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What Softwares Do Urban Planners Use?

What Softwares Do Urban Planners Use?

Are you an urban planner or anticipating becoming one? This is a very unique and interesting field because it gives planners the opportunity to define how their cities will look like.

October 15, 2021

Are you an urban planner or anticipating becoming one? This is a very unique and interesting field because it gives planners the opportunity to define how their cities will look like. You might have seen cities where core services, such as transport, waste management, and water supply are planned and managed efficiently. Now, you can help your city or the urban department you will work for develop a resilient, equitable, and healthy city.

Urban planners play a crucial role in shaping the environments in which people live, work, and play. Their responsibilities span from designing new public spaces and residential areas to developing transport systems and managing environmental conservation efforts. The ultimate goal of urban planning is to create functional, sustainable, and aesthetically pleasing environments that meet the evolving needs of communities.

Understanding Urban Planning

Urban planning, also known as city or town planning, is the discipline of designing and organizing urban spaces to ensure sustainable development and improve the overall quality of life for residents. The main objectives of urban planning include optimizing land use, promoting efficient transportation systems, ensuring environmental protection, facilitating social and economic development, and providing adequate public services and facilities. Urban planners strive to create cities that are both functional and attractive, balancing growth with the preservation of historical and natural environments.

Challenges Faced by Urban Planners

Urban planners encounter a myriad of challenges that vary by location, scale, and complexity. Some of these challenges include:


1.      Balancing Growth with Sustainability: Planners must find ways to support urban growth while preserving environmental quality and ensuring sustainable resource use.

2.      Integrating Diverse Community Needs: Urban environments are melting pots of diverse populations with varying needs and aspirations. Planners must design spaces that cater to a wide range of age groups, cultures, and economic backgrounds.

3.      Regulatory and Budget Constraints: Navigating through complex regulatory frameworks and often limited budgets can restrict planning options and creativity.

4.      Adapting to Technological and Demographic Changes: Urban areas are constantly evolving, influenced by technological advancements and demographic shifts. Planners must anticipate and adapt to these changes effectively.

5.      Environmental Impact and Climate Change: Addressing environmental concerns and planning for climate resilience is increasingly critical.

How Software Can Help

To address these challenges, software tools play a pivotal role. Here’s how:

1.      Spatial Analysis and GIS Tools: These allow planners to analyze and visualize geographic data, helping them make decisions based on real-world scenarios. GIS tools are essential for understanding land use patterns, environmental constraints, and the distribution of community resources.

2.      Simulation Software: This type of software helps planners predict the impacts of urban development and environmental changes, enabling them to test different scenarios and choose the most sustainable options.

3.      Project Management Software: These tools aid in managing complex projects, ensuring that they stay on schedule and within budget while facilitating communication among diverse teams.

4.      Public Engagement Platforms: Software that facilitates communication between the public and planning authorities ensures that community needs and preferences are considered, leading to more effective and inclusive urban development.

By leveraging these and other software tools, urban planners can more effectively meet the challenges of modern urban development, leading to smarter, more resilient cities.

A Sneak Peek Into Urban Planning Tools

What Are Urban Planner Tools?

Urban planner tools encompass a wide range of software applications and technologies designed to assist professionals in the field of urban planning. Urban planner tools serve various purposes, including data analysis, visualization, simulation, design, and project management. They are instrumental in helping urban planners make informed decisions, streamline processes, and communicate effectively with stakeholders.

Significance of Urban Planner Tools in Urban Planning Processes

Urban planner tools play a crucial role in the planning, design, and management of urban environments. They allow planners to analyze spatial data, simulate scenarios, and visualize proposed developments, enabling them to assess the potential impacts of planning decisions on communities, infrastructure, and the environment. By providing planners with advanced analytical capabilities and visualization tools, urban planner tools empower them to develop comprehensive plans that address complex challenges such as population growth, transportation needs, environmental sustainability, and social equity.

Evolution of Urban Planner Tools

Urban planner tools have evolved significantly over time to keep pace with the changing needs and demands of urban planners. Early tools were often limited in functionality and accessibility, requiring specialized knowledge and skills to use effectively. However, advancements in technology have led to the development of more sophisticated and user-friendly tools that are accessible to a broader audience of planners.

The evolution of urban planner tools has been driven by several factors, including:

·         Technological Advancements: Advances in computing power, data storage, and software development have enabled the creation of more powerful and feature-rich tools capable of handling large datasets and complex analyses.

·         User Feedback and Input: Feedback from urban planners and other stakeholders has played a vital role in shaping the development of urban planner tools. User-centered design approaches have led to the creation of tools that are intuitive, efficient, and tailored to the needs of planners.

