Twenty+ years ago while planning a home renovation, a designer provided software that allowed me to take interior and exterior photos, import them, dimension them, then assign/map them to walls/floors/ceilings. Once enough photos had been added and dimensioned, the software would highlight dimensions for me to (re)measure; details like wall thickness, hall width and soffit height/depth. It was dead-simple to use, effortless.

I wound up with a design that let me play with moving/resizing windows, doors, walls, etc. The software also let me dimension furniture and grab "close enough" models from a database. It did OK capturing kitchen and baths. I don't recall if it also captured installed lighting or not, but it did generate 3D walkthrough animations.

Unfortunately, I have no idea what the name of the software was, nor do I have the files it generated. My Google searches pointed me to Broderbund's "3D Home Architect Deluxe", and though it is from the right era (Win98), it rings no bells.

I'm looking to do another renovation and need software that will do all the above, plus this time also let me capture structural details like rafter, joist and stud locations. (I've requested the original plans from local government, but that could take months as they weren't digitized.)

I did find tools like "Chief Architect", but I'd prefer to start with something free/cheap that runs locally and exports well, and avoid both subscriptions and cloud-based SAAS solutions. I have a Windows 10 (& Linux via WSL) environment, so Mac software won't work for me.

Do any of the popular 3D CAD tools support such interactive workflows?

  • Got rid of "any recommendations" since we don't do that and it would have been flagged.
    – JACK
    Commented May 4, 2021 at 19:46
  • 1
    Even with the recommendations removed this still is asking for a recommendation and that would be off topic.
    – Ed Beal
    Commented May 4, 2021 at 20:39
  • Well, perhaps "workflow examples" would be more accurate? My ongoing searches indicate I'm looking for "structure from image" via either manual or automatic tracing, then combining the structure obtained from multiple images into a single object. I'm presently searching for tools (or perhaps a chain of tools) that integrate this all together.
    – BobC
    Commented May 4, 2021 at 23:20
  • Software Recommendations would likely be a better place, since you're looking for a software recommendation.
    – FreeMan
    Commented May 5, 2021 at 11:21
  • Well, my goal is Home Improvement, and it's all about using the right tools. Right?
    – BobC
    Commented May 6, 2021 at 13:25

1 Answer 1


I think you’re thinking of Sketchup. Make sure you download the free “Google Sketchup”. There are a lot of knockoffs that I don’t trust.

  • The last Google Sketchup release appears to be from 2012. The function that derives geometry from images (for later tracing) is called "Photo Match". The image isn't loaded via "File -> Import", but is instead loaded via "Camera -> Match New Photo". I've found examples for how to do a single image, but so far have none for how to combine data from multiple images. The image is then used as a surface for tracing faces then extruding. Now I'm wondering when it may be best to stop working in SketchUp and move the object(s) to another tool, such as Fusion 360 or FreeCAD.
    – BobC
    Commented May 5, 2021 at 0:40

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