You know you’re getting old when:
a) you don’t watch Top of the Pops anymore because you ”prefer music with proper words and music”;
b) you only ever agree to meet friends in pubs that have somewhere to sit down;
c) you find it impossible to walk past an estate agent’s window display;
d) your editor gives you some interior design software to review and you get very excited.
OK, so maybe last one only applies to me, but I have to admit that it was an intriguing prospect. Floorplan 3D promises (on the box anyway) to let you design and build your perfect home, with “thousands” of options.
My one acid test with any new software is whether I can achieve anything substantial without referring to any manuals or tutorials. Not very sophisticated I know, but in this case I was surprised at how far into replicating my front room I got before getting bogged down. In a nutshell, you simply draw your walls, add windows, doors, furniture, fixtures and fittings and you’re away. Add another floor, a garden, a garage, a pond, you name it you can have it in your virtual estate.
The technical aspects of the program are mind-boggling - everything from the units used and the thicknesses of your building materials to the sizes of your fixtures and fittings is customisable. But bear in mind that you’ll be furnishing your ultra cool cyber pad with a Silicon Valley uber-geek’s idea of “contemporary” styling. So those “thousands” of options they speak of on the box are reduced to, ooh, literally four or five useable objects.
The tutorials are the best way of finding your way round the software and the true scope of what you can do with Floorplan 3D becomes apparent. You really can go all Kevin McCloud and do a Grand Designs type project in the comfort of your own home.
I ran the programme past an interior designer, who felt that the whole package needed its style content de-Americanised to be of much use, but as a project management tool it would prove helpful in visualising construction and layouts without having to visit the actual sites. The landscaping capabilities were particularly useful.
But, and this is an enormous “but” in my book, some of the more exciting tools were virtually unusable due to the amount of system time needed to process them. I wanted to see my (somewhat amateurish) replication of my front room as a “photo-realistic” plan. My laptop crashed. I rebooted and tried again. It crashed again. In fact, it crashed four times when I tried to process the request.
The tutorial does warn you that “some operations may take some time” which is fine - I’m a patient man, I can wait. I can even switch over to another programme and get on with something else if I really need to (who says men can’t multi-task?). But on every occasion my laptop (a Fujitsu with a 3.2GHz Pentium 4 and a gig of RAM, in case you’re wondering) couldn’t cope and froze completely. Unfortunately, I’ve lent my Kray supercomputer to the evil genius who lives in the extinct volcano at the end of the road, so my test had pretty much hit a dead end.
So, if you're a property developer with appalling taste in furnishings and a military grade PC this is something you can have a lot of fun with. For the rest of us, it's an interesting enough program to play with but to be honest, it won't be cluttering up my hard drive for too long.