What programs do you use at work?


Hi everyone,

Pretty much, what the title says. Comments would be really appreciated!

After enjoying a lengthy discussion triggered by everydayinterns "Want the be an Architect? Don't learn Revit" blog post, it made me wonder what programs/software do you guys (working architects) really use at work? I probably sound extremely clueless and I am prepared/bracing myself to look silly once this post goes live - I am a student completing a Masters in Architecture, and it's rare for students (at least, at my Uni) not to have a high proficiency in Revit and to use it for most project work. Judging by the comments in everydayinterns post however, it seems that not all working architects/firms are using it (for various reasons).

I thought Revit (combined with AutoCAD) was the prominent tool in most firms... I am obvioulsy missing something here. So .. what are you using?

Feb 16, 13 1:22 am


Feb 16, 13 1:26 am

seriously, though - revit, autocad, sketchup, 3dsmax, rhino, adobe, office, etc... etc...

Feb 16, 13 1:33 am

Sketchup / Rhino, Vectorworks, Autocad Architecture, and soon, Revit. Really, it doesn't matter. You won't want to work for any place that cares about this stuff beyond seeing them each as tools. Whether a flashing detail works or not (or is beautiful or not) has absolutely nothing to do with which software it's drawn in.

also, I didn't learn any software in school (graduated in 2011) so don't stress unless you want to be the IT guy. There's more to architecture than the software involved. I see a lot of frustrated unemployed / underemployed folks bitching that they can't get a job because they think they're owed one due to knowing Revit or whatever. Once a certain baseline comfort with software is achieved, nobody worth working for is going to give a shit what specific programs you know.

Feb 16, 13 3:32 am






Feb 16, 13 9:11 am

Ebony, Vellum

Feb 16, 13 9:14 am

In my office they don't care what software you use, as long as you feel comfortable using it. We have people using archiCAD, autoCAD, SketchUp, and Rhino. They haven't even heard of Revit here. And they don't use archiCAD for its BIM capabilities - they use it for 2D drafting (... !!)

Feb 16, 13 9:16 am

I am using stylus on stone tablet

Feb 16, 13 2:42 pm

I work at a large firm. Revit, AutoCAD, Rhino + GH, Sketchup, a little bit of 3DS (we have a render guy so he is mainly on that), adobe suite. You can gauge how far you are up the totem pole by how much time you spend working in Word, Excel, & the various Project Management softwares ;)

Feb 16, 13 5:31 pm

Thanks for your comments so far guys, bit of an eye opener, really appreciate it!

Feb 17, 13 8:57 am

AutoCAD, Office, Adobe Suite, Sketchup, pen and paper. And sometime soon Revit, but they've been saying that for a while now.

Feb 18, 13 11:59 pm

Microsoft Outlook

Shortel (if anyone else has this, is it not the most awesome thing in the world?)


A-CAD (although highly discouraged)




Adobe CS6

BlueBeam PDF

some Microstation (depending the project)

Feb 19, 13 11:43 am

Revit2013, Rhinoceros, Sketchup, Autocad Adobe CS6

Feb 19, 13 12:15 pm
Autocad, Excel, Illustrator, Photoshop, InDesign, SketchUp, Olfa knife
Feb 19, 13 12:23 pm

my brain... 

Feb 19, 13 2:36 pm



Adobe CS


Microsoft Office


3ds Max


Dabbling in DP/Catia

Feb 19, 13 3:39 pm

stone tablet


etch a sketch (for rendering only)

bar napkins





Feb 28, 13 5:06 pm

in the words of structural maestro Christopher Walker, "it doesn't matter which software, complex or simple process we use nor do we care if we have to use complex customized scripting or a thousand manual clicks the mouse button to get there.  The end result and delivering the project is what matters. 

Feb 28, 13 6:22 pm

I thought that said Christoper Walken. I read it in his voice. It holds up.

