Software Tools for Architecture & VDC Students

Software Tools for Architecture & VDC Students

Here's a brief overview of some of the software tools that are often used by Architecture and VDC students in their Stanford classes.

💡
This document is a work in progress. If you'd like to see other tools added to the list or find any inaccurate information, please send an email message reporting it, so we can update the document. Thanks!

Legend

🔵 = Available for Windows (and Intel-based Mac running Bootcamp) 🟢 = Available for Mac

Graphics Tools

Adobe Creative Cloud 🔵 🟢
What's Available

The Adobe Creative Cloud includes:

  • Photoshop
  • Premier Pro
  • Illustrator
  • InDesign
  • XD
  • Acrobat DC
Accessing the Software
Option 1: VPN Connection to the Stanford Network

Stanford students can set up a Stanford VPN connection to use the Adobe Creative Cloud software on a remotely hosted cluster computer.

  • A Stanford VPN connection is required to access these remote cluster computers, even if you are on campus WiFi.
  • Using your Stanford VPN connection, you can login here:
  • Important: You must login to the Stanford network using a VPN connection to access the remote computers on this site.

  • Select the MacOS Multimedia computers.
    • The Adobe Create Cloud software is available from MacOS computers only.
    • This service is NOT supported for Window computers due to compatibility and performance issues.
Option 2: Free Trial (7 Days) for Adobe Creative Cloud
Option 3: Educational Subscription for Adobe Creative Cloud thru Adobe - $19.99 per month
Option 4: Adobe Create Cloud Student Subscription from the Stanford Software Licensing Store - $89.00 per year

Modeling Tools

SketchUp 🔵 🟢
What's Available
  • The SketchUp modeling tool is available for both Windows and Mac computers.
  • SketchUp currently offers 3 versions to choose from — each with different tools:
    • SketchUp for Web is a free web-based version suitable for light duty modeling. It's similar to the desktop version (SketchUp Pro), but the interface is somewhat different and the capabilities are significantly limited.
    • SketchUp Pro is the current version of the desktop application that you're likely familiar with. It has a very robust 3D model environment (SketchUp) as well as 2D documentation tool (Layout). While a lightweight version of this tool was free in the past, there is no longer a free version available.
    • SketchUp Studio is the high-end offering that adds energy, daylighting, and thermal comfort tools as well as carbon emissions to the mix. An educational license is available for this version.
Accessing the Software
Option 1: Free SketchUp for Web

Option 3: Educational Subscription for SketchUp Studio
Autodesk Revit 🔵 & AutoCAD 🔵 🟢
What's Available

Autodesk offers students and educators free access to nearly all of their software tools. These include:

  • Revit
  • AutoCAD
  • Fusion 360
  • Inventor
  • 3DS Max
  • Maya
  • Civil3D
  • Robot Structural
  • And many others!
Accessing the Software
  • Autodesk allows you to install their software on your personal computer and continue using it for FREE for the time that you are registered as a student.
  • Some software tools (for example, Revit) require the Windows operating system. Others (for example, AutoCAD) are available for both the Windows and Mac OS.

Step 1: Sign Up for an Autodesk ID
  • If you already have a student Autodesk ID from another class, you’re all set.
  • If you haven’t created a student Autodesk ID (or if you’re currently using one that created for your workplace), sign up for a new student Autodesk ID by following these steps:
  • Notes about Autodesk IDs
    • Most students use their Stanford email address as their Autodesk ID.
    • If you already have a student Autodesk ID from another school, you can continue to use it or sign up for a new one.
    • You can create as many Autodesk IDs as you like -- but if you use an email address that is not recognized as being from an educational institution, Autodesk may ask you to provide additional documentation of your student students (for example, an image of your student ID) to confirm that you are eligible for their free education offerings.
    • If you need to create a second Autodesk ID, you can create an alias to your Stanford email address and then use this alias to create another Autodesk ID.

