What free software to make a plan?

You have a construction or interior design project ? Use a specialized 3D tool to view it on a computer. Free software and online services will help you realize your most ambitious ideas.

To hell with the graph paper, the reporter and the paper pencil ! If there is one thing that digital development has greatly facilitated, it is the conceptualization of 2D and 3D plans, both for buildings and interior fittings. Today dominated by a few large expensive licenses, the software sector of architecture and modeling can however count on some free, reliable, complete solutions within reach of the least experienced creative minds.

Although all the tools presented in this selection are freely accessible, some platforms like HomeByMe and RoomSketcher offer paid formulas including more functions. However, the free and / or demonstration versions cited here are more than sufficient to meet the needs for planning and conceptualization without professional pretension.

HomeByMe: the turnkey solution for ad hoc projects

HomeByMe is due to Dassault Systèmes, an editor specializing in the development of 3D digital design and modeling tools. It is not strictly speaking software, but a web platform. Great advantage: the possibility of synchronizing its projects online and finding them on any device, fixed or mobile, provided that you are connected to the Internet and have created a user account.

HomeByMe is not intended to meet the requirements of (semi-) professional architects, but rather to deploy a 2D and 3D design solution sufficiently accessible to satisfy an audience uncomfortable with IT. The interface is organized around a space grid to scale, a clearly identifiable menu bar and a module facilitating the switch between 2D / 3D renderings. In case of difficulties related to the handling of the tool, the resources and modes of employment offered by the editor overlap with the workspace, allowing everyone to consult the help center without leaving the current project.

Despite its apparent simplicity, HomeByMe does not skimp on the accuracy and effectiveness of the proposed functions. The library of preconfigured parts and the customizable area accelerates the development of plans composed of spaces of the standard shape. With a slip of the mouse, a wall is erected, the orientation, thickness, height and length of which are changed into two clicks. Comprehensive colormakers promise a wide choice of paintings and coatings for walls and floors. The carpentry, technical equipment and furniture available, generic or brand, offer its final touch to interior design. Once the project is finished, the 3D view, the virtual visit and the realistic images in high definition help to project themselves definitively.

HomeByMe has a free test version to create three projects and three realistic images. An offer that is more than enough for those who simply want to redevelop their accommodation. Beyond that, it will be necessary to opt for one of the paid formulas offered by the service.

Sweet Home 3D: the open source competitor worthy of large licenses

Free followers find their happiness with Sweet Home 3D. This actively developed, multiplatform and relatively light software offers both an installation version and a portable version. Translation: it is possible to store it on an external device and use it on any operating system. A major asset that allows everyone to create their projects on Windows and to edit them on Linux or macOS in the event of a computer change.

Unlike HomeByMe, Sweet Home 3D is equipped with a more difficult interface to grasp. Let the beginner profiles be reassured, however: this apparent complexity quickly leaves room for surprising simplicity of use. However, it is advisable to be curious, autonomous and resourceful to search the various functions offered by the program. As a help with handling, the software embarks on examples of editable plans that can be modified at leisure and thanks to which we identify the construction and development options available (File> New with demo …) .

In detail, Home Sweet 3D revolves around four main modules: a 2D millimeter plan welcoming the tracks of the structural work (walls, ratings, pieces) placement of the frames and layout of the decoration, a 3D view pivoting at 360 ° allowing the final rendering to be correctly evaluated, a furniture library taking charge of dragging and dropping elements on the 2D plane, and an inventory recording all the furniture added to the accommodation, accompanied by their dimensions (width, depth, height).

In practice, all operations managed by the software respond to intuitive mechanisms for those who work regularly on a computer. A right click in the 2D and 3D plan area offers a considerable choice of types of plot, selections, manipulations, project reports, while a double click on one of the elements listed in the inventory of furniture placed refers to a customization window of the selected furniture (position, dimensions, colors, materials, orientation, etc.). Finally, the numerous keyboard shortcuts speed up the management of the most ambitious projects.

If he is perfect in terms of publishing, Home Sweet 3D meets a few problems concerning the final projection phase. Navigation in virtual visit mode is laborious, while the creation of photos offers a random, unrealistic and not very exploitable rendering of the selected parts.

SketchUp: the tailor-made for the most ambitious projects

Launched by @Last Software in 2000, sold to Google in 2006 and bought by Trimble in 2012, SketchUp is now one of the essentials in the world of 2D and 3D architecture. Often presented as a tool dedicated to interior design and design professionals, the platform also offers a simplified version of its technology, accessible to individuals in search of flexibility and tailor-made.

