Signs of spring are popping up across the country. Along with them come several new software launches for the building industry that improve upon issues such as drawing and building information modeling, rendering performance, interoperability among programs, and mobile capabilities. Similar to the ephemeral daffodils, these digital products will inevitably be usurped by future releases. But by making the leap now, you can increase your digital productivity, allowing you to spend more time in the mild weather while it lasts.

Autodesk Building Design Suite 2014, Autodesk
During a March 26 press conference, Autodesk senior vice president Amar Hanspal debuted the global software company’s forthcoming 2014 Design and Creation suites. The portfolio includes new and updated programs for the entertainment, manufacturing, and building industries. For architects, the Autodesk Building Design Suite 2014 (premium or ultimate edition) includes the latest releases of the popular drafting, design, and building information modeling (BIM) tools AutoCAD, 3ds Max Design, and Revit.

Improvements, according to Autodesk, include better interoperability among programs; a smoother and cleaner process for transitioning AutoCAD files to Revit models; and expanded design, analysis, and documentation capabilities in architectural design, energy modeling, and MEP and structural engineering.

The suite also has several new programs that help streamline workflow using different design media. Autodesk ReCap allows designers to create three-dimensional models starting from laser scans and scanned photographs. Autodesk Raster Design enables users to perform basic edits to scanned images and convert raster image data into AutoCAD editable objects. Meanwhile, Autodesk InfraWorks (formerly Infrastructure Modeler) allows designers to create models that combine information from 2D CAD files, 3D models, and GIS data.

The cloud continues to play a major role in Autodesk’s products. Users who purchase the suite through Autodesk Subscription have access to not only the collective computing power of remote server farms with Autodesk 360, but also to the company’s cloud-based design services, including Autodesk Green Building Studio, Energy Analysis for Autodesk Revit, and Structural Analysis for Autodesk Revit. And, of course, files on the cloud can be shared and accessed from virtually anywhere.

During the press conference, Hanspal said Autodesk isn’t focusing on the “cloud just for cloud sake.” Rather, it wants to enable its “customers to imagine design and create a better world with our apps and the cloud. It’s about doing things that weren’t possible before.”

The 2014 suite is not yet available in the U.S., but the company expects to release it later this month. Pricing information for buying AutoCAD or Revit individually, the entire Building Design Suite, and the suite with the optional subscription to Autodesk’s cloud-based services is available here.

Navigator Mobile, Bentley Systems
During its third annual corporate update on March 27, Bentley Systems announced the launch of its Navigator Mobile app for the iPad. Headquartered in Exton, Pa., the global software giant in the architecture, engineering, construction, and operations (AECO) industry is the creator of the MicroStation platform for infrastructure design and modeling as well as ProjectWise, a cloud-based project and information management program for the building industry.

The Navigator Mobile (free, iTunes) enables users to review “next generation i-models,” according to a press release issued by the company. The i-models can be created using files from popular AEC design programs, including Bentley’s products as well as Autodesk Revit with the installation of a free plug-in. The app allows users to navigate and fly through 2D and 3D architectural drawings and models, view embedded specifications and engineering data for building systems, and take measurements on drawings and models using standard iPad gestures. Subscribers to ProjectWise Passport can also download ProjectWise Explorer Mobile (free with ProjectWise Passport, iTunes) to review even more design and construction documents, such as PDFs.

Altarix, Arcom
Based in Salt Lake City, Arcom recently released Altarix ($490/year for the first license, Altarix), a software production program for writing, editing, and compiling specifications for project manuals. In a March 27 press release, the exclusive publisher of MasterSpec for the AIA said that its software offers standard editing and formatting capabilities for specifications, but has the added ability to allow “users to reuse specification sections from existing projects to create new, custom sections.”

Altarix also offers tools to navigate through the specification documents; track progress on different sections; generate forms such as submittal logs automatically; and export documents to Microsoft Word.