Step 2: Install Windows (if needed)

Many of Autodesk's design tools require the Windows operating system.

If you have a Windows computer
  • If you already have Windows 8 or newer installed on your computer, you’re all set.
If you have a Mac computer

Choose Your Strategy

Mac users have two big strategies to choose from:

Strategy 1: Use a Windows virtual machine when located on the Stanford network.

Using this strategy, you don’t install any software on your computer. Instead, you use your web browser to connect to a remotely-located server which enables you to use a Windows virtual machine that has the Revit software installed on it.

The advantage of using this strategy is that it is easy to setup and use. No software needs to be installed on your computer. But the tradeoffs are:

  • This virtual machine is only available when you are connected to a Stanford network — either via WiFi (when on campus) or through the Stanford VPN (when remote).
  • This virtual machine is pre-configure to a pre-determined set of applications. You don’t have the ability to install new apps or charge the configuration.
Strategy 2: Set up a Windows partition or virtual machine environment on your Mac computer.

This strategy gives you more independence (you can use Windows anywhere — even when you cannot connect to the Stanford network) and flexibility to install the software you want to use. But, the tradeoff is that there’s a bit of setup to make that possible. You’ll need:

  • At least 45 GB for free disk space to host the Windows files
  • A copy of Windows 10 or 11 (available for free)
  • A windows environment. Options include:
    • A Bootcamp partition (only available for Intel-based Macs)
    • A virtual machine environment (options available for Intel-based or Apple Silicon Macs)

Steps to Follow

Strategy 1: To use a Windows virtual machine on the Stanford Network (Apporto)

Stanford has begun offering access to the Stanford University Virtual Computing Cluster (also known as Apporto). You can use the virtual machines in this virtual computing cluster to access Windows (or Mac) software from your Mac computer, Windows computer, or iPad/Android tablet — most any computing device that offers a supported web browser.

To access these virtual machines:

When using the Windows virtual machine, you’ll need to be intentional about choosing where files are stored:

  • When you save files on the virtual machine, they will be stored in a special shared folder associated with your SUNet ID that will be available whenever you login to an Apporto virtual machine.
  • To store a local copy — which is always a smart choice — use the Download or Upload buttons in the toolbar to copy files to or from your local computer.
  • Or, even better, upload your files to a cloud-based drive (like your Autodesk Construction Cloud folder), so they’ll always be available to you from any computer on the web.

Keep in mind that your ability to install new software or reconfigure the virtual machine has been restricted by the administrators of this system. If you need to customize the environment for your work, you’ll need to use Strategy 2 — setting up a Windows virtual environment on your computer.

Strategy 2: To set up a Windows partition or virtual machine environment on your Mac computer
Prepare to Install Windows on a Mac

If you work on a Mac computer, you’ll need to install a 64-bit version of Windows on your Mac to use software that requires Windows.

The process will vary based on the type of processor your Mac computer uses. The steps below outline installation guidelines. If you have problems with the installation, please reach out to your course's teaching team.

Bootcamp vs. Virtual Environment — Which option should you choose?
  • There are advantages to each approach, but the essential tradeoff is typically:
    • Bootcamp is only available on Intel-based Macs. If you have a newer Apple Silicon-based Mac, you'll need to use a virtual environment.
    • A Bootcamp partition can only be created by using free space on your Mac's primary hard disk. That space will be dedicated to the Bootcamp partition, and won't be available to the Mac file system.
    • Virtual environments are more convenient to use (no need to reboot).
    • Virtual environments require more RAM memory:
      • To use the virtualization option, you’ll need at least 8 gigabytes of RAM on your Mac (so you can allocate 4 gigabytes of RAM to the virtual machine when it is running).
      • So, if your Mac has less than 8 gigabytes of RAM memory (and an Intel-based processor), you’ll need to use the Bootcamp option.
  • Both options require at least 45 GB of free disk space on your computer to install Windows and the software that we’ll be using in class.
    • A Parallels or VMware Fusion partition can be created on an external hard disk if space on your Mac's primary hard disk is very limited.
    • Running Parallels or VMware Fusion from an External Hard Disk

      If your Mac has less than 45 GB of free space available on the internal disk, you can setup and run Parallels or VMware Fusion from an external hard disk.

