Best Apps for Architects – Our Selection for 2020
Hey there! Glad you’re here. If you’re looking for the most recent version of our Best apps for Architects article: you can find the 2022 update here. Enjoy!
Our time in this world is finite. It’s our most valuable resource.
Unlike material things, you can’t lose time and get it back again. You can’t spend time and earn more of it.
So let’s follow the wisdom of the Ancient Roman philosopher, Seneca. He said we should treat our time with the same reverence we treat material things. You wouldn’t give away your money recklessly — so why would you do the same with your precious time?
“We’re tight-fisted with property and money, yet think too little of wasting time, the one thing about which we should all be the toughest misers.”
These days, too many architects lose too much time. They get stuck in traffic, write out tedious field reports, print out drawings, and use paper notes to track expenses and jot down to-do lists… Relate much? If so, then keep reading.
We’ve compiled a list of useful apps that will help you make the most of your time.
After all, that phone in your pocket? It’s a whole freakin’ architecture toolkit!
Harness the power of today’s technology by embracing the apps most useful for architects. Otherwise, you’re throwing away hours each week.
Fortunately, we’ve done the heavy lifting for you. We tested lots of apps for architects and analyzed the reviews. And we asked our architect community which apps they use and which they like best.
Here’s our updated list, with the 22 Best Architecture Apps in 2020:
- Best Apps for CAD Drawings & 3D Models
AutoCAD Mobile app | BIMx | Autodesk FormIt | Shapr3D | ARki
- Best Apps for Floor Plan Creation
magicplan | RoomScan Pro
- Best Apps for Sketching
Morpholio Trace Pro | Procreate | Concepts | Paper
- Best Apps for Tedious Admin tasks
ArchiSnapper | TSheets | Hubstaff | Expensify
- Best Toolbox Apps
Sun Locator | Construction Master Pro App | Classic Toolbox apps
- Best Apps for When You’re On the Go
Waze | Pocket Casts
Houzz | Freedom
Jump to Floor Plans | Sketching | Admin tasks | Toolbox | On the Go
Best apps for CAD drawings and 3D models
1 – AutoCAD Mobile App
BEST FOR | Viewing, creating, and editing CAD drawings on mobile devices
WORKS ON | iOS, Android, Windows 10
PRICE | $5/mo – $50/yr (Premium) or $15/mo – $100/yr (Ultimate)
AutoCAD Mobile is a drawing and drafting app that lets you view, create, edit, and share AutoCAD drawings on mobile devices. It’s a fitting extension to your AutoCAD desktop that helps you share plans across multiple platforms in the DWG format.
When you use AutoCAD Mobile, you can forget about bringing drawings to the site. Instead, use the app to adjust measurements and annotate on the job. A poll in our architect community reveals that this is the #1 app for many architects.
- Access to 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 what can be seen in paper drawings
- Easy way to draft, edit, mark up, and measure plans at the job site or on the go
- Ability to get updated drawings in AutoCAD when you return to the office
“Autocad is what I like to say ‘a digital pen and paper.’ It has infinite capabilities and is easy to learn. Usually, if I have a question, I get on YouTube or AutoCAD forums and I always find the best and easiest solution. It is the most widespread software on drawing, so all know it or have it, and that helps if I want to connect with another person to just send the file and he can continue working on it or see it. It also uses only the RAM of the PC so it works easily and you don’t need to buy a graphic card. You can draw on 2 or 3 dimensions, making it easy to do anything …”
“We can address discrepancies within the drawings between the trades and figure out where we have the problem. It allows for a certain amount of accountability for each designer within the firm and as potential exterior consultants.”
2 – BIMx
BEST FOR | BIM presentations on mobile devices
WORKS ON | iOS and Android
PRICE | Free (BIMx) or $49.99 (BIMx PRO)
If you use ARCHICAD, then consider BIMx from Graphisoft, an app that allows architects to present or share designs with clients and contractors. The app offers full control over 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 of having to print 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
- Seamless compatibility with Google Cardboard VR, allowing for 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 3D models
- AirPrint and Google Could Print
NEW: BIMx Lab (iOS only)
The BIMx Lab app delivers the next-generation 3D engine for BIMx. BIMx Lab eliminates the BIM model size limit (prevalent on mobile devices) and collects user feedback to fine-tune the technology of all BIMx apps.