Feb 28, 13 6:52 pm

for drawing : chief architect x5 and autocad 2012

Mar 1, 13 10:11 am

Anyone test driving AutoCad Revit Suite LT 2013?

Want to know  how buggy can it be?

Not interested in Wandering around the Autocad Discussion Groups site.

Mar 1, 13 4:10 pm

A lot of Japanese firms use Vectorworks

Mar 1, 13 5:06 pm

btw Revit sucks big time for massing modeling and form finding, experimenting.. uggghhhhh!!  its only quick and good for documenting plans and documents.

ugh.. back to modeling with rhino and exporting into Revit.

anyone else agrees with me?

Mar 2, 13 1:18 pm

Help. I am trying to help my son. He is addicted to this minecraft game and extremely advanced. He has extremely high interest in moving beyond the gaming environment into real programs to create and build. Any idea what would be a good next step for a young kid? Is cad difficult to learn? Would that be good? Thanks for all your feedback. 

Jun 14, 13 2:51 pm
Aka115 can use mass in place mode in Revit which works pretty much like Sketch up. But not compatible to Rhino or Maya.

Jun 14, 13 4:04 pm

imhop, i think the more tools you know the better off you are. my first approach to architecture is to add value; we can do that by having an extensive palette. i see software in the same light.

Jun 15, 13 8:30 am

meboy, minecraft does not have an upper limit.  he can just keep making more complicated stuff.  unless he's 30 and really needs to get his shit together and find a job,  CAD or sketchup or revit or sim city or rollercoaster tycoon aren't really going to provide a better environment.

or try call of duty.  teach him useful skills, like how to be a soldier (with an x-box controller).  he could also try modding skyrim or fallout or whatever they're doing with the most recent id engine that's available to the public, or whatever they're doing with the crysis engine (probably crysis) or the unreal engine.  i think half-life is moddable.

another option is to get him a hammer and go build something in your back yard.  or get him a socket set and an old car.  do people still fix old cars?  that might not even be a thing anymore.

Jun 15, 13 10:43 am

Real mechanics are a dying breed, like shoemakers and watch makers. Nothing gets fixed, it all gets replaced.

We're just accelerating movement in the wrong direction. Human skills are obsolete and *everything* is disposable.

That being said, if you want to be a machine operator, learn computer programs. If you want to be an architect, learn construction.

Jun 15, 13 11:38 am
Noah Walker

We use Revit.  I think its a great tool for construction because we end up building the whole house digitally first.  Its great for the coordination of trades and finding conflicts in places that sometimes you can't see when you only work in 2D.  I also don't mind Revit for design because its fast and easy to set up views and make changes on the fly.  You have to understand the formal limitations and strengths of the tools you choose to use and try to understand how they are leaving an imprint on your designs.  We only use Autocad to open consultant drawings.

Jun 15, 13 2:22 pm

not sure that is entirely true yet miles.  my cousins make their living repairing seriously complicated machinery for good money.  some of that is indeed about replacing parts but don't think that is indicative of bad thing, just need for more knowledge because of complexity. they are more like engineers than mechanics come to think on it, although they didn't start that way...

somehow it doesn't seem to be the same with architecture.  we have more complicated software and some offices like gehry do more complicated things with construction so the design and drafting are also complicated. For most of us though that is not the case.


we use autocad, sometimes vectorworks.  i like rhino for rendering and most of us can use that.  actually we recently bought a few licenses and staff learned it in a day so its not exactly a big deal. we also use freeware to do some special calculations particular to the japanese building code, but otherwise couldn't care less what software an intern can use. more interested in the kind of work they do and their interests. 

we have found that revit is indeed horrible for design stage and have decided to avoid it aggressively until we get massive project where it makes anything like sense.

Jun 15, 13 10:07 pm

we have found that Revit is great for design stage and have decided to use it aggressively on small. medium and large projects.