      You'll need to have this external hard disk attached to your Mac while running the Windows-based software, but you can disconnect it when not using Windows.

      The key to using this strategy successfully is to get the fastest external drive that you can reasonably afford. Since you'll be accessing the files on this external drive continuously while using Windows, the speed of the drive has a very big impact on the performance of the Windows software.

      Here's a link to some USB-C external SSD (solid state) drives on Amazon.

      • The key is look for a speedy drive (one that says "up to 1050 MB/s" or "USB 3.2 Gen 2" or faster).
      • The size of the drive is up to you and your budget. I'd recommend a 500GB drive (available for around $69) or larger.

Understanding your Mac and which Windows install process to use

Refer to the below PDF to determine your computer's processor type, RAM, and hard drive space. The flowchart at the end will then help determine how you should install the Windows environment.

Mac Revit Install Guide - Mac Computer Info.pdf2013.3KB
Flowchart
For Mac computers with Intel processors
Step 1: Download a copy of Windows 10 or 11 EDU
Step 2: Create a partition to run the Windows environment

You have two options for creating the Windows partition:

  • subdividing your Mac hard disk to create a new physical partition
  • using a virtualization environment to create a virtual partition file that can be located on any disk drive
Option 1: Create a Bootcamp physical partition to use a separate boot environment for Windows.
  • On your Mac, go to: Applications > Utilities > Boot Camp Assistant
  • Follow the prompts to repartition your Mac hard disk, giving at least 45 GB to the Windows partition.
  • Navigate to the downloaded Windows ISO file when prompted by Boot Camp Assistant.
Option 2: Install a virtualization environment -- for example, Parallels Desktop or VMware Fusion -- to run Windows as a virtual machine within the MacOS.
Using Parallels Desktop
Using VMware Fusion
  • You can download VMware Fusion for Mac from the Stanford Software Licensing web store for free
  • Run the VMware Fusion Installer, and enter your Windows product key (from the previous step) when prompted.

For Mac computers with M1 processors

Refer to the PDF below for step-by-step instructions of installing the Windows 11 ARM Insider preview in a virtual machine on a Mac with an M1 chip.

Configure Your Parallels or VMware Virtual Machine

After creating your Parallels or VMware Fusion virtual machine, you must configure it to provide at least 2 GB of RAM (preferrably 4 GB or more if available) to the Windows partition.

Configuring a Parallels virtual machine
  • Open the Parallels application.
  • Select the virtual machine from the Parallels Virtual Machines window.
  • Open the Virtual Machine menu and choose Configure…
  • Click on the Hardware tab, and select CPU & Memory from the left column.
    • Check the amount of memory recommended under the Automatic option.
    • If your computer has less than the recommended amounts, choose the Manual option and set the amount of memory allocated to the virtual machine Processors to at least 2 GB of RAM (preferably 4 GB or more if available).
  • Click on the Options tab, and select Sharing from the left column.
    • Turn off (uncheck) Share Mac user folder with Windows.
    • Open the Share folders pull-down menu and choose Home Folder only.
  • Restart your virtual machine.
  • On the Windows desktop, you should see a folder called "Mac Files" with a "Home" folder nested inside. You can access any Mac Files saved to your Mac environment through this folder structure.

Step 3: Install the Software
  • Go to the operating system required by the software you will be installing.
    • For Mac software, go to the Mac OS.
    • For Window software, go to Windows OS
      • On your Mac computer
        • In Bootcamp
        • Or in your Parallels virtual environment
  • For Mac users, see below PDF for step-by-step instructions on installing Revit in Bootcamp or virtual environment
  • Mac Revit Install Guide - Revit in Virtual Machine.pdf3495.0KB
Step 4: Activate Your Software
  • When you open the Autodesk software for the first time, you will be prompted to login using your Autodesk ID to confirm your eligibility to use the software.

