Best Apps for Architects in 2021
Architects lose too much time. They get stuck in traffic, write out tedious field reports in Word, print out drawings before every site visit, use paper notes to track time and expenses, transfer photos from smartphone to PC, and so on.
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.
But first, just think about it for a moment. 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.
If we see someone throwing away money, we call that person crazy. Wasting money is nuts. And yet we throw away something far more valuable every day: time.
“A man who dares to waste an hour of time has not discovered the value of his life.” — Charles Darwin
Back to architects, and how they can save time on day-to-day operations.
That phone in your pocket? It’s a whole freakin’ architecture toolkit! Architects are on the road very often for client meetings and site visits. That’s where mobile technology and apps can help: they can take the pain out of field visits, allow us to view 3D models on-site, share work with clients, avoid traffic jams, make professional sketches, track time and expenses, and more … all while on the road.
Harness the power of today’s technology by embracing the apps most useful to architects.
Fortunately, we’ve done the heavy lifting for you. We tested lots of apps for architects, analyzed the reviews, and asked our architect community which apps they like best.
Here’s our updated list, with the 17 Best Architecture Apps in 2021:
- Best Apps for CAD Drawings & 3D Models: AutoCAD Mobile app | BIMx | Shapr3D | ARki
- Best Apps for Site inspections: ArchiSnapper |CamToPlan | RoomScan LiDAR l Polycam
- Best Apps for Sketching: Morpholio Trace Pro | Procreate | Concepts | Autodesk FormIt
- Best Toolbox Apps: Sun Locator | Construction Master Pro App | Classic Toolbox apps
- Best Apps for When You’re On the Go: Expensify | Waze
The AutoCAD mobile app is a drawing and drafting app that lets you edit, create and view AutoCAD drawings on your smartphone or tablet. It’s a fitting extension to your AutoCAD desktop that helps you collaborate on designs across multiple platforms in real-time. When you use AutoCAD Mobile, you can forget about printing and bringing drawings to the site. Instead, use the app to take measurements and annotate in the field or on the go. A poll in our architect community reveals that this is the #1 app for many architects. Wouldn’t recommend this one for heavy lifting CAD work, though, as that’s better done via your workstation.
- View and edit DWG files from device storage, email, or external cloud storage like Google Drive, Dropbox, and OneDrive.
- Create new CAD drawings on the fly.
- CAD editor: modify and mark up AutoCAD drawings.
- Import values from Leica DISTO.
- Draw and edit shapes using object snap and keypad input.
- Advanced technical drawing and editing tools such as arc, offset, and more.
- Select, move, rotate, and scale objects. View coordinates and properties.
- Work offline and sync your changes once back online.
- Manage layers: create new layers, lock, rename or delete layers.
- Blocks: move and duplicate existing blocks.
“For a house project, I’ll go about measuring up all the relevant rooms using the laser measurer,” structural engineer Chris Caple says. “Then on my iPad, I can draw the building quite quickly, simply, and, most importantly, accurately with the AutoCAD mobile app. I can build up a 2D plan of the house, edit it, and change the placement of the walls or show which ones will be removed or where steel beams will go for support. That’s especially helpful for the client so they can request changes immediately and visualize what the end result will be.” – Structural Surveys Ltd.
If you use Archicad, then consider BIMx from Graphisoft. This app allows architects to access, present, or share detailed 2D and 3D models with clients and contractors, as well as make measurement adjustments on-site. BIMx is one of the best on-site presentation tools on the market. It helps bridge the gap between the design studio and the construction site, meaning no more paper on the building site or at client meetings. All the relevant model data is at your fingertips for easy access and sharing.
- Simple, game-like navigation makes BIMx a great on-site collaboration and presentation tool.
- Full access to any BIM content, like 3D models, construction drawings, schedules, elements, or space information.
- All-round 3D cutaways with animated transactions.
- Hyper-model technology for integrated 2D and 3D building project navigation.
