Integrating Chief Architect software Into Our Office Pipeline


From the first time I saw it, I loved Revit. It was 2003, Autodesk still didn't own it, and I knew immediately, "This is the future!" No more AutoCAD! I loved the fact that I just wasn't drawing "dumb" lines...walls knew they were walls, windows knew they were windows, etc, etc.

Revit has been wonderful for us over the years. But, when we started cs design in 2014, our bread and butter work (as I imagine it is for a lot of small architects starting out) was and is, single family home renovations and additions. For this type of work, Revit works, but often, it's overkill. 

I wanted something better for this work. I wanted something that added framing tools. I wanted something that could easily help me do material takeoffs. Most of all, I wanted something that was designed around the single family home.

Enter, Chief Architect

I'll admit, at first, it looked "gimmicky" to that "Design Your Own House" software you see at know, for people on HGTV...or who watch HGTV...not for Architects.

But the more I looked, the more I found I was seriously wrong. Chief Architect is a robust piece of software that eats, lives, and breathes single family homes!  

After using the 30 day trial, I took the plunge and purchased 1 seat. I've been like a kid in a candy store ever since. 

Learning Curve

Without trying to sound uppity, I'll just say that I learn software fast, I don't read manuals or take courses. I just tinker and figure it out. Most software is pretty logical and once you find your way around, it's all downhill from there.

I downloaded Chief in November of 2015. As I write this, it's almost February of 2016, and I'm about a week away from submitting my first project done completely in Chief. It's really not that hard to use. If you've used AutoCAD, or Revit, or ArchiCAD, or VectorWorks, or whatever, you can figure it out pretty much on your own. I did. When I was stuck, I just used the Google machine, watched videos on YouTube, or used Chief's awesome support forum ChiefTalk.

Office Standards

Creating new layout sheets, CAD details, etc was a breeze. Sure, I had to dedicate a few hours to it, but mostly I exported CAD dwgs from Revit when I needed them, created blocks in Chief, dropped them into my sheets, and Bob's Your Uncle. I had to tweak things like Fonts, Dimensions, etc in order to get "the look" I like for our drawings, but it was painless.

Great Features:

Works on a Mac! We're a Mac office. We use iPhones, iPads, iMacs. I hate windows and I hate that we have to endure Parallels in order to use Revit. With Chief, I can work the way Steve Jobs intended us to work dammit!

Thumbnails in schedules. Try that in Revit. (Disclaimer...this was just added in Version X8, but hey, there it is.)

Drag and Drop PDFs right into the sheets. You can't import PDFs into Revit. Period. Can't be done. The best you can do is convert the pdf into jpgs and import that. In LA, there are certain forms that we must incorporate into the plans. They change all the time. So creating new jpgs every time is a pain in the ass. Chief Architect handles this simple task with flying colors.

Framing!! Yes, it will automatically frame your entire house. I mean right down to the blocking! Then you can drop framing elevations onto a separate Builder Set and your client's GC will love you for it. This tool alone is one of the many reasons I fell in love with Chief.

Sidewalks, Curbs, and Gutters. I know, those aren't sexy things, but man, they've driven me nuts forever in Revit. The way Chief handles them is a thing of beauty.

Lots and Lots more. I can go on forever, but you'd get bored. I highly recommend you check out this video to see the tons of cool things Chief can do. I mean, the dimensioning is awesome. Stairs are awesome. Handrails...yes light years better than they do in Revit. And on and on.

Not So Great Features:

Layers. Yeah, going back to layers was weird. But we've all endured layers for years in AutoCAD. It's like riding a bike, you don't forget.

No Keynotes. Well, not automated like in Revit. I can still draw, insert, and manage them manually like in our old AutoCAD days.

Annotations. I have to admit, annotating in Chief is not as good as in Revit in my opinion. Don't get me wrong, their Text entry tool is way better than Revit, but for example, when you place a view on a sheet, there is no automatic callout that shows the view title and the scale. You have to do that manually. That's a silly example, but when you use it, you'll know what I mean. Things are just a bit more manual and take brute force to do...not all...but many.

Exporting to CAD. This is one of the bigger weaknesses I've found in the few months I've been using it. When sending files to my engineer, I had to do quite a bit of cleanup in AutoCAD (thank goodness I still have an old copy laying around). Revit automatically exports all sheets, and views (with layers) beautifully. Chief....not so much.

There are others, but I leave it to you to make up your own mind.


Look, I just dropped some serious nickels on Chief Architect, so obviously I like it. I'm not saying that it's better than Revit, or that Revit is better than it. I'm just saying that if I can use a tool for a specific task and that tool can help me get it done easier and with less headaches...I'm all for it.