Chief Architect is great; but...


DeLayDesign
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Let me first say I am a Chief Architect enthuses. I have recommended and fought for the software more times than I care to count... but...  There are just some things Chief does that make me understand why more architects ignore it as a viable design software.  Outside of the bugs that continue to plague the software - often things with work arounds like missing thresholds from doorways or issues with bay windows (something I've asked about more than once), to more frustrating issues like working with their decking system... doing anything with their deck system...  Chief insists on limits on constructability - which makes me question on a regular basis - why?

A true design software needs to give it's users the freedom to design within the world of all things possible, not just what the developers have coded possible.  This is important now more than ever because of the most recent price increase pushing the software into the same cost arena for new users as the other 'main stream' brands.

Most recently I was tasked with building a brick home with 'Chicago masonry' construction.  This is mainly just a wall with a double brick wall with furred interior and often plastered finish, but Chief does this with any wall.  This particular build involved a tight connection between a bay window and the end of the wall.  Internally the wall would be a flush connection, but outside there is an actual corner.  Chief doesn't understand what I need it to do and wants to build the wall as a single eliminating the corner altogether.


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It doesn't have to be this way and I'm sure it's developed in a way to helps more often than it frustrates - again I'm a proponent for Chief Architect.  I'm also sure it's probably difficult to rebuild the coding to give us the freedoms we need to build properly, but @ChiefArchitect - You may need to.
 

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I 100% agree. Because of the time I have invested in Chief I will remain with it for the foreseeable future, but do not get me wrong I am always looking for another software because I need more customization without doing silly workarounds. Chief has a good start on a lot of tools but they a lot of them need a big overhaul (windows, doors, stairs, deck, porches, foundation walls, roof eave/flush eave, small wall connections). Wish we could lean more into those tools/settings and less into the rendering and cabinets. I have made a lot of suggestions but it seems they do not listen to them. 

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45 minutes ago, DeLayDesign said:

Chief insists on limits on constructability - which makes me question on a regular basis - why?

 

I understand your frustration and I used to think the same way.  

 

Until I made a temporary switch to Archicad, and that was after trying out Revit and VectorWorks, and keep in mind that I originally switched to Chief from many years with SoftPlan.

 

If your work is mainly residential stick construction and you mainly produce construction documents for permit that require you to get approvals from your clients based on visuals from a 3D model, then I'm afraid to inform you that nothing compares to Chief...as much as I hate saying it.

 

I'll give a small snippet of a limitation in Archicad for you to appreciate Chief's automated Room Definition approach.  So, if you Place a garage door and that door cuts into both the main floor wall and the foundation, then Archicad will only cut a hole in the wall you place the door.  You will then have to go down to the foundation wall and cut a whole for the garage door.

And guess what happens when you move that door left of right?  You guessed it, you have to adjust the hole in the foundation. 

 

Nothing is perfect but Chief is specifically designed for a very particular segment of the design-build industry.

All you have to do is determine if you are in that group.  If you are stay with Chief, otherwise you will spend a lot of money and time to come full circle back to Chief.

 

 

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@Michael_Gia Coincidentally enough I came from SoftPlan myself, so I know the struggles that program has.  I've used Chief for 15 years and I know no program is perfect and I genuinely appreciate the support system Chief offers.  I did get a work around answer to my question from their dedicated support staff so the issue at hand was resolved; but my statement still stand.  Less limitations or the ability to adjust them as we need would be awesome.

I don't have any desire to leave Chief - I'm a 'ride or die' at this point, just wish we had more control - especially when my architects complain about not being able to do something - which 9/10 times - is user error.

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3 hours ago, DeLayDesign said:

A true design software needs to give it's users the freedom to design within the world of all things possible, not just what the developers have coded possible.

Forgive the snark but this comment is pretty silly - all programs are limited to what its developers have coded. They'd literally have to code all things possible for it to be what you want, which I feel like God has done by giving us the ability to invent pens and paper. ;) 

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As a newish user with a newish perspective influenced by the software I used to use, I'm pretty happy with Chief.  Very good customer support, tutorials, user forum, etc.  I definitely appreciate that emphasis.  And, the software is robust.

 

I sometimes feel the software could use more spit and polish.  Kind of hard to qualify.  But maybe that's something we need to live with given that it's a smaller company...

 

Lastly and with regards to priorities, I would always prefer improvements to basic architectural features and tools over any new 3D content (furniture, fixtures, etc.) and maybe even cabinetry tools.  Not complaining, but to me that stuff should be secondary to the basic nuts and bolts.

