CAD for Landscape Design


If you’re a landscape Architect or landscape designer you’ll want to use a CAD software dedicated to the task of streamlining the production of landscape drawings… You currently have two choices of CAD for landscape – one is ‘Vectorworks with a plugin called Landmark’ , the other is ‘LANDWorksCAD’, Both products will provide a similar professional end result but they are quite different to use.

Vectorworks Landmark

Vectorworks (originally named MiniCAD), has been available for some time and was one of the original Apple Mac based CAD programs. It has grown to become a capable product with a substantial set of commands. The learning curve for this software can be quite steep and the interface has a myriad of dialogue boxes and menu items that can be challenging to navigate, especially at first.

For landscape design you would need both the core Vectorworks plus the plugin, Landmark. Landmark is a set of landscape tools designed to assist in selecting plants, to do labeling and scheduling etc. Vectorworks was a popular choice among landscape architects for some time as no other professional CAD for landscapers was available for Apple users and if you’re already a Vectorworks devotee then adding Landmark to the mix would be the easiest choice with very little learning required to comprehend the landscape tools.

We definitely get a mixed result when talking to users of Vectorworks about its ease and speed with opinion being divided down the middle on the subject.

With LANDWorksCAD now firmly in the market Vectorworks has some competition that will hopefully drive some improvements.


LANDWorksCAD found its way into the market on the Windows platform about 12 years ago. It is a very capable tool for landscape purposes and in our opinion more flexible than anything else on the market including products running on Windows. It is definitely easier to learn and is now natively available for Mac and Windows. The new LANDWorksCAD is built on the latest version of RealCAD for Mac that pundits say is an elegant design that feels entirely fresh, yet inherently familiar. Certainly the new look and feel of this new version 7 is precisely that.

RealCAD is one of the favorite CAD products with many of the team here at AppleCAD and so it naturally follows that an application using RealCAD at its core is likely to get a head start. In the case of landscape design LANDWorksCAD does not disappoint. The tools are well laid out, easy to master and reduce tedious tasks of planting, labeling, scheduling and reworking a design into just a few clicks.

The plant database is a simple Excel file that you can edit yourself in Excel or very easily in LANDWorksCAD itself without needing Excel on your machine. There seem to be plenty of symbols to choose from and groups of symbol styles so your drawings don’t have to look anything like someone else’s.

Some improvements could be made in relation to several menu options that seem to provide just a few too many options at first glance. A point in case is the ability to select 3 different appearances for any plant you insert in your drawing (simple, detailed and bitmap/image), We’re not quite sure why they have this although there is an indication you could instantly produce planting plans from concept plans without redrawing. ‘Not sure if this is actually that practical?.

After talking with users we canvassed, we’ve discovered the database of plants supplied out of the box is not specifically for North America so if you’re in Canada or the USA you may need to add more of your most popular plant species into the mix. Pretty easy to do though, just type the name and pick a plant symbol to represent it or create your own. You’ll probably want to alter the plant list to suit your local nurseries stock list and local species anyway and this can be done using saved groups of plants called palettes.

The developers of LANDWorksCAD seem to have strong grasp of what landscapers are looking to achieve and we received very positive feedback about the level of support available. This was definitely not the case with Vectorworks although we only managed a small sampling of users to interview in both cases so some areas may have better results than others.

Landworkscad comes in a 2D version as well as a 2D/3D version and you can upgrade from one to the other as your needs exapnd. We don’t think the 3D aspects of either Vectorworks or Landworkscad are particularly brilliant and would suggest that if you’re thinking 3D for your presentations then a combination of LandworksCAD and SketchUp may be a good way to go.


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4 thoughts on “CAD for Landscape Design

  1. James

    I am looking for a cad program to help me with my plans. I mostly will use 2d. I have very little computer experience when it comes to design. I want something easy to use to make profesional plans.

  2. Emma

    Our company has used freelancers in the past to draw up our landscaping designs in both 2D and 3D. This can be a lengthy process having to first do hand drawings and go back and forth with changes.

    Therefore I am looking into learning CAD software. I have a basic design / publishing background so am comfortable using the likes of the Adobe suite which may help with learning this sort of software. Being a Mac user, I was going to wait for LandworksCAD for Mac but am concerned about the level of support. I’m not aware of any specific training courses available unless you pay an hourly rate with questions you have come up with. Are there going to be as many online tutorials available as there are for PC users?

    Or, would we be better using VectorWorks which has been around for much longer?

    1. applecadmin Post author

      Hi Emma, as you are in the landscape business then Landworkscad is the most likely choice for you as it is purpose built and is easier to learn than Vectorworks. From your email address it looks like you are located in Australia? If so then you should get really good support as the software is developed there. We have feedback from users there that support is excellent.

      We don’t know too much about what the company has planned for training material on the Mac but suspect if they are going to enter the Mac market in earnest they will have to include the Mac version in their course materials. Worth asking them I should think. We just did some research on the web and found they have a complete online course for the software. This is a good thing as you appear to be able to go back over the course material if you forget how to do something. Not sure how long you get access to that though?

      Most times the difference between the commands in Mac and PC versions of any software are now very small indeed. It usually comes down to whether to press the ‘Alt’ Key or the ‘Command’ Key and what sort of mouse you are using!

      We did get a sneak preview at the Mac version of RealCAD recently – (RealCAD is the underlying CAD software that landworkscad uses) and we were impressed by its simplicity and its modern look and feel… not too many annoying menus all over the screen, so we would expect the landscape version to be pretty similar.

      You could alternatively use Vectorworks but be prepared for a steeper learning curve and slower speed of drawing production due to the more convoluted (older and more traditional) methods deployed. If you are a technically oriented person however then you will be able to cope with that ok and will grow to like it.


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