FormZ vs. Rhino

I had a little chance to learn 3D modeling using FormZ in architecture school. Unfortunately, I only got a few days worth of learning from my professor. I am now needing to learn 3d Modeling and I want to get the right 3d modeling program. My question is, does anyone know how Rhino compares to FormZ in such categories as Architectural Design and construction as well as mechanical design? Last, if not too much to ask and if Rhino is a good program for the categories mentioned, what are all the add-on software that I see in the product buying page?

Hi. I found myself making a similar decision just a few months back. I had been playing around with the demo version of FormZ for a while, and was about to purchase it when I discovered Rhino. Note that I’m on a Mac, so can only speak for that platform’s options.

I don’t have a detailed breakdown to give you (since I am a relative newcomer to both) but I shall share my general impressions.

My opinion is that FormZ is more ‘fun’ to use and with more features (than the Mac version) with the interface being more Mac friendly and user friendly. And FormZ developers seem much more Mac oriented. The new features in FormZ 8.5 gave some great abilities which appear to be missing from Rhino – however, I can’t imagine myself ever using those features in a real project.

The thing which sold me on Rhino (apart from being ½ the price) was it gave me the ability to do accurate modelling – e.g. I never figured out a way in FormZ to create an arc tangental to two other curves. Yet so easy in Rhino. And this tends to be the important feature when I’m doing my designing.

Sadly there are so many concepts and features that FormZ has that I wish Rhino had. Pushing/pulling a shape on the surface of another solid jumps to mind, as well as being able to have a solid with a cavity.

In short, my opinion is that FormZ lets you be creative more easily, while Rhino allows you to create do things more easily to a specification. I just wish that the Rhino people would use FormZ for a while and be tempted to copy a few ideas from the usage. I also got frustrated using FormZ in that actions which appeared to be straightforward would often fail with a cryptic error message. Rhino feels more stable and less idiosyncratic.

Another package I looked at (very briefly) was Fusion 360. It seemed to take the best from both Rhino and FormZ and put it in an elegant and powerful package. However, it required paying an annual fee equivalent to what I was able to purchase Rhino outright. And in a few years I’m hoping that Rhino will have Maxwell plug-in compatibility as well as lots of awesome features borrowed from the other packages (not to mention Grasshopper which looks to be amazing from the videos).

My summary probably didn’t help, as there possibly is no right choice. I shall be interested in hearing your own views in the upcoming months.

If you look at the fine print, you can get it for free. I have a year right now. I mostly work on a Mac also and keep my Windows box for T-Splines & Grasshopper.

I am not sure I want the learning curve right now, I am way more comfortable using T-Splines, which I purchased late in the V2 cycle, giving me a free (or really cheap, I don’t remember) upgrade to V3 and a nice discount on Autodesk T-Splines V4.

I don’t know FormZ at all and if I had the time I would probably learn Fusion360.

FWIW «Randy

Many years ago, I looked at Formz. Though, at the time, it seemed to crash more than a cheap airplane.

I had been aware of the 1 year free option, but had taken that to mean that after the year was up I no longer had access to anything I had created. Normally I stick with programme versions for about 4 years.

Having another read of extra info I am slightly puzzled by their comment that after the year is up, the ‘start-up’ can re-select another year. If that’s how it sounds, I wonder why they don’t just say it’s free for home users. :confused:

Apart from the crashes, I just got tired of being told ‘Sorry Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that’ :confounded:


If you’re a student, you can get Rhino for only $138 at Novedge. Nice!

If you decide to go with Rhino, then check out the training course at If you’re not a member, then here’s a link for 10-days free.

Thanks for your reply. I feel that FormZ offers a great deal, but is more expensive. I will continue looking at all the posts to see if I can come up a with a 3d modeler that will fit my budget as well as is good enough to do what I want with it, and that is that I can design 3d buildings and generate 2d construction plans. And also, I need to be able to do mechanical models.

my students have designed a scooter and built a twin a engine ten years ago with Rhino V3 in a high mechanical school . ITIS E. Fermi Bassano del Grappa Italia

There is also Moi3D, which does .3dm files like Rhino and only costs $US 300.

Never took to FormZ myself…tried. (But hey, that could just be a personal issue???) FormZ, Moi3D - B and C league IMO.

A league IMO - Rhino, Alias, SolidWorks, Creo, and up-and-comer Fusion 360

Thanks for your opinion. I found FormZ (The few days I had learning it, which was practically nothing) difficult. I checked fusion 360 to be a good product modeler, I think, if I can remember, the 3d programs I was looking at. Overall, I need architectural design as well as mechanical.

FormZ does have an architectural following I believe.

Have you tried Sketchup for your architectural endeavors?

Though Rhino’s core market is industrial design, some leading architectural firms keep Rhino in the toolbox, especially for exploratory work. The Grasshopper plugin in particular.