Unlike the other services presented here, the SketchUp environment can intimidate big beginners. And for good reason, its refined interface, halfway between the modeling software and the drawing software, requires an adaptation time necessary for its understanding. Here, no partition models: widths, heights and thicknesses must be traced by hand using the three red, green and blue axes which serve as benchmarks in space. We should therefore not hesitate to click on all the options available, or even to start the welcome visit offered during the first use. In the event of persistent difficulties, the help button offers valuable access to very rich documentation (official and forums).

Once the principle is understood, SketchUp does not lie its reputation. Extremely flexible, the platform hosts the most ambitious projects. In addition to the floor areas, walls, roofs and any other element of the structural work, the tool offers the possibility of drawing yourself frames and furniture. A system of layers (Outliner) makes it possible to dissociate elements such as floors, rooms or roof, facilitating the selection and editing of specific groups. Finally, grass architects with limited design capabilities can rely on the 3D Warehouse, an exhaustive library of free 3D models gathering examples of constructions and objects developed by the SketchUp community, but also furniture, decoration and household appliances modeled from articles marketed by major brands.

In free version, SketchUp is only available as a web service and for 3D plans. Its good management of the browser cache allows it to automatically save current projects. To find its creations on any other device, it is necessary to create a user account and manually save its models within the limit of the 10 GB of storage offered in the cloud.

pCon.planner: the perfect balance between simplicity and exhaustiveness

Easier to take in hand than Sketchup, but just as complete, pCon.planner stands out for its familiar and very functional interface. In detail, a headband reminiscent of the organization of the Office suite software overcomes an intelligently arranged workspace. There is not a single drawing area, but four, all offering a different point of view. A bias allowing a better representation of perspectives and greatly simplifying the management of 2D and 3D routes

This effort of clarity desired by pCon.planner also appears behind the very many tools and models that it integrates. Here, there is no question of tracing the volumes yourself or assigning them an a posteriori function. The element options make it possible to sketch predefined components (walls, roofs, floors, ceilings, frames, stairs, stairs, etc.). A click on these elements unrolls the list of its properties in a dedicated block from which we adjust its dimensions. It is also possible to select a specific layer in order to group components by types, parts, floors, as well as to encrust a link to it referring to any site for the purchase of materials and furniture.

Like SketchUp, pCon.planner is based on a community of invested graphic designers and designers whose creations are free to use are recorded on 3D Warehouse. In addition to these new collections, the software embeds various material boards as well as a catalog of objects marketed by hundreds of brands and manufacturers. The opportunity to approve your plans with existing products that can then be acquired in a few clicks.

We finally appreciate at pCon.plan the recurring backup suggestions, the possibility of creating vector images from his plans, the integrated sharing options and the augmented reality rendering module thanks to which you export your files on AR compatible smartphone in order to visualize your projects in a real environment. All for free, without hidden integrated purchases.

RoomSketcher: simplicity taken to the extreme

Of all the software and services presented here, RoomSketcher is certainly positioned as the most intuitive design and layout solution. Its interface is logically articulated around a workspace, a fast access bar to important functions, a complete options menu and a block of tools grouped by types (large works, frames , materials, furniture).

If it is so easy to take in hand, it is because RoomSketcher focuses on the essentials, from the creation of new projects to the final furnishings. It is thus possible to start a fully personalized plan or to select preformed enclosures. By the same token, we can completely add new blank floors or entirely modeled on the ground floor model. Automatic magnetism helps both to create right angles between two walls and to correctly position windows, doors and furniture. Adjust the measurements is made with a slip of the mouse, while the dimensions, to the nearest millimeter, are displayed on either side of the traced partitions and hoists laid. In summary, everything is done to simplify each action as much as possible and allow plans to be drawn in just a few minutes.

Like its competitors, RoomSketcher embarks a well-stocked library of materials and objects. A click on any surface develops the panel of advanced properties from which one chooses a coating among the hundreds of paintings, wallpapers, paneling, concretes, parquet floors or even tiles available. Same observation for the furniture and decoration elements whose orientation and proportions are modified directly on plan or from the part of the customization options.

Finally, it should be noted that it is necessary to create a user account to locally save its plans. RoomSketcher is also only available in English. However, the clarity of the software should allow everyone to get out of it without too much difficulty.

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