As this is a beta version, BIMx Lab is free. You’ll also have access to all additional productivity functions of the paying BIMx Pro version. After the testing phase, the new BIMx Lab engine will be merged into BIMx.
“Makes communicating a new design concept to a client easier; in the end, this 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 click between 3D and 2D views.”
3 – Autodesk FormIt
BEST FOR | AEC 3D sketching and environment analysis for conceptual and computational design workflows
WORKS ON | Web, iOS, Windows
PRICE | Free (FormIt) or Paid (FormIt PRO)
Note: FormIt Pro is available only as part of the Autodesk Architecture, Engineering & Construction Collection, which also includes Revit, Autocad, and more.
While SketchUp has been dominating this space, Autodesk FormIt is a worthy contender, offering intuitive 3D sketching in a web browser, mobile app, and Windows app.
Conceptual design should drive BIM, and FormIt helps you do just that. First, you do the conceptual design (defining location, levels, layers, massing, scenes and materials).
Once that’s done, you continue the working drawings process inside Revit. (If a conceptual design is in SketchUp, the geometry won’t really work seamlessly in Revit.)
- The core functionality is free and includes the 3D sketching tools, advanced geometry, two-way connection to Revit, via the FormIt Converter addin for Revit.
- Formit Pro comes with advanced features like integrated energy analysis, compute integration with Dynamo, real-time collaboration, advanced materials, a BIM 360 Docs integration, and a Windows installed version.
- FormIt Pro has a Dynamo integration which enables customized parametric content to be placed and manipulated in FormIt — allowing 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 recommended.”
“I was pleasantly surprised by how simple FormIt is to use and navigate. FormIt is really cool, and I can see the benefit of sketching something on-site on your iPad. No other app that I know of can do this.”
4 – Shapr3D
BEST FOR | 3D modeling with Apple Pencil
WORKS ON | iOS
PRICE | Free (Shapr3D) or $31.99/mo – $239.99/yr (Shapr3D PRO)
Shapr3D is a 3D CAD app for iPads compatible with Apple Pencil. The app’s reimagined modeling interface lets architects quickly sketch concepts with Apple Pencil as they would on paper. Once concepts are complete, the app’s intuitive toolset makes it easy to transform those concepts into 3D shapes.
Shapr3D runs on Siemens™ Parasolid™, the same geometric modeling kernel as Solidworks, guaranteeing industry-leading power.
The software is compatible with all major desktop CAD software.
- Draw sketches with Apple Pencil and define their parameters efficiently using smart constraints
- Create 3D models from sketches with an intuitive set of modeling tools
- Import and edit existing XT, STEP, IGES, or SHAPR models, or work with DXF and DWG reference images
- Export in commonly used CAD file formats (XT, STEP, IGES, STL, and OBJ) and continue your work with a desktop CAD tool
- Export manufacturable models straight to a 3D printer or manufacturing software
“Shapr3D is very integrated into 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 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.”
5 – ARki
BEST FOR | Visualization of 3D projects in Augmented Reality, so that you can view, share, and communicate the design journey with greater clarity
WORKS ON | iOS, Android (available soon)
PRICE | Free (1 plan), $23/mo – $255/yr (PRO)
This award-winning app enables you to visualize your 3D projects in Augmented Reality. You can use ARki for interactive presentations and storytelling.
Import multiple models and create dynamic layers and toggles to dive into the different aspects of your design. Or use the “full scale” option to wander around in your 3D models on-site in real time. Say hello to the future!
- Import 3D Models in .FBX file format from software including, 3dsmax, Maya, Blender, SketchUp, MicroStation, ArchiCAD, cinema4d, Revit, rhino and more.