Jun 16, 13 8:00 pm

ah cool, xenaxis.  maybe its a matter of knowing how to use it then.  we spent serious amount of time budget building revit models when all we needed was simple foamcore model to play with spaces.  creative destruction of multiple physical models would not have been a problem, but creative anything in revit was entirely impossible.  still won't use it for anything like creation. its not suited to our goals at all.  not even close. maybe we just needed you or someone similar on board to make it work and we missed all the good tricks that would have made the process go smooth.

our lesson on that project was to look for design talent not computer skills.  the latter are useful, but not the foundation on which our office is going to stand. at best they are just a prop. 

so yeah, software skills?  not really that interested. design chops?  very interested.

Jun 17, 13 4:16 am

All different tools have their own merits and demerits, but we have found Autocad and Revit as the 2 most effective tools to do our architecture and interior design projects. 

Jun 17, 13 6:09 am

I agree totally that design skills are paramount and trump any software skills.  That said, my best computer design experience has been with Revit over the last 13 years.  It is very (extremely) painful at first and can be very costly and wasteful while learning it. 

Very many offices (understandably) just do not want to spend the money and the time (mostly time) to implement it across their company.  This is not a criticism but an observation of economic realities.

The comment earlier about building throw away foam models got my attention since I love making foam models but, since becoming proficient with Revit, I don't use them much anymore unless a client or design review entity requires them.  It's just too much work relative to building the model in the computer which can be saved and manipulated into endless configurations.

To my mind, BIM in all it's forms is a disruptive technology in that it creates a new paradigm that is not easily attainable.  The old methods still work but will gradually be displaced by a really different process.

Are the new ways better?  Only the end user can decide that for themselves but I believe the electronic drafting board (CAD) will be supplanted by some form of BIM in the long run. 

One only has to look at the work of Frank Gehry who didn't feel able to create his designs with traditional methods so he created his own software allowing him to create beautiful and game changing structures.  Pioneers get arrows but sometimes pave the way for better things.  Time will tell.

Jun 18, 13 10:26 am
That's an interesting comment gsfulton. Maybe we need to invest more time. Something to think about.

Gehry's mixes models and bim no? At least in his documentary the approach looked like design in physical models was first. Bim was second. The design process was very fluid that way.
Jun 19, 13 8:38 pm

You are right Will about Gehry in terms of initial design process and I do still use hand sketching for idea generation and yes I still do very small mockups to see things. 

My understanding is that Gehry developed the software to be able to create buildable documents and coordination with the different disciplines.  T squares (actual or virtual) just weren't up to the job.

BIM does change the process in ways that are difficult for us to adjust to.  Our traditional model of project phases are altered somewhat which has financial as well as process implications. 

Jun 20, 13 10:44 am


Yes you heared right! I left BIM forever and start using a fantastic modeling software, MODO + AutoCAD !

Really more efficient than any other suit!  

Apr 10, 14 6:18 am

its stupid to think that you shouldn't learn Revit if you want to be an architect... Maybe master it but don't go around tooting your own horn and how you're a Revit expert.

Apr 10, 14 6:32 am

Ugh... zombie thread, but I'll play.

For the one asking about the kids games that build beyond Minecraft.  Next level is Roblox, then on to Gary's Mod or custom map creators if he's into some particular game. 

For stuff I use (principal) at the office:

Word, Excel, Adobe Acrobat, Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, and forever chained to Outlook.  I use trace paper, napkins, sketch pads and pencil/pen a lot still too.  I can use autocad, sketchup, 3dstudio, Structcalc in a bind, but seriously rusty.

Apr 10, 14 12:19 pm

Revit, CAD, Sketchup, Lumion, Rhino + GH, adobe CS, MS Office

Apr 10, 14 6:03 pm

After using Revit, I refuse to use CAD.  BIM is the way of the future and firms that use BIM is a smart firm, it is like not using a smart phone now days...

I only need to really use two programs: Revit and Photoshop.  Mastering these two programs has land me a few jobs in the past year.

