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The Best Software Tutorials on the Web (According to ArchDaily Readers)

In a world where architects can use computers to produce representations of designs with new levels of accuracy and artistry, software fluency is becoming increasingly necessary. With that in mind, last month we asked our readers to help us develop a comprehensive list of tutorials. After studying the comments and scouring the internet for more sources, we have developed this improved list, which we hope will help you to discover new work techniques and better ways to apply different programs.

Of course, it's unlikely that any list of internet resources will ever be complete, so we're hoping to continually update this list with the web's best learning resources. If there are any tutorials sites we've missed which you found helpful, let us know in the comments!

PixPlant 3: Create Custom 3D Texture Maps for Rendering

Rendering has become the ultimate tool in the architect’s arsenal for communicating designs directly to clients. But with the seemingly infinite number of real-life material options that exist today, the textures built into rendering programs often fall short. In some cases, one may be able to find appropriate texture maps for their desired materials online, but when experimenting with new materials or unique colors the need for greater customization arises. In the past, perhaps you could attempt to manually create and edit your own texture maps, but this can be a long and arduous process.

12 Excel Formulas Every Architect Should Know

It may not be the most exciting piece of software an architect will ever use, but Microsoft's Excel is a powerful tool which can help architects with the less glamorous parts of their work - and if you learn how to use it correctly, it can help you get back to the tasks that you'd rather be doing much more quickly. In this post originally published by ArchSmarter, Michael Kilkelly gives his short rundown of formulas that every architect should know - and a brief explanation of how to use each one.

Excel is more than just digital graph paper. It’s a serious tool for analyzing and computing data. In order to access this power, however, you need to understand formulas.

If you’re like me, you started using Excel as a way to create nice looking tables of data – things like building programs or drawing lists. Lots of text and some numbers. Nothing too crazy. If I was feeling a little bold, I’d add a simple formula to add or subtract some cells. That’s about it.

I knew I was using only about 10% of the software but I wasn’t sure what else it could do or how I could access the other functions. I’d heard about formulas but they seemed really confusing. Plus, I was an architect, not a bean counter.

Sefaira Incorporates Customizable Graphics Into Daylight Visualization Software

Sefaira, the market-leading daylighting visualization tool, has just announced a new feature for their software plugins for Autodesk Revit and Trimble Sketchup. In addition to the real-time visualizations announced last year, the new update adds customizable, exportable graphics which offer both a point in time analysis or an annual overview, and analysis tools which help designers easily identify overlit and underlit spaces and review heating or cooling requirements.

Taking Daylight to the Next Level: How Daylighting Analysis is Changing Design

Until recently, renderings were the architect’s primary tool for understanding daylight in their designs—renderings, and a healthy dose of intuition. But a new generation of daylighting analysis tools, which is emerging alongside a new generation of daylighting metrics, are enabling architects to look at daylight in new ways—with important implications for design.

Business as usual, when it comes to daylight, is to use rules of thumb to design, then use renderings to check the design and communicate the intent. Rendering has fast become an art form: the creation of exquisite, evocative, often atmospheric imagery that communicates the mood, the experience, the visceral feel of the design. This is no accident: daylighting is a magic ingredient in architecture, bringing dynamism to static structure, imbuing buildings with a sense of time, and renderings are a powerful way to capture and communicate these ideas—a necessary complement to the hard line plans and sections that comprise much of the architect’s lexicon. Renderings have expanded our ability to communicate designs. They have also expanded our ability to conceptualize designs—and especially to conceptualize the daylight in our designs.

But there’s something missing: there are important daylight-related questions that renderings simply can’t answer. Even if they can be made reasonably accurate, they’re still incomplete: depicting a moment in time, but not providing an indication of whether that moment is unique or typical.

Which Architectural Software Should You Be Using?

One of the biggest decisions to make when setting out alone - either as an independent architect or starting your own firm - is which software to use. It can be tempting to simply choose an industry leader, but you may end up paying over the odds for a product which doesn't suit your style. In this post, originally published on ArchSmarter as "Which architectural software is right for me?" Michael Kilkelly works through the factors that should influence your decision, whether you're making it for the first time or reviewing a choice you made long ago. 

Which CAD or BIM software should you use? Well, that depends. What functionality to you need? What are your priorities with regard to cost, comparability, interoperability? Are you using a Mac or a PC?

ThinkParametric Offers Free Online Classes

Launched in May of 2014, ThinkParametric is an online platform for learning the tools of the digital architecture trade. Gaining access to their video tutorials and the benefit of their online community would usually set you back $29 per month, or $269 for an entire year. However, to celebrate a successful first year, on March 12th they announced an "Open Class Season," a full month for people to enjoy their courses for free.

Astropad: Use Your iPad As A Professional Graphics Tablet

Astropad, an app for iOS and Mac, transforms your existing iPad into a professional graphics tablet without the need for additional hardware. Having been developed by Matt Ronge and Giovanni Donelli - both former Apple engineers - the app allows for the iPad to act as a extended trackpad as well as work with most third-party styluses.

Portable Precision: Scale Drawing On iOS

Arrette Scale have released an update ($8.99) for their iOS app which addresses the level of precision and dexterity in the use of the Edge Tools, which have new controls and behavior. The app itself has proved popular among architects, aiming to provide designers with a simple, familiar drawing environment usable by anyone comfortable with traditional drawing tools. Allowing users to digitally review work by sharing ideas and drawings, Arrette’s platform welcomes incremental design changes and collaboration on  without the need for printing reams of paper.