 

Hope Chief takes this as "constructive input!"

 

Jim

 

 

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One of the methods I have come up with when dealing with finicky wall connections that I want to define intersections that Chief will now allow is to create a very thin wall (often just 1" thick).   I can then draw some very intricate, even short return walls to intersect like I want to.


The catch is I do a CAD fill box that only shows on my Floor Plan view.  I set color of fill to wall color (gray in my case) and remove the line color.   On the plan set it look perfect and 3d looks perfect.   


The thin wall bypasses a lot of min wall lengths that try to 'snap' walls to certain increments.


Some may call it a 'work around' but pretty easy to do.

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On 11/15/2023 at 7:17 AM, DeLayDesign said:

Let me first say I am a Chief Architect enthuses. I have recommended and fought for the software more times than I care to count... but...  There are just some things Chief does that make me understand why more architects ignore it as a viable design software.  Outside of the bugs that continue to plague the software - often things with work arounds like missing thresholds from doorways or issues with bay windows (something I've asked about more than once), to more frustrating issues like working with their decking system... doing anything with their deck system...  Chief insists on limits on constructability - which makes me question on a regular basis - why?

A true design software needs to give it's users the freedom to design within the world of all things possible, not just what the developers have coded possible.  This is important now more than ever because of the most recent price increase pushing the software into the same cost arena for new users as the other 'main stream' brands.

Most recently I was tasked with building a brick home with 'Chicago masonry' construction.  This is mainly just a wall with a double brick wall with furred interior and often plastered finish, but Chief does this with any wall.  This particular build involved a tight connection between a bay window and the end of the wall.  Internally the wall would be a flush connection, but outside there is an actual corner.  Chief doesn't understand what I need it to do and wants to build the wall as a single eliminating the corner altogether.


386868729_210478848747814_5384214568682518198_n.thumb.png.49372767c1befc4c0f4da35092ae682c.png386886598_1974130112970022_2520882553268710869_n.thumb.jpg.87acddcf656e12017c0824993e831105.jpg

 

It doesn't have to be this way and I'm sure it's developed in a way to helps more often than it frustrates - again I'm a proponent for Chief Architect.  I'm also sure it's probably difficult to rebuild the coding to give us the freedoms we need to build properly, but @ChiefArchitect - You may need to.
 

I very well may be asking this from many chief users. How long did you spend with Revit?

I'm still back at Chief X4, but now I'm at a crossroad. Should I push forward by going to the CA $200 a month subscription, or go with Revit LT for $65 a month? 

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20 hours ago, Michael_Gia said:


Revit if you ever want a job. 
 

Chief, if you are in business for yourself and work primarily in the single family home, stick construction industry. 
 

That actually helps a lot.

I'm too old to go get a job with a firm. Framer for 15 years. Then designed for 15 years. 100% Acad until around the time 9.0 came out. I upgraded every time and ended up stopping at X4 when I got hired as a Plans Examiner. I'm just preparing for supplementing my retirement.

.

I'm trying Revit LT now, and first thing I notice is it's going to take some learning. Chief is pretty much open and start using it and you can figure out things along the way..

.

I guess my better question now is; How much is paying $200 a month for the latest CA going to do for someone just designing typical residential projects? And for sending out for engineering I just export to AutoCad.

I've tried reading the new features for each progressive release, but I don't see how it'll make that big of a difference for me.

.

I guess after my trial for Revit LT expires I'll download a trial of the latest Chief and see if it'll be worth it.

.

I did find this thread interesting. In that it's in an Autodesk forum and they're saying about the same thing. Saying good things about Chief.

 

https://forums.autodesk.com/t5/revit-architecture-forum/revit-vs-chief-architect/td-p/2431801#:~:text=Cheif Architect is capable of,great platforms for home design.

 

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In my opinion, probably only worth exactly what you paid for it, and since you are already familiar with Chief and you are primarily residential, you should stick with Chief. 

 

The learning curve to go from X4 to X15 is going to be much smaller than the learning curve for Revit.  I have not actually used Revit myself but from the demos I have seen and everything I have heard, it will take you much longer to learn the ins and outs.  I'm sure there are advantages and disadvantages to both but I'm also sure you will have an easier time sticking with what you already know.  You will also be able to bring your old X4 plans into X15 if you ever want to update or reuse any of them.

 

In the end, the cost difference probably doesn't really matter as long as you are making enough money to justify a $200 business expense.  If you can't, then you might need to rethink your plans and just get a job working for someone else even if it is not designing.  Or, you could even just stick with X4 if it already does everything you need.

