Blueprint, Home Design, Floor Plan Drawing Software
Floor plan drawing software comes in many different forms and styles. Some are easier to use than others, and all have a wide range of different visualization capabilities. Admittedly, it is true that for someone to say they "know CAD" (computer aided design), they usually must be able to say they know Autocad.
However, in the specialized area of blueprint drawings, a number of much more tailored programs often do the job much more quickly.
In fact, if your mission is to draw a floor plan or a blue print for your home or business, you can probably do a much better job using one of
the three programs we evaluated in our research (instead of general CAD program like AutoCad, or a sketching program like Google's SketchUp).
The three floor plan drawing software packages we reviewed are:
- Floorplan 3D from IMSI.
- Home Designer (a stripped down version of Chief Architect) published by Better Homes And Gardens.
- Punch's Home Design.
We evaluated all three on both Windows XP and Windows Vista. However, to get a feel for the history of these programs, we make a quick trip back to early 90s.
Easy-to-use blueprint / floor plan drawing programs became popular very early, and date as far back as Windows 3.0 / Windows 3.1. Back in those early days, one computer program in particular became very popular. It was published by a company called CEI (Computer Easy International). The name perfectly captured its function: Floorplan Plus 3D. Essentially, it allowed users to easily create floorplan drawings of homes, rooms or offices and then automatically convert them into primitive 3D walkthroughs.
The version of this old CEI program that we saw was floorplan 3d v2.0a. It contsited of some simple buttons for drawing walls, doors, windows and placing furniture. Dispite the age of this program, it looked great for its 2d capabilities. Its easy, and its great for drawing simple 2d floorplans.
Eventually, the rights to Floorplan were sold to a company called IMSI. IMSI is the maker of another powerful product today called Turbocad. IMSI vastly improved the 3-D features of Floorplan and developed the software for new operating systems. IMSI added editors to do virtually any common task for easily creating 3D visualization models for any home building project. Today, Floorplan has become a very sophisticated tool targeted towards 3D visualizations.
But the competition is fierce today, which is good for users of home design or floorplan software. Two programs, one published by Punch and the other under the Better Homes and Gardens name provide very competitive alternatives. Of the three, Better Homes and Gardens seems to provide easier to use products. Furthermore, the software seems to be part of a sophisticated line of visualization tools which range in price from $80 to $400. Some users claim that, however, Punch provides better visualization capabilities. It does seem a little more difficult to learn. Yet, if the user does not mind spending the time learning how to use the software, it may provide more realistic visualization capabilities.
In any case, most of these packages are available at most retail software outlets. Some outlets did not carry Floorplan, even though the other two titles were carried. We found the software at Frys Electronics, Target, Amazon and Ebay. All three packages are excellent, and are much easier to use than trying to draw a floorplan using Autocad or some similar tool. The "home user" licenses usually ranged in price from about $60 to $80.
If you're interested in creating a drawing for a real estate brochure, or something to give your designer/architect, then a specialized program that focuses on 2D will be a much better fit for you than a 3D visualization program.
Two programs fit this category very easily. One is called ezarchitect, and the other is called Easy Blue Print.
We *love* the price of ezarchitect ($15). If you just need to get a "napkin sketch" of an idea you have in order to to show somthing to your architect, it might be a good direction to go. Another thing we liked about ezarchitect was the fact that it was so easy to download from the Internet. It is probably the single most available program on the internet, short of finding a web browser. We honestly could not find a shareware or freeware site that didn't have a version of it. Even though it's graphics are a bit primitive (nothing you would want to put into a brochure or a document), we felt it was a great sketching tool...and it's simple to use.
Easy Blue Print is more expensive (about $67), but is a full-fledged 2D graphics program with stunning 2 D floorplan graphics/help. We didn't like the registration process, but once we got past that, it was an absolute treat to use. The word "brilliant" doesn't give this program justice (after you wait a mind-numbing 10 minutes for the setup program to finish the install, however). If clean, professional, accurate 2D drawings of your office or home are what you really need, then this is choice for you. There simply isn't anything within miles of this program for creating a floor plan for a brochure. Any comparable general-purpose business software graphics program usually costs up to $200...and usually doesn't work nearly as well for 2D floor plan drawing tasks.
Easy Blue Print download: