Best Apps for Landscape Architects and Designers
Apps have become an integral part of design and architecture. Now rather than reaching for a ruler, architects can quickly calculate dimensions by pulling out their smartphone. Designers can also find inspiration online, collaborate with co-workers on digital drawing pads and you never have to worry about leaving your important measurements, notes, drawings and images at the office when they’re all accessible on your mobile device.
That’s why we’ve compiled a list of the apps landscape architects and designers may want to add to stay one step ahead in a highly competitive industry.
Apps for Analyzing a Site
Accurate site analysis helps determine what hazards or challenges the landscape might present and what you can accomplish in your design. It can help you identify strengths and weaknesses of the existing space and plan how to optimize them through your design. Take note of topography, water drainage and patterns of shade and sunlight to determine where and what types of foliage will thrive in that climate and space. You can also plan the best locations for pathways, patios and more.
There are a variety of landscape architecture apps that help measure and record data efficiently, so you can move quickly to the design process. In fact, according to a 2015 survey by the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), 76 percent of landscape architects use a smartphone app for all or most of their site analyses.
Here are some top recommendations for the best site analysis apps for landscape contractors and architects:
This GPS tool uses a satellite map to make quick site measurements, including perimeters, distances, bearings or angles in imperial or metric units. The app is easy to use — just drop pins around the area you want to measure on the map — and also features a magnifying glass function for more accurate pin placement. You can also add labels to your maps, so you don't forget any brilliant ideas while analyzing a site. Planimeter is available for iOS or Android.
This innovative app uses GPS, a magnetometer and a gyroscope to map the sun's position and path at a given location. You can show the position of the sun in hourly increments, on a flat compass or a realistic 3D-camera view. You can also view the sun's path on any date, see summer and winter solstice paths and sunrise and sunset times, and visualize the angle of the sun to determine how much sun your site will receive. This app is perfect for planning shade structures, orienting buildings and windows, and identifying foliage placement so it receives the optimal sunlight. Sunseeker is available for iOS and Android.
3. My Measures and Dimensions
This free app is perfect for recording and sharing important dimensions and measurements made during site analysis. You can easily record and share the dimensions of an entire space or features of an existing landscape with your team members. Just take a photo of an object or space, then add arrows, text, angles and comments to record dimensions and other important details. This app supports both imperial and metric measurements and allows you to organize saved images in specific folders to keep projects separate. My Measures and Dimensions is available for iOS and Android.
4. Google Earth
This classic app is extremely useful for land development and landscape architects. It allows you to search for and view locations in a realistic terrain view. The 3D street view option provides a 360-degree, ground-level view of a location, so you can visualize a space accurately before ever setting foot in it. You can also toggle various layers including street names, photography and borders. Google Earth is free for both iOS and Android.
5. iHandy Level
This simple yet effective app allows you to check a surface’s angle using your phone or tablet. The display shows a traditional bubble leveler as well as the current angle of the surface. iHandy Level is free for iOS and Android.
This useful app has a bubble level for simple tasks and uses your device's camera to measure angles in the field, displayed in degrees, percentage or rise over run. Clinometer is available for iOS and free for Android.
7. Angle Meter PRO
8. GPS Essentials
This comprehensive GPS tool has a variety of features for mapping and navigating a site. You can trace tracks and routes, view latitude, longitude, altitude and bearing, and review data about moon and sun patterns and phases. This app is free for Android.
This GPS tracking tool records distance, elevation and path as you move, making it perfect for mapping a site by foot. You can easily record GPS data while moving around a site, then view your data on OpenStreetMap. This app is free on iOS.
This useful app can quickly convert feet to meters, kilometers to miles, Fahrenheit to Celsius and more. Vert is available free on iOS.
Apps for Designing a Project
Once you have gathered your data and surveyed your site, it is time to head to the drawing room. Whether you need a little inspiration or want an efficient way to share designs, these apps for architects and designers can help. Smartphone apps can also be a great way to bring your designs with you, so you can access your drawings anytime inspiration strikes.
According to the 2015 ASLA survey, 44 percent of landscape architects use an app during the design idea phase and 47 percent use an app as a design reference tool for all or most of their projects. If you are looking to streamline your design process, consider these landscape design apps for Android and iOS, organized by design stage:
Apps for the Idea Phase
This free social app is perfect for gathering and sharing design ideas with your team. Just create an account, search Pinterest's massive database for landscape design features, then save your inspiration to labeled boards for each project or feature. Pinterest is available for both iOS and Android.
2. Microsoft Pix Camera
With this free camera app, you can take high-quality photos effortlessly by automatically enhancing and selecting the best images out of a burst session. But what makes this app perfect for landscape designers and architects is the recently updated Photosynth feature, which allows you to take wide and tall images that leave traditional panoramic photos in the dust. The resulting image captures the entire scene before you, not just a section of it so you can dream up the best landscape design while sitting in the space. Microsoft Pix Camera is available for free on iOS.
This app is perfect for generating and sharing landscape design ideas with clients and co-workers. With this iPad app for architects and designers, you can take images then add 3D landscape elements to imagine how plants will look in the space. iScape is free for iOS.
Apps for the Drawing Phase
1. Morpholio Trace
This highly praised design and drawing app was created with architects in mind. Morpholio Trace has a wealth of features that allow you to create your design with a variety of trace papers, including blueprint, yellow trace and vellum, as well as pens in a variety of sizes and colors. As you build ideas, you can layer your sketches just as you would real trace paper. The app provides stencils of plants, trees and more that can be inserted into your drawings for quick and accurate landscape designs. If you prefer to sketch from an image, take a photo with your device or upload an image and add markups. This iPad architecture app also serves as a social community where you can share and add comments to landscape design ideas. Morpholio Trace is free for iOS.
