Best Apps for Architects – Our selection for 2019
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.
Here’s our updated list, with the 17 Best Architecture Apps in 2019:
- AutoCAD mobile app
- Morpholio Trace Pro
- Construction Master Pro App
- Autodesk FormIt
- iHandy Level
- Paper by WeTransfer
- Sun Seeker
- 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
- Compatible with Google Cardboard VR, allowing a rich, immersive experience of building design on iOS and Android smartphones
Additional BIMx Pro features:
- Live presentation with predefined model views
- Smart measure on Layouts and in the 3D model
- AirPrint and Google Could Print
“Makes communicating a new design concept to a client easier and in the end means less likelihood of delivering an end product that differs from their perception.”
“It is very easy to use. Allows a client to navigate themselves around their building on their own computer in their own time. Can be customized to set the style of view that the client sees. Can include hyperlinked drawings into the model so the client can flick between 3D and 2D views.”
2 – AutoCAD mobile App
Best For: Viewing, creating, and editing CAD 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 smartphone or tablet 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
- Get updated drawings in AutoCAD when you get back to the office
“As a construction company, we coordinate various works with other service companies like sheetrock suppliers, wood framing companies and furniture dealers. We upload our projects to the cloud which can be reviewed with an iPad or an iPhone quickly so we can easily coordinate all works. By using A360 we can coordinate and share projects that are easily reviewed at any location without the use of papers.”
“We can address discrepancies within the drawings between the trades and figure out where were we have the problem. It allows for a certain amount of accountability for each designer within the firm and as potential exterior consultants.”
3 – Morpholio Trace Pro
Best for: Sketching with layers and drawing revisions
Works On: iOS
Price: Free (Basic version), with yearly subscription for Essentials, Premium, or 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, background templates, or 3D models, layering comments or ideas to generate immediate sketches that are easy to circulate. This app pushes the boundary of emerging technology utilizing AR and VR for a cutting edge sketching experience. 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, 3D models, photos or contact sheets
- Use the AR Camera to draw live site sketches in perspective
- Calculate areas and fill drawings using Smart Fill
- Inhabit your drawings using the VR Sketch Walk
“It has been literally a game changer, allowing me to work faster, save costs on printing and scanning, and free up my team’s time. It changed the way I work and allows me to do more in a shorter time, especially once I started exploring some of the expanded functions in Pro.”
“It really takes the power of iPad and Pencil and makes a tool that really is powerful and intuitive to use for marking up drawings and sketching out ideas. The big game changer is using PDFs with multiple sheets. Now every time I have a call or meeting I open the set in Trace and we make real-time sketches, take notes and can send out a PDF of the set in seconds.”
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 annotations 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
“We were looking for a way to make it easier to prepare and submit reports from the construction site via mobile device, and Archisnapper has served us well. For basic field reports and checklists, it is perfect. The cloud-based service has been reliable and works well on all devices. The overall value is great for the service it provides.”
“This is a great tool to add notes and take pictures, sketches, PDF annotations—on site. The reports are generated automatically and still editable from the desktop version. This app doesn’t only save me a lot of time: I had customers and other construction people congratulating me with the clear and professional field reports. I’ve tried a lot of field report and punch list tools, but this is by far the easiest to use I’ve found.”
5 – magicplan
Best For: Creating professional floor plans by taking pictures
Price: $2.99/plan or $9.99/month (for unlimited plans)
Over 18 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.
- Create floor plans with the camera of your mobile device
- Connect a laser distance meter via Bluetooth
- View plans in 2D and create 3D models
- Export plans as PDF, JPG, PNG, SVG, CSV, DXF
- Compatible with Excel, AutoCAD, and Chief Architect
- Furnish your plans with over 1000 objects (furnishing, plumbing, electrical, etc.)
- Create virtual tours with 360 panoramas
- Add photos and notes
- Get statistics automatically (distances, surroundings, surface)
- Estimate materials and costs with customized price lists
- Backup floor plans or manage your team on the Cloud
“This extremely helpful tool that could reduce your time 10x—no more need to carry a bunch of paper and Laser Distance Measurer to survey. It is helpful for plotting a floor plan and surveying a site. I would highly recommend it if you spend more than 10% of the time on site surveying.”
“It’s a very easy way to have a sketch of the room—let’s say that I am on a first visit to a client, just to talk about the project. I can make a very fast plant with magicplan in minutes, before doing the final one later on AutoCAD.”
6 – 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. Plus you can use the app to help manage projects with its advanced tape function that incorporates a number of features. It enables you to display, review, save and email inputs, descriptions and calculated values for each function. Use the function to record inputs and outputs for saving as a file to archives or as an attached PDF in an email. 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 Paperless Tape function enables you to display, review, save and email inputs
“This is a must for anyone in the construction industry. I have been using the calculator for the last 20 years (plus or minus), it is a powerful tool.”
“For so many years I would have to break down fractions into decimals to use them on my calculator then turn that decimal back into a fraction that I can actually use on my measuring tools. Being able to do everything on the calculator makes projects go a lot faster.”
