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Building A [Dream] House

Recently I wasn’t happy with “my” current house (actually, it’s my parent’s house). Actually not with the house itself, but with what’s inside it and the way I live in it. I began to think “Just wait, one day I’ll have my own house and I’ll have things the way I want them to be…” I know I’m going to wait for a long enough time and even so that wish may never come true, so I decided to get started just now… by dreaming.

So I got copies of several home designer software. Several were just plain bad, old, etc. I want, among other things, these:

  • The program has got to be flexible enough as not to limit my creativity.
  • It must have lots of objects to put in the house. (I want to design a house with all the stuff, furniture etc. even family photos on the wall and desks, not just walls, floors and roofs).
  • The 3D final rendering must be good (e.g. with reflections & shadows). I’m going to use these to print to a photo paper, full color & full resolution, then put them somewhere. So it has got to be good.
  • Super ease of use is not a must, but I just want to be able to use it quickly, and not have to learn AutoCAD.
  • If it runs well under… VMware, then it’s definitely a plus. Though this is not a requirement. In practice most (or all?) of the programs I tested use OpenGL, which doesn’t perform as well in VMware as DirectX programs.

So, after cutting out the “bad” ones, I had these programs left:

Broderbund 3D Home Architect 6

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I’ve just known that this program isn’t sold again by Broderbund. They now sell FloorPlan 3D 11, which I didn’t test. I like the user interface, it’s good and colorful. The choice of objects isn’t very nice, they are text list with preview if you click one item on the list. I like Punch’s way better. And most of the object libraries are “the same item but different size”. For example, you’ll get several cabinets or tables with almost exactly the same model, but in different sizes. If I want to resize stuff I will scale, not use a different model. So far this program is good. 3D view is slow though, most probably because of running in VMware. The final rendering includes reflections, which definitely adds a wow factor.

Punch Home Design Architectural Series 4000

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This program looks “advanced” from the first time I launched it. I think this is the most flexible one when compared to the rest of the pack. I like the library view, they actually display previews of items in the listbox. I can’t get the roof to look fine, I think it needs some manual work. What’s so good about this program is the 3D view works very fast, even under VMware. So I say their claim that their 3D rendering is much faster than others is quite true. I also like the way they seem to pay attention to every detail. Things like electrical connections and plumbing can be done, though I’m sure I won’t use these (I’ll just rely on the contractor for that, and for networking, I think it’s safe to say I’m gonna use purely wireless). I think this program is able to generate the large part of details I had in mind about the shape of the house. Although maybe not the objects inside.

Chief Architect Better Homes & Gardens Interior Designer 7.05

At first impression, this program really has a messy interface. Not professional looking. I’ve also caught not being able to resize the splitter between panes, and at that time the sizes aren’t comfortable (one pane is too small it’s impossible to view anything in there). The way it lists the library objects is nice, it has a “folder preview” not only item preview (but very slow on large folders). Final rendering is good enough and when I resize the window small enough it’s quite fast to render with shadows.


Even so, I do get the impression that all of the above programs are buggy and far from perfect. After you use something like Word 2003 then switch to these, you’ll definitely expect them to be a lot better than in their current form. They have their weaknesses, you can try searching Google or Amazon for customer reviews on these products, and most of them will tell that these products suck.

I’m trying to get a hold on another program, which is supposedly to be the best, most flexible, and more complicated than these, which is Chief Architect 10. I’ve not had it yet, but I hope I will be. The content on the web site looks very promising, and the generated houses are quite advanced. So I’m very looking to this, and I guess I’m willing to learn, as this will be a long-term spare-time project (rather than a short-term full-time project).

As for now, which one I’d recommend? I’d say if you’re just making rough ideas, any of the 3 programs above will do fine. If you want flexibility I’d say go for Punch’s. If you want easy of use I guess 3D Home Architect is good, it also has lots of icons to entertain you. Interior Designer is also usable, although the interface is somewhat weird.

Note that I haven’t thoroughly tested all 3 programs, so I may post another article sometime later after I have more results. Keep watching. (or just keep bugging me to do so)

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