2. Paper by FiftyThree
This simple app provides a clean interface for drawing, sketching, writing notes and more. The app resembles actual paper and creates beautiful design images you can share with your clients and co-workers. Enjoy simple tools for fast note-taking or creating diagrams and charts. You can also purchase special pressure-responsive styluses that make drawing even easier to take your digital sketches to the next level. Paper by FiftyThree is available for free on iOS.
3. Autodesk Sketchbook
Autodesk Sketchbook is another drawing app for creating quick and beautiful sketches with a variety of brushes, pens and pencils. This app is great for creating sketches on the fly to help your clients or team members visualize design ideas, with images you can save to create, update or revise later. Autodesk Sketchbook is free for iOS and Android.
4. AutoCAD 360
This app by Autodesk allows you to view, edit and create AutoCAD drawings with your mobile device. Download, make notes and access important files while you’re in the field or at client meetings, then quickly update and share your designs with your co-workers when you return to the office. This app has 2D and 3D drawing modes and saves files in DWG format. AutoCAD 360 is free for iOS and Android.
5. Adobe Capture CC
This app allows you to create color palettes from a camera view or photos, then transfer your color palette to Photoshop, InDesign or Adobe Illustrator for inspiration. The app also creates a color wheel that can be adjusted to find your perfect color palette for any landscape design. Adobe Capture CC is free for iOS and Android.
This app is another great option for creating color palettes from an image and also offers a full-screen mode to compare colors to real-life objects. Palettes can be downloaded for free, or you can upgrade to Palettes PRO for more features. Palettes is available for iOS.
Apps for Sharing Designs
1. Sketchup Mobile Viewer
This straightforward app is designed to increase your productivity by allowing you to quickly and easily view, share and collaborate on Sketchup models on your mobile device. This app is free on iOS and Android.
This creative portfolio app is perfect for showcasing your work to share with other landscape architects or potential clients. When you always have your portfolio in your back pocket, you will never miss an opportunity to win a new client or share your design vision with a co-worker. This app works offline as well, so your portfolio can truly come with you anywhere you go. Behance is free for iOS and Android.
3. Synthesis Mobile
This effective communication app is all business. Stay connected with important updates and news for your firm, or share images and links for your colleagues to comment on. This app can be used to keep track of projects and opportunities as well as serve as an employee directory. This app is a must-have for medium and large-sized architecture firms. Synthesis Mobile is available for free on iOS and Android.
While not designed specifically for architects and designers, DropBox is a simple and efficient way to share ideas and designs, especially large files shared with several people using different devices DropBox can be installed on any mobile device or desktop computer and syncs files across all devices. It can be organized into different folders that allow you to assign access to different users as necessary. DropBox is free for iOS and Android.
Apps for Choosing Plants
Choosing the perfect plants for a landscape design can be a difficult task. The ideal plants should fit your color scheme and overall style and be well-suited to the climate. You may also want to discover beautiful plants that will thrive in your landscape throughout the year, identify or match existing, or learn more about the needs of their ecosystem. The following apps below are useful for identifying and choosing the right plants for your landscape design:
1. Landscaper’s Companion
This massive database contains more than 26,000 plants to help you choose the right one for your landscape design. You can search by common or scientific name, browse plant types, or select specific appearances by searching bloom color or plant size plant. Once you find the plant you want, see how much water and sun it needs to grow, its specific USDA plant hardiness zone and when the plant is in bloom. The app also lists the typical plant height and width, so you know exactly how much space it will need in your landscape design when fully matured. Landscaper's Companion covers common plant categories from North America, Australia and the U.K., and is available on iOS.
Leafsnap is an electronic field guide developed by researchers from Columbia University, the Smithsonian Institution and the University of Maryland. The app allows you to identify tree species — just snap a photo of a leaf on a white background, upload it to the app, then compare results with high-resolution images of leaves and trees. Leafsnap currently allows you to identify trees from the Northeastern U.S. and Canada and is free on iOS.
This app provides a way to browse plant listings from suppliers in your area. Just search directories from wholesale plant suppliers and nurseries in your area by name to compare prices and availability. A mobile version of the website PlantANT, PlantAPP is free for iOS and Android.
4. Garden Plan Pro
According to the 2018 ASLA Residential Landscape Architecture Trends Survey, food and vegetable gardens will be a popular landscape design element this year. Garden Plan Pro is the perfect app for planning to add an herb or vegetable garden on your site. You can design the size and shape of the garden as well as determine the best layout of your plants. As a bonus, the app includes information and advice on growing and crop rotation that can be shared with your clients. Garden Plan Pro is available on iOS.
This app from Virginia Tech uses simple questions and your device's GPS to identify trees and other woody plants. The app narrows the search to your current area, then asks a series of questions, such as leaf shape and color or where the tree is growing. You can also search by zip code for lists of trees that live in that region. This app includes data for over 1,000 woody plants in North America. vTree is free for both iOS and Android.
Incorporating Shade Into Your Designs
When designing an outdoor space, adding shade structures can help plants thrive, make the space more comfortable, keep visitors cool, block harmful UV rays and enhance the aesthetic appeal of the area.
If you want to incorporate the style and benefits of shade into your landscape design, USA SHADE can help. We offer custom designs for shade structures that blend into your design plan. Choose from a wide variety of colors and styles or create an entirely new custom shade structure to fit any space. Our premium shade structures use durable fabric and steel structures engineered to withstand the elements and look elegant in any outdoor space. Browse our collection of shade structures online or contact us to discuss how we can make your landscape designs a reality.