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5 Handy Smartphone Apps for Landscape Design

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Landscape design is a complex undertaking. Landscape architects combine a wide array of technical and artistic details into a coherent end product that works on both a practical and an aesthetic basis. Luckily, advances in technology are making landscape design easier.

Computer aided design has already revolutionized the way designers and architects plan and execute their designs. Powerful personal computers made the CAD revolution possible. The smartphone revolution of the past decade might turn out to be as useful to designers as CAD was. Applications build on the usability and portability of smartphones and other mobile devices. Here's a list of 5 useful smartphone apps for landscape designers:

Google Earth

Google earth is easily the most popular and useful smartphone app there is. It's especially useful for site analysis for a landscape designer. Google Earth lets users survey locations easily and accurately. Using Google Earth is simple, but the app includes a wide selection of useful layers that make it very powerful. You can toggle things like street names and map borders. Many locations have detailed street views as well as overhead shots. For an urban design firm, the app is even more useful. Google Earth has a 3-D street view that gives users a tangible sense of what urban spaces are like. Best of all, it's free, and it works well on almost any portable device. Google Earth

Sunseeker

Planning for the movement of the sun through the sky is an important part of landscape design. A landscape architect needs to plan for every season of the year, and every hour of the day. Mobile apps like Sunseeker make the task a lot easier.

Using GPS data, Sunseeker predicts the sun's path at any location. This information is broken down into one-hour intervals, so you can get a good idea of what the light at any given site will be like at any time of the day. Solar angle matters, and Sunseeker is great at calculating it. The app is $9.99, and works with iOS and Android devices. Sunseeker

Dirr's Tree and Shrub Finder

Identifying and selecting plants is another big part of landscape design. Dirr's Tree and Shrub Finder makes it easier. It contains a big database of over 7,800 cultivars from over 1,500 species. Best of all, it's searchable by parameters like water requirements, growing characteristics, and hardiness. You can refer to photos of plants, or botanical illustrations if you prefer. Users can identify plants by scientific names, or common names. Dirr's is only available for iOS devices, however. Dirr's Tree and Shrub Finder

SketchUp Mobile Viewer

SketchUp, a powerful CAD program that's easy to use, is great for landscape design. Its capabilities have been somewhat limited by its lack of portability. SketchUp Mobile Viewer solves that problem. This nifty app lets you view your SketchUp files on iOS and Android devices. The app isn't intended to allow you to perform many design functions in the field, but being able to open your files for presentations and onsite checking is a huge plus. SketchUp Mobile Viewer

Houzz

Finally, there's Houzz. This massive database of home and landscape design ideas has quickly become a sort of Wikipedia for designers. It's a popular way for a landscape design company to showcase its work. It's also great for browsing and curating design ideas from hundreds of thousands of users. The free app works on iOS and Android devices. Houzz

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