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SoftPlan Vs. Chief Architect Comparison

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#1 John Sisk

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Posted 08 February 2017 - 01:57 PM

Alot of customers and potential customers have been asking about a comparison between our product and the Chief Architiect software, and we feel that the best way to have this answered is by asking you, the users what you think.
If you have any expereience using both the softwares, or any knowledge about the two, please let us know by commenting in this thread!  We are mainly focused on being able to give potential customers a reliable comparison of the two written by actual users.
We at SoftPlan appreciate all the input our users give, and would like to thank everyone for their participation!

#2 Philip Frank

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Posted 09 February 2017 - 06:14 AM

I do Design and Estimating for a lumberyard and demo'd SoftPlan, Chief Architect and Envisioneer before deciding on SoftPlan. All 3 do a good job of creating floor plans, elevations and sections. What sold me on SoftPlan is it's Material Take Off capabilities. Their SoftList module is leaps and bounds above the others in regards to customizing, accuracy and the ability to synchronize with our Point of Sale software. There is a bit of a learning curve with SoftList, but between the documentation, videos and their VERY patient and knowledgeable support team I quickly had it up and running. Once I have a house properly modeled in SoftPlan I can have a very accurate and detailed take off in less than an hour. I could not do my job without SoftList and SoftPlan.


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Viking Lumber

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#3 Chris Proost

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Posted 09 February 2017 - 09:00 AM

I currently have both and I never was a big fan of Chief Architect. The main difference to me is that while CA produces awesome 3D renderings the plan portion of the software is lacking. SoftPlan is getting much better in the 3D rendering game but I am able to produce much better looking working set of drawings. While the 3D is fun to look at for my clients, most people will never see them, while my plans are seen by plan reviewers, contractors, building material suppliers, tradesmen and of course the beloved building inspectors.

#4 Mike Feinstein

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Posted 12 February 2017 - 08:49 AM

From a strictly learning curve perspective, SP was much easier for me to pick up and run with. As a carpenter, I've built from drawings produced by both. Final plan quality depends on what is put into it by the creator...whether it's SP, CA, ACAD, or any other software...I've seen crap from all. So for me, it boiled down to how fast I was able to learn the software, and then be able to produce a quality set of drawings in a reasonable amount of time. SP for me is far and away more intuitive and usable for my purposes. 


Gen-One Construction, INC.

#5 Sam Morgan

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Posted 15 February 2017 - 09:50 AM

I can only give limited feedback about chief.  I knew about softplan long before I purchased and before I knew anything about chief.  I downloaded their demo sometime around 2005/2006...spent no more than an hour with it and just couldn't wrap my head around how it worked.  It didn't take long to decide that wasn't the software I was going to buy.  I started on Softplan with V13 LITE...was easily drawing floor plans after just a few hours of learning the commands, and upgrade to the full version when v14 came out.  I've been very pleased with not only the software but also the amount of support received from the support staff.  Answers to questions or problems are answered quickly and clearly.  The awesome support is enough to keep me upgrading each time and sticking with softplan!!!

#6 Jim Holley

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Posted 11 March 2017 - 09:57 AM

I have to say, I am with Sam on this one. I know many Architects that seem to use a mix of several design programs, to this day, I've no clue why, except one did seem to like the plan presentation in a simple version. (no dimensions, only names and size notes) It did look kinda cool, a little sketched looking with line intersects extending slightly past the corners as in the old fashioned drafting way.
I started with AutoCAD back in the 80's, version 1.4. It was fun to learn and with a lot of time and effort, you could produce a decent set of prints, but a LOT OF TIME, and you (yourself personally) had to be very accurate, or you had just another average drafted plan set.
Having self taught me, around about a version 4 of SoftPlan, once I started using it, finally went to a class, and continued with updates, I never looked back. I did try Chief, Sketch up and various others, but after a day or so of attempting to even begin to learn it as fast as I did SP, I knew I had the right stuff.
I know that these other programs likely have their place, but with all you can currently do with SP, they just take up hard drive space for me. I have the full 2016 AutoCAD Architecture suite, BIM and all, but I normally use it to convert files and once in a great while, if I can't find what I want in a online 3-D site, I might make something.
I also have Illustrator and Photoshop, but rarely use them either, SP has such fantastic 3-D capabilities, even I am still learning them and getting better and better.
I've spent hours and hours watching videos, I am that committed.
I have also taught more than a dozen others over the years, guys/gals that worked with and for me, how to use SP, and once they learned it, they too question why anyone would want to use other programs.
I've even used it for a variety of engineering and tool and die design projects, steel detailing and so many things, building race cars as part of my number of business ventures, it even works for me in designing and making various parts.

