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Room Plan Software

Find Out the Best Room Planning Software (All Free)

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IKEA Kitchen Planner

IKEA Kitchen Planner

IKEA
Room planning software seems to be sprouting up everywhere, much of it free and online. The benefits of "free" are obvious, but "online" means that you do not have to download weighty software often laden with so-called bonuses and extras that you don't want. Online room plan software can be accessed anywhere with a computer, Internet connection, and a browser.

The downside of these free room planners is that they are biased: most are marketing vehicles for products such as kitchen cabinets, windows, doors, flooring, and more. But if you can get past the sales pitches, you can have some decent planning software. Let's review and rate these room planners, starting with the worst first:

4. Marvin Room Planner

Summary: Not good. Its lack of 3D view-ability means that you have no clear picture of how your room will end up.

Pros: Since Marvin is a door and window company, you do have doors and windows to play with--perhaps more than in other online room planners (but not by much).

Cons: Once again, no 3D views. Objects (cabinets, appliances, etc.) do not automatically fit against each other. In other words, it's possible to have overlapping cabinets, which is impossible in the real world. Finally, it isn't even clear which windows and doors you have selected.

3. Google SketchUp

Summary: Not solely a room planner, Google SketchUp can design anything on the face of the Earth. SketchUp does require a download. The fan-base for SketchUp is huge, so you can share ideas and templates with other users.

Pros: It's Google. And because it's Google, users flock here. Tons of usable designs are available, and plenty of peer support on forums, too.

Cons: It's Google. And because it's Google, they have taken the "spaghetti on the wall" approach to SketchUp--same as they do with virtually every other product. They design it and release it to the word, letting it sink or float on its own. Long story short: zero customer service. Initially confusing and complex, Google SketchUp is definitely not for the person who wants to have a room plan up and running in 30 minutes or less.

2. HomeStyler by AutoDesk

Summary: The free, online-based "baby" of Autodesk's more powerful and fee-based AutoCAD® Freestyle. HomeStyler doesn't do a bad job of helping you come up with a quick rendering of your room plan. You won't be taking these plans to an architect, but they are perfectly fine for your own use.

Pros: Brand-name product tie-ins. Easy to use.

Cons: No good quick-start templates available. Only user-generated templates are available, and the quality is somewhat lacking.

1. IKEA Online Kitchen Planner

Summary: IKEA Online Kitchen Planner is a snazzy, fun-to-use online room planner from the king of Euro-influenced design. Be sure to register for an account and religiously back up your design, because the application is prone to crashing.

Pros: This online planner helps you get a virtual plan built really fast. Objects automatically fit against each other and even "right" themselves when mistakenly turned backwards.

Cons: This application, which is Flash-based like most of these planners, loves to crash. And crash it will. My browser, Firefox, is fairly immune to crashes, so you might have better luck with Google Chrome or Internet Explorer. Also, it's just a kitchen planner, rather than a generic room planner.

Notable Mention: SpruceBox

This online room planner lets you outfit kitchens and bathrooms with actual, brand-name cabinets, flooring, appliances, sinks, fixtures, and much more. Since SpruceBox is brand-agnostic, it doesn't steer you toward one brand over another--a rarity among free online room planners.

SpruceBox founder Matthew Berman tells us that, "SpruceBox is about visualizing products, materials, and finishes all together; helping homeowners discover their palette; and getting the conversation started."

I asked Berman if SpruceBox would begin to allow consumers to design their own room layouts. He said that, as SpruceBox grows, it will "offer different configurations that help them take the next step and continue to bring them closer to their actual space."

Still in Beta, SpruceBox looks like a promising tool.

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