 

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On 11/17/2023 at 11:52 AM, Planstech said:

I very well may be asking this from many chief users. How long did you spend with Revit?

I'm still back at Chief X4, but now I'm at a crossroad. Should I push forward by going to the CA $200 a month subscription, or go with Revit LT for $65 a month? 

Are you doing residential design and plans?

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9 hours ago, Renerabbitt said:

Are you doing residential design and plans?

Not presently. But I may need to get back in the industry. Just trying to figure out if I should stay with my Chief X4, or upgrade to X15, or move to Revit. 

I'm leaning towards staying with X4.

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21 minutes ago, Planstech said:

Not presently. But I may need to get back in the industry. Just trying to figure out if I should stay with my Chief X4, or upgrade to X15, or move to Revit. 

I'm leaning towards staying with X4.

Stay with cheap/free until you need better to make money.

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19 hours ago, Planstech said:

I've tried reading the new features for each progressive release, but I don't see how it'll make that big of a difference for me.

 

And it won't if you don't really embrace the upgrades. So if you can get by with X4, I'd just use it for now to get rolling, then switch to the latest version if and when the workload supports it financially. 

 

I will say tho, the upgrades are fantastic.

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Thanks All, I'll probably run the trial for X15 and see how it feels. I pretty much prepare nothing but architectural drawings for single family homes - no landscaping or virtual walkthroughs. I'd be interested to see how much X15 will speed up or simplify the work I have been happily doing in X2/X4.

I should mention that I'm getting older and learning new things is more difficult than when I first got into designing. That's why I think I have already answered my own question regarding Revit. I mean, $65 per month for Revit Lt seems like a huge savings, but I'm guessing it'll easily take hours upon hours to get proficient in Revit. From my just playing with the trial I see it as complex. Chief may have restraints compared to Revit, but with Chief you can literally open it up and it's pretty obvious how to get going without even watching the training videos. I could see if I was looking to get hired at a firm to use the industy standard, but for producing an architectural plan set, Chief gets you there with little effort.

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22 hours ago, Planstech said:

upgrade to X15, or move to Revit

Limitations in Revit Lt.

 

No model-in-place families.

No view filters. (compare to Chief's Plan Views - no competition)

No collaboration

Limited editing for roofs and floors, etc...

Also NO plug-ins. So forget about easily customizable cabinets, etc.

 

I don't think LT is in the same category as Chief X15, not by a long shot.

 

(I can't believe it.  I'm starting to sound like a Chief fanboy)

 

 

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Interesting discussions above, CAD tool time talk. From my limited perspective if you live in the US and you know to use CA, then you should stick to it and especially if you are still on the old SSA system.

 

All you can really do is put in a realistic request for what you want CA to be able to do for you in the future and leave it with them. 
 

You are never too old to learn something new or get up to speed with the latest CAX15. CA is really a program for home builders and architectural drafts persons mainly. Not many architects will just use one CAD application these days. 
 

Every Architect in the US who designs low rise residential project homes needs a copy of CA in their tool box. Despite its limitations no other CAD program is as fast as CA is with these types of projects.

 

My greatest wish is for CA is to be able to explode the 3D model, make your 3D edits and reconnect it, without it auto rebuilding to the default state. If they can recode it to do that then it can make great progress.

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18 hours ago, Planstech said:

I pretty much prepare nothing but architectural drawings for single family homes

 

In that case, the single biggest improvement in recent years is Saved Plan Views. It's a massive enhancement to previous methods for producing architectural drawings, and will definitely speed up AND simplify your workflow. Check this out:

 

https://www.chiefarchitect.com/search/?default_tab=video&q=saved+plan+views

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Chief is a great 2D program, but trying to figure out it's 3D limitations is nothing but a waste of time.  So often in Chief I find myself drafting the 2D, then generating the 3D exteriors which I then convert to CAD where I can fix them without Chief insisting I don't know what I actually want.
Even in 2D, wall intersections, especially in foundations where a new one connects to an old one becomes an issue.  So what I do there is have no fill for the walls, then in 2D create a polyline, assign a fill pattern to distinguish the new from the old and adjust the polyline to show the correct wall intersections.  This precludes an automatic wall schedule for the foundation walls (since it will not automatically generate the polyline fill patterns), but that is and easy work around.
I also use another program, which is much, much, much better at getting the model correct.  The other program allows for everything to be independently controlled..wall heights, widths, offsets, top, bottom...all can be easily set to reflect the actual construction.  Especially helpful in remodeling and additions.  The other program also addresses one of my pet peeves about Chief, which is the foundation sill plate is part of the foundation.  In the real world framers put down the sill plate and it really has no business being part of the foundation.  It is like Chief was programmed by someone who read a book on construction but has no real construction experience as opposed to the other program which seems to have a much keener insight into actual construction practices.
Having said that, for all more or less new construction simple plans I prefer Chief, as long as everything is one or two levels, no split levels, no split roofs, and no stepped foundations.  Garage slabs can also be sloped (as can foundation walls, footings, whatever) in the other program.  Earlier I asked if a slab could be sloped in Chief 15, but alas, no such luck.
For remodeling and additions, unless it is simple and straightforward, it's the other program.