James L. Holley

SoftPlan user since 1993


"To explain the lure of speed you would have to explain human nature; but it is easier understood than explained...Speed is the second oldest animal craving in our nature..." -- T. E. Lawrence



#7 Lane De Muro

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Posted 12 March 2017 - 09:22 AM

     I am just getting started with SoftPlan and have used Chief for many, many, many years.  Like any program it has its good and not so good points.  While I do find it (Chief) fairly easy to use, it has, in my opinion, about the worst file management system ever invented by man.
     I really do not know if SoftPlan has the same issue, but with Chief if you want to alter an existing plan (say "House1") then save it as "House 2" for a different client, or just an alternative design for the same client, you must save House 1 forever, you cannot archive it, you cannot save it on a separate hard drive, it must remain active in your system for as long as you want to use House 2.  You can save it as a different plan name, you can save it on a different location in our computer, but if you ever lose House 1, or if the file ever gets corrupted you are out of luck and have to recreate the entire drawing for House 2 .  As I have a lot of plans over the years that are based on previous drawings, this is a real time consuming issue.  I certainly hope this is not the case with SoftPlan, but since I am an brand new user, only time will tell.
    One thing I liked about SoftPlan is how you create different floors.  In SoftPlan it appears the first floor is copied to either a foundation level or second floor, and all of the walls and other components are copies along with it.  You can then change wall types if it is a foundation, and remove the unused portions of the original floor plan.  Chief derives a blank floor plan. Things like plumbing drops or fixture locations need to be refigured manually with Chief, as they will not appear from floor to floor.

     My version of Chief is V10, and after seeing many of the issues I have in V10 being complained about in the Chieftalk User Forum for X9, I thought there had to be a better way, and I sure hope that is Softplan.

    So, all in all while the jury is still out for me on Softplan, knowing what I like and do not like about Chief, I thought it was time to look into a change.

#8 Brad Graber

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Posted 13 March 2017 - 07:31 AM

You won't have any problems with the file management side of softplan.  I have many variants of houses I have drawn over the years.  I just copy the drawing files into a new folder and away I go with revisions. The original files I move into my completed projects folders that are categorized by year.  The new drawing files are in no way connected to the old ones.  

I have no experience with Chief so nothing for me to compare to there.  I have used autocad for years, but now find it cumbersome to go back and work on my old autocad plans.  

#9 Heath Foster

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Posted 13 March 2017 - 02:57 PM

Save/Copy Project to... Will give you an exact copy of the entire project, including all drawing and plan sets. This new project is not connected to the one you copied it from.

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#10 Guest_Tim Baum_*

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Posted 19 April 2017 - 05:12 AM



Long time Chief user.  I'm looking at softplan to replace Chief for several reasons (notably frustrations with complex roof and truss design).  


But just to clarify, I do not have any file management issues with Chief.  We have many many plans that are saved from an original plan/layout and we can delete the original without losing or needing to redo the copy.  I can't imagine trying to keep all those originals.


Also, Chief by default creates additional floors/basement from existing floors.  Other than the first floor, I never start from a blank floor and Cheif does a decent job of reflecting first floor changes to the second floor etc.



#11 Guest_Robert_*

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Posted 01 July 2017 - 02:03 PM

I hope more SP users who have used CA will add to this thread as I am trying to decide between the two. I had a strong recommendation toward SP from a developer friend and his truss maker also uses SP, but I am a Mac user and although the FAQs state that SP can be used on a Mac, the SP sales people say not, here is a quote from the last email I received,


1. SoftPlan does require Windows to run. We would not recommend the iMac that you mention or any Mac computer.
2. We are not working on a Native Mac version and likely never will.
3. You cannot export/import or transfer plans between CA and SP.


That was a very discouraging email and confusing too as the website seems to contradict #1, and I am trialing SP 2018 under VMware Fusion and Windows 10 on a 2009 27" 2.8GHz i7 QuadCore with Hyperthreading and a very weak AMD RAdeon HD4850 GPU with only 512MB VRAM running MacOS X El Capitan 10.11.6 with no apparent problems yet. Anyway, I haven't given up yet, in spite of being discouraged on several points as I greatly value my friend's opinion and experience. Therefore, I hope more SP users with CA experience will share their opinions. Thank you all for reading my post and for posting regarding this.