7 – TSheets
Best For: Time tracking and labor costing
Works On: Web, iOS and Android
Cost: Free for one user; 2-99 users pay a $20 base fee and $5 per active user/month
For architects and contractors, the time you spend on a project directly affects how much money you’ll earn. Tracking time correctly is crucial for making sure you get paid for the hard work you put in and value current and future jobs precisely. The TSheets mobile time tracking app allows you to track time for specific jobs and easily create and send accurate invoices. With detailed time reports, your time is clear and accounted for. No more illegible or lost paper time cards or spreadsheets!
- Simple and easy to use for managers and employees. (We and some of our customers have tried it ourselves; no training or manuals needed.)
- The tablet-optimized, stationary TSheets Time Clock Kiosk is ideal for job sites.
- Facial recognition technology enabled on time clocks can deter buddy punching.
- Users can attach photos to timesheets.
- Connect your TSheets account to your favorite accounting or payroll solution.
- GPS time tracking maps employee locations throughout the workday, as long as they’re clocked in.
- Coming soon: Location-aware time tracking puts geofences around job sites.
“TSheets helps to keep everyone tracked and accounted for. It has freed up a lot more time for field employees and payroll administration. Instead of everyone handwriting their hours and where they were working, which then had to be entered in one-by-one into our payroll tracker, everything was done within the program.”
“The app reduces time spent recording hours worked. It is easy to edit and approve time sheets. Integrates with the payroll system – with a click of a button, data is exported to payroll.”
8 – Concepts
Best for: exploring ideas on an infinite canvas.
Price: Concepts is free, with in App purchases
Concepts is a next-generation design platform, completely re-imagined and built for mobile devices like the iPad Pro. Concepts enables faster, more natural design for creative people everywhere. Architects use Concepts to go paperless. Concepts has been around for many years and was awarded Apple Best of 2016, Apple Best of 2013, and Tabby Awards Best Creative App.
- Draw lines, then move / copy / mirror / scale them, as well as changing colour, line weight etc.
- Infinite canvas
- Optimized for Apple Pencil
- Realistic and responsive tools such as the pencil brush
- Import/export of PDF to make it easy to mark up and sketch on PDF.
“Having the ability to draw with real accuracy on the iPad using a tool like Concepts has fundamentally changed my workflow. Now both the initial sketches and the more polished products live side-by-side in the same documents, and I can go back and forth from freehand to highly technical drawings without even switching to a new document.”
“Stumbled upon this app and I’m loving it so far. This app has great features for an architect like myself, I’ll definitely be subscribing.”
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. In 2018 Shapr3D started a collaboration with Morpholio and now architects can sketch over their 3D models created in Shapr3D in Morpholio. Check out this Archdaily article for more info on this collaboration.
Click here to read how an architect uses Shapr3D, watch this webinar recording that shows how you can use Shapr3D for architectural interior design modelling or follow Shapr3D on Instagram where they share many design showcases, short tips and tricks.
- 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 OBJ) and use them in CAD apps
- Send your model to your 3D printer cutter software
“Shapr3D is very integrated to my workflow. I start most of my projects and sometimes complete them entirely right in Shapr3D. For many of my architecture projects, for instance, I do my initial massing as well as a lot of thinking in Shapr3D.”
“I can show my clients exactly what we are going to be doing via the app. Plans can be changed in the field, and I can help them to see issues that may surface or enhancements that they could benefit from. By the time we leave those first meetings, we have pretty much agreed on what we are going to do and they know what they will be getting.”
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
“This Autodesk app is simply wonderful. The user that takes the time to learn it, will be highly rewarded. Keep in mind that the app will not replace the high-end 3D creation/visualization tools from Autodesk or others but will allow you to give basic shape to most architectural and even industrial design concepts. I use the app on my iPad Pro with the Apple Pencil with great ease. Highly recommend.”
“I was pleasantly surprised how simple FormIt is to use and navigate. FormIt is really cool, and I can see the benefit of sketching something onsite on your iPad. No other app that I know of can do this.”
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.
No need to include extra features for this one. Its beauty is in its simplicity.
Although it only has one function, it is perfect for:
- Angle measurements
- Measuring angles of slope, escalation
- Measuring the verticality of a wall, or furniture
- Roof pitch calculations
“Great tool, works brilliantly, I checked it against my professional spirit level and it is spot on. Also if your device is not perfectly flat you can calibrate with one touch of a button against a spirit level for accuracy … Top marks.”
“It’s a great app. Comes in handy when I am on the job site. I don’t have to run find a level, I just pull my phone out and it gets the job done.”
12 – Paper by WeTransfer
Best for: mobile sketching
Operating system: iOS
Price: Paper is free, with in App purchases
Paper by WeTransfer is the immersive sketching app for capturing ideas anywhere. Over 25 million (!) people have found their personal creative space in Paper—handwriting notes, drafting, diagramming, sketching, and giving form to their vision. Paper’s simple, quiet interface and gestural navigation offer you space to create without the distraction of controls and sliders. It has been named “iPad App of the Year” by Apple. It is developed by FiftyThree and was acquired by WeTransfer in August 2018 alongside Paste, a collaborative presentation tool for teams. Paper works seamlessly together with Paste, and you can drag pages directly from Paper into Paste to instantly share ideas.