- All the relevant model data is at your fingertips for easy access and sharing.
- Make on-site design decisions and update your building model on the go. Your scribbles are safe and secure and attached to the BIM model.
- Seamless compatibility with Google Cardboard VR, allowing for a rich, immersive experience of building design on iOS and Android smartphones.
“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.”
Using Rhino? iRhino 3D (available on iOS only) is a similar app that lets you view Rhino 3DM models on an iPhone or iPad.
Also, SketchUp has its SketchUp Mobile Viewer (available on iOS and Android). It works in much the same way as iRhino 3D and ViewER (here below). You can access and view your SKP files no matter where you are. This app, too, doesn’t allow editing at this time. The biggest drawback is the lack of a commenting feature.
Not using Archicad, Autodesk, Rhino, or SketchUp? There’s also ViewER (available on Android) that lets you view models on your mobile device no matter where you are. ViewER can display many file types, including openNURBS (3DM), Wavefront (OBJ), 3D Systems (STL), Stanford Triangle Format (PLY), and Autodesk (3DS, DXF, DWF) formats. Again, you can’t edit the models in the app. Useful though, for viewing and showing your models to clients when you’re on-site.
BEST FOR | 3D sketching and modeling with Apple Pencil
WORKS ON | iOS (iPad Pro)
PRICE | Free (for a limited version), $29/mo (Standard), or $59/mo (Business)
Shapr3D is a 3D CAD app for iPads, combining finger-based interactions with the more precise input offered by the Apple Pencil. This app lets architects sketch 2D concepts with the Apple Pencil with mathematical precision. Once concepts are complete, the app’s intuitive toolset makes it easy to transform those concepts into 3D shapes. Because it allows users to switch easily between 2D and 3D design, Shapr3D is useful during early conceptual phases. Although probably the only truly mobile CAD app on the market, you should consider this as a conceptualization and 3D thinking tool, rather than a full-featured 3D design system. The software is compatible with all major desktop CAD software though, for further processing. Here you can find a video tutorial on architectural sketches with Shapr3D.
- 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.
- CAD-compatibility with hi-res X_T, STEP, STL, OBJ, 2D DXF, 2D DWG, USDZ export support.
- View and animate your models in real-life environments via AR.
- Offline functionality and local storage.
- Shapr3D runs on Siemens™ Parasolid™, the same geometric modeling kernel as Solidworks, guaranteeing industry-leading power.
2020 Apple Design Award winner. “This pro-level iPad app offers unparalleled performance, compatibility with all major CAD file formats, and instant export for 3D printing. It also makes the design experience incredibly tactile, especially with Apple Pencil.” – Apple Design Team
BEST FOR | Visualization of 3D projects in Augmented Reality
WORKS ON | iOS
PRICE | Free (1 plan), $23/mo – $255/yr (PRO)
Arki enables you to visualize and experience your 3D projects in Augmented Reality. You can use this award-winning app for interactive presentations. 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.
- Import 3D Models in .FBX file format from software, including 3ds max, Maya, Blender, SketchUp, MicroStation, ArchiCAD, cinema 4d, 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.
- Create real-time lighting.
“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…”
BEST FOR | Field reports, inspection reports, and punch lists
WORKS ON | Web, iOS, and Android
PRICE | Free trial, and $25/month afterward
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 document items with text, photos, assignees, and annotations on floor plans. Use voice dictation to save even more time. 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 your photos or drawings.
- View all your drawings from any device: web, iOS, Android. Easily pinpoint observations on your plans, and give clarity to everyone involved.
- Generate professional, clean, and branded PDF reports in seconds and send them out to the project team.
- Start from the previous report to create a new one.
- Use voice-to-text to save even more time.
- Make and manage your Gantt plan with tasks, dependencies, and progress.