Find out what's new after the break.

Report Ranks Best BIM and Building Design Platforms for 2015

The first Grid℠ winter report from G2 Crowd has been released, placing DataCAD as the CAD software delivering the highest overall levels of customer satisfaction. 

Using over 180 reviews from industry professionals, the Grid℠ plots software satisfaction levels against market presence (determined by vendor size, market share, and social impact), categorizing products as a "Leader," "High Performer," "Contender," or "Niche." G2 Crowd's review platform encompasses all CAD software widely used within architecture and construction, ranging from BIM to tools and libraries for mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and architectural design and construction. 

Google Earth Pro Is Now Free

Google Earth Pro has dropped its $399 yearly subscription and is now freely available to all. Beyond providing imagery, detailed maps, terrain and 3D building models of the world, Google Earth’s pro-version is particularly convenient for project planning and research; unlike its standard tools, Pro allows users to print images at 4800x3200, import and pin thousands of addresses onto the map at once, capture HD videos of what’s on screen, and easily measure distances and areas with polygons, circles and more, rather than with just lines and paths. Download it for free and fill out a quick form to unlock its Pro features.

Pixelmator for iPad: Sophisticated Photo Editing On The Go

Pixelmator, an app which has been familiar to Mac users since 2011, have released a version of their powerful photo editing software for iPad. Although the App Store is awash with photo editing and manipulation packages, Pixelmator's clean interface and collection of the most used features iPad users require, makes it a good substitute for desktop based software packages when on the move. Alongside allowing image enhancement, a "painting engine, precise colour correction, and live histograms" (allowing you to gauge real-time colour values as you edit), the app also takes step into providing "layers, non-destructive layer styles and a collection of professional-grade selection tools."

Autodesk Launches AutoCAD 2015 For Mac

'Dynamic Blocks' in action. Image Courtesy of Autodesk
'Dynamic Blocks' in action. Image Courtesy of Autodesk

This week Autodesk launched the latest (2015) release of AutoCAD for Mac, featuring a number of enhancements that seek to bring new improvements to the drafting and design software package without sacrificing important functionality, key to people's everyday design workflows. According to Amy Bunszel, VP of AutoCAD, "this release has some rich new features but, at its core, is about eliminating dead ends that prevent people from being as effective as they can be when working together on design projects." For example, users can also share their work with colleagues that are using Windows versions of the software for uninterrupted collaboration.

See the new features in full after the break...

Top 10 Technical Apps for Architects

Building upon our Top 10 Apps for Architects, this collection brings together some of the best quality and most valued technical apps for designing, sketching, calculating and collaborating. Although the majority of those featured here are designed solely for the iOS platform, every time we collate lists such as these it's clear that more and more high quality apps for the Android and Windows platforms are being developed. From condensed versions of large scale software packages that architects and designers use every day, to blank canvases to scratch ideas down onto, you might just find an app that could improve the way you work.

Arrette Scale: calculating area. Image Courtesy of Arrette Scale Morpholio Trace. Image Courtesy of The Morpholio Project iRhino 3D (iOS). Image Courtesy of iRhino 3D PadCAD (Android). Image Courtesy of PadCAD

App Review: Arrette Scale - Precision Scale Drawing

Part of an increasing trend of apps which allow precision scale drawing, Arrette Scale seeks to provide designers with a simple, familiar drawing environment usable by anyone comfortable with traditional drawing tools. Allowing users to digitally review work by sharing ideas and drawings, Arrette's platform welcomes incremental design changes and collaboration on  without the need for printing reams of paper.

Courtesy of Arrette Scale Courtesy of Arrette Scale Courtesy of Arrette Scale Courtesy of Arrette Scale

PlanGrid Launches Educational Offering

PlanGrid, touted as "the fastest blueprint viewer" available, is one of the most mature apps for viewing, amending and discussing construction drawings on a collaborative cloud-based platform. This week they launched PlanGrid for Education, allowing students full and uninhibited access to every feature of the app free of charge. According to the company, they currently have "40,000 blueprints being uploaded to PlanGrid daily and over 9 million blueprints stored digitally", making the platform one of the fastest growing in its market.

Morpholio's Latest App Turns Photos Into Sketches, Mosaics, and More

The Morpholio Project's latest iPhone application, Morpholio Frame, "is like having a DJ booth for your photos." The application allows users to merge, crop, and filter photographs before posting them to social media outlets like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Sounds typical, right? Not so fast.

The application gives users more control than most thanks to an interactive matrix approach. Users can select up to three filters and three related masks, creating an image with one of 64 million unique filter combinations. One of the most interesting filters for architecture fans is "sketch" – as seen in the image after the break.

Morpholio Project's New App to Measure Human Response to Built Environment

Smart phones are designed to collect a variety of personal data, from location and orientation to sight and sound. But what if these devices were capable of tracking our visceral response to the built environment? 

The architects and academics behind The Morpholio Project have been researching ways in which biometrics, such as EEG, EMG, face tracking and pulse measurement, could be used to quantify the physical impact of an image on the human body. By turning to the medical industry, Morpholio has studied the capabilities of photoplethysmography (PPG) and envisioned ways in which it could be integrated with the smart phone. 

With a simple 3D printed fitting, the iphone can be transformed into a miniaturized blood pressure machine that records the heart rate fluctuations of a user while they photograph their surroundings. By tracking an individual’s unique emotional response to what they are seeing and experiencing, Morpholio believes they can unlock new potentials in which technology can evolve of the design process. 

More information from the creators after the break...