Best Apps for Architects and Construction – Our selection for 2018
When asked for the most valuable things in life, many highly successful people all rank the same thing at number one: time.
Unlike material things, you can’t lose time and get it back again. You can’t spend time and go earn more of it. You can’t buy it, rent it, or borrow it. Use it wisely and you’ll enjoy a myriad of benefits; squander it, and it’s gone forever.
We think so much about our money: tracking it in our bank accounts, thinking and reading about how to earn more, how to invest it. And yet we typically think little about our time. We routinely let people steal it from us — even though it’s our most valuable possession.
Before you waste another minute, take some time to understand how you’re spending this limited resource. If — like so many other architects and contractors — you’re spending it on things like being stuck in traffic, writing out field reports in Word, printing out drawings and annotating them on site, and keeping track of expenses… then keep reading.
We’ve compiled a list of useful apps that will help you make the most of your time.
After all, you’re walking around with an architecture toolkit in your pocket. You need to harness the power of today’s technology by embracing the apps that are useful for architects — if you don’t, you’re throwing away hours each week!
The right apps can boost your productivity by more than 200%, freeing up many hours.
Luckily, we’ve done the heavy lifting for you: We’ve tested lots of apps for architects and construction businesses, and also analyzed their reviews. Taking advantage of these apps will help you save time, gain an edge on your peers — and work smarter instead of harder.
The 14 Best Architecture Apps in 2018
- AutoCAD Mobile
- Construction Master Pro App
- Morpholio Trace Pro
- Sun Seeker
- Autodesk FormIt
- iHandy Level
- Calm – Meditate, Sleep, Relax :)
1 – BIMx
Best For: BIM presentation on mobile devices
Price: Free (BIMx) or $49.99 (BIMx PRO)
If you’re using ARCHICAD, then you should consider BIMx from Graphisoft, an app that allows architects to present or share designs with clients and contractors. The app offers full control of your BIM projects, with a cloud interface for working on site. BIMx helps bridge the gap between the design studio and the construction site, sparing you the misery that comes from printing out plans.
- Full access to any BIM content like 3D models, construction drawings, schedules, element or space information
- All-round 3D cutaways
- Hyper-model technology for integrated 2D and 3D building project navigation
Additional BIMx Pro features:
- Live presentation with predefined model views
- Smart measure on Layouts and in the 3D model
- AirPrint and Google Could Print
2 – AutoCAD Mobile
Best For: Viewing, creating, editing, and sharing AutoCAD drawings on mobile devices
Price: AutoCAD mobile Premium is $5/mo or $50/yr, and Ultimate is $15/mo or $100/yr
AutoCAD Mobile is a drawing and drafting app that enables you to view, create, edit, and share AutoCAD drawings on mobile devices. It’s a fitting extension to your AutoCAD desktop that lets you share plans across multiple platforms in the DWG format. When you use this app, you can forget bringing drawings to the site — and can use this instead to adjust measurements and annotate on the job.
- Access drawings from your mobile device in the field or outside the office
- Support for multiple layers to see more detail and contextual information than with paper drawings
- Draft, edit, mark-up, and measure plans at the job site or on the go
- Share updated drawings with colleagues and clients
- Set your location, and walk inside your drawing
- Get updated drawings in AutoCAD when you get back to the office
3 – Construction Master Pro App
Best for: Solving construction-math problems on the jobsite or in the office, including completing layouts, plans, bids, and estimates
Installing a calculator app on your phone saves you from lugging around a physical calculator. The Construction Master Pro App lets you solve tough construction-math problems on the jobsite or in the office, thereby reducing costly errors and saving time and money. CM Pro can help you do almost everything, from laying out stairs to figuring out how much drywall to use to calculating right angle solutions. This app will help you and your crew on every phase of your project’s estimating, bidding and building process.
- Dimensional math and conversions
- A host of right-angle tools including irregular hip/valley and jacks
- Expanded and arched rake-wall
- Area and volume solutions
- Advanced stair layouts
- Roof/rafter calculations (bundles, squares, pitch, plan area, etc.)
- Trigonometric functions
- Built-in help:just press and hold the desired key for explanations
- Advanced Tape function enables you to display, review, save and email inputs
4 – ArchiSnapper
Best For: Creating field reports, site inspections, and punch lists
Works On: Web, iOS and Android
Price: Starting at $24/month
Creating field reports from site visits can be a long and tedious process. ArchiSnapper is a simple tool that allows you to draft reports with observations, photos, annotations, assignees, and locations on floor plans. After syncing, the reports and to-do lists are available from the cloud account (on your desktop) for further editing and distribution. Just think: No more struggling with Word or Excel to draft field reports –which will save you hours each week!