- AR/3D Mode: Mixed reality allows on-site visualization so that models can be located in any environment or viewed in 3D
- Visualize models at any scale using AR
- Store models on your own device so that you can access models offline
- Create realistic shadows and real-time lighting
- Import multiple 3D models to create interactive layers and toggles
- Accurate scaling so you can view projects easily at 1:1 scale
- Sync projects between devices so you can access files remotely
“This App is Going Places. I work in a high-end residential architecture firm and I am very excited to see where this app goes. Not everyone can understand 2D drawings, and 3D prints can take forever. I see this as a staple for early SD/DD client presentations. This app allows you to upload your 3D model directly. Other apps require you to submit your model to them, and they charge a fee and need a week or so to ‘prepare the model’. I can make design changes, save as an .fbx and have my AR model ready to go in minutes. It may have a simple feel, but better to start small and grow more complicated as AR begins to take off in the coming years. Looking forward to the updates the team has in store…”
Thinking about getting started with 3D modeling, but still on the look-out for the software that best suits your needs? Read this in-depth guide about 3D modeling software from our friends at Pixpa. (both paying and free options)
Jump to CAD & 3D | Sketching | Admin Tasks | Toolbox | On the Go
Best Apps for Floor Plan Creation
You already know that CAD software is great for detailed floor plans. But if you’re in the middle of a sale, or if you’re just brainstorming, don’t you just want to be able to draft a rough plan in a jiffy? Guess what, there are apps for that. :)
6 – magicplan
BEST FOR | Creating professional floor plans with your mobile device’s camera
WORKS ON | iOS and Android
PRICE | $2.99/plan or $9.99/mo (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. For example, you can quickly turn pictures of the corners of a room into measurements that can be fine-tuned in the 2D overview.
In 2019, magicplan 8 was launched with a new AI-based feature that automatically detects, sizes, and places windows and doors. You can scan multiple rooms to complete floor plans of entire buildings — and even add furniture if you want. This app takes some practice to get the hang of, but once you get comfy, it’s a great tool.
- Create floor plans with your mobile device’s camera
- Connect a laser distance meter via Bluetooth
- View plans in 2D and create 3D models
- Export plans as PDF, JPG, PNG, SVG, CSV, or 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
“This extremely helpful tool could reduce your time 10x — no more need to carry a bunch of paper and a 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 plan with magicplan in minutes, before doing the final one later on AutoCAD.”
7- RoomScan Pro
BEST FOR | Creating professional floor plans with your mobile device’s camera
WORKS ON | iOS
PRICE | Free version or $8.49/yr for the full version
While originally designed for real estate, flooring, and plumbing, this app can still come in handy if you need a quick floor plan.
RoomScan Pro lets you create a floor plan or 3D model of a room or even an entire house. Once you’re finished, use the “view in AR” mode to experience walking around the room!
- Create floor plans with the camera of your iPhone, by touching it against all walls or by drawing manually
- Connect a laser distance meter via Bluetooth
- View plans in 2D and create 3D models
- Export plans as PNG (free version); or as PDF, DXF, FLYPLAN® and other formats with the full version
- Create virtual tours — you can view your models anytime, anywhere in augmented reality
“Faced with the need to measure a four-story home in a short period of time, I figured there ‘must be an app for that’ and found RoomScanPro did the trick. Pleased that my pre-purchase questions were answered via a very prompt email, I made the purchase. After a 5-minute learning curve and 30 minutes of scanning, I had the measurements I needed to create accurate enough floor plans for my planning purposes. Accuracy in tight quarters (e.g. closet, stairwell) seemed a bit off, but in a CAD program, I layered the floors on top of one another and honed the dimensions. Had trouble reading (without reading glasses on at the time) the buttons for doors, and found that by the time I figured out which one to press, they had gone away. I decided not to use that bell and whistle, as I can easily get the doors in later using CAD software. Like I said, the app did the trick and saved me a lot of time fiddling with a tape measure.”
Jump to CAD & 3D | Floor Plans | Admin Tasks | Toolbox | On the Go
Best Apps for Sketching
8 – Morpholio Trace Pro
BEST FOR | Amazing sketch and drawing features from concept to construction
WORKS ON | iOS
PRICE | Free (Basic); yearly subscription for Essentials, Premium, or Pro features
Morpholio Trace is the perfect sketching app for architects. Used with an iPad or iPad Pro and Apple Pencil, it allows you to instantly draw to scale on top of PDF drawing sets, maps, 3D models, images, or background grids. You can even layer comments or ideas to generate immediate sketches that are easy to circulate.
This app pushes the boundaries of AR technology, providing you a truly cutting-edge sketching experience. Based on reviews, it’s clear that users really love this app.
