Better Homes and Gardens Home Designer Suite 8.0
Better Homes and Gardens Home Designer Suite 8.0

Easiest to use home design software

One of the biggest complaints about home design software is that it's hard to use, but reviews give the edge to Better Homes and Gardens when it comes to ease of use. Made by Chief Architect (whose professional architectural software starts at $1,500), Home Designer is much easier to learn than other titles, say reviews. New users can start with quick-start predesigned rooms or specify their own space. Landscaping and deck-design software is also included. Reviews say that the competing Punch! Professional Home Design Suite Platinum software is ultimately more robust and flexible, but its learning curve is steeper. Better Homes and Gardens Home Designer Suite is compatible with Windows systems only.
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Punch! Professional Home Design Suite Platinum Version 12
Punch! Professional Home Design Suite Platinum Version 12

Best home design software

According to reviews, the Punch! Professional Home Design Suite still isn't nearly as easy to learn to use as Better Homes and Gardens Home Designer. However, reviews also indicate that Punch! is ultimately the more sophisticated of the two. Experts say that Punch! is a powerful program with realistic graphics and sophisticated tools to design everything from sprinkler systems to decks. It also has electrical, foundation and plumbing planners. Altogether, Punch! is a serious product with many more tools than Better Homes and Gardens, but it takes far more patience and persistence to learn. Indeed, many people evidently give up on this software because of the steep learning curve and complicated features. A Mac version is available: Punch! Home Design Studio for Mac (*est. $100).
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Better Homes and Gardens Landscaping and Deck Designer 8.0
Better Homes and Gardens Landscaping and Deck Designer 8.0

Landscaping and deck-design software

Although many of Better Homes and Gardens' landscaping and deck-design components are included in its Home Designer Suite 8.0, you can save some money if you don't need to work with interiors. Reviewers say this software is basic, with few unusual twists, yet it's intuitive enough that you don't have to spend too much time reading manuals or tutorials. They also indicate that it's a fun tool for homeowners who want to play with outdoor landscaping possibilities, like living areas. Water features like pools and ponds are also included.
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Google SketchUp
Google SketchUp

Free software

If you're just looking for something fun and simple, Google SketchUp (http://sketchup.google.com) is a free download that lets you draw up any 3D object, including homes and interiors. This community-supported software has an ever-growing database of images (such as furniture) that you can incorporate into your sketch. There's also lots of help, including user guides, highly active help groups and video tutorials. When you're finished, you can even add your sketch to Google Earth and see how it fits into your neighborhood. While not as detailed and sophisticated as paid software, SketchUp is one way to play around without investing a lot of time or money. Google SketchUp is available for PC or Mac.
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