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@Ed_OrumHi  Ed, while we all need to work in the most efficient manner for our own skill sets, I can tell you that Chief is remarkable for all aspects of residential design. I NEVER use a cad detail for exterior elevation views and 99% of the time I don't have a single errant line produced in those views. In other words, Chief is producing the drawing and the model perfectly!

That being said, I have over 20 years of experience with Chief! I also use almost no CAD drawing or detailing in plan view. 

If you wanted to find improvements within Chief, you could frequently contact Tech Support with a specific issue or immerse yourself in the Help section. Better yet would be to hire a mentor who could virtually meet with you and show you exactly how to address a specific issue. I can tell you that to learn the software, (a very long time ago) I have read several versions of the manual cover to cover .After 20+ years, I still refer to Help and watch Chief's videos to refresh my skills and look for pointers or methods that I may have forgotten, overlooked, or rarely used. If you're ever interested in some assistance, I'd be happy to discuss what you need and how I could help.

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4 hours ago, robdyck said:

@Ed_OrumHi  Ed, while we all need to work in the most efficient manner for our own skill sets, I can tell you that Chief is remarkable for all aspects of residential design. I NEVER use a cad detail for exterior elevation views and 99% of the time I don't have a single errant line produced in those views. In other words, Chief is producing the drawing and the model perfectly!

That being said, I have over 20 years of experience with Chief! I also use almost no CAD drawing or detailing in plan view. 

If you wanted to find improvements within Chief, you could frequently contact Tech Support with a specific issue or immerse yourself in the Help section. Better yet would be to hire a mentor who could virtually meet with you and show you exactly how to address a specific issue. I can tell you that to learn the software, (a very long time ago) I have read several versions of the manual cover to cover .After 20+ years, I still refer to Help and watch Chief's videos to refresh my skills and look for pointers or methods that I may have forgotten, overlooked, or rarely used. If you're ever interested in some assistance, I'd be happy to discuss what you need and how I could help.

Well you are a better man than me.  Elevation views are always popping up errant lines, missing something here or there.  Having said that, when I called Tech Support I was told they only help with issues concerning the products performance, like if the program is not working properly, they are not there to help with teaching how to perform operations in ther program.  I do a lot of CAD details, I probably have at least 500 I have drawn for different municipalities here in New York, some for CT, and some for PA.  Chief does a great job in that respect.  I can do a section view in Chief, convert it to a CAD Detail, then annotate it and correct whatever Chief left undone or done incorrectly.  Chief is probably the best when it comes to CAD Details and annotating them.
But, I use it because for simple drawings, it is a good money maker.  I have done pretty well with it over the years and have learned a lot of my own workarounds. Nothing is perfect, so I will continue to use it.  However I am not sure I could encourage anyone who is starting out in residential blueprints (and some light commercial) to go with Chief.  I think Revit would be a better choice. 
In the final analysis, I have to keep in mind that some of my problems with Chief can certainly be because I do not fully understand the program and how it functions, in spite of using it for over 20 years.  So I need to take some of the blame too.

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5 hours ago, GeneDavis said:

What's that other program, @Ed_Orum

I would rather not say because I do not want to give the impression (maybe I already have) that it is superior to Chief.  I actually use two other programs, depending on which Architect or Engineer I am working for at the time. Chief makes me more money than the other programs, but it also gives me more agita.
Happy Thanksgiving.
Lane

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Being loyal to a particular CAD software is not the issue here. It is how can we give feedback to help make Chief work even better for us all.
 

In the end we all have a right to use other CAD software to help us in our Architectural design & drafting work as we choose. If home designer pro is not enough we have CAX15 to upgrade to. 
 

Yes we can become a Chief Master and know all the work arounds and get lots of help from here and including the training videos. After doing that and we still have problems we can always make suggestions too.

 

I have been around since CA99 or CAV6 and it has improved greatly since then. Awesomely fast CAD software for residential homes.

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