Computer-aided design has elevated lighting design into a realm of automation and visualization that was unimaginable just a few decades ago. Still, many lighting designers reach for an old standby when beginning a project. "We start off with hand calculations using our good old Texas Instruments calculators," says New York–based Brian Stacy, Arup's lighting leader for the Americas.

The time away from the mouse doesn't last long, though. Lighting designers soon return to the computer and a number of software options to produce the lighting reports that building officials require and the photorealistic renderings that win over clients.

Stacy, for one, proceeds to SketchUp to trade early ideas with the architect. From there, he boots up AutoCAD or Rhino to create 3D models that will serve as the base geometry for importing the building into a lighting analysis program such as Radiance or AGi32. Next, Stacy's team uses production programs to lay out the 3D model in construction documents and fixture schedules. And, finally, specifications and presentations require a combination of Adobe Creative Suite and Microsoft Office.

But not all lighting firms enjoy the luxury of having multiple programs at their disposal. And even this abundance of choice can prove to be a mixed blessing, if you consider how often new software versions are released and how quickly costs can add up. As a result, design firms must weigh which software programs and program updates are worth the price.
The following pages provide an overview of some of the popular lighting software and the salient features introduced in the latest releases. If you're looking for more, we cover additional programs and updates on

Even with the array of programs available, Stacy says that the lighting industry is still missing "the one end-all, be-all software package" that can robustly handle modeling, visualization, and analysis. And, as you may guess, every program comes with quirks. "There are technical shortcomings when dealing with each program," Stacy says—which explains why his calculator remains closely at his side.

Program: DIALux
Provider: DIAL, a German software developer
Latest Release: evo beta (will replace version 4)
Cost: Free
Operating System: Windows Vista, XP, or 7
Overview: DIALux is a planning, visualization, calculation, and documentation program for lighting that is supported by more than 160 luminaire manufacturers whose lighting catalogs are integrated into the program for quick product insertion. Users can create models of single rooms to whole buildings from scratch, or they can import 2D drawings and 3D geometries from other CAD programs. DIALux output options include 3D renderings, detailed lighting reports and diagrams, and energy analyses.
Selected New Features:
· Allows the planning of whole buildings and outdoor spaces, merging indoor and outdoor light design.
· Real-time tuning of lighting scenes, including the adjustment of dimming values and RGB values, after running calculations.

Program: AGi32
Provider: Lighting Analysts
Latest Release: 2.3
Cost: $895
Operating System: Windows Vista, XP, or 7
Overview: AGi32 is a lighting calculation, modeling, and rendering program for designing interior and exterior environments, and analyzing illuminance values from both electric and natural light sources. The CAD program allows users to place and aim luminaires, and check design compliance to several lighting standards. It generates a virtual, photorealistic model of the proposed design
that shows the interaction of light and surfaces.
Selected New Features:
· Calculation engine with multiprocessor, multicore support that significantly reduces the computing time in geometry parsing, radiosity calculations, and photometric calculations.
· Dynamic or nodal editing to move or modify shapes of rooms
and objects in plan and isometric views.

Program: Radiance
Provider: Greg Ward Larson and Lawrence Berkeley
National Laboratory
Latest Release: 4.1
Cost: Free
Operating System: Any Unix-like operating system (e.g., Mac OS X, Linux, FreeBSD)
Overview: Radiance is an open-source, physical- and reality-based, ray-tracing, and lighting simulation and visualization program. The simulation engine numerically determines luminance and spectral radiance, irradiance, and glare indexes from electric light and daylight. Instead of a graphical user interface, it runs on programming commands or scripts. Radiance supports complicated geometries and a variety of reflectance models, and can build on geometries from other CAD programs to generate renderings, numerical values, and contour plots.
Selected New Features:
Ability to simulate optically complex fenestration systems using bi-directional scattering distribution functions.
· Ability to simulate the performance of specularly redirecting window systems, such as Lightlouver, and microprismatic refraction films, such as 3M daylight redirecting film.

Program: Revit MEP
Provider: Autodesk
Latest Release: 2013
Cost: $5,495
Operating System: Windows XP SP2 or later, and Windows 7
Overview: Revit is a design and modeling program that can handle complex projects from conceptual design to construction documents. It combines CAD and BIM tools and offers plug-ins for numerous trades. Revit MEP supports the design, modeling, visualization, simulation, energy analysis, and documentation of MEP systems. Its models and geometries can serve as the basis for downstream lighting analysis programs.
Selected New Features:
· Ray tracing enables interactive real-time rendering and rich photorealistic content rendering in viewports. Users can customize ghost surface and transparency overrides with each building element.
· Enables user edits to room-calculation points inside lighting fixture families and values to be reported as part of the space.