“Great Program – HUGE timesaver. Working with ArchiSnapper has been a great success for our construction administration side of the business. We are able to share site conditions and project status easily with everyone that is involved. It was extremely easy to set up and very user-friendly. I would definitely recommend this to other companies where site visit reports are being made.”
“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.”
CAD software is great for detailed floor plans. But what if you just want to be able to draft a rough plan in a jiffy?
Guess what, there are apps for that :)
Measuring with CamToPlan is easier than with a laser meter or any other measuring tool. You draw your measurement lines in 3D directly on the video of your phone or tablet. With its augmented reality technology, CamToPlan lets you create measurements of areas and floor plans within seconds. Export your plans in PNG or DXF. This app works nicely for quick estimations of the surface and visualization of the room floor, furniture, baseboards, or walls.
- Create floor plans with your mobile device’s camera.
- The app measures distance horizontally (on the ground) and vertically.
- No need to remove the furniture from the room for measurements. The application determines the intersection between the floor and the target, even if it is hidden.
- Measure wall dimensions, floors, doors, and windows, an entire house within a few seconds.
- Export your data in PNG or DXF.
- CamToPlan relies on ARCore by Google (Android) and ARKit by Apple (iOS).
“This is the most incredible app yet designed for estimating and doing as-built drawings. I use the app to measure an extremely odd-shaped room that would have taken an hour to measure and draw. It took less than three minutes – what a tremendous time saver. This app should be on everybody’s iPhone who does estimates from millwork flooring real estate etc. Architects are going to love this app.”
LiDAR, the next thing.
Today, with this new LiDAR technology, the latest generation iPhones and iPads have the ability to quickly scan a reasonably accurate 3D model of a place.
LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging technology) is used to determine distance by measuring how long it takes light to reach an object and reflect back. It’s like radar, except instead of radio waves, it uses infrared light. This data can then be used to construct 3D models.
The primary purpose of LiDAR in the iPhone is to improve augmented reality (AR) implementation. It will give apps more useful and accurate information about their surroundings, for smoother, more reliable AR.
The iPhone 12 Pro, Pro Max, and 2020 iPad Pro come equipped with a LiDAR scanner, and Apple’s plan likely involves putting LiDAR sensors in more devices over time.
Good news for architects, because this technology has the potential to spare you the misery of having to do multiple site visits to get all the measurements you need for a site plan.
Below are two apps that use LiDAR technology to generate 3D models in no time: RoomScan LiDAR, and Polycam.
BEST FOR | Creating professional floor plans with your mobile device’s camera
WORKS ON | iOS (iPhone 12 Pro and new iPad Pro)
PRICE | Free with in-app purchase of $3.99/month
Locometric’s ten years of experience of using iPhone & iPad sensors to automatically create floor plans with RoomScan Pro was all distilled into version 1.0 of RoomScan LiDAR. The RoomScan LiDAR app is as easy to use as tapping each wall and swiping for doors and openings. LiDAR does the rest, enabling you to create an accurate 3D model in minutes.
- Quick, accurate floor plans in any building, furnished or unfurnished. RoomScan LiDAR even scans curved walls.
- Annotate your plans with Apple Pencil and you have plans, annotations, measurements, dictated notes, and photos all in one place.
- Export options include PNG, PDF, DXF (for CAD), DAE (for SketchUp), PLY, XYZ, Metropix, and many more.
“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 RoomScan 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.”
BEST FOR | 3D scanning
WORKS ON | iOS (iPhone 12 Pro, iPhone 12 Pro Max, or 2020 iPad Pro)
PRICE | Free with in-app purchase at $7.99/month or $39.99/year.
Another LiDAR-based app that you should definitely give a try is Polycam, a 3D scanning app released in 2020. Just like RoomScan, Polycam uses the LiDAR sensor to enable you to quickly create color 3D scans of spaces. All you need to do is scan the space with your iPad or iPhone. The app generates an accurate 3D scan in seconds of time. You can export your 3D scan in many different formats, and import it into your CAD program.