- Create designs with all your pens, brushes, scale tools, stencils, and moveable layers of trace
- Mark up drawings sets, 3D models, photos, or contact sheets
- Use the Augmented Reality Camera to draw live site sketches in perspective
- Calculate areas while you sketch using SmartFill
- Inhabit your drawings using the Augmented Reality 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.”
9 – Procreate
BEST FOR | Sketching with layers and drawing revisions on iPad with Apple Pencil
WORKS ON | iOS – iPad Pro with Apple Pencil only
PRICE | $9.99
With Procreate, you get everything you need to create impressive sketches, illustrations, and animations for a very low price.
The hundreds of handmade brushes allow you to draw in an impressively realistic and accurate way. It actually feels like you’re drawing with a real pencil!
You also get an advanced layering system, and the Valkyrie graphics engine works at a lightning-fast pace.
The 10K+ 5-star ratings speak for themselves. No question that this app is loved by thousands if not millions of creatives.
- Ultra High Definition canvases – up to 16k by 4k on iPad Pros
- Beautifully intuitive interface made for iPad and Apple Pencil
- Revolutionary QuickShape feature for perfect shapes
- Smooth and responsive smudge sampling
- The fastest 64-bit, Valkyrie-powered painting engine for iPads
- Functionality to connect a keyboard to use shortcuts for advanced features
- Ability to create art in stunning 64-bit color
- 250 levels of undo and redo
- Continuous auto-save — never lose work again
“Procreate lets you generate high-caliber artwork at a blistering pace using a robust layering system, stunning filters, and thousands of importable brushes. Plus, Savage Interactive’s super-intuitive app supports pressure sensitivity and Apple Pencil — as well as iCloud Drive and a seamless video recording of each brushstroke — so sharing your work is incredibly simple.”
“A friend of mine suggested this app to me because I have an iPad. I was extremely skeptical. One, I hated drawing on glass/touch screens. Two, the fact that it was for the iPad and the price was so low. I figured that it would be a barely functioning sketchpad, only one step above Microsoft Paint. However, since I got this app, I have started drawing almost exclusively using it. I am amazed by how smart a lot of the tools are. I have never used any software with a fill tool able to fill a gradient; maybe I am just out of the loop, but I would have never imagined before getting this app that it was possible to do that. Whenever I use this app, I frequently forget that it only costs $10 because it feels on level or better than some $100 software I have. I am considering buying an Apple pen just to be able to use this app to its fullest.”
10 – Concepts
BEST FOR | Exploring ideas on an infinite canvas
WORKS ON | iOS, Android and Microsoft
PRICE | 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. And if you’re an environmentally conscientious architect, you’ll love that you can 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.
- Ability to draw lines that you can then move; copy; mirror; scale; or change in terms of color, weight, and more
- Infinite canvas
- Platform optimized for the Apple Pencil
- Tools that are realistic and responsive, such as the pencil brush
- Ability to import and export PDFs to make it easy to mark up and sketch on PDFs.
“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.”
11 – Paper by WeTransfer
BEST FOR | Mobile sketching
WORKS ON | iOS
PRICE | Free (Basic); $11.99/mo (Pro)
Paper by WeTransfer is a hugely popular sketching app for forming ideas anywhere. Over 25 million (!) people have immersed themselves in Paper – handwriting notes, drafting, diagramming, sketching, getting creative, and giving form to their vision.
NEW: By the end of 2019, Paper launched its Paper Store (watch the video) — a collection of journals with creative prompts, daily exercises, and drawing tutorials.
Paper’s clean, intuitive interface offers you space to create without the distraction of controls and sliders. In 2012, Apple crowned Paper as the “iPad App of the Year.” Paper’s perfectly tuned tools make it easy to sketch, collage, diagram, and draw using fast, gesture-based navigation to keep you in flow.
Paper is part of WeTransfer’s set of tools, which include Paste®, WeTransfer, Collect and WePresent. Together, they empower you to quickly grow and develop ideas from initial thought to final delivery.
- Draw, sketch, outline, write, color, diagram, cut, fill, and mix
- Enable auto-correction to snap rough drawings to straight lines and crisp shapes to help you swiftly draft architectural plans and diagrams
- Drop in templates like grids, lines, and storyboards 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 on 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 artwork, 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.”
