Cadalyst AEC Tech News #118 (April 15, 2004)

14 Apr, 2004 By: Michael Dakan

Punch Software has released the latest version of its application for home designers, Architectural Series 3000. Architectural Series 3000 is part of a suite that includes Punch! Master Landscape Pro and Architectural Series 18. These are marketed as products for a complete spectrum of users, from homeowners and hobbyists to home builders and house designers. Priced at $199, they easily fall within the price range of other products aimed at the consumer.

For a product with such an economical price point, Architectural Series 3000 offers a remarkably wide range of functionality. Punch! Advertises that it has more than 300 functions and routines built in, and although I didn't count them, I have no reason to doubt it. Besides the basics of walls, doors, and window objects, Series 3000 provides a multitude of tools for creating architectural spaces and buildings.

There are integrated functions and routines for drawing interior and exterior walls and placing doors and windows in the walls. Automated routines place stairs, cabinetry, roofs, electrical, plumbing, and HVAC fixtures. A landscaping module lets you place plants, ground surfaces, fences, and hardscape elements such as decks and patios. These tools are pretty basic and don't provide the control and configuration options that you'd expect from more complete professional architecture-enhanced CAD applications, but Architectural Series 3000 costs only a fraction of what those full-functioned architectural tools cost.

CAD-like drawing tools for lines, circles, and shapes are also pretty basic at this point, but are probably adequate to allow you draw architectural objects and shapes to supplement the architectural elements created with the Punch! automated routines. You can place and edit text, using Windows text fonts. Printing and plotting is through the Windows Print system, so you can use any Windows-supported output device. AutoCAD drawing and DXF files may be imported and exported for integration and interoperability with other Windows applications.

Many tools are available for visualization of the designs created with Architectural Series 3000, including rendering and creating an animated walk-through. You can apply materials and textures to all surfaces for rendering, and a number of light sources and fixtures are provided to create lighting effects and studies. Again, this is not professional computer photorealistic rendering and animation software, but it's certainly enough for basic presentation and visualization.

One thing unique to Punch! in this class of software is the release of a developer's kit that enables users and developers to create their own enhancements and plug-in products that integrate with the rest of the program. These separate applications are called Punch! PowerTools and appear on their own menu within the program. Several applications and enhancements that are new to the Architectural Series 3000 version of the Punch! architectural and landscape applications were created with PowerTools technology, so the Series 3000 menu comes with several PowerTools already installed. These include the Fireplace Wizard, Cabinetry Wizard, Framing Editor, Deck Wizard, and enhanced rendering and animation tools.

Punch! also has established an on-line PowerTools store where users can purchase additional software enhancements and developers can market their products. The PowerTools Store currently offers some drawing utilities for site engineering, a home security systems tool, and Punch!'s own PowerTools. You can purchase some of the routines that come standard as part of one Punch! product and install them in another PowerTool-enabled Punch! application. For instance, you might want to install an application that was created for the landscape application in your architectural product.

The release of the software development kit puts the Punch! software products in a unique position. Users can quickly enhance their basic tools into more full-featured versions with more control and options. It will be interesting to see what kind of third-party tools become available over time, and how much interest the newly created Punch! Developer Network will generate. The third-party developer program makes Punch! products worth paying attention to see what will happen in the future. Check it out at