Fusion 360 is AD’s laudable attempt to break new ground and place both designers and engineers into the same software package, which has its own theoretical advantages. The intention being to modernize the combined disciplines.

Rhino is now taught and used in most architecture schools in the US and abroad. This has actually been the case for the better part of a decade if not longer.

Rhino derives its strength from its NURBS capabilities. A good workflow is to sketch something to create surfaces.

You can actually model in Rhino similar to the polygon modeling in programs like Maya and Form Z, but that’s not the program’s strength. So, if you wanted to extrude polysurfaces and move faces/edges or split faces, you can do that in Rhino too. The gumball in Rhino V5 makes that fairly easy to do.

Personally, I think Rhino is much more Mac friendly than any other 3D modeling program on the market. And the Windows version has an endless array of plugins. The interfaces are slightly different. Play around with the technical display mode–you can customize it and I have a feeling you will like it for what you do.

I’d recommend Rhino over Form Z. Rhino is so versatile and widely used. Many design and architecture firms today expect at least some Rhino (and Grasshopper) proficiency.

I use both FormZ and Rhino and have since the 90’s. FormZ is a great tool and the tech support is awesome. In short, FormZ is aimed at the Architecture, Exhibit, and Interior Design industries. It is a more focused product. Rhino is great for those industries as well but also for product design, ship design, jewelry design and list goes on. FormZ has some ala Sketchup tools the help you design. Only 2 rendering choices right now for FormZ which is limiting. You can do dimension drawings that are parametric and that is built in. They work well. There are built in animation tools and they are very good for doing flythrus as they allow you to animate the camera and reference point separately which bongo has yet to do. To get technical, FormZ added Nurbs to their toolset about 7 years ago. Rhino used Nurbs from day one and has many, many tools based on those Nurbs curves.

We used to have FormZ at the architecture school where I work, and I had used it a bit before I started here. I have to say that when Rhino was first released (pre-version-1 beta), I thought I had died and gone to heaven compared to FormZ.

Rhino had some advantage for me because knowing AutoCad the commands were easier to figure out. But everything in FormZ seemed to take several times more clicks to do relative to creating the same thing in Rhino.

Also FormZ seemed to be much more of a closed world compared with Rhino. The developers here put a lot of thought and energy into making Rhino inter-operable with other software. I found that exporting usable models out of FormZ was painful. It may have changed by now but there were no third party plugins for FormZ either. It seemed that they wanted you to commit to using FormZ and nothing but FormZ.

And the crashing…

I think FormZ was state of the art in the early/mid '90’s but other software has caught up and passed them. They developed their interface and syntax for mesh modeling and didn’t seem to have a graceful transition to NURBS. A bit of the opposite challenge to what Rhino is facing with meshes now.


Thanks for your reply. It helped me understand Rhino better. All I know is, FormZ was for me was difficult to learn. I was looking for something that was more slimmed down and easier to use. I was excited to hear that an architecture-related person was using Rhino. That’s what I wanted to hear. Thanks a bunch.

This is achievable in rhino with the new sub-object selection.

This might help you understand how some architects use Rhino at a basic level:

In Rhino there are a number of easy ways to create architectural objects. The slab command creates walls from polylines. Or if you are tracing an existing plan–I often trace DWG plans–drawing polylines and rectangles for the walls, for example, is very easy, since you can snap to the imported drawing. Before extruding the polylines and rectangles into walls, you can combine those 2D “shapes” into more complex wall shapes using the new CurveBoolean command in Rhino5. Finally, use the ExtrudeCurve command to extrude the the 2D curves into walls.

As Ncik said, you can sub object select to move the wall faces. Or if you keep history on, you can modify the walls using the original curves (using the curve control points).

Hope this helps.

I had watched the video tutorials and had a play myself, but it all seemed rather laboured. With FormZ you just drew a shape on the surface and in the same motion pulled it out or pushed it in.

According to the video tutorial, to do the equivalent in Rhino the steps are:

  1. Extract a surface from a polysurface
  2. Use the split tool to split by isocurve to create two horizontal (U) lines
  3. Use the split tool again with the toggle option to create two vertical (V) lines
  4. Join the surfaces back together to a single polysurface
  5. Now you can select just a sub-object (the face created from the intersection of the previous lines).
  6. With that selection and the gumball, while implementing a combination of modifier keys – which mimic the dance steps to the salsa – you can then pull or push the face.

Even after all that, pulling a face that borders an edge leaves that edge behind.

And those steps were for a rectangular face. How about a circle or something more complicated?

Again, with FormZ you would just sketch a shape on a surface (automatically confining movements to that surface) then move the cursor in whatever direction you wanted to adjust the surface.

There will be some reason why Rhino doesn’t implement a system like that. But I have no inkling what that reason would be.