Options for Computers with Limited Resources
Running Parallels or VMware Fusion from an External Hard Disk

If your Mac has less than 45 GB of free space available on the internal disk, you can setup and run Parallels or VMware Fusion from an external hard disk.

You'll need to have this external hard disk attached to your Mac while running the Windows-based software, but you can disconnect it when not using Windows.

The key to using this strategy successfully is to get the fastest external drive that you can reasonably afford. Since you'll be accessing the files on this external drive continuously while using Windows, the speed of the drive has a very big impact on the performance of the Windows software.

Here's a link to some USB-C external SSD (solid state) drives on Amazon.

  • The key is look for a speedy drive (one that says "up to 1050 MB/s" or "USB 3.2 Gen 2" or faster).
  • The size of the drive is up to you and your budget. I'd recommend a 500GB drive (available for around $69) or larger.
Use a Windows virtual machine on the Stanford Network (Apporto)

Follow the steps described above in: Strategy 1: Use a Windows virtual machine when located on the Stanford network

Using a Windows 365 Cloud PC

Windows 365 enables you to access a Cloud PC running Windows 10 from any device.

  • After creating your Cloud PC, you can install any Windows software needed, then access the Cloud PC from any device — Mac, PC, or tablet (iPad).
  • The Basic Plan (which provides a Cloud PC capable of running Autodesk Revit) is available for $31.00 per month.
  • Free 60-Day Trials of Windows 365 have been temporarily suspended, but should become available again. After 60-Days, you'd pay $31.00 per month.

Rhino 🔵 🟢
What's Available
  • The Rhino modeling tool is available for both Windows and Mac computers. The complete installation includes:
    • Rhino 7
    • Grasshopper
    • Flamingon nXt5 rendering (Windows only)
Accessing the Software
Option 1: 90 Day Evaluation (Free Trial) for Rhino

Option 2: Educational License
Option 3: CEE Computer Cluster
  • The computers in the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering computer cluster (Y2E2 184) have Rhino 6 installed on them.
  • These aren't available now (due to limited access to the Y2E2 Building), but will become available again when the building re-opens.

Rendering / Visualization Tools

Enscape 🔵 🟢 (Mac version available only for SketchUp)
What's Available
  • Enscape is a real-time rendering plug-in that offers exceptional rendering capabilities to create photorealistic visualizations of your building models, including:
    • Rendered images
    • 360 degree panoramas
    • Video and real-time (live) walkthrus
    • Virtual reality
  • The Enscape plug-in works with many Windows modeling tools:
    • Autodesk Revit
    • SketchUp Pro
    • Rhino
    • ArchiCAD
    • Vectorworks
  • Enscape is now available for Mac OS users who create models using the SketchUp model tool. It can also be used with Windows modeling tools on an Intel-based Mac with a Bootcamp partition.

Hardware Requirements (Graphics Card with Dedicated VRAM)
  • Enscape performs its renders using your graphics card (GPU), but the graphics card has to have dedicated VRAM, and not shared VRAM as found with Intel Integrated Graphics chips. If your CPU and RAM are capable of handling Revit, for instance, and you have a capable GPU, Enscape should work. A good CPU can speed up Enscape’s loading times. The system requirements to run Enscape, as well as the Standalone Executable files that can be exported from Enscape, are identical.
  • It is also recommended that your internet connection is fast and stable, and that you should use a direct cable connection and avoid using a Wi-fi connection where possible, as this can slow down the Asset Library loading times.
  • Note for Mac Users: Enscape can typically run on a Mac using Bootcamp (which provides access to the Mac graphics card). Enscape cannot run under Parallels. A native MacOS version is also available that works with SketchUp models.
image

Accessing the Software
Option 2: Free Educational License

Lumion 🔵
What's Available
  • Lumion is a real-time rendering application and plug-in that offers exceptional rendering capabilities to create photorealistic visualizations of your building models, including:
    • Rendered images
    • 360 degree panoramas
    • Video walkthrus
    • Virtual reality
  • The Lumion software works with many Windows modeling tools:
    • Autodesk Revit
    • SketchUp Pro
    • Rhino
    • ArchiCAD
    • Vectorworks
  • Lumion is not available for the Mac OS. But, it can be used on an Intel-based Mac with a Bootcamp partition.