This app is a potential game-changer for architects. As-built modeling serves a variety of purposes such as planning and renovation. The ability to model directly from scan data helps ensure accuracy, precision, and conserve detail of existing real-world conditions or structures. The generated 3D models can be used to generate a variety of outputs such as 2D Drawings, floor plans, elevation drawings and so much more.
Watch the VIDEO on how to scan a space with your iPhone or iPad.
- Use the LiDAR sensor on new Apple devices to enable you to quickly create color 3D scans of objects and spaces.
- Single room captures take only seconds to process, and all computation happens securely on your device, no internet connection is required.
- There is no limit to the number of scans you can make or process, which is useful if you want a 3D model of a house or building with multiple spaces.
- Polycam 3D captures are also dimensionally accurate, enabling you to easily measure the distance between any two points.
- Export mesh data as .obj, .glb, .usdz, .dae and .stl or direct upload to Sketchfab. Export color point cloud data as .dxf, .ply, .las, .xyz and .pts. Export floorplan data as .dae
“Made my life as an architect/civil engineer/interior designer a way better than expected. Auto-generate pdf with high-quality graphics.”
“If you have dreaded measuring as builts, this is your solution. Reliable fast and all the exports you need.”
Here is a video that shows how an architect first scans a building using Polycam, and then exports the generated 3D scan to Morpholio trace to start sketching on the 3D scan.
BEST FOR | Unique drawing tool that allows you to easily develop ideas in layers, communicate via drawing markup, and work fluidly through all phases of the design process.
WORKS ON | iOS
PRICE | Free, with in-app purchases up to $7,99/month or $19,99/year.
Created by architects, for architects, Morpholio Trace is the perfect sketching app. 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. Compared with other sketching apps, a big advantage of Trace is that it has scale tools, so you can use any two points to set a scale in imperial or metric units. According to its makers, Trace combines the beauty and speed of sketching with the intelligence and precision of CAD. This app pushes the boundaries of AR technology, providing you a truly cutting-edge sketching experience.
- Create designs with pens, brushes, scale tools, stencils, and moveable layers.
- Drag in a 3D model and auto-set perspective grids.
- Mark up drawing 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.
- Reality Sketch Walk: jump into and walk around your drawings with others.
- Instant scale: use any two points to set a scale in imperial or metric units.
- Optimized to get the most from your Apple Pencil.
During the last year, Trace released three new tools that have further improved the digital sketching experience for architects:
- Smart hatch: this tool calculates the areas for users and lets users hatch intelligent details, plans, and sections effortlessly. Check this video.
- Roller brush: you can color entire regions, add shading, and more with a single brush. Check this video.
- Super ruler: draw effortless straight lines anywhere in your project. Check this video.
“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.”
“I’ve gone through several sketching apps for architecture and this is by far the best for three reasons. 1) Very easy to use. 2) Custom stencils are amazing. 3) Best export by a mile. 4) MultiPagePDF markup is heaven. Layers and other tools are great as well.”
BEST FOR | Generating high-caliber artwork at a blistering pace using a robust layering system, stunning filters, and thousands of importable brushes.
WORKS ON | iOS – iPad Pro with Apple Pencil
PRICE | $9.99 (one-time fee)
With Procreate, you get everything you need to create impressive sketches, illustrations, and animations. The hundreds of handmade brushes allow you to draw in an impressively realistic and accurate way. One feature many architects like about Procreate is working with layers: once you have the beginning of an idea you want to grow, just create a new layer of white, turn down the opacity, add a new drawing layer on top of that, and begin sketching again…
Procreate’s powerful and intuitive interface always puts your art in focus. It actually feels like you’re drawing with a real pencil. The 20k+ ratings speak for themselves. No question that this app is loved by thousands if not millions of creatives.
- Intuitive interface made for iPad and Apple Pencil.
