As a Technology Design Consultant, I think I was born with a something in my DNA that forces me to continually try new software. Call it Technology ADD or whatever you want. I’m an early adopter. That means that I go through lots of software and applications that I end up abandoning because they aren’t user friendly, don’t serve my needs, or just don’t work. BUT… for all those failed attempts, there are always one or two gems.
Since I spend most of my time working with architects on designing audio and video systems, it’s not surprising that a lot of the software is equally useful for their purposes. This tends to lead to people leaning over my shoulder during meetings. Of course, this is fine with me. As someone involved in technology, I can’t help the urge to try new things. For all of that effort going through stuff that doesn’t work, it feels great to share when I find the things that DO work. So, without further ado, here is the list of the Best Apps for Architects and Designers. Most of these are either free or extremely inexpensive.
1. Evernote Web Clipper – Yes everyone uses Evernote, but do you use the Web Clipper application? If you’re not already using Evernote, I suggest you give it a shot. This software lets you save and sort…everything. The Evernote Web Clipper app for the Chrome browser lets you quickly save web pages to your Evernote folder. This is great for design ideas, products, or manufacturer information. You can assign tags and folder as you clip things, so that you come back to them later. This is great for stuff that you stumble across and need to remember, but don’t want to get sidetracked.
2. Gmail – Do you get a ton of email? I know you do! Gmail is amazing for a few reasons. First, for smaller firms without an IT department and dedicated Exchange Server with backup routine (which should include either Cloud or offsite backup), Gmail cost effectively ensures that you’ll never lose ALL of your firms’ email in a Server crash (which would obviously be a big problem). The other advantage is email sorting. Gmail sorts email from social sites (like LinkedIn), forums, and newletters under separate tabs, so that you stop drowning in automated notification emails.
3. Rapportive – If you’re like me, you deal with a constant stream of new people. Clients, owners, manufacturers. It’s really hard to keep track of everyone. If you use Gmail, there is a great app called Rapportive. It senses the email address of the person in the email and will show you their photo, and social profiles right inside the Gmail sidebar. This is great to put a name to a face and allow you to quickly connect with someone.
4. Colorzilla – This is another browser app. It allows you to pick a location on your computer screen with an eyedropper tool. It will give you the hex and RGB color codes for the pixel at that exact location on the screen. This is great if you are trying to match colors for a branding stream for a project, or even if you just want to customize a proposal. It’s available for both Chrome and Firefox.
5. Jing – Do you ever need to get a quick answer from a client but don’t have time to schedule a conference call? Just open your model, take a screen capture with your voice recorded and send to the client. They can view it in their free time or float around the office. Jing is free to record captures up to five minutes and when you’re done recording, it provides a simple link that you can forward to someone, without having to attach a file. This also lets you control permissions and security for the video, so that only the person that you sent the video can get access.
6. ZOOM Web and Video Conferencing – An attractive Goldilocks options somewhere in-between a full blown video conferencing solution and a Skype/Google Hangouts option. Zoom provides video conferencing at very affordable price points, with systems that allow integration with conventional video conferencing. You can also do traditional WebEx type web conferences. This is great for doing screen shares of drawings and models for remote clients. The fact that the system can be integrated with traditional video conferencing systems makes it very flexible. The platform was founded by engineers from the Cisco/WebEx development team.
7. Bluebeam Revu – To my mind this software just blows away all of the other PDF software out there. I realize that it’s a love or hate relationship for many, but if you haven’t already given Revu a try, it’s worth the effort. At first, you can be a bit overwhelmed by all of the tools that are available, but there are great video tutorials available online. The real power of this software comes with its ability to annotate and markup a PDF for a streamlined workflow. We have adopted this approach at Base4 Technology and it saves an enormous amount of time and money for our clients. Our designers quickly create markup drawings that are transmitted to our drafting team for creation of project drawings.
I know this list is by no means exhaustive. My intention here was to create a list where 90% of the viewers could find at least one new app that they could set up quickly and save them time. No point in wasting space on a popularity contest of tools that people are already using or creating the worlds longest list of software, so that you have to try the stuff out for yourself.
What are your favorite tools as an architect or design professional? Which ones save you the most time and which ones could you not live without? Share your experience and help others.