This is an evolving resource base, curating links, reviews, and tutorials for apps that help with permaculture design but that do NOT require a monthly payment. (If you already use Adobe products, those will work just fine, but you may still find some apps here to be helpful.)
by PWG Faculty Member and professional landscape designer Paige Payne
Digital tools can be helpful for mapping “invisible” layers as well, such as in this example , mapping where ethics and principles show up in her design.
A handful of simple tools can make your design process and presentations flow so much better, and can really help ensure that clients, students, and stakeholders understand and support your ideas.
Each step in the GOBRADIME design process calls for certain types of tools, and as you can see, there’s a lot of crossover.
Most of our favorite digital tools for permaculture can be used in a variety of ways, so here’s an assortment of recommendations so you can explore and find what tools work best for your situation.
Truth be told, you can probably envision, collaborate, build, and present your multi-layered permaculture design project, using only the tools that came with your computer and/or the free apps provided by Google. You can make drawings, presentations, documents, spreadsheets, videos, and more.
Reasons to use other apps and digital tools (besides Google and/or what came on your device)
When it comes to choosing what software, apps, and digital tools to use, it can be hard to know where to even start. Especially if you’re still a student and/or if you aren’t super computer-savvy, the idea of downloading a bunch of stuff gets overwhelming. Also, permies tend to be…er..frugal, and we definitely don’t want to pay $30 and more every month for use of a tool that we could find for free and/or purchase for a one-time payment that supports an ethical company.
To spare you the confusion, annoyance, and accidental credit card payments we endured, we’ve tested and curated a collection of tools we can confidently recommend.
And they’re cheap! Most come with a robust free trial, and you could go all-in on the most expensive version and still only spend a few hundred bucks. In rare cases, we have included apps that offer a monthly membership, but only in cases where the free version of that tool is absolutely adequate for all of our purposes as permaculture designers.
All of the apps mentioned on this page, PLUS a bunch of super-useful mapping apps, are linked in this PDF.
This list includes 50+ free, cheap, and open-source apps and web-based tools. These are NOT affiliate links. This is a curated, tested resource list, offered as a service to the permaculture design community, based on professional recommendations and hands-on trials with each tool.
Permaculture Design on Your iPad
We won’t get into the pros and cons of each type of device and system, but for sure if you have a device that works with a digital pencil, a whole world opens up for you as a designer. The iPad with Apple Pencil is an AMAZING tool for permaculture design.
More Tools and Tutorials
Once you’ve got your apps picked out and have started getting comfortable with digital tools in general, you’re ready to watch some tutorials.
We’ve assembled an evolving collection of tutorials on creating permaculture designs, and they come from a wide range of sources. Some videos will appeal more to you than others, and that’s the idea!
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