- Collect data, sketch on photos, assign items, and mark up blueprints on-site
- Format the layout of your PDF reports
- Automatic observation numbering
- Clone your previous report to start a new one
- Manage your observation categories and/or checklists
- Work together with your colleagues on the same ArchiSnapper account
- Collaborate with (sub)contractors
5 – Magicplan
Best For: Creating professional floor plans by taking pictures
Price: $2.99/plan or $9.99/month (for unlimited plans)
Over 15 million (!) downloads can’t be wrong. magicplan is a room-scanning app that uses input from either your smartphone or tablet to devise complete floor plans. With its augmented reality technology, magicplan lets you create your floor plan within seconds: Pictures of the corners of the room are turned into measurements and can be fine-tuned in the 2D overview. Or, scan multiple rooms to complete floor plans of entire buildings — and even add furniture if you want. This app takes a bit of practice to get the hang of, but once you’re familiar with how it works, it’s a great tool.
- Magical room capture, room drawing, draw over existing floor plan, room assembling, room duplication/mirroring, imperial/metric units
- Add objects (from the library), annotations, photos and attributes to generate reports or complete estimates
- Estimated materials and costs
- Export floor plans as PDF or CAD files
- Backup your plans to the cloud and work together with multiple users on the same account
6 – Morpholio Trace Pro
Best for: Drawing revisions and sketching with layers
Works On: iOS
Price: Free, with monthly or yearly subscription for full PRO features
Morpholio Trace is a great sketching app for architects. Used with an iPad or iPad Pro and Apple Pencil, it allows users to instantly draw on top of imported images, or background templates, layering comments or ideas to generate immediate sketches that are easy to circulate. Based on the reviews, it’s clear that users really love this app.
- Create designs with color, templates, styles, stencils and layers
- Mark-up plans, drawings, progress images or contact sheets
- Use any two points to set a scale in imperial or metric units
- Import images from other sources, take pictures and add markups
7 – TSheets
Best For: Tracking your time
Works On: Web, iOS and Android
Cost: Free for the first user, $16 base fee + $4 per user/month starting from the second user
For most architects, how much time you spend directly affects how much money you’ll earn. So tracking time correctly is crucial for making sure you get paid correctly. Enter TSheets, which allows you to perform these tasks on your phone. No more illegible or lost paper time cards, and no more payroll spreadsheets!
- Very simple and easy to use (We and some of our customers have tried it ourselves; no training or manuals needed.)
- Facial recognition technology to deter buddy punching
- A wall-mounted time clock app (called “TSheets Kiosk”) is ideal for job sites
- Ability to attach photos to timesheets
- Connects to your favorite accounting or payroll software
- TSheets GPS time clock maps employee locations as they move and travel throughout the day
- Coming soon: Location aware tracking (like geofencing, only better)
8 – Sun Seeker
Best For: Tracking and analyzing solar path and shade
Although not purely focused on the architectural field, this app makes a great companion tool for architects. It helps you decide on the right orientation for your buildings by providing data like the solar path, the winter and summer solstice paths, and sunrise and sunset times. Using a highly-interactive augmented 3D view, it allows you to instantly determine the amount of sunlight your building will receive.
- Uses GPS, magnetometer and gyroscope to find the correct solar position and path for your current location
- 3D augmented reality camera overlay view showing the sun’s current position, and its path with hour points marked
- Camera view also has an optional pointer to guide you toward the current location of the sun
- Map view showing solar direction arrows and elevations for each hour of the day
- Ability to choose any date and view solar path for that day
9 – Shapr3D
Best For: 3D modeling with Apple Pencil
Works On: iOS only
Price: Free; PRO subscription costs $29.99/month or $299.99/year
Shapr3D is a 3D CAD app for the iPad and the Apple Pencil. It enables architects to draw sketches quickly and easily before turning them into 3D shapes. Shapr3D can be used together with other CAD software. It’s designed for precise solid modeling and runs on the same engine as most of the desktop CADs, Parasolid. Thanks to its novel interface and user experience, it can be used to create 3D sketches much faster than with traditional 3D CAD. Contrary to the typical CAD software, with Shapr3D and its neat UX/UI, there’s no need to watch lots of YouTube videos before you can start doing simple things. Click here to read how an architect uses Shapr3D.
