Remember the stuff that used to clutter our desks, car seats, and studios? Drawings, laptops, film canisters are only the beginning of a long list. Today, many of the tools frequently used in design and construction exist only in the virtual world. Instead of filling storage closets when they become obsolete, these digital tools are replaced in kind by a virtual update. With the capabilities these seven developers are giving designers in the field, our current concept of an office may soon remain only in memories as well.
Collaboration is too often hampered by technological difficulties, but Bluescape, a turnkey cloud-based software and services solution, may help geographically dispersed teams work better. Developed by a company that shares its namesake, Bluescape is a joint venture of Haworth and Obscura Digital. Its debut product allows users in different locations to collaborate on an expansive virtual whiteboard that can be scaled up to 160 acres of space. The software can be accessed using a variety of devices, including iPads, laptops, and other mobile devices. For example, Bluescape can be used on large-scale, high-definition, multitouch screens to discuss and organize a project. Teams from offices around the world can use Bluescape to share, create, add, or organize images, presentations, spreadsheets, text documents, drawings, graphics, blueprints, and videos in real time. Users more accustomed to communicating via pen and paper can handwrite notes with a stylus. bluescape.com
AutoCAD 360, Autodesk
Autodesk has expanded one of its best known products to increase its mobile functionality. AutoCAD 360 (formerly AutoCAD WS) is a line of Web and mobile drafting and documentation applications designed to view, create, edit, and share drawings. In the past, users could only modify projects with mobile devices; now, the software allows users to start new projects through its mobile app. The updated app can also support larger file sizes and connect to third-party cloud storage, such as Dropbox. Another new mobile feature is the Block palette, which offers drag-and-place functionality from a drawing’s block collection. Tools, such as advanced layer management, drawing coordinates, and properties and attributes have also been improved for mobile devices. Users can also purchase priority support, which grants them faster response times to support questions. Available in nine languages and for Apple or Android devices, AutoCAD 360 Pro mobile app plans are offered in three options, ranging in price from $4.99 per month to $49.99 per year. autocad360.com
Nomad 2.0, Nemetschek Vectorworks
The newest version of Nemetschek Vectorworks Nomad, the mobile application for the company’s Cloud Services, was enhanced to make sharing files easier, particularly while at a worksite. Improvements include new redline drawing shapes, a sheet-layer sidebar palette, angle and path measurement modes, improved download and upload performance, and improved annotation text objects. The 2.0 version also allows users to view, measure, and annotate files in an offline mode, allowing them to make adjustments as needed in the field, where an Internet connection may not be available. Nomad 2.0 is available for both iOS and Android devices. Vectorworks Cloud Services is available to members of the company’s Service Select subscription program and allows users to share files and make design decision from any location by automatically synchronizing files. The Vectorworks line of software products provides CAD and BIM solutions. vectorworks.net
HP Designjet T920 and T1500 ePrinter series, HP
Even as more of the world goes digital, printing remains important for the building industry. HP has released two 36" Web-connected printers with color touchscreens that allow users to manage job queues, track printing costs in real time, and preview their prints in detail. Suited for small to medium workgroups, the HP Designjet T920 is equipped with 32GB of virtual memory space and can print an A1 print in 21 seconds. It has an integrated stacking tray and can collate up to 50 sheets of media. Meanwhile, the HP Designjet T1500 caters to multiuser environments and is equipped with 320GB of memory that enables it to print multiple files at the same time. It is equipped with two rolls for simultaneous printing and features automatic alignment for easy paper loading with smart switching capabilities. Both HP Designjets can be accessed via the cloud, allowing users to print remotely. As a bonus, the printers’ flat surface tops can double as a media review table. hp.com
SketchUp Pro 2013, Trimble Navigation
In its first version upgrade since its purchase by Trimble Navigation, SketchUp Pro 2013 now includes its own app store, Extension Warehouse, which offers add-on tools built by developers using the software’s open-application programming interface. Apps are available across a wide variety of categories from rendering to 3D printing to animation; more than 150 community-supplied extensions have been created since the store launched in May. Highlights include: Architect Tools, which allows designers working with imported map data to generate buildings and stepped terrains; and CloudUp, which syncs users’ SketchUp to Dropbox, Google Drive, or any other cloud storage. The latest release of SketchUp Pro also features improvements to its LayOut tool and 2D documentation capabilities. SketchUp Pro, which Trimble purchased from Google in 2012, is a 3D modeling program that can model from CAD, terrain data, photographs, or hand sketches. The software, which costs $590 per seat, is geared toward architects, engineers, general contractors, and building owners. A free version, SketchUp Make, is also available for nonprofessionals. sketchup.com
Revizto 1.2, Vizerra
Revizto’s developer, Vizerra, applies 3D technology originally designed for video games to generate project visualizations for the design/build industry. Improvements for version 1.2 of the software, which converts BIM or SketchUp files to 3D interactive environments, include X-ray and transparent view modes, visibility filtering by object type, real-time chatting, smoother viewer navigation, and an updated user interface. Onscreen navigation cues and a help screen also improve usability. The software also starts up faster when in use with large models. The upgrade is free for users currently licensed to use the full software version, which is compatible with PCs. Revizto files can be uploaded to the cloud or used as standalone files. The developer also offers free apps for iPad and Android devices. vizerra.com
SightSpace Free-D, Limitless Computing
Despite digital and printed renderings, it can be hard for a client to visualize a design in a real-world environment. Limitless Computing specializes in augmented reality technology, which, when incorporated into the company’s software programs such as SightSpace 3D, overlays digital designs onto the real world to scale. As a result, users can walk virtually through projects while wearing 3D glasses. SightSpace is now available in a free version—in the form of an app—which is compatible with Apple products. This app, SightSpace Free-D, allows clients to view up to three models without a cost. All of the capabilities of SightSpace 3D are available as in-app purchases, so desired features can be customized. Possible applications include allowing a client to see potential countertops, appliances, and other products as if they were standing in their own kitchen or bath. limitlesscomputing.com
Editor's note: This article was updated since first publication to indicate that Trimble bought SketchUp from Google in 2012, and that Google was not the software's original creator.