In this video, Marc Sawyer from Whitewash Studio demonstrates his favorite iPad Pro sketching apps:
Jump to CAD & 3D | Floor Plans | Sketching | Toolbox | On the Go
Best Apps for Tedious Admin Tasks
12 – ArchiSnapper
BEST FOR | Field reports, inspection reports, and punch lists
WORKS ON | Web, iOS, and Android
PRICE | Starting at $24/mo, $14/mo per additional user
Yeah, drafting field reports from site visits can be a drag. ArchiSnapper is a simple tool that allows you to use your smartphone or tablet on-site to draft reports with text, photos, assignees, and annotations on floor plans.
When you’re back at the office, the field report or punch list is available in your online account (on your desktop) for further editing and distribution.
Just think about it: No more struggling with Word or Excel to draft field reports! 😉
- Snap a photo and write text to record any observations or issues. Annotate on your photos or drawings.
- Forget about printing out blueprints! View all your drawings from any device — Web, iOS, Android. Easily pinpoint observations on your plans, and give clarity to everyone involved.
- Generate professional and clean PDF reports in seconds and send them out to the project team.
- Don’t worry about managing the report layout or observation numbering. This is done automatically.
- Clone your previous report to start a new one.
- Work together with your colleagues on the same ArchiSnapper account.
- Collaborate with (sub)contractors.
“The software saves me a lot of time in the office compiling my field reports. The reports look great with a minimal amount of effort. It also really helps me organize and track issues that need attention until they have been completed. Getting up and running with the software is quick and pretty intuitive.”
“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.”
13 – TSheets
BEST FOR | Time tracking, project tracking
WORKS ON | Web, iOS, and Android
PRICE | $20/mo base fee (1 user) and $8user/mo for additional users — 14-day free trial
If you’re an architect or a contractor, the time you spend on a project directly affects how much money you’ll earn. Tracking time on each project is crucial for making sure you get paid for the hard work you put in.
The TSheets mobile time tracking app allows you to track time for jobs, clients, and projects. When it’s time to bill, use that time data to create accurate invoices from the web dashboard. Or sync TSheets with your preferred payroll solution to generate invoices.
With detailed time reports, your time is clear and accounted for. No more illegible or lost paper spreadsheets!
- Mobile time tracking with GPS
- Geofencing and location-aware time tracking
- Project tracking and estimates versus actuals reporting
- In-app activity feed for project tracking
- Ability to attach photos and signatures to timesheets
- Tablet-optimized time clock with facial recognition technology
“The product makes time tracking extremely easy and gives me the ability to accurately account for all of our time spent on various projects throughout the day, even while on the go. The seamless integration to quickbooks takes all the duplicate work out and streamlines my billing process, and again, allows me to do this on the go from a phone or a tablet.”
“The app reduces time spent recording hours worked. It is easy to edit and approve timesheets. Integrates with the payroll system – with a click of a button, data is exported to payroll.”
14 – Hubstaff
BEST FOR | Time tracking, activity monitoring, and invoicing
WORKS ON | iOS, Android, Mac, Windows, Linux
PRICE | Free (Solo Lite); paid plans start at $5.83/mo/user
Better time management, greater productivity. That’s what every busy architect like you wants, right?
Hubstaff can help. Its accurate time tracking lets you record every second you spend on every single project. It sends you automated, daily reports so you stay on top of budgets and how much time you’ve spent, and it will even generate invoices for you. So now you can spend less time on administrative tasks and more time for your clients.
- One-click and lightweight time-tracking on desktop and mobile
- Keyboard and mouse activity monitoring, so you can understand your team’s working habits
- Online timesheet approvals
- Automatically generated invoices, based on the projects you’ve worked on and your bill rate
“We bill by the minute/second and run reports for payroll and client billing through Hubstaff. It meets our needs incredibly well for this, and we haven’t found a time yet where it hasn’t worked. The site is always up and running and the clocks are never down, which is important since staff works 24/7.”
