What is the best CAD software in your opinion?

Discussion in 'Landscape Architecture and Design' started by michael13, May 21, 2010.

  1. michael13

    michael13 LawnSite Member
    from CT
    Messages: 28

    What is the best? Looking to purchase. Need to get out of the dark ages with this part of the biz.
  2. White Gardens

    White Gardens LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,776

    I've only used the CAD side of Pro Landscapes and I like it. I haven't tried anything else though.
  3. AGLA

    AGLA LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,776

    The question is not "what is the best CAD program", but what is the best CAD program for you. Based on how you phrased the question, I assume that you have little to no training or experience with CAD. If that is the case, you would be best off getting something that does a lot of periferal things for you such as pre-selecting line thicknesses for things like buildings, driveways, .... to help reduce the learning curve while still having an appealing drawing. There is sort of a trade off between more user input (having to respond to questions, basically) and suffering through a long learning curve.

    Well trained experienced CAD people can pretty much draw anything quickly on the fly and have developed habits and routines that make filling in dialog boxes with information a PITA where the opposite is true without that training and experience.

    Dynascape, Vectorworks, and ProLandscapes seem to be the ones that landscape contractors find to be the best balance between price, learning curve, and professional looking results.

    Most landscape architects are using Autocad and many are using an add on program called Land FX with it to detail out landscape plans. I use Autocad on its own (Autocad LT in one office and Autocad 3d companion in the other). It takes a lot of class time and time working with more experienced Autocad users around you to really get through the learning curve (15 years into it and I still learn things that I did not know all of the time).

    There are a lot of more simple programs out there if you want to experiment before making an investment.

    If you draw plans well by hand (I don't) that alone is not a reason to change to CAD. Many people think CAD is faster, but I am not so sure on that until you have to do revisions.

    What is your reason for feeling like you need to use CAD?
  4. michael13

    michael13 LawnSite Member
    from CT
    Messages: 28

    Thanks for all the info. I do not draw well at all. In my area my competition uses cad and I think it gives it a more professional approach. To start with the easier the better for my application. I have a dynascape demo coming in. Do you recommend something different other than cad? Thanks
  5. AGLA

    AGLA LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,776

    It seems contractors are pretty happy with Dynascape, Vectorworks Landmark, and ProLandscape.

    I believe that a plan is a more professional selling tool and a stronger contractual element than a photo mockup. Plans are much more effective on a higher end job while a photo mockup seems to work well for dazzling a customer on the sale of a few plants.

    It is not easy to sell design services, so I would caution you not to invest too much right away if you have not done a lot of design work. The important thing is to be able to get people excited about what you'll do. It is good to be able to represent the landscape in a way that looks reasonable on a plan, but that won't make you or break you as a contractor, particularly in jobs under $10k. I don't know if you are doing $10k+ jobs or not, but I just think it is important to point that out to you or anyone else following this thread. What all of us need to do is to get very good at explaining what you'll do and WHY you are doing this and not that. Most of us start with a tendency toward just saying what we'll do when the biggest advantage goes to those who explain WHY this will will be the right thing to do. After that, the plan drawing just maps it out and they are sold on you and the design whether it is a super sophisticated rendered plan or a crude hand drawing that is a good representation of how it lays out.

    There are a lot of programs for drafting landscape plans for under $100 that can do that without much of a learning curve at all. You can find them at places like Best Buy or Staples or online. Maybe you need something more than that, but it might not be a bad place to start.

    Almost everything that I do is black and white line drawing.
  6. Escapes Landscape Design

    Escapes Landscape Design LawnSite Member
    Messages: 8

    I use autocad...that is what I learned in working for different landscape architecture firms. You have to use what is best for you and easiest to learn. I would get trials or go to a class and see what you are most comfortable with. For me Autocad with Photoshop and Illustrator is the way to go, but again, I am used to large scale commercial projects. City parks, hospitals, corporate designs...the wow factor. Good luck.

Share This Page