- Draw, sketch, outline, write, color, diagram, cut, fill, and mix
- Auto-correction snaps rough drawings to straight lines and crisp shapes for quickly drafting architectures and diagrams
- Drop in templates like grid, lines, and storyboard to help structure your ideas
“I looked at several apps and programs to assist me in capturing, editing and keeping ideas and designs for a home design project. It’s perfect for that first pass getting concepts to paper. Unlike real paper, I can modify easily and maintain versions. I’m in love with this app.”
“Paper by WeTransfer (formerly 53) combined with an Apple Pencil on a larger iPad is absolutely fabulous, flexible, and fun. I am a creative thinker and artistic person in general, but I have never been very good at creating traditional hand drawn art work whether using digital tools or traditional ones. Something about this app lets the creativity and beautiful drawings flow right out of me without significant effort… and somehow I almost forget that I’m using a digital device.”
13 – IrisVR
Best For: Immersive design review, VR meetings, clash detection, and model coordination meetings.
Works On: HTC Vive or a Windows MR headset
Price: Free trial; purchase plans start at $50/month
IrisVR Prospect is a great way to convert commercial 3D models into VR experiences for design review, clash detection, and model coordination meetings. IrisVR empowers AEC firms to catch more errors, speed up approvals, and ultimately streamline the design review process. IrisVR works with HTC Vive, Oculus Rift and Windows MR hardware and supports 3D models from Revit, Rhino, Sketchup, Navisworks and also works with FBX and OBJ files.
- Converts large 3D models to VR in seconds, with all native BIM properties imported
- Up to 12-person Multiuser VR Meetings
- In-VR tools including Annotations, Inspect Element, Sun Studies, Tape Measure, and more
- Automatic PDF Reports to make your VR Meetings actionable
- Free Viewer for meeting participants who don’t have a Prospect license
- No Headset Mode for collaborators who don’t have a VR setup of their own
“I like how plug and play it is. I can just grab a sketchup model and click and drag it into the program and instantly walk and examine it. No extra hiccups or hoops to jump through when time is a major priority.”
“The ease of use is the best feature of IrisVR. We have clients come in and ‘walk through’ their un-built projects without any prior knowledge or training in the VR software. Its great!”
14 – 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
“Sifting through overly technical websites with mountains of raw data left us starving for usable information specific to our homesite. This app not only translates such data into usable information for today’s date but, gives us projections of where the sun will be throughout the year. Now we are able to site our future home with (solar) precision as well as make better decisions as to the exact nature of our structure’s design to maximize solar gain for the winter and shade for the summer.”
“I really love the 3D features. This handy little app is very helpful in determining sunrises and sunsets in the layout of the property to be built. Great app I highly recommend it!”
Bonus Apps for The Road
14 – 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 navigation app available! Waze has been a lifesaver more times than I can count.”
“The best navigation for everyday driving and vacations. Great app for people who drive a lot. It dynamically adjusts your to avoid traffic jams, and that feature has saved me hours of travel time to and from work.”
Best for: Receipt and expense management
Price: Check out the pricing here. Free for individuals, $5/month per user for small companies (which most architect offices are).
This app was not designed specific for architects, but we really love it and it’s a real productivity booster for anyone who’s struggling with expenses. Architects are often on the road, making expenses (lunch, travel, fuel, …). Keeping track of all these expenses can be a pain. Expensify automates every step from receipt scanning through reimbursement. Expense reports are finished in just one click: simply take a photo of a receipt and put your phone away. Expensify automatically reads and transcribes the receipt data then 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 you spend more than half an hour a week sorting your expenses, just get Expensify. For businesses with a number of reps, Expensify will pay for itself in no time. Simplifies the approval process and lots of reporting options to keep everyone happy – from management to the accountant.”
“It saves me a lot of time and hassle on doing the paper work including keeping the receipts. It is easy and timely. The scanned receipts are kept in Expensify for me to log later. With the feature of the scanned receipts, there is no more need to keep stacks of paper receipts!”
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…
16 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.
“This app has completely changed my life. Ever since I started using it, I now sleep all night without waking up once. Before I would wake up to battle with thoughts about the day ahead of me or past mistakes or even excited about the next day and wouldn’t get the rest I needed to face the day. Also the daily meditations have helped me stay focused at work when I need to and give me boost to finish my day without feeling overwhelmed and super tired. The more you practice the more mindful and present you become and this brings you a sense of peace, joy that I had never experienced before.”
“I’ve tried a lot of different meditation apps but this is by far my favorite. It’s simple to use but effective and the guided meditations voice is super calming. I’m really glad it exists and I’m thankful for it. It’s part of my arsenal in the pursuit of becoming a better person. Recommend.”
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, 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 :-)