Top Tools Every Architect Must Have

Ian Mutuli
Updated on
Ian Mutuli

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.
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If you are an architect or landscape designer, you need to know how to draw and feel the space. No program in the world replaces a person's ability to think and create. But some tools can help an expert be more productive and present ideas in a faster way. We’re talking about programs an architect should master to be a top-notch pro.

BIM programs 

An architect should master Revit or ArchiCAD, and preferably both these programs as they’re considered the best architecture software. In the BIM environment, you can organize collaboration with related specialists. The general three-dimensional model of the future building is divided into work planes, where each element is considered separately. The database of such programs contains information about all stages of the project – from concept to construction.

However, BIM tools like Revit, ArchiCAD, Allplan, or FreeCAD are worth learning when the specialist understands what classic drafting is and how it works. Having learned Revit without a base can play a low-down trick: an architect sometimes cannot solve elementary tasks.


There should be something in the architect's toolbox that partially repeats the logic of manual drawing. Earlier AutoCAD was among the top tools, but now the program is outdated, and there is no point in wasting time on mastering it. But Rhino is a great replacement. It’s also compatible with ArchiCAD.


For analytical tasks or experiments with form, you need to have some kind of algorithmic tool. And this is Grasshopper 3D, which allows better designing intricate models in the Rhino 3D environment. In any case, it’s better to know this program at least at a basic level. Generative modeling in Grasshopper is about creating an algorithm. That is, after entering new data, the program itself will change the entire object.

Chief Architect 

Chief Architect is a professional building, landscape, interior design software with powerful 3D visualization and CAD functionality.

It concentrates functions for the virtual design of buildings and the search for architectural solutions, the interior design of premises, preparation of detailed drawings, design/construction/estimate documentation. 


An easy and fast tool that allows modeling simple sketch objects. It helps to visualize the idea in both 2D and 3D and is considered the best architecture design software for novice players.

Autodesk 3ds max 

To make beautiful pictures, a young architect needs to delve into visualization.

The 3ds max package originally intended for creating cartoons, over time, has tightly occupied the niche of architectural visualization. The program is rich in possibilities for creating almost anything, and even animation. So, some well-known visualization studios make videos exclusively in 3ds max.


CATIA enables architects to go beyond traditional design methods by providing a wide range of 3D modeling solutions. The program allows you to create models with a high level of detail that fully comply with industry standards, as well as use the accumulated experience in projects.

Now let’s talk about the presentation.

Adobe Suite

The classic minimum an architect needs to submit a project is Photoshop. How is it useful? The visual component of the project has always been crucial. And the power of Photoshop allows you to adjust some nuances.

Ideally, you need Illustrator as well because it’s much more convenient to work with 2D graphics, drawings, and diagrams there. This is one of the best design software for an expert in architecture.

Starting from a certain point, an architect can’t live without InDesign. Usually, it’s needed for arranging stretchers, presentations, catalogs, and portfolios.

In general, the entire Adobe Suite is an architect's best friend for many years.

What are other tools worth learning? Analyzing promising directions

#1. GIS-tools. If an architect wants to go into urbanism or town planning, it’s high time to master GIS tools. We no longer build cities from scratch, nevertheless, an expert must understand the scale. 

#2. VR. Another very interesting direction is everything related to virtual reality. These are really complex tools on game engines that allow you to interact with the model in a fundamentally different way – from the inside. In the future, it is expected that VR will allow better communication with contractors in order to show what exactly needs to be done and how it should look, discuss the nodes and details. 

#3. Video software. After everything has migrated to the web, you need to be able to present your ideas and projects there. For an architect, communication on the Internet is an important part of the job, and it requires a tool. 

For example, many specialists address Readymag to design a website and present their portfolio.

Interestingly, more and more people are working with video, and you can develop skills in working with Movavi Video Editor Plus, and Final Cut Pro editing software.

Not only software: what else does every architect need?

  • Comfortable chair. Architects sit at the computer for 8 to 10 hours a day, sometimes more. Working while lying on the couch with a laptop is hazardous to health. That is why the professional needs to choose the best possible computer chair.
  • Great lighting. For an architect, like no one else, it is important to remember about lighting in the work area. The specialist always works better in natural daylight, then the body gets energy and is less stressed. But if you work in the evening, take care of quality table lamps with color control.
  • Blue light blocking glasses. Computers, laptop screens, smartphones emit blue light that causes headaches and disrupts the circadian rhythm. In this way, blue-light-blocking glasses will protect you from interrupting the sleep-wake cycle of an architect.

Final thoughts 

In any case, there is simply no magic pill – one or two digital design programs that will save you in all cases. The specificity of the architectural profession is that you need to spend a significant amount of time and learn a lot of things so that you are up your alley. 

Ian Mutuli

About the author

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.