Home > Features > Product Review: Home Design Studio 11

Home Design Studio 11 for Mac is a brand new 3D computer-aided design (CAD) program aimed at the consumer and home remodeling audience. Punch Software, its developer, has led the market in this software sector on the PC for quite some time but only recently has come to the Mac. For years consumer-level CAD for home owners/re-modelers has been limited on the Mac unless users wanted to confine themselves to basic 2D CAD programs; but now with Home Design Studio 11 for Mac users have an excellent choice.

Mac Crafted

Mac users, whether recent switchers or veterans, will feel right at home with Home Design Studio's Aqua interface. (see image 01-02). With an interface that is straight forward, the user will find typical tool palettes on the left and an Inspector palette and Contents browser palette on the right.

01 - Main Interface (click on thumbnail)
02 - Aqua Interface

What's missing in the current version are palettes that can dock to each other (for a more tidy screen) and screen hints (help hints) that emerge when you hover the cursor over a tool. Only the tool's name appears and unfortunately this doesn't always inform you enough of how to use the tool. (see image 01-02)

For folks that are new to the Mac, Punch Software has done an admirable job with the interface; we look forward to what they may do in the future, as it will make the program more intuitive.

Working in Home Design Studio

Getting started is easy if you simply begin with the first floor of your house. In fact, the Active Floor drop-down menu consists of just three choices: First Floor, Second Floor and Third Floor. Unfortunately, if you begin to develop from the foundation or basement up the program itself presents a bit of confusion. A basement would technically be a floor level, yet Home Design Studio for Mac doesn't provide that in the drop down menu. What becomes confusing for those working on a basement is understanding that they want to draw their basement at a negative elevation such as -9'-0" and set your active floor to the First Floor.(see image 03). This confusing aspect is definitely something the folks at Punch can fix in the next version.

Most users will want to just jump right in to the development of the first floor. To start you pick one of the wall tools, set your parameters in the Inspector palette, and then begin drawing your walls. Newbies to CAD software may struggle a bit here to understand the nature of "snaps" and this is one area where Punch can make -- and should make -- a large improvement. While items snap together okay, there is no intelligent cursor technology that shows alignments with particular vertices on other objects. This can make closing a complex shaped house plan tricky.

03 - You can make basements and sink them into your digital terrain whether flat or sloped.
04 - Common Window Elements - they can be customized by dimension and basic shapes.

Once you have your walls in place adding doors and windows is a snap. You choose a type, set dimensions for each item, including elevation level for the sill of the window, for instance, and then place it in the wall. (see image 04). Once in the wall you can slide it around to the desired location and use live dimensioning as your guide to where you place it.

You complete walls, insert doors and windows, add color or textures to them and proceed up through your house for each floor. Adding a roof is straight forward but the user will need to understand the nuances of wall properties options in the Inspector palette in order to fill gaps in walls under roof gables and so forth. (see image 05-06).

05 - The Inspector palette alters based on the object at hand. In this case: a wall. You can plug-in values for gable walls based on the "slope" or pitch of the wall and the program will automatically fit the wall to the underside of the roof structure.
06 - In the LiveView window real time changes occur in 3D based on what you do in the 2D window. Changing a value in the Inspector palette also updates LiveView. You view your building in section much like it is possible in SketchUp.


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