Some things to consider:
♦ This is non-negotiable. You must choose a package that is compatible with your hardware/software platform. So if you have a MAC and they do not make a MAC-compatible version, you are out of luck. Similarly, if you run VISTA on your PC, you will be limited to the few that have advanced beyond Windows XP. You should review all of the hardware requirements carefully and be sure that your PC meets all the mimimums.
♦ How important is price to you? If you only plan to use the software for a limited period of time or for only one project, you should probably keep the cost down. However, if you are like many gardeners and are constantly building new beds, moving plants and redesigning existing garden space, you may want to spend more and be sure you have all the features you want.
♦ Do you have a dial-up internet connection or limited on-line access? One package requires you to be online to access their objects database even though the application is installed on your PC. And some programs are totally web-based.
♦ Are you interested in building a scale model of your home (or using a pre-built model similar to your home), or would a photo be sufficient? If you, or other family members, are interested in interior decorating or remodeling, you might want to expand your search slightly and be sure you get something that allows you to plan the interior of your home as well. I planned my kitchen exactly as I wanted it and then gave it to the kitchen designer to see if he thought it would work.
♦ Are you a very visual person who would like to see the whole plan in more realistic 3D, or would you be satisfied with a 2D planting diagram to scale?
2D line drawing 2D garden plan 3D garden plan
♦ Do you want to be able to indicate changes in terrain such as hills? The image at left illustrates the drop-off at the end of my lot as you approach the water and also the raised bed of the Heather/Dwarf Conifer garden.
♦ Do you have plans to build a deck or pool that you will want to landscape around? At right is the fencing and landscaping that surrounds my pool.
♦ Do you plan to include a water feature, such as a pond, stream or waterfall at any time? Below is a small pond I'd like to have inside my pool fence someday. Well, maybe not quite this ambitious.
You should prioritize your list and match your needs and wants to what is available. By the time you finish it should be fairly obvious to you which package is the right choice.
Next week I'll try to help you get your feet wet so you can get started on that new garden plan.
The table below from Part 1 of this series is included again for your reference.Vendor*
demoPrice DiComp* 3D Garden Composer Win 2000,XP PC 2D/ 3D 15,000 800 >500 modify pre-built yes only for XP ponds patios sheds yes no no parts of tutorial $39.95 FLOWERscape* FLOWERscape Win 95-XP, MAC(see site) PC 3D unk unk n/a no no no none no no no yes $34.26 IDEA Spectrum Realtime Landscaping PRO Win XP, Vista PC 2D/ 3D 3200 3200 > 1600 exterior yes yes
pools spas ponds decks patios sheds w'fallsyes material list no yes $99.95 Individual Software Total 3D Home & Landscape Design Suite 9.0 Win PC 3D 4600 4600 1000's yes a few
yes pools spas ponds decks patios sheds w'falls yes yes no no $39.95 Plan3D* Plan3D Win 2000, XP, Vista PC 2D/ 3D unk unk 5,000 inc plants yes yes yes pools spas decks patios yes unk no yes $2.95 mth Plangarden Plangarden Any Web 2D 45 45 vegs 0 no no no no no no yes-45 days yes $20 yr/ $36 3 yrs Punch! Master Landscape Pro and Home Design vs 10 Win 95-XP, Vista PC 2D/ 3D >2,000 unk unk exterior yes yes pools spas decks yes yes no no $69.99 Riverdeep TurboFloorPlan Landscape and Deck Win 2000, XP, Vista PC 2D/ 3D 7,500 unk unk no no yes pools decks sheds yes yes no no $49.95 ** 3D Home Architect Design Suite 6 n/a PC 2D/ 3D n/a n/a n/a yes, full featured no yes pools ponds decks patios sheds yes no n/a n/a n/a