- Quick shape feature for perfect shapes.
- Select-and-fill technique to add color to an area defined by the selection tool.
- Layer your art for precise control over details and composition.
- Hundreds of beautifully crafted brushes, with over 100 customizable settings for every brush.
- Responsive smudge tool to perfectly blend color with any brush in your library.
- The fastest 64-bit, Valkyrie-powered painting engine for iPads.
- Groundbreaking canvas resolution, up to 16k by 4k on iPad Pros.
- Continuous auto-save; never lose work again.
“Best app for architects and designers. I tried every design and drawing app that shows up on the App Store. This one is the most complete and the easiest to use. There is no getting lost in the interface and drawing in this app has become an extension of my hand. It is the most intuitive drawing software I have ever used. Sure, there are features in other apps that I’d like to see such as drawing to scale, calculating area, wet watercolor brushes that bleed, importing 3D model views, and saving views that would get this a 6-star rating, but the beautiful brushes, the ability to create brush blocks for repeated objects, the drawing guides that don’t require you to actually move the guide around speed up the process enough that the missing features don’t make drawing clumsy.”
Concepts is a vector-based sketching app used by architects worldwide to design homes, communities, and urban landscapes. It is a flexible, accurate, and extremely responsive app, enabling faster, more natural design for creative people. Concepts has been around for many years and has won Best of, Creative and Design awards with Apple, Google, and Samsung for its infinite drawing experience and customizable UI. In this article, Architect Craig Burns shares his paperless design workflow on iPad, using Morpholio and Concepts for drawing and sketching.
- An infinite canvas lets you explore ideas without boundaries.
- Draw with realistic pens, markers, brushes, and CAD-like tools in designer Copic colors.
- Sketch and edit plans quickly with vectors: move, copy, scale, and edit color, weight, and more.
- Use unlimited imports and layers for tracing.
- Design with real-world scale, measurement, and grids.
- Import, mark up, and export crystal clear, scalable PDFs.
- Export flexibly to apps like AutoCAD, Adobe, and other design software.
“The Concepts app has not changed what I do, just transformed how I do it. It offers me the power, flexibility, and adaptability of technology with all the sensitivity and immediacy of traditional hand drawing. In short, it is an app that I now cannot imagine being without, and the only time I’ve experienced something that betters pen and paper.”
“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.”
BEST FOR | AEC 3D sketching and environment analysis for conceptual and computational design workflows
WORKS ON | Web, iOS, Windows
PRICE | Free or Paid (FormIt PRO). Note: FormIt Pro is available only as part of the Autodesk AEC Collection, which also includes Revit, Autocad, and more.
FormIt aims to bridge the gap between pencils and pixels, giving architects the ability to sketch out their ideas in three dimensions right at the beginning of the process. You can use the app to create models on your phone or tablet, and use real-world site information (e.g. satellite images of your site), solar analysis, and energy analysis during the early design stage of a project. By doing so, you can make informed decisions earlier in the design process.
While SketchUp has been dominating this space, Autodesk FormIt is a worthy contender, offering intuitive 3D sketching. Conceptual design should drive BIM, and FormIt helps you do just that. First, you model the conceptual design (by defining location, levels, layers, massing, scenes, and materials). Once that’s done, you continue the detailed design and documentation process inside Revit. A crucial element here is the two-way connection between FormIt and Revit, via the FormIt Converter add-in for Revit.
- Create models on your tablet with 3D sketching tools.
- FormIt Pro has a Dynamo integration that enables customized parametric content to be placed and manipulated in FormIt, allowing you to review numerous design options quickly before making informed decisions.
- Explore the effects of the sun using the location-aware shadow study tool.
- Use real-world site information to help create forms in context and support early design decisions with real building data.
- Use energy analysis to optimize building and glazing performance.
- Real-time collaboration: design with your team in the same model, in real-time.
“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. Highly recommended.”