#12 Guest_Chad_*

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Posted 18 February 2018 - 06:24 PM


I too am a Mac user and the lack of a Mac native version of softlpan was discouraging when deciding between it and chief; however, I have utilized several workarounds over the years with varying degrees of success. I started using SP with v13 and upgraded shortly thereafter to 2014. Both functioned well through parallels running windows 7 on my MacBook Air. When I decided to upgrade to 2016 I discovered that none of the 3D functions operated, and it was due to a lack of direct driver support within parallels. Long story short, I had to partition my hard drive and load windows separately, which means I couldn’t simultaneously operate within the windows and Mac environments as I could with parallels. Since I run my business on Mac and only use windows for design and sometimes excel, this was a problem. Rarely am I able to sit down during the work day and only do design work for an uninterrupted period, so I was having to reboot in Mac several times a day, which got old really fast. I decided to invest in a reasonably priced desktop PC for design work in my office, and this has been the most efficient way for me to work. I can still design on my Mac laptop when traveling or at home since I subscribe to SoftPlan +, but for the busy parts of the day, I can be sending e-mails, doing bids, research, etc. on the Mac and quickly transition back to design on the windows machine. I should note that I have gone to using Dropbox for all of my work files, so when I export a plan set or drawing to PDF I save it in Dropbox. I also save any .dwg’s that I may want to import and convert in my drawings in a Dropbox folder...they are always there regardless of the machine I’m using.

So while you can run SoftPlan on a Mac, it isn’t in os10, just a Mac machine running windows. If you have multiple machines and are willing to partition your drive to load windows, SoftPlan functions beautifully on a Mac.

#13 Guest_Bob_*

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Posted 01 March 2018 - 06:27 AM

I have a Imac and use bootcamp for running softplan. I tried parallels but had issues with it lagging. Works great on bootcamp.bob

#14 Guest_Wesley Lambert_*

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Posted 10 July 2018 - 02:52 PM

Hello, I am new to this discussion board. I am a long time user of AutoCAD Architectural. I have gotten to a point in my life where AutoCAD seems like a bit much. AutoCAD keeps getting more and more expensive as well. I used to do a lot of commercial designs for Architects in my area. The Architects that I used to work for have now moved over to using larger firms for their commercial drafting needs. Now my design work has primarily moved over to residential. 


I am looking at both SoftPlan & Chief Architect. I have been doing quite a bit of research on both of these programs. There are many comparisons out there, but mainly for older versions of both. What I was wondering is if anyone has used more recent versions of these programs? If so have you used them both? What is the strong points & weaknesses of each one? I know that this is a SoftPlan message board so I take it there will be more of a one sided viewpoint on this question. However, please try to be as honest as you can.


Thanks for all of your time and help!

#15 Gary McKeon

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Posted 17 July 2018 - 08:26 AM

The best thing is to download a trial version of both and see how they work. They "feel" very different from each other and it really comes down to what works best for you. Since you have a long standing history with autocad a big difference between these 2 programs is how they control what is viewable: Chief uses "layersets", which is comparable to autocad, and Softplan uses "modes". Within Softplan's modes you can toggle on/ off groups of items. Softplan also uses layers and building options which gives you quite a bit of control. 


Each program can get you what you want easier and faster than in the autocad world (revit included). They both do a good job but, as with all programs, there is always room for improvement and they do just that. With Softplan + you have access to a high level of tech support that will help you should any issues arise or if you just need some help. I don't know how Chief handles that anymore but it didn't use to be anything like what you can get with Softplan.


One thing I always liked about Chief was that they put out training overviews for all aspects- Softplan has the same. But, they then produced little mini-videos for the how-to of most anything. Example: how to draw and accurately place a timber truss, or a weather vane. The videos would be as long as needed to show you the how-to. With Softplan the Users Group and the wealth of knowledge and experience is there to help (besides tech support) but it isn't quite the same. Just my opinion though.


All in all Wesley it really comes down to how you work and what feels best for you. Each starts off with a degree of simplicity and ease of use but remember that these are very complicated programs capable of doing some amazing things and so there is a lot to learn either direction you choose to go. Good luck! 

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#16 Guest_Robert_*

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Posted 22 August 2018 - 11:11 PM

Hi, I want to start by thanking all those who have given input to this post... as a potential customer I really appreciate it.


#17 Guest_Guest_Jack_*

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Posted 01 October 2018 - 08:59 AM

I have been looking at these two programs as well. I have been going back an forth for a couple years now. I have downloaded the free trials for both SoftPlan and Chief Architect. Both of these applications seem to do a very good job with residential design. One thing that I was wondering is if someone could shed some light on how construction documents are produced with these two programs. The free trials do not allow any glimpse as to how they are created. I was wondering if someone that has used both of these applications could explain which application is better for creating construction documents? I am sure that they are similar, but I am also sure that both applications have their own spin on how they do things. Your feedback is greatly appreciated

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