·         Interdisciplinary Collaboration: Collaboration between urban planners, software developers, data scientists, and other professionals has facilitated the integration of diverse perspectives and expertise into the design and implementation of urban planner tools.

·         Open Data Initiatives: The availability of open data sources and platforms has expanded the possibilities for urban planner tools, allowing planners to access and analyze a wealth of information about cities and urban environments.

Overall, the evolution of urban planner tools has resulted in more robust, versatile, and accessible tools that empower planners to address complex urban challenges and create more sustainable, livable communities.

To be a good planner, you need to have all the tools, and the most important of them is the design software. In this post, we will answer the main question, “What softwares do urban planners use?” Keep reading as we explore the top 10 best programs for urban planning.


The GNU Image Manipulation program, mainly referred to as GIMP, is one of the leading programs, especially with beginners. It is a form of raster-based image manipulation software that closely resembles Adobe Photoshop. If you have been using Photoshop for manipulating images, this will be a lot easier. In urban planning, GIMP works excellently, especially in image editing, overlaying graphics content on maps and editing. The program also comes with awesome free educational resources and tutorials. 


CityEngine is a 3D modeling program designed for developing large urban environments. You can opt to use the program to create environments based purely on real-world data or fully conceptual. It can help to save the planner time by utilizing rules that automatically generate the targeted urban environment based on own input. Again, you can import 3D models and work on them using CityEngine. 


For most urban planners who use GIMP, Inkscape is used as a counterpart program. It is a vector-based and open-graphic type of computer program for manipulating shapes and lines on maps. The program can be compared to Adobe Illustrator and is a very user-friendly alternative for designers and planners. Because of its ease of use, new professionals find it a good starting point when getting into urban design and planning


This is another awesome tool highly revered by urban planners. You will like its ability to rapidly and accurately render three-dimensional forms. SketchUp gives users a tool for visualizing the houses they are working on but also works well on neighborhoods and even cities. Another impressive thing about SketchUp is that it works well with most operating systems and also integrates well with Google Earth. 


If you want to make city planning and design more intuitive and fun, consider using Lumion. It is an architectural app that allows you to make 360 panorama that can be viewed using VR glasses. Rendering with the program is also pretty easy and fun. The program also allows you to easily make changes to your city plans and designs. Another important attribute is that it allows you to upload plans from other programs, such as ArchiCad and SketchUp Rhino for further improvements. Apart from easy integration ability, the program also comes with a large library of impressive objects, such as grass, people, lighting, cars and sky. 


If you are an urban planner looking for a free program to use in urban planning, QGIS might be a great find. It is a form of open-source Geographic Information System with impressive capabilities for urban planning. One of these capabilities is that it is compatible with Esri, which is considered the industrial standard in urban planning and design.  So, suppose you are interested in expanding urban planning capabilities. In that case, QGIS can come in handy to assist with creating multiple layers of the mapped data and group location based on predefined criteria. The program can also help in determining the proximities, determining the distance between various amenities, and figuring out ground maps. 

Google Earth 

Google Earth is a program that can be used for a number of professional applications, including urban planning. When applied for urban planning, it allows the design to get an axonometric view of the target areas. It also allows designers to experience 3D perspective and also integrates well with other top programs, such as SketchUp and GIMP. Measuring distance with Google Earth is also easy. Apart from these urban planning aspects, you will also find it effective when exploring cities or landscapes. 


The next program on our list is AllPlan, which was designed by Nemetschek to simplify the process of planning and designing. The most notable feature of AllPlan is that it supports both 3D and 2D designs, which implies you can use it even for developing both simpler and complex urban plans. Most urban planners love the program because it is pretty easy to use, allowing them to work on drawings and conceptions. 


This is an information modelling solution that is designed specifically for urban planners and designers targeting to explore and communicate top options for mixed-use urban plans. Unlike the standard CAD, the CityCAD program makes it pretty easy to generate 3D models for urban areas. It is also pretty easy to use and works with even for new planners trying their hands-on 3D programs for urban planning. 


This list cannot be complete without including Giraffe. The program is designed to help planners scale through real-time site analysis. For chief planners or leaders, the program comes in handy in reviewing, approving and rejecting sites by providing a 360-degree view of their potential.  The program can also be used for drawing and immediately getting an analysis. Some of the top features of the program include up-to-date local mapping data and team collaboration capabilities. 

The ten programs we have listed in this post are the best answer to the question, “What softwares do urban planners use?” Remember that the program you select largely depends on the type of plan under consideration. For example, do you want a simple urban planning program or a complex model for megacities? It will also be a good idea to start by learning how to use the program appropriately to craft the best designs.

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