For those who just want to dabble or for those wanting to try their hand at a free option, finding a good free landscaping software package can be challenging. Many of the big-name home and landscape software providers offer a trial period, but there aren’t very many completely free packages. Below is a list of the free landscape design software programs available on the Internet.
1. Google SketchUp
Most landscaping professionals consider Google SketchUp to be the best free option. You can use the program free for as long as you want. They do have an upgrade option (Google SketchUp Pro) that costs $495. However, you don’t need the pro version to be able to create some pretty amazing landscape designs. The power of this free tool is unmatched by any of the other free options.
The one downside to the Google SketchUp free version is the learning curve you will face. Don’t expect to download the free version and have an amazing landscape design done in one day.
2. Better Homes and Garden Plan-a-Garden
Better Homes and Garden (BHG) has a free software tool known as Plan-a-Garden. This software tool is super easy to use but it’s in a different class (a much lower class) than Google SketchUp. If you are simply looking to design (in 2D) a small, vegetable-less garden then this is the option for you. You can create simple designs in just a few minutes.
The one thing that really annoyed me about this tool is that it doesn’t offer any vegetables. You are limited to flowers, bushes, trees, and structures.
3. BBC Virtual Garden Free Tool
A lot of people mention using a free landscape design tool provided by the BBC. Getting BBC’s garden tool to work correctly is difficult. The program has a history of crashing and BBC is no longer providing any form of customer support on the tool (it’s hard to offer customer support on a free tool).
If you do get this free landscape design software to work, then supposedly it has 3D capabilities.
This tool would be on the other end of the spectrum from Google SketchUp. PlanGarden has very few capabilities when it comes to landscape design. This software program is designed to help you design and manage your garden. If that’s all you’re looking for, then PlanGarden might be a good idea for you. PlanGarden is basically the same tool as BHG’s Plan-A-Garden software, but it comes with vegetables! Note that this tool is no longer free. They do offer a 45 day trial though.
5. The ShowOff Visualizer
The free landscaping software offered by ShowOff is one of the better free options out there. It has a feature that allows you to upload a picture of your landscape or house and then you can create your design by adding objects to the picture. Unfortunately that’s about where the usefulness of this software ends.
The software is useful, but it still acts like free software. There are a lot of bugs and annoyances. For example, it logs people out at random times and doesn’t save your work. You can’t rotate the objects you insert. There is no 3D mode. The user-interface isn’t very intuitive and it’s hard to find the objects you are looking for to insert into your design. This software doesn’t compare with the paid programs available.