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on 9 November 2009
Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is a very powerful piece of software which seems to have limitless options available for design. It needs a pretty good amount of RAM, so I guess you need a good-ish computer (program has lots of graphics etc.)

There is a comprehensive series of tutorials which I found very helpful, and once you've mastered tbe basics of creating a room the programme allows you to then get complicated with different designs and furnishings - -and makes it very easy!

If you're creating from new there are a comprehensive selection of defaults that allow a quick and professional creation of pretty much any home feature. The only problem I found throughout the program is that it is obviously made for the USA market, which is pity because many of the ready made items (especially the houses) are distinctly American.

The options available let you recreate your own home conditions to plan any changes to either the structure or the decor. You may have to use a little artistic licence at times for the reasons given above, but it's not a serious issue really.

There is also a garden planning facility, including a comprehensive selection of plants and shrubs (which again are USA based).

You can view what you've created from all angles and in 3D (which is why you need quite a good computer). You can also use the program to calculate costs and quantities.

It's difficult to see what else a home owner could possibly want from a home design package. I dropped it a star only because it has not been adapted for the European market.

Recommended for anyone looking to redesign home and garden and wanting a professional program to work with.
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VINE VOICEon 8 November 2009
Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
First off, before you click the Buy button, you should review the minimum hardware specs. You need a pretty powerful PC, with alot of RAM (which most modern desktop PC's should be fine with), but most importantly, a powerful video card, with at least 256MB of video memory. Don't even think about running this off a budget laptop, it won't work.

OK, with that out the way. This is a pretty nifty bit of kit. It's well laid out, and rather powerful home designer software, you can do room designs all the way up to a full house and garden design, pretty much every aspect of the design can be tweaked using the software. It's pretty simple to use, but will require a little bit of work to get to grips with the intricacies of the software. The quickstart videos are all online (not on the DVD), and are well thought out and teach the basics quickly, however they are very "American", as this a American product, with some terminology differences.

The Americanisms continue, as this seems very geared for imperial measurements. The built in templates some let you change to metric, others seem fixed at imperial measurements. You can of course start your own template using metric measurements, but it does mean you can't use some of the built in ones (I couldn't see how to change it after the template was used).

The American theme continues, many of the default materials are based around American housebuilding techniques, rather than European ones, small annoyance, and something I suspect can be changed if you delve deep enough in the settings.

One of the best parts is the licensing, which allows use on upto 3 different PC's, and you can free up licensed PC's by uninstalling whilst connected to the net, to move licences around.

The Import/Export options are good (including importing of models from Google SketchUp or 3DStudio and exporting to DXF to amongst many other formats). There even appears to be an option to import terrain data from GPS (in GPX format), which sounds neat (but I haven't tried it).

You can also get the package to calculate materials lists, which sounds handy, but again, I haven't needed to use this yet. However it sounds promising, as based on my experiences of the software so far, I have no doubt that it will work as I expect it to.

I think most people will be very pleased with this software, it would get 5 stars if it were more tailored for the Euro market, but knocking a point of for that. Otherwise at the price it represents very good value for money.

PROS
Pretty easy to use considering the complexity of the subject
Online tutorials are well thought out and helpful to get the basics
Fantastic price
Flexible licensing
Easy to achieve good results quickly.
Compatible with Win7(even 64bit)
Good Import/Export options
Material Calculations

CONS
Some templates fixed to imperial measurements
Many Americanisms in the software.
Beefy hardware requirements
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VINE VOICEon 2 December 2009
Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Very comprehensive & very hard to use! The tutorials do help & the options seem almost limitless but be prepared to spend a LONG time learning how to do what you want to......

.........& even longer working out all the possibilities of what the software COULD do!

Seriously a very good piece of software for those with the time & talent to invest in it. And you need to provide the ideas yourself as no software can turn you into a creative designer!

Probably over-kill for domestic use.