Hardware Requirements (Graphics Card with Dedicated VRAM)

Accessing the Software
Option 1: 14 Day Free Trial

Lumion offers a 14-Day Free Trial. You can sign up for the trial and download the software here:

IMPORTANT: Don't use the Free Trial version for work that you want to keep. Projects created in the Trial version cannot be opened after the 14-Day trial expires. If you're going to be working with Lumion for more than 14 days, sign up for a free educational license instead.

Option 2: Free Educational License
  • Lumion offers a free educational license to students and educators.
  • The license is valid for one year, and it can be renewed as long as your are a student.
  • You can sign up for an educational license here by verifying that you line a country eligible for Lumion Pro Student licenses and providing proof that you are a currently enrolled student:

V-Ray 🔵 🟢
What's Available
  • V-Ray is a rendering application and plug-in that offers exceptional rendering capabilities to create photorealistic visualizations of your building models, including:
    • Rendered images
    • 360 degree panoramas
    • Video walkthrus
    • Virtual reality
  • The V-Ray app and plug-in works with many Windows modeling tools:
    • Autodesk Revit
    • SketchUp Pro
    • Rhino
  • The V-Ray app and plug-in also works several Mac modeling tools:
    • SketchUp Pro
    • Rhino

Accessing the Software
Option 2: $99 (single tool) or $149 (all tools) Educational License
D5 Render

Analysis Tools

ETABS 🔵

Stanford students can install the ETABS application on their computers to perform structural analysis and design by following these steps.

Note: You must be connected to the Stanford network environment (on-campus or via the VPN) to use our network license server for ETABS.

THESE INSTRUCTIONS MUST BE UPDATED FOR ETABS 19 — PRIOR INSTRUCTIONS FOR ETABS 18 NO LONGER WORK
Configure Your Computer to Find Our License Server

Before you get started, you must configure your computer to point to the IP address of our ETABS network license server by creating a new System Environment Variable:

  1. Open the Windows Advanced system settings dialog.
    • On Windows 8: Open the Windows Control Panel > System > Advanced tab
    • On Windows 10: Navigate to Control Panel > Windows Settings > System and Security > System > Advanced System Settings to open the System Properties dialog.
  2. Click the Environment Variables button.
  3. Add a new System variable with the name LSFORCEHOST
  4. Set the value to cee-license.stanford.edu
  5. Click OK to accept the changes and close the Control Panel.
  6. Restart Windows.
Install the ETABS application
  1. Download the latest version of the ETABS software directly from CSI using the CSI Installation Wizard
  2. Run the ETABS Setup application.
  3. When prompted to Select Licensing Model, choose: Install ETABS for use with network license key.
  4. Click Next.
  5. The installer will look for our license manager at cee-license.stanford.edu. When it locates the license manager, click Next.
    • IMPORTANT: This will only work if you are connected to the Stanford VPN.
  6. Download the ETABS installer to your computer.
  7. Click the Install button and accept the default setting to install ETABS on your computer. Then, wait patiently -- the installation takes several minutes to complete.
Run the ETABS application
  • When the installation is complete, double-click the ETABS icon on your desktop or select Computers and Structures > ETABS from the Windows Start menu.
CSIxRevit 🔵

These instructions are being updated for CSIxRevit2022.

The new instructions will be published when CSIxRevit2022 is available for you to use.

Other Digital Resources