Ease of Use
Help & Support
Best Landscaping Software
Why Use Landscaping Software?
The top performers in our review are Realtime Landscaping Plus, the Gold Award winner; Virtual Architect Ultimate, the Silver Award winner; and Virtual Architect Platinum, the Bronze Award winner. Here's more on choosing a program to meet your needs, along with detail on how we arrived at our ranking of landscaping software programs.
It's time for a change
Your property is great, but could it be better? Perhaps a new fence is in order, or maybe a complete overhaul. New plants. New fixtures. New everything. Your landscape is a blank canvas waiting to be a masterpiece. But where to start? There are countless factors and considerations, and an infinite number of choices. Of course, hiring a professional is an option, but why pay someone an arm and a leg for something you can do yourself?
Landscaping software is an inexpensive and effective solution. These computer programs cost a fraction of the fees that a professional landscaper would charge to design a new yard for your home. With landscaping software, you can digitally create your ideal landscape. Any change you make, from removing a tree to adding a deck, is shown on the computer, and you'll know exactly how your landscape will look like before you spend a dime on supplies or labor.
Landscaping Software: What to Expect
We spent time using each piece of software we’ve reviewed, and the truth is, it’ll probably be more difficult than you expect to get started. After you install a program, you'll be faced with an unfamiliar set of tools. You'll need to spend some time and effort to learn the program. While the best programs are relatively simple to learn, others can be downright impossible. Regardless, it won't be a simple matter of installing the landscape software and starting.
However, once you get the basic skill down, the possibilities are endless. You'll be able to alter your property design in infinite ways. You can add new plants or see how a swimming pool would look in your back yard. You can even add a deck or patio. The sky is the limit with landscaping design software.
Landscaping Software: What We Tested, What We Found
We purchased all 10 of the programs we reviewed and spent nearly 100 hours researching and testing to find the best. Our testing method was simple. We created a new blank project in each program and attempted to create a landscape from scratch. Once completed, we'd customized it with whatever tools and objects were available. To make this approach fair, we did not watch any training videos beforehand for any program. We wanted to see what it was like to use and navigate each program without prior experience.
Our hands-on experience gave us practical insight into each program. We discovered that the best programs excelled in ease of use, functionality, content, and help and support.
Ease of Use
A landscaping software program must be user-friendly. Even if a program has all the functionality in the world, there's no point if it's extremely complicated. The functionality would essentially be inaccessible.
Our top-rated program, Realtime Landscaping Plus, was by far the easiest to use. Its sleek interface and well-placed buttons made it simple to navigate and operate the program.
Every other landscaping program we tested was difficult to use and required some type of training. The least user-friendly programs were frustrating, with hundreds of buttons that made even the simplest tasks seem overwhelming.
The most functional programs enable you to build your dream landscape with realistic quality. This includes features that make the process simple, such as a drag-and-drop tool and the ability to customize the elements of your design. The most functional program we tested, Realtime Landscaping Plus, allows you to create anything you can imagine with its wide range of advanced features and customizable tools.
The best programs received a functionality score of B+ or above. In our tests, these programs had everything we needed to a create and modify a landscape. Any score lower indicates that the programs were overly simple.
The least functional programs we tested were excessively simple. Even though they might be relatively easy to use, their simplicity prevented us from creating anything in great detail. They would not be able to create a highly detailed representation of any landscape.
In order to create your dream landscape, you need to have the palette. This is where content comes in. Some programs have thousands of objects to choose from, which makes it easy to replicate anything you can imagine. The programs with the best content, both in number and quality, received a score of B+ or higher.
Lesser programs are quite limited, with only a few versions of objects like windows and plants. They also don’t have any customization features, further reducing your ability to recreate your dreams.
Help & Support
The final factor of importance is help and support. Since most programs are relatively complicated to use, we consider this factor to be essential. It’s not unlikely that you’ll run into a question as you use the software, and a company that offers resources to help you demonstrate their commitment to their customers. Likewise, a lack of support might also indicate a questionable program. Without any support options, companies send the message that they don’t care about their customers.
As a side note, we found that programs offered by the same company were almost exactly the same. Be aware that if you're considering two versions of landscaping software offered by the same developer, they more than likely have an identical interface with only minor and arbitrary differences.
Landscaping Software: Our Verdict and Recommendations
Our hands-on experience allows us to make some recommendations about the best landscaping software for you. As great as a program looks on a website, it wasn’t until we used it in person that we found out its true usefulness.
The best program by far was Realtime Landscaping Plus. This program had no competition in our testing. It far surpassed the other programs, particularly in ease of use and functionality. It was enjoyable to use, and with its robust design features and nearly realistic graphics, we’re confident you could use it to design any landscape you can imagine.
Our Silver and Bronze Award winners are both Virtual Architect programs. Although they fall short of Realtime Landscaping Plus in our comparison, these programs provide great functionality and proved to be relatively easy to use. The interface is simply organized, making the program simple to navigate, and there are numerous tools and features to help the design process. Also, keep in mind that these programs are nearly identical, with the main difference being the number of objects in the library and a few functionality tools, including a cost estimator.
If you're looking for a program to specifically design a deck for your house, we also recommend Realtime Landscaping Plus. This program excels at deck design in addition to landscapes. Its advanced deck wizard can help you build a customized deck for your property in an easy step-by-step fashion. While designing a deck is generally difficult and complicated, Realtime makes it a piece of cake.
Finding the right landscaping software should be fun, and seeing the property of your dreams come to life will be even better. Before you purchase any landscaping software, consider how easy it is to use and the functionality it includes. With powerful software in your hands, you can create the yard of your dreams, right on your computer.
Contributing Reviewers: Linda Thomson & Noel Case