- Draw sketches quickly, and make them well-defined with powerful constraint tools
- Load models (XT, STEP, IGES, SHAPR) and start manipulating them or importing images as a reference
- Export in common 3D formats (XT, STEP, IGES, STL) and use them in CAD apps
- Send your model to your 3D printer cutter software
10 – Autodesk FormIt
Best for: 3D modeling software that enables sketching, collaborating, analyzing, and sharing early-stage design concepts from your phone or tablet
Price: Click here to compare FormIt (free) with FormIt PRO (Note: FormIt Pro is available only as part of the Autodesk Architecture, Engineering & Construction Collection, which also includes Revit, Autocad, etc.)
While SketchUp has been all-dominating in this space, we see Autodesk FormIt, which offers intuitive 3D sketching in a web browser or mobile app, as a worthy contender. Conceptual design should drive BIM: With FormIt, you can begin the conceptual design (defining floor layers, orientation, building envelope and floor plans), and once the design is settled, continue the working drawings process inside Revit. (When a conceptual design is in SketchUp, the geometry really isn’t going to work seamlessly in Revit.)
- Core functionality is free, and includes the 3D sketching tools, advanced geometry, two-way connection to Revit, and the FormIt Converter for importing existing SketchUp files
- Formit PRO comes with advanced features like integrated energy analysis, parametric conceptual design, real-time collaboration, customized design, and a Windows installed version
- The FormIt and Dynamo Studio connection enables customized parametric content to be placed and manipulated in FormIt — which enables you to review numerous design options quickly before making decisions
11 – iHandy Level
Best For: Checking the level of surfaces
This app allows you to check the level of surfaces using only your cell phone. This pocket leveler features a traditional bubble level interface, as well as a digital display of the current angle, measured in degrees from the horizontal.
Features? No need to include extra features for this one. Its beauty is in its simplicity.
Bonus Apps for The Road
12 – Waze
Best for: Avoiding traffic jams
Waze is a free navigation app that saves you from wasting time in traffic. It uses user feedback — like mentions of traffic jams, police locations, and roadblocks — to find better routes for your next trip. Waze (or Google Maps, which is very similar) is a must-have, especially for architects, contractors, and construction engineers who are often on the road. Let’s not forget: Time is your most valuable asset, so being stuck in the middle of traffic is a huge pain. Not to mention, traffic jams are stressful! (More about avoiding stress below.)
- Fastest route to destination
- Reminder for when to leave, based on actual traffic conditions
- Find the cheapest, closest gas
- Get alerts when you’re over the speed limit
Best for: Managing receipts and expenses
Price: Free for individuals, $5/month per user for small companies (like most architecture firms)
This app was not designed specifically for architects, but it’s a real productivity booster for anyone struggling with expenses. Architects are often on the road, and keeping track of expenses like food, travel, and fuel can be a pain. Expensify automates every step, from receipt scanning through reimbursement. Even expense reports are finished in just one click: Simply take a photo of a receipt, and the app adds it to an expense report, which can automatically be submitted, approved, and even reimbursed the very next day.
- One-click receipt tracking
- Automatic expense reporting and submitting for approval
- Next-day reimbursement
- Integrations with all major accounting softwares
If all these apps can’t help you save time and reduce stress, and you’re desperate for peace of mind, there’s only one last app we recommend…
14 Calm – Meditate, Sleep, Relax :)
Best For: Practicing meditation and mindfulness
Price: $12.99/month, $59.99/year, or $299.99 for a lifetime subscription
Calm uses mindfulness and meditation to bring more clarity, joy, and peace to your daily life. Whether you’re an experienced meditator or a beginner, there are sessions for you on Calm. A subscription gives you access to a new inspiration and meditation session every day, along with multi-day themed programs and individual guided and unguided meditations. Calm has more than 200,000 reviews and is ranked in the top five health and fitness apps, so it’s a safe choice for anyone hoping to get started with meditation.
Get started with your first 10 minutes of mindful meditation.
Don’t forget to complement your full suite of architecture apps with important day-to-day tools like Google Drive or Dropbox for cloud storage, Asana or Toggl for task- and time-tracking, FreshBooks for cloud accounting, Free Invoice Creator for simple and free invoicing, and Trello for list management.
And that’s it folks. Don’t just use your phone for taking funny pictures of your cat stalking your socks, make it a powerful ally for work too.
If you have any apps you think we should stick in our toolbox, then make sure to let us know in the comments below.
Hey, while you’re here… could I ask you a little favor? It took me several hours to write this blog post, but it would only take you a minute to share it.
So could you please tweet, like, or share this post? It motivates me to write better, and more — and it also helps me explain to my wife why I spend Sundays writing blog posts :-)