One to have a long hard look at before purchasing but a great bit of software for the right person!
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on 20 January 2010
This software is good and easy once you get use to its features and how to build property walls, windows, doors, etc. I agree with others when this software is American, so unless your looking for that American property look, this software is probs the best to be purchasing. However, if you want a property that looks like its been built and designed for the United Kingdom, then a few adjustments can be made in the software such as wall colouring and textures. But you may find other software's better off if your looking for the UK look. However, if your looking at this product purly because your interested in designing floorplans and producing your own property designs and you want to learn, then go for this software. It displays room sizes, external and internal wall sizes, window and door sizes, and best of all, they can all be resized to anything you want! You can install ceiling lights, wall lights, light switches, electrical sockets/outlets, fire places and loads more. For the price, i would say its worth it, but i would consider viewing other home designing products first to make sure this is the one for you. Overall, its a good piece of software, good features, excellent camera features (both 2D and 3D) with a walkthrough option and more. I would recommend that anyone that purchases this software, reads the manual and views the online training videos as theres alot more you can do with this software than advertised.

Overall, if you just want to practice, mess about, draw floorplans, train and learn yourself or get a rough design idea, then i would say yes to buying this product.

If you dont want an American look and feel in your design, or you are a basic or first time user to this sort of software, then consider purchasing another software product from Amazon.co.uk.
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VINE VOICEon 24 November 2009
Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
When it comes to software, I'm the kind of guy who doesn't read manuals. Big mistake in the case of this suite? Actually no. Fortunately, there are loads of tutorials that walk you through many of the more complex ideas; particularly fortunately, since the maunual refers to things such as Mansard and Gull wing roofs that leave me totally bewildered (as you may have guessed, my DIY revolves around the principle if it doesn't work, hit it until it does).

My ideal software of this type would be for the package to take a 'this is sort of what it looks like' drawing and turn it into a palace. Having said that, this makes a pretty good stab at what I want (allowing for the occasional blunder on my part where lines and walls don't join). It also doesn't take long to do a sort of shanty town lean-to or primeval cave dwelling.

It's incredibly detailed. You can include not only power points but also lights, not just walls but also mouldings... download loads of extra stuff and so on.

So are there any downsides - apart from my uselessness, that is? Well, to start with, I honestly think that you need to know waht you're doing, and even then it'll probably take you some time to really replicate the property you want. Against that, once you've spent the time, you can play with it to your heart's content - adding a conservatory here, changing your Mansard roof to a Gull wing one (ahem!), changing from 110v to 240v fittings, recreating how the house looked when Abigail's Party-type dos took place there over a fondue set.

There's also a real feel of Americana to it. If you want to recreate the Bates Motel or the AMerican Gothic painting, it's all here. However, a 2 up, 2 down terraced house in Skelmersdale may prove more of a challenge.

My rating of 5 is for those who know what they're doing, therefore. For the rest of us, a scribble on the back of a napkin may well suffice.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 16 November 2009
Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
A word of warning first. I consider myself not to be too backward in using design software but I found this to be not a straightforward piece of software to use. You can dive in and play with a few templates to start with and get some simple results but if you have a real-world project you want to apply this to you will need to spend a bit of time getting to grips with it.

As others have pointed out, this is a bit of a resource beast on your PC. That applies to most CAD related software, where you are designing things with a 3-D view to allow you to 'walk' around them. It might not be obvious to people who aren't used to this sort of software though so please do make sure you know you have a computer with enough power to run this software. Once you have worked out that your PC can cope with the software then installation is simple. From there it is then a case of deciding what project you are trying to tackle. Adding an extension? Doing some interior design? The package will help you do a great deal but it will take time to get to grips with.

Others have written quite a bit on this software so far, so here are my good and bad points for the software. I found the tutorials good but essential to get the most out of the software. For the price there are bags of features and the potential for saving some time and possibly money on projects is there. It won't replace the need for an architect, same as with any of these types of software, but it does allow you to go into something with a really good idea of how things could look. I liked the pricing feature as well which worked nicely, with a bit of tinkering. On the downside I agree with others that a lot of the templates and assumptions made by the package are geared for the US market.

In summary, if you take the time and make a few allowances for the Americana, this is a really great value package that will prove very useful and interesting in trying out a few home projects.
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VINE VOICEon 8 November 2009
Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I've been thinking about an extension to the rear of my home for a while, and although I'm not totally set on it, I thought I'd try planning it myself to get an idea of what I could be achieved.