“Overall Hubstaff has been an excellent way to track and verify productivity and hours worked. Every day we’re sent an email showing the team’s productivity and hours worked for the day. The staff is able to easily download and use the tool, and they are able to make adjustments to their own time clocks without having to have a superior edit the time for them which was an issue with other systems we’ve used in the past. Hubstaff requires notes for all time edits, so it is easy to see when and why edits were made.”
15 – Expensify
BEST FOR | Receipt and expense management
WORKS ON | iOS and Android
PRICE | Free for individuals, $5/mo/user for small companies (which most architect offices are). More info on prices here.
This app wasn’t designed specifically for architects, but we love it. Absolutely love it. Expensify is a real productivity booster for anyone struggling with expenses (guilty as charged).
If you’re a busy architect, you’re probably often on the road, right? So, you make expenses for lunch, expenses for travel, expenses for fuel, and more. Keeping track of everything can be a pain. Fortunately, Expensify automates every step, from receipt scanning to reimbursement.
And 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
- NEW: You can also use the free Expensify Card — just swipe the card and your expenses are done!
“Expense management used to be a headache for our corporate office. Now, it just runs in the background automatically thanks to Expensify.”
“Staff now self-serve their own expense management tasks rather than relying on the finance staff to do everything for them.”
Jump to CAD & 3D | Floor Plans | Sketching | Admin Tasks | On the Go
Best Toolbox Apps
16 – Sun Locator
BEST FOR | Tracking and analyzing solar path and shade
WORKS ON | Android
PRICE | Free (Lite version) – $9.50 (Pro version)
This app isn’t intended solely for architects, but it makes for a superb companion nonetheless. Sun Locator helps you decide on the right orientation for your buildings. How? By providing useful data like the solar path, the winter and summer solstice paths, and sunrise and sunset times. Using a highly interactive augmented 3D view, you can instantly determine the amount of sunlight your building will receive.
- 3D sundial, to visualize the sun position and the shadow direction and length over the course of the day and year on an interactive map
- Augmented Reality Sun and Moonlight simulation, to fast forward from sunset to sunrise for any time and day of the year through your camera
- Day and Night World map, an interactive visualization of the earth showing daylight and twilight regions
- A Lite version, which is free and limited to information for the current day; the Pro version enables you to get information for any day of the year (and to adjust the height of the sundial in the map view)
“Great app! I used the paid version to locate the best place for my solar panels. Easy to use with lots of useful information. Easy to locate the exact position of the sun every day of the year and any time of the day. Using the camera view, you can see any obstructing trees or buildings.”
“Best app I’ve found so far to give the sun’s location at any address for any time of day. I use it daily for work to find the best time to photograph a house. I love that it incorporates Google Map’s satellite overlay.”
iOS alternative: Sun Seeker
17 – Construction Master Pro App
BEST FOR | Solving construction-math problems on-site or at the office, including completing layouts, plans, bids, and estimates
WORKS ON | iOS, Android, Windows
PRICE | $24.99
Installing a calculator app on your phone saves you from having to lug around a physical calculator. The Construction Master Pro App helps you solve tough construction-math problems wherever you are.
Construction Master Pro can help you do almost everything — from laying out stairs, to figuring out how much drywall to use, to calculating right-angle solutions. Its advanced tape function lets you display, review, save, and email inputs, descriptions, and calculated values for each function.
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 jack rafters
- Expanded and arched rake-wall
- Arched rake-walls with on-center spacing
- Area, volume, and perimeter solutions with length, width, and height keys
- Advanced stair layouts for risers, treads, stringer length, and incline angle
- Roof/rafter calculations for estimating and building
- Trigonometric functions
- Advanced Paperless Tape function, 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.”
18 – Classic Toolbox Must-haves
The Compass app comes pre-installed on every new iPhone, and it’s helpful for orientation. (Generally disoriented? You need this!) Don’t forget to calibrate the compass before your first use. If you’re an Android user, get Compass.
Various apps help you measure the level of an object or surface. If you’re an iOS user, use this feature in the Measure app (see here below); if you’re an Android user, we recommend Bubble level or MyMeasures.
Measure is an iOS augmented reality app developed by Apple for the iPhone and iPad. You can quickly gauge the size of objects, and automatically detect the dimensions of rectangular objects. If you’re an Android user, check out the similar Measure app by Google.