“Beautifully executed in layout, 3D design, and iPad user interface. Simple, clean, very well thought out. One of the highest level and enjoyable apps that I’ve seen for the iPad.”
In this video by arditarts, you can see five sketching apps at work: Sketchbook, Adobe Sketch, Adobe Draw, Morpholio Trace, and Procreate.
And here Marc Sawyer from Whitewash Studio demonstrates his favorite iPad Pro sketching apps, including Procreate, Adobe Sketch, Concepts App, and Morpholio Trace:
This app isn’t intended solely for architects, but it makes for a superb companion nonetheless. Think about analyzing whether a neighboring building obstructs the sun and causes shade, how much sunshine will a house get, and if the sun will shine through a window. Sun Locator can help with this, 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.
- The Lite version 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)
Sun Locator Pro has a rating of 4.8, which is the highest-rated sun position app on the Play Store.
“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 sun’s exact position 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.”
Best iOS alternative: Sun Seeker ($9.99)
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, like calculating areas or volumes, laying out stairs, figuring out how much drywall to use, and calculating right-angle solutions.
- 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.
“I’ve had this calculator at my architecture office for many years. I use it every single day. It’s the only one I could find that can do trig functions with feet/inch measurements. It’s an essential tool for anyone in the architecture/design/
“I’ve held out on buying a construction calculator for the longest time. Finally thought I better buy one for some more complicated calculations for a sloped site project having to go between civil elevations in feet and my own architectural drawings in feet and inches. It’s been so much easier using this little guy as opposed to my iPhone calculator or even trying some of the apps.”
Compass: the compass app comes pre-installed on every new iPhone, and it’s helpful for orientation. If you’re an Android user, get Compass.
Level: 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 below); if you’re an Android user, try Bubble level.
Measure: 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.
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.
My Measures: take a photo of an object and add dimensions: arrows, angles, photos of details, and equip them with text comments for easier understanding. Perfect for recording and sharing measurements made during site visits. Available on iOS and Android.
Planimeter: This GPS tool (iOS, $7.99) uses a satellite map to make quick site measurements, including perimeters, distances, and angles, in imperial or metric units. The app is easy to use; just drop pins around the area you want to measure on the map. For Android, try Planimeter.
If you’re interested in more free apps for construction, check out this article.
Expensify is a real productivity booster for architects who are often on the road, making expenses for lunch, expenses for travel, expenses for fuel, and more. Keeping track of everything can be a pain. Expensify automates every step, from receipt scanning to reimbursement. 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.
- Mileage tracking.
- Automatic expense reporting and submitting for approval.
- Expense management: Expensify codes and submits business expenses for easy approval, and next-day reimbursement.
- Accounting integrations: QuickBooks, Xero, NetSuite, Sage Intacct, and more.
- Travel booking: concierge books your flights, hotels, and cars for you in one simple chat. It’s a 24/7 corporate travel assistant that learns your preferences on the go.
“Staff now self-serve their own expense management tasks rather than relying on the finance staff to do everything for them.”
“I travel quite a bit for my company and would collect receipts in my wallet and scan each one for my expense report. It is a hassle. But then I discovered Expensify. It totally simplified the entire process. I take a picture of my receipt using the App and Expensify does everything else.”
In the press:
“The Best Business Travel App” – Business Insider
“Expensify is like a virtual accountant” – Wall Street Journal
“A mobile app that helps you run your business” – Forbes
Waze is a free navigation app that saves you from wasting time in traffic. It uses live user feedback to find better routes. If traffic is bad on your route, Waze will change it to save you time. Waze (or Google Maps, which is very similar) is a must-have for every person often on the road.
Everyone knows Waze and Google Maps, yet very few people make it a habit to actually start using them. Don’t forget, time is your most valuable asset, and being stuck in a traffic jam is a pure waste of time.
- 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.