To practice, I reproduced my current home, and then tried an extension to the rear of the house, in a guesstimated fashion.
I quickly created my property boundaries and terrain, and then roughly the two floors. Afterwards, I had the basic doors, windows and fixtures in place. (In reality, you would obviously, spend the time to take measurements or refer to blueprints to be 100% accurate.)
From there, I played around with altering various parts of my home... this is where I got lost day dreaming about doing up the whole house - it appears to be great for planning any remodeling and "what if" scenarios, (changing walls, door placements, new fixtures, and so on). It literally takes seconds of simple point and click mouse action to achieve these changes. You can also customize the properties of a particular object, such as renaming it, stating colour, texture, etc.

If there's not enough fixtures etc for you - despite the dozens of object libraries with the program - you can expand with additional download content from the Chief Architect site. Some of these are free, but not all.

Admittedly, I had to refer to the help function quite a bit to get me started, but I find this to be the way when learning any software... I still do it today with programs I've been using years!
The help function is easy to navigate and gives very clear step-by-step instructions for building just about any structure.
(In addition, Chief Architect maintains an on-line user community area for chat and Q&A - although I've not used this, yet.)
One annoyance: There is no "auto-help" function to explain if your measurements do not work out... I could assume that all my rough plans have been amazing, which I doubt.

I'm not so sure if Joe Bloggs (me!) could take this software and actually build a house/extension/garden from it, but I would imagine that you could save some money by investing in this before you get an architect to draw up your plans. (Don't quote me on this, though!)
It is pretty powerful stuff, throwing as awful lot at you - maybe too much for some - so investment is the key. If you get to the point of knowing this software like the back of your hand, you could probably project manage your own home and deal with contractors directly.

So, have I finally given myself the go-ahead for my extension completely? No, not yet... but perhaps mid-2010. There's still a few things I want to adjust, plus I will have a professional check over my ideas.

Overall, although it takes a little bit to get familiar with the many details, this is a great value product. Loads of features, and pretty easy to use, provided you take time with it. I highly recommended it.

5/5
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VINE VOICEon 19 November 2009
Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is an incredible piece of software. The level of detail you can go into is immense. However, on the down side, with power comes complexity. This is not a pickup and use piece of casual home user software, it's a professional design tool and will require a reasonable investment in learning time to get even basic results from it. There are 66 or so online videos to teach you every aspect of the software.
It deals with the physical building construction as well as interior design and as such contains a lot of detailed technical building terms which baffled me. Whilst you don't have to get bogged down in such detail, why buy such a powerful piece of software if you're not going to use it.
The software is very intuitive when you know what all the buttons and menus do. The best thing is to start drawing a house and learn about a particular tool when you need to, like adding walls, windows, doors, roofs, gardens, decking, plants, etc. The list seems almost endless.
Beware if you're on a limited download internet connection, the training videos, which you will need to view are streamed from the web and in the 3 weeks I've been using it, there have been 3 software updates issued at 50Mb each. There are also additional libraries you can download which are not small, but optional.
I also found the software range itself very confusing, with pro, suite, basic, architectural, etc. which one has which features, which do I need? I'm still not sure, so investigate before you buy.
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on 24 March 2011
Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Having used Chief Architect products for a long time now, I can say that they have been consistently excellent, and that includes this release. This Suite is not the full bells-and-whistles version which will set you back many times the cost, but it does much of what is needed for the basic design of a new property (or extensive renovation). The options are almost limitless and can be overwhelming at first; this is NOT an application you can pick up and expect to use with just a few hours effort. It will be many weeks before you have a firm grasp on what everything does and become efficient at using the tools, but once you master it you can create a rough rendering of a home within a few hours. Of course the reality is that days will be swallowed up as you try and perfect your design but that is the great power of software like this; you can try any permutation you like, it's almost endless.

A continuing although slight annoyance is the number of american conventions used (imperial units, material types). Some of these can be changed in the options but it's not immediately obvious that this can be done to the newcomer.

Also you will need a decently fast PC to run this flawlessly, particularly RAM and CPU power. The 3D renderings themselves are not exceptional but do the job fine, and it must be remembered that compared to the competition this is a relatively low-cost product. I can recommend this for anyone wanting to have a dabble in the world of home design.
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Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Having never used a package like this before, I had to work through some of the tutorials it comes along with to really get started.

I have to say, so far I am very impressed with its capabilities. Of course, I have nothing to compare directly with, since as I said this is my first go at this class of software package. However, I haven't found myself yet thinking "I wonder if it let's me do..." and finding that it doesn't - that's always a good sign. Seems to have useful features coming out of its ears! I love it.
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