Need something even more accurate? Try Moasure, the first motion-based measuring tool. You can measure distance, angles, areas, circles, gradients, and more while moving. Watch the video here.
Photo Measures is a simple app you can use to add any dimensions, sizes, angles or other details you need to remember on your own photos.
You can download the app for iOS or Android.
Use your mobile devices to scan documents. For you iOS users out there, scan and sign documents with the Notes app. For you Android users, we recommend CamScanner or Adobe Fill & Sign.
If you’re interested in more free apps for construction, check out this article.
Jump to CAD & 3D | Floor Plans | Sketching | Admin Tasks | Toolbox
Best Apps for When You’re On the Go
19 – Waze
BEST FOR | Avoiding traffic jams
WORKS ON | Android and iOS
PRICE | Free
Waze is a free navigation app that saves you from wasting time in traffic. It uses user feedback — like mentions of traffic jams, police blockades, and roadblocks — to find better routes for your next trip. Waze (or Google Maps, which is very similar) is a must-have, if you’re a busy architect often on the road.
Don’t forget, time is your most valuable asset, so being stuck in a traffic jam is a nightmare!
- Fastest route to destination
- Reminder for when to leave, based on actual traffic conditions
- Locations for the cheapest, closest gas
- Alerts for 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 route to avoid traffic jams, and that feature has saved me hours of travel time to and from work.”
Take some time to get to know Siri (iOS) or Google Assistant (Android). It feels a little strange or futuristic at first, but if you get the hang of it, you can save a lot of time just telling your device what to do or which info you need.
Stop wasting time by searching for the right app, or scrolling through your contact lists to make that phone call. You can do any of the following with Siri or Google Assistant:
- call someone
- dictate a message
- listen to messages while driving
- ask for a specific kind of music you want to listen to
- ask for directions
- ask for an overview of your schedule
- and more!
The options grow every day.
20 – Pocket Casts
BEST FOR | Listening to podcasts
WORKS ON | iOS and Android
PRICE | Free, with in-app purchases
As you visit projects, you probably spend hours on the road. So why not make the most of your travel time by listening to an interesting podcast?
Pocket Casts is our favorite podcast app because it’s simple yet powerful, easy to navigate, and it comes with a customizable look and feel. We love its smart features like auto-sync and custom filtering.
Not sure what to listen to? We did a poll on which podcasts architects are listening to, and here are the results:
- The top spot goes to Business of Architecture, where Enoch Bartlett Sears discusses strategies, tactics, and tools you need to run a successful architecture practice.
- Second is Michael Riscica’s Young Architect podcast, aimed to help the next generation of architects become successful.
- Third is EntreArchitect, a podcast by Mark R. LePage for small-firm architects seeking success in business, leadership, and life.
- And last but not least, Life of an Architect, recorded bi-weekly, is where Bob Borson and Andrew Hawkins discuss all things architecture… with a little bit of life thrown in for balance.
- An extra tip is the all-new “Build Your Brand” podcast. This story-based podcast, from the makers of EntreArchitect, focuses on branding, culture, and storytelling for small firm architects. The host, architect marketing expert, Jeff Echols, tells the fascinating stories behind the best brands in the world, analyzing their journeys to the top and repackaging lessons learned as effective strategies for small firm architects and creative professionals on their way to becoming the best.
And for what it’s worth, here are the ArchiSnapper team’s all-time favorites:
- [business] The Tim Ferriss Show, whose episodes deconstruct world-class performers from the worlds of investing, sports, business, art, and more. The aim? To extract the tactics, tools, and routines you can adopt to improve your life. This includes favorite books, morning routines, exercise habits, time-management tricks, and much more.
- [inspiration] Ted Talks Daily brings you thought-provoking ideas on-the-go on every subject imaginable — from Artificial Intelligence to Zoology, and everything in between. These talks, delivered at TED and TEDx conferences around the globe, are delivered by the world’s leading thinkers and doers. If you prefer video format, that’s available.
- [recreation] Serial is a podcast from the creators of This American Life, hosted by Sarah Koenig. Serial tells one story — a true story — over the course of a season. Serial has won every major award for broadcasting, including the duPont-Columbia, Scripps Howard, Edward R. Murrow, and the first-ever Peabody awarded to a podcast.