4 More Tips to Get the Most Out of Your Smartphone or Tablet
Here, I’m sharing 4 more tips to get the most out of your smartphone or tablet, while you’re out on the road, meeting with clients, or doing site inspections.
1. Voice Dictation
You speak, your smartphone or tablet writes. That easy. Works great on both iOS and Android.
It feels a little strange at first, but you can save a LOT of time with it if you get the hang of it.
How? When you open your keyboard, you’ll see a little microphone icon somewhere. Tap that button, and then start speaking.
To add a period, just say “period.” To skip a line, say “new line.” Here you can learn more voice dictation commands for iOS.
Think about punch lists and site observations where you could dictate item names or descriptions, instead of writing them down. Or think about writing down text while you’re somewhere on the road. It’s all much more pleasant and efficient using voice dictation.
2. Siri and Google Assistant
I guess you know Siri or Google Assistant, the virtual assistant that comes with your iOS or Android device. For architects, often on the road, using Siri or Google Assistant can turn your mobile device into an even more powerful instrument.
Just to give you some inspiration, here are some examples of how architects on the road could use Siri or Google Assistant;
- Location or time-based reminders: “Remind me to call John when I get home.”
- Quick calculations on-site: “What is 545 divided by 3.5?”
- Launch apps: “Launch ArchiSnapper!”, or “Open Waze,” and start navigating.
- Check the weather report: “What is the weather like today?”
- Find the closest gas station/type of restaurant/mall/etc.: “Show me the nearest [kind of location].”
- Check the traffic conditions: “What are the traffic conditions near [name location]?”
- Check voicemail: “Check my voicemail.”
- Read your emails: “Read my new email.”
- Send emails: “Send an email to [name].”
- Make phone calls: “Call [name or number].”
- Set alarm: “Set an alarm for [time].”
- Schedule meetings: “Schedule a meeting with [name] at [day and time].”
- Listen to podcasts: “Continue podcast.”
- And so, so much more …
You can ask Google Assistant or Siri to do these things from your car or on the construction site, all without typing a single word or even touching your device.
3. Apple Pencil
The Apple Pencil really is a world apart. It draws, writes, and highlights exceptionally well and has a high level of precision. The Pencil 2, in particular, with its magnetic attachment and wireless charging, is practically a miracle. Response time is super-fast, and when drawing on the laminated display of the iPad Air and iPad Pro, it’s almost like drawing directly onto paper.
One of the reasons architects invest in an iPad is the option to use these great sketching apps – like Morpholio, Concepts, or Procreate – in combination with the Apple Pencil. The iPad Pro with Apple Pencil in combination with any of these apps gives a great experience to using a tablet and bridges the gap between analog and digital.
You can also use a stylus in combination with note-taking or writing apps and write just like you would with a pen. Note-taking apps to consider for iOS users, include GoodNotes, Nebo, and Notability. Android users could consider Nebo, OneNote, or Evernote. BTW, some of these note-taking apps have decent write-to-text conversion.
4. Google Drive, Dropbox, Box, OneDrive
Google Drive, Dropbox, Box, and the like are pretty mainstream, right?
Yet I still see quite some architects print out their floor plans and drawings before site visits, or find them struggling to get access to the latest plans on-site.
Or they take hundreds of photos every week and store them on the camera roll without any automated sync to a cloud account.
So although everybody knows these tools, I feel obliged to mention them here.
If you’re in the construction industry, you’re often on the road, heading from site inspections to client meetings, and sometimes it’s difficult to carry a heavy laptop. With tools like Google Drive and Dropbox you have all your files, drawings, plans, and contracts with you wherever you go, on your desktop, phone, or tablet.
Google Drive is one of the best apps out there for storing and managing documents, and at the same time very affordable.
And that’s it for today. 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.
Now get to it. Don’t just use your phone just to snap funny pics of your cat. 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.
That would motivate me to write better and write more — and it would also help me explain to my wife why I spend Sundays writing blog posts. 😉
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