Program: MicroStation
Provider: Bentley Systems
Latest Release:v8i (Select Series 3)
Cost: $4,795; $2,650 for an annual subscription
Operating System: Unix
Overview: MicroStation is a visualization and documentation-information modeling program as well as a technology platform to import and integrate data files across other design and simulation programs. Lighting components added into building models with their Illuminating Engineering Society information attached will automatically appear in drawings, models, and renderings. With Bentley's AECOsim Building Designer add-in, which interfaces directly with MicroStation, users can access BIM data and tools such as clash detection and model electrical devices and systems.
Selected New Features:
· Support for Industry Foundation Class (IFC) geometry and model information to simplify project collaboration, visualization and design review.
· AutoCAD 2012 RealDWG support for editing, viewing and referencing DWG data.
· Hypermodeling, which merges all applicable project information—such as design and modeling data, specifications, images, and reports—within the spatial context of the 3D model.
· New built-in content libraries—including plants, trees, and vehicles—and model population tools to place content automatically in 3D models.
· Thematic visualization including visual analysis of solar exposure and shadows (however, MicroStation is not a lighting calculation and analysis program).
· Fast render previews and progressive refinement for evaluating material, lighting, and camera position options.

Program: Elum Tools
Provider: Lighting Analysts, Inc.
Latest Release:2013
Cost: $549 base; $350 annual subscription per license
System Requirements: Autodesk Revit 2013 Architecture of MEP
Overview: As a fully-integrated add-in to Autodesk Revit Architecture or MEP software, ElumTools calculates point-by-point illuminance delivered by electric lighting systems using lighting fixture families and surface geometry from the Revit model. It offers lighting analysis tools and an interactive, 3D, radiosity-based visualization of rooms or spaces, including furniture and hosted elements on walls and floors.
Selected New Features:
· Improved control over light source position in Luminaire Manager.
· Enhanced Calculation Points dialogue box that contains a navigable viewer to show the actual calculation point locations with respect to the dialog inputs. After the calculation is run, the computed illuminance values can be copied and pasted to other programs.
· Individual luminaires can be switched on or off, or dimmed by a percentage.
· Luminous areas in luminaires can be shown as white in the rendered display.
· Calculation mode for emergency lighting conditions.

Program: Adobe Creative Suite
Provider: Adobe Systems
Latest Release: 6 (Photoshop available in 6 Extended)
Cost: $1,299 to $2,599 for the full suite; $699 for individual purchase of Photoshop and InDesign programs; annual subscription pricing available through Adobe Creative Cloud
Operating System: Windows XP SP3 or 7, Mac OS X v 10.6.8 or v10.7
Overview: The full lineup of the Adobe CS programs covers digital media creation for print, screen, online, and video formats. Two popular programs for lighting designers are Photoshop and InDesign. Photoshop enables the editing, retouching, enhancing, and manipulation of images down to the individual pixel. InDesign is a desktop publishing application that provides pixel-level control over design and typography layouts for print and digital outputs.

Selected New Photoshop Features:
· Redesigned user interface.
· 64-bit Lighting Effects Gallery plug-in for lighting enhancements.
· Improved auto corrections in Curves, Levels, and Brightness/Contrast.
· Mercury Graphics Engine to increase responsiveness to processing-intensive tools such as Liquify.
· Adaptive Wide Angle tool for lens distortion correction.
· Content Aware Move and Content Aware Patch tools, that latter of which allows users to select the source area for patching images.
· Added editing tools to vector layers, layer search, filter, and control tools.
· Nondestructive crop tool with preset shape, proportioning, and straightening tools.
· Background auto-recovery save every 10 minutes.

Selected New InDesign Features:
· Alternate layouts enable the same layout in different page sizes, orientations, and formats (for example, print, web, or tablet) to reside within one file; text is linked throughout the different layouts for editing of one source textbox.
· Designated primary text frames on the master page allow content to transfer automatically to their respective frames if the layout's master page is switched.
· Liquid layouts that adapt design content and objects for multiple pages sizes, orientation, and devices.
· Linked content functionality allows page items, including text content and objects, to be duplicated and placed on other pages among different InDesign documents or within one document.
· Content collector and placer tools collect multiple page items onto a conveyer for future placement in other documents.
· Added digital publishing intent, which sets page sizes and orientations to the selected viewing devices.
· Ability to create and export interactive PDF forms.