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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Introduction to Home Design Software


Given the popularity of HGTV, coupled with the ongoing do-it-yourself home-improvement boom pioneered by stores such as Home Depot and Lowe's, home design software is still popular. However, according to an article in The Wall Street Journal, and gauging by many user reviews we read at Amazon.com, visualizing your own kitchen remodeling by using design software isn't as easy as popping the disc into your computer. Reviewers tested home design software to determine how easy it is to draw a room layout, reposition a roof, or experiment with door and window placement. Owner-written reviews posted at Amazon.com are especially helpful in determining how well the various software packages work for users of differing skill levels. We also checked for reviews at Consumer Reports magazine, but editors have not yet covered home design software.

Once produced by Broderbund software, Total 3D Home, Landscape & Deck Premium Suite (*est. $40) is now sold by Individual software. We found lots of miserable owner-written reviews at Amazon.com for this version, and for all the earlier versions as well. Owners report system crashes and freezes, and pretty much every review we found complains about ease of use -- walls move around, cabinetry refuses to stay on the right wall, the only ceiling option is flat, and textures don't work correctly. Another version of Total 3D software also originally published by Broderbund, called 3D Home Architect Home & Landscape Deluxe Suite Version 9 (*est. $40), is now produced by Punch! and published by Encore. It gets equally miserable ratings for its design tools.

Although the Total 3D Home Design and 3D Home Architect series are inexpensive, we found much better reviews for other software, including Better Homes and Gardens Home Designer Suite 8.0 (*est. $100) for those looking for something fun and relatively easy to use. Punch! Professional Home Design Suite Platinum Version 12 (*est. $95) is also a good option for those who want something more sophisticated (with a steeper learning curve). If you don't want to spend so much, consider experimenting with free software like Google SketchUp, which will help give you a sense of whether you want to invest in better $80 to $100 software.

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Professional Home Design Suite Platinum - Old Version
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Better Homes and Gardens Home Designer Suite 8.0 [OLD VERSION]
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