I confess, I love mr. Revit.

Apr 10, 14 6:08 pm

Disagree with " Quan Nyen Tran ". I started using Revit when it was Revit 2007 and absolutely became a master in Revit even in complex parametric families, however i left it forever last year as soon as I started my own business. Simply because I think Revit is not smart at all! It seems that Autodesk made this software for tough builders, not architect/designers! Just try to put a window in a curved wall. Other BIM softwares (Like ArchiCAD) are smart enough to bend the window to match it to the curve wall, but Revit acts like a stupid guy and you have to manually create a new curved family for that wall.

Or try to design/model a leveled landscape in Revit. it is a real pain in the ass! 

Or the massing/free forms methodology. It seems this part of the software is not from the earth!

Although there are some cool things in Revit but I strongly believe that Autodesk marketing is the only reason of Revit popularity. Not only with Revit, other products of Autodesk are sometimes behind the softwares of other companies. for example 3DS Max is undoubtedly the dominant in the Arch Vis industry, however when I started my own business, to cut down the expenses I bought MODO from The Foundry (a British company). The software surprised me for the functionality, fast and robust platform. It was really more than Max+Maya at the same time much easier to use!

People should be brave enough to go for something other than the propaganda. 

Apr 10, 14 6:58 pm


I had the same experience with Revit, used it in school from Version 6.1, never touched it again once I was introduced to Rhino 7 years ago, used Archicad at work for a while ( the best BIM platform, IMO )

Out of curiosity, If I already use Rhino, why would I switch to MODO ? Have to say, I saw their website, the products are quite interesting, but I'm not convinced whether I want to learn new product again and again, unless it offers something that the current platform that I'm using can not offer.

Apr 10, 14 11:19 pm


I have also used Rhino for a year and half+ some of it's plugins like T Spline and the one from asunicad and of course the grasshopper. Rhino, as a modeler (and analyzer) is one of the best. I can easily compare them since have done many jobs using both of them;

modeling  method,       

MODO: polygonal and subdivision

Main Industry,     

MODO: Archvis, Game, Animation, simulation, low & high res modeling
Rhino: CAD, Architectural modeling, industrial design, drafting, prototyping

MODO: easier for complex organic and hard surface modeling, the fastest modeler(as its name shows)
Can handle large amount of objects (necessary for landscaping) + proxy items, powerful sculpting tools,multi-resolution  meshes, a very fast and high quality render engine implemented in the software, 3d painting (like body paint in cinema 4d), layer based material and shading( like Photoshop), full set of animation, rigging, solid and rigid body simulation, sound capability for narration, fur and hair tools and etc. Short learning curve, a fantastic community ( you can even easily talk to the developer guys directly)
Rhino: CAD like precision, easy to use, friendly UI, fast 3d modeler, powerful 2d tools, a large amount of plugins, parametric design capability, grasshopper( which is much more suitable for a designer than a scripting plugin), analyzing tools, better import capability

Down sides:
MODO: lacks 2d tools (make it hard to use it without autoCAD for architectural design)
Few out sources for objects (how ever can easily import from others)
No analyzing tool at all. ( you have to use additional scripts to grasp the area of a surface!)
No employment chance comparing to Autodesk products.
Hard for a newbie to understand the precision and snapping( which is vital for designers)
Absolutely a new interface, different from all known software's ( although it is efficient IMO) 
can not handle large amount of objects necessary for landscaping. 
Very poor rendering capability even with plugins! 
No animation at all. 
Very organic shapes are hard to make in Rhino (you won't need such shapes in architecture)
As the models are not polygonal, you'll have them triangulated when export to other softwares.
No sculpting tools

MODO is an alternative for Max & Maya, not for Rhino. That is why you still need to use at least a 2d CAD with it.  
Hope that helps!

Apr 11, 14 8:17 am

Thanks for the response, your conclusion was right on!

Apr 11, 14 9:09 am

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