This is a short review of some of the best architectural software.
Autodesk products: AutoCAD, 3ds Max, Revit
AutoCAD is essential and the most used architectural software. It is 2D and 3D CAD design tool, but commonly used for 2D architectural designing. From version 2007, every new version is big improvement in 3D modeling, significantly improving the work with solids and rendering. There is special version for architects – AutoCAD Architecture, which combines tools for architectural drawing with familiar AutoCAD working environment.
3dsMax is one of the most popular 3D modeling, rendering and animation software. With 3dsMax you can create complex 3D architectural models from 2D plans. It is good idea to use 3dsMax in conjunction with AutoCAD: simultaneously taking advantages of powerful 3dsMax modeling tools and AutoCAD precision.
Revit Architecture is the solution for parametric modeling (Building Information Model). By designing the building model in 2D, 3D or both simultaneously, you can create plans, sections, and table layouts. Autodesk Revit can be used independently or in conjunction with the AutoCAD. The main difference between the Revit Architecture and AutoCAD is that Revit works with 3D parametric architectural models.
Graphisoft products: ArchiCAD, Artlantis
Similarly to Revit Architecture, when you create building in ArchiCAD, you don’t draw and cut lines like in AutoCAD. Instead, you virtually create walls, set doors and windows and add other building elements. Every element has smart architectural parameters that you can change anytime. The most basic element in ArchiCAD is wall. Other architectural elements (stairs, beams, columns…) are intelligent 3D objects also. It is parametric variable, and you can easy adjust it.
Artlantis is not ArchiCAD plug-in but the stand-alone rendering application developed especially for architects and designers. By default, ArchiCAD has installed the Artlantis export plug-in so you can export the model in the Artlantis file format. You can transfer the geometry, textures, perspective cameras, the sun, lights and layers.
Rhino 3D (+ Grasshopper 3D)
Rhino is different from most 3D packages and it is more like a CAD program. It is well-known that AutoCAD is designed for mathematically precise construction. However, problem is when the object is not only for simulation, but also for the visualization and representation. For this reason Rhino is good choice if you need a modeling tool that is both accurate as CAD, and that has a good visualization.
The best-known and most popular plug-in for Rhino is Grasshopper 3D (ex Explicit History). Grasshopper is primarily created for exploring various forms with parameterization and algorithms with minimal knowledge of programming and scripting, but you need a lot of mathematics knowledge.
ProgeCAD offers a fully compatible dozens of times cheaper replacement for AutoCAD. ProgeCAD user interface is very similar to AutoCAD one. Menus, toolbars, status bars and shortcuts are almost the same. For that reason, AutoCAD users will not have problem to work in progeCAD.
Also there is Architecture version, cheaper replacement to Revit and ArchiCAD. ProgeCAD Architecture is of 2D and 3D architectural tool that uses DWG as the native format in conjunction with BIM approach. ProgeCAD Architecture offers a library of 2D and 3D parametric objects and blocks.
There are two largest competitors in CAD world – Autodesk AutoCAD and Graphisoft ArchiCAD, and they are commonly used CAD software by architects.
When you create model in AutoCAD, obviously you render in 3dsMax, and when you create model in ArchiCAD you render in Artlantis. 3ds Max is much harder to learn than Artlantis.
ProgeCAD is dozens of times cheaper alternative to AutoCAD, but with less comfort. Also progeCAD Architecture is cheaper alternative to Revit and ArchiCAD.
3ds Max is more focused towards video industry and effects, which do not require high precision. In contrast, Rhino’s focus is on model’s precision and therefore only uses NURBS technique.