Jump to CAD & 3D | Floor Plans | Sketching | Admin Tasks | Toolbox | On the Go
21 – Houzz
BEST FOR | Inspiring you, marketing your Architecture firm
WORKS ON | iOS and Android
PRICE | Free
Houzz is a combination of an inspirational and professional platform for everyone thinking about remodeling or renovating a home or project. As a professional, it’s a great way to showcase your projects and get in touch with prospects looking for the right design and construction professional.
- Create a professional profile and get found and hired by prospects
- Showcase your work and let it be seen by 16 million monthly users
- Expand your professional network by connecting with other home improvement professionals, including general contractors, interior decorators, and more
How to get started:
Eric Reinholdt, founder of 30×40 Design Workshop, made some pretty nifty videos on how to get the most out of your Houzz profile. We definitely recommend that you check out the four-part tutorial here: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4
Or, read this article on the Business of Architecture blog, where Eric Reinholdt shares a case study of how he gets clients from Houzz.com for his modern residential design practice.
22 – Freedom
BEST FOR | Blocking distractions
WORKS ON | iOS and Android
PRICE | 7 free blocking sessions, then $29/yr
At ArchiSnapper, we’re huge fans of working in the zone. That’s why we’re so fond of the “Freedom” app. This app helps you block out all distractions so that you stay productive for as long as you need or want to. You can set up a blocking list of apps and websites across all your devices. Now you can finally take control of your (screen) time!
- Blocks distraction across your devices (mobile, tablet, desktop)
- Select from a pre-made blocklist or create your own list
- Use the “block the internet” button to block everything except your texts and calls
- Schedule your blocks or create recurring blocks
“Freedom is the most important app on my phone. It has honestly freed up so much time. It works great, and I feel wonderful not being able to compulsively check social media. If you want to stop wasting your life online, get this program on all your devices. You won’t regret it.”
“Once the app figured out that I had upgraded my account, I was able to set up a block. I think there’s room for improvement in UX, but overall this app fulfills my need to keep myself off social. I started with a total ban and got back ten hours of screen time PER WEEK. Could not have done it without this.”
And that’s it, folks. Now it’s your turn. Take advantage of one or more of these apps to help you save time, gain an edge on your peers — and work smarter instead of harder.
Don’t forget to complement your full suite of architecture apps with important day-to-day tools and software like Google Drive or Dropbox for cloud storage, FreshBooks for cloud accounting, and Trello or Proofhub for list management.
Check out this article if you want to know more about typical software (costs) for architects. Or check out this article on the ArchitectureQuote’s blog and discover 140 software tools for architects.
Now get to it.
Don’t just use your phone just to snap funny pics of your cat (as cute and fluffy as your cat might be).
Make your phone a powerful ally for work.
Have any apps you think we should stick in our toolbox? Make sure to let us know in the comments below. 👇
Hey, while you’re here… could I ask you for a little favor? It took me days to write this blog post, but it would take you only seconds to share it.
So could you please tweet, like, or share this post? That would motivate me to write better, and to write more — and it would also help me explain to my wife why I spend Sundays writing blog posts. 😉
- Software (costs) for Solo Architects
- 9 Simple Things Architects, Engineers or Contractors Can Do To Boost Their Revenue
- Inbound Marketing 101: How Architects and Contractors can Gain New Leads While Spending Less Money
We love sharing our knowledge and hope to help you grow your business. Interested in our content? We publish new articles every week, so make sure to stay tuned. Feel free to subscribe to our newsletter, or connect with us on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter.
I liked your article very much about architecture
That’s great to hear, thank you for your comment!
I really loved this article, all the information is at one place, will share this among my colleagues will definitely help them.
thasnks for sharing
Thanks Tim, much appreciated!
Need an app to explore concepts, draw floor plans, elevations and sections. Have been using PowerCadd. The choice is confusing. Was looking at VectorWorks. Any suggestions?
Check out the app “My Measures PRO + AR Measure” as well. Best app I’ve found for taking a photo onsite and adding dimensions on to the photo. There’s a free version too. I use it every day but the PRO ($20/yr) version lets you save as pdf or images, export to Dropbox etc connect to laser measure.
very well written article. I am searching for these types of topics to read for a long time. Thanks sir