDraw
  • Starting Price
    • Single User: $9.95 Per month, billed annually
    • Multiple Users: For 5+ Users from $5.95 Per month, billed annually
  • Free Trial/Demo
    7-day free trial
  • Deployment
    Installed - Windows
    Web-Based, Cloud, SaaS
  • Support Options
    24/7 (Live Rep)
    Business Hours
    Online
  • 3D Modeling
    No
Features
  • Deployment: Windows, web-based, cloud, SaaS (supports Mac and tablets via browser)
  • Customer service: Online, phone during business hours, 24/7 (live rep)
  • 2D drawing

How We Chose the Best Architecture Software

Our methodology for this list is relatively straightforward — core features, ease of integrations, and useful reports functionality — weighted in that order from most important to least.

Architecture Features

It should come as no surprise that the main factor in selecting software is its set of features. In this case, we focused on presentation tools, including some for handheld devices, in addition to core 2D/3D drawing and modeling functionality. Within this category we assess whether it's a versatile system capable of many roles/tasks or more of a niche offering.

Integrations

The best architecture software for any particular business is one that can be integrated with other required nodes fairly easily. In 2021, it's almost a requirement for developers to ensure their products play well with others — covering the most popular combinations and connections at least — and this is weighted heavily.

Reports

Many of the popular architecture systems in 2021 can also assist in producing high-quality reports that look good and/or convey the relevant data to employees and teams. This functionality often includes in-depth collaboration support for teams sharing ideas and projects online.