You've heard of 2D design apps and 3D ones, but 5D? Planner 5D is thus called because it's both a 2D app and a 3D app. Hence 5D. Really. Yes, we made that face too, when we found out. While it's a dumb name, the program itself is surprisingly smart.
Planner 5D runs in your browser (there are also mobile apps for your tablet or phone that have augmented reality features and sync with the online one - so it'll work on any of the best laptops (opens in new tab) or home computers (opens in new tab)), and in 2D mode it feels much faster than other browser-based design apps: it remains fast and smooth even when you're handling plans with lots of items and bits of furniture. Things do slow down slightly when you switch to 3D, but not dramatically so. For other options, see our rundown of the best interior design software (opens in new tab) 2020. Our top pick is Virtual Architect Ultimate (opens in new tab), which has a far simpler pricing structure.
Planner 5D review: Price
It's free to use but you'll have to pay for high-quality 3D renders; they're sold in bundles ranging from $9.99 for 20 HD images to $49.99 for 200. To gain full access to the catalog you'll need to pay $6.99 for 30 days (which also includes three HD renders), $15.99 for a year or $24.99 for a premium account. Those prices are for personal use; commercial use is twice the price and educational users will pay $9.99 per user per year. This is way too confusing, and seems designed to trick money out of customers.
Planner 5D review: Features and design
When you run Planner 5D, you'll be asked whether you want to start from scratch or work from a template; the templates are for a bathroom, a bedroom, an open plan living room/kitchen, an office, a loft and two kinds of house. Each template comes pre-populated with appropriate fixtures and furnishings. For example, the open plan dining space has kitchen units and overhead lights, a dining table and chairs, a sofa, coffee table and TV. There are also windows, pot plants and floor tiles.
Editing the templates or creating your floor plan is really simple. The toolbar at the side gives you fast access to standard room shapes, doors and windows, furniture and plants, and in a useful touch there are also sections for recently used items and favorites so you don't have to go through the catalog to find things you've previously liked. Clicking on an item enables you to apply a texture such as carpet, tile, stone brick, wallpaper, linoleum, parquet and manmade, and if you move part of your room it moves everything that's included within it – so for example if you move a wall or a corner where two walls meet you'll also move the doors and windows.
The catalog of items is organized into three sections: furniture, electrical appliances and miscellaneous. That latter category includes decorative items, kids' toys, plants, kitchenware and anything else you might want to put into your design, but you'll find that whichever type of item you want to use almost all of them are locked: as with the 3D renders, they're behind a paywall.
Whether you add items from the catalog or have them included in a template, you can easily reposition, rotate and adjust their sizes: unlike some apps you're not limited to the pre-defined sizes for furniture, units and other key items.
Planner 5D review: Results
Once you've got everything just-so, clicking on the 3D button lets you see your design in three dimensions. Movement is fast and intuitive: click and drag to change the viewing angle and use the on-screen icons, the keyboard shortcuts (W, S, A, D, just like you're playing Doom!) or your mouse wheel to zoom in or out.
The 3D view is excellent, enabling you to see not just where bits of furniture will fit but to get a real sense of what the room will actually look like: you can hang curtains, see how different kinds of lights will look on the ceiling and even see how many sofa cushions would be too many. You don't have the lighting controls of some rival apps, though, so if you really need to know how a room will look during the Golden Hour or after dark then you may need to try another app. HomeByMe (opens in new tab) probably has the best visualization here.
Once you've found a look you're happy with, you can create a render – which Planner 5D calls a snapshot. The app asks you to choose the angle you want to use, and it'll then give you a choice of three kinds of image: a regular screenshot of the view you've just been looking at; a low quality render showing the various materials at 640 x 480 resolution; or a very pretty, high quality near-photographic render at 900 x 675. The regular screenshot is free but the renders require you to buy a bundle of at least 20 (or subscribe to the catalog and get a couple of renders included in the deal).
Your projects are stored online in the Planner 5D website and you can also share them with others, either as a link or by embedding the app in your own website. There are no export features for sharing with other apps.
Should you buy Planner 5D?
Planner 5D is a superb home design app, but we're not fans of the pricing model its developers have adopted: it's unnecessarily complex and makes it hard to work out the actual price of the app or compare it to rivals.
The only indication that Planner 5D will charge for features is the button that says "Get started for free"; it's only when you access the catalogue or try to create a high quality render that the buy-now screen appears. We absolutely believe that developers should get paid for their work but this doesn't seem like a very customer-friendly way of doing it. It feels like the consumer pricing is an afterthought and the target audience is designers who'll simply subscribe to gain full access to all five dimensions on offer.