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October 1996 Reviews TOC

10/96 Reviews SW: Chief Architect 4.0

Hail to the Chief ... Architect

By Jafar Nabkel

For years, graphic artists, illustrators and animators have had specialized software design tools for their trade. Chief Architect 4.0 delivers the same level of creative power and design expertise to professional architects, contractors and anyone who regularly engages in space planning.

Chief Architect's interface makes the basics of building design a snap. You can quickly create walls, doors, windows, stairs, cabinets and furniture. Moving or editing objects-even in 3-D perspective or cross-section views-won't strain your muscles a bit. Inexpensive design products claim the same excellence, but Chief Architect's full customizability, automation and professional output make the program worth the extra money. Like high-end CAD programs, this one lets you edit any material (bricks, shingles, flooring and so on), attach it to walls, floors or countertops, and then display the results in three dimensions. Nearly all object parameters are fully editable.

While landscaping and basements are still missing from this release, you can create multilevel decks. The 2-D CAD facility provides drawing tools to add structural details when you want to submit plans for permits and construction.

Chief Architect's unlimited camera angles generate interior or exterior views to impress your clients and colleagues.

The program isn't perfect, however; its lack of multi-object selection or grouping can make edits tedious. Camera movement and realism in Chief Architect's 3-D space, while acceptable, proved somewhat disappointing.

To take your design to the next level-with realistic photo imaging-you'll want to render the image you created with a 3-D ray-tracing program. Several are available: Micrografx' Visual Reality, as well as Fractal Design's Ray Dream Studio and Caligari's trueSpace 2, give acceptable results. Robert McNeel & Associates' AccuRender 2.1, priced at less than $400, produces the best 3-D images but requires AutoCAD.

Chief Architect's ease-of-designability yields productivity far greater than what you'll get from generic CAD systems costing five times as much. Its automation, customizability and professional results provide the expertise that low-end products lack.

Info File
Chief Architect 4.0
Pros: Pro results; 3-D editing
Cons: No multiple select; constrained 3-D camera movement
Platforms: Windows 95, 3.1x, NT
Disk Space: 15MB
Advanced Relational Technology
800-482-4433, 208-664-4204
WinMag Box Score: 4.0

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