PROS / An extensive plant encyclopedia and plenty of templates will assist you in building your home’s outline.
CONS / There are a few design tools missing, and it does not import as many file types as we would like.
VERDICT / Realtime Landscaping Plus requires no training or expertise, and with a little work, you can create professional-style, accurate representations of your design ideas.
Editor's note: Realtime Landscaping Plus 2016 is now available. Clicking the Buy button will take you to this version for purchase. The manufacturer lists the new version as offering the following features: new Realtime Walkthrough graphics engine; dynamic shadows and lighting; Oculus Rift support; over 1,500 updated models. We will evaluate, rank and review Realtime Landscaping Plus 2016 when we next update the Landscaping Software reviews. Meanwhile, enjoy our review below about Realtime Landscaping Plus 2014.
Whether you're buying your first home or want to make some significant changes to your current home's yard, the top landscaping software must give you a wide range of tools and a simple user interface. Idea Spectrum's Realtime Landscaping Plus 2014 gives you thousands of objects, materials and plants without overburdening you with too many customization options and tools. Its 10,000 realistic objects include region-specific plants, brand-name accessories, and deck and pathway materials. Realtime Landscaping Plus 2014 gives you the tools to create a smooth and professional presentation of your dream yard. This simple and fluid software easily earns our Top Ten Reviews Gold Award.
Features & Tools
This landscaping software allows you to create full 3D landscapes and to design landscapes over a photograph of your yard. Version 2014 has more than 4,800 realistic-looking plants, along with detailed information about what climate they need to survive, how tall they grow and at what rate, and their common and botanical names. You can choose the age or height of the plants you insert into your landscape to see what they'll look like as they mature. You can rename plants and place them in your favorites file, and you can establish shortcut keys for them so that you don't have to go through the plant menu every time you want to find them. If you select a season, you can see how any of the more than 200 UltraRes plants look at that time of year.
You can determine the amount of wildlife present and the amount of wind blowing as you conduct a walkthrough of the layout. Additionally, you can see what your landscape looks like when the sun is rising and setting as well as how the shadows fall. You can also see the scene at night. Ray tracing is supposed to make the lighting at night on your project more realistic. We had trouble differentiating between when ray tracing was selected or not, however. Either way, the night lighting looks true to life.
While building your project, you can use brand-name products from companies such as Jerith, Belgard, Philips Hadco, Amarr, Kichler, Eldorado and Unilock. The brand names make it easy to locate specific products when you're ready to purchase materials. As you configure your landscape, you can keep track of your materials and estimates on the cost. At any point, if you decide you don't want to use a certain material, plant or object, you can delete all instances of that piece rather than finding and deleting each one individually.
If you can't find an image you want in Realtime Landscaping Plus, you can find free objects in Google's 3D Warehouse, which is easy to access. With these free objects, you can further customize your landscape. Or, if you'd prefer, you can import a picture using the Import Photo Wizard. Another option is to have Idea Spectrum create a model for you at an additional cost.
Anyone who has used photo editing and illustration applications is familiar with the concept of layers. Most landscape software allows you to divide the design into nicely layered chunks, but this can often be a pain to set up. Realtime Landscaping Plus makes it a snap to add, modify and delete layers at will.
Realtime Landscaping Plus 2014 has deck and panel-fence options, both of which are essential for a top-tier, backyard-landscape-design software system. Add post caps, glass panels, railing, balusters, fasciae, skirting and posts to your decks. Choose from picket, ornamental, privacy, chain-link, wooden and post-and-rail fences. You can create your own deck and fences, or you can use predesigned materials. Once you insert a predesigned item, you can make changes to it if you'd like.
One feature you can play with is the option to add retaining walls to your design. There are also additional styling options, which include flat, bullnose, rough-cut and seamless coping for your walls and patio borders. Should you find yourself wanting to design your house after the Romans, there is a feature that allows you to create custom pillars, too.
Whether you have a large yard with multiple acres to landscape or the smallest lot your city's zoning ordinances will allow, you need the ability to add rows of various plants easily, without having to tediously add one at a time. The Plant Fill and Plant Row tools allow you to add multiple plant varieties to an area. The Plant Row tool lets you add flowers along an edging or rows of trees along a driveway or property boundary, for example.
You can generate videos of the landscapes you create. With several clicks of your mouse, you can set up Realtime cameras along the route you want displayed in your video. Once you save the video, you can burn it to a DVD, add it to Facebook or upload it to a website.
One questionable exclusion from the design tools is a pool and pond designer. There are pool and pond shapes and images, but the lack of a pool designer is odd considering how advanced this software is in almost every other way.
In the walkthrough mode, you can take photos of the landscape. Realtime Landscaping Plus 2014 allows you to save the photos as they appear, with high or low contrast, or in an artistic style. You can unleash your inner Monet with an impressionistic rendering in the form of a watercolor, painting or colored-pencil sketch, among others.
Idea Spectrum's 3D landscape design software helps you bridge the gap between imagination and reality. Realtime Landscaping Plus 2014 has more than 4,000 high-resolution plant images, and the grass material rises above the sidewalk to give you a more realistic presentation. Lighting effects and time-of-day settings improve the believability of your rendered project. As a final touch, 3D characters can populate your landscape, moving around your yard and interacting with equipment, based on your commands. Finally, this software allows you to import photos and Google Maps addresses and combine them with the computer-generated materials. At times, the program has trouble identifying objects in a photograph, but you can build your landscape design with relative ease.
Realtime Landscaping Plus 2014 offers two design views. In the bird's-eye view, you can see a traditional grid layout. The perspective view is a 3D display. With this 3D landscape software, you can zoom in or out, pan the camera in all directions and see your project from any angle. Finally, when you're ready to see a final presentation, a walkthrough view animates the project and characters. We are impressed with the surface graphics of each material we used. Designs you create using stone, brick or wood on walkways or patios have greater detail than in previous versions, and you can now add straight or curved railings wherever you need them. You can choose from a list of prebuilt styles or make your own walkway and rail designs from a wide selection of materials. This leads to an increase in the overall realism of your landscape design. You also have the option to insert borders on paths or driveways. You add them with just the click of a button, and you can customize the width, depth and position of the borders from there.
Ease of Use
Realtime Landscaping Plus 2014 is intuitive to operate. We were quickly able to start working on our own projects. The software's user interface has a sleek design, easy-to-navigate tabs and large icons. Even with all the objects in this application's library, it's easy to keep track of everything because it is so well organized. You can find objects by scrolling through the images and names by category, or you can type the name of an item into the search feature and locate it quickly. You can also easily program keyboard strokes to function as shortcuts for objects, which can save you even more time.
The procedure for inserting objects is straightforward; you simply select the object you want, place it and size it. Once you have the object in the right place, you can determine the layer on which you want to place it. Another nice feature of this landscaping software is that you can press undo and redo as many times as you'd like until you get your landscape to look exactly the way you want it.
Help & Support
Idea Spectrum has many standard support and documentation options. You can phone or email the manufacturer for tech support, search the context-sensitive digital manual or work through tutorials that teach you how to most effectively utilize the tools. Should you need it, there is also a 30-day, money-back guarantee.
Sometimes a software company will make a great product and stop there, afraid to try new things. It's clear that this isn't the case with Idea Spectrum's Realtime Landscaping Plus 2014. Idea Spectrum continues to push forward, improving its product's aesthetic appeal, increasing the number of objects it offers and simplifying the design processes. Whether you're a pro landscaper or a novice looking to increase your home's value through landscaping, you'll find Realtime Landscaping Plus 2014's features useful and rewarding.