If you need to know the dimensions of a room in your house, there's no need to retrieve your tape measure. More than likely, your iPhone or iPad is closer by. Install the free universal app MagicPlan and you'll soon have your desired measurements. And if you are an armchair architect, property manager, or are planning some variety of project that requires a floor plan, MagicPlan can do that, too. Here's how it works:
When you first launch the app, it shows you a brief video tutorial that covers the basics for capturing the dimensions of a room. Basically, you stand in the middle of a room and snap a picture of each of the corners. As you snap each shot, the app drops an orange cone in the corner. Once you take a second picture of the corner you started with, MagicPlan creates a plan for the room.
To get started, tap the New Plan button from MagicPlan's home screen and choose Residential or Commercial. Next, tap New Floor to select your floor level, choose a room (Kitchen, Bedroom, Garage, etc.), and the app will go into camera mode. Standing in the middle of the room and holding your iPhone in landscape mode, align the green pointer in a corner and tap the button on the left (to denote the edge of a door) or on the right (to denote a corner).
After you have completed a room, tap the Assemble button to see the plan for the floor. Here, you can drag and rotate each of your rooms to fit them together just so. You can also double tap on a room to edit its dimensions or add a door or windows. And if you are creating a highly detailed plan, you can add items from major appliances and oil tanks to couches, beds, and the kitchen sink. You can also snap a photo with the app for each of your rooms.
The app frequently encourages you to calibrate it by using it to measure a wall whose width you know. In my tests, I found the app to be accurate without calibration.
After I mapped out two or three rooms, the app forced me to sign up for a free MagicPlan account. The process is quick and painless, requiring only an e-mail address and password. With an account, you can export your plans. The share button in the lower-left corner lets you share on Facebook and Twitter, as well as via Floorplanner.com, where you can create a plan in 3D. The latter allows you one free project before charging you $14.95 per year. The app warns you against taking screenshots on your iPhone of your plans, but I did so to illustrate this post.
Tap the blue Get Files button that looks like a banner ad at the bottom of the screen to e-mail yourself a PDF and a JPEG of your plan. The attachments will be heavily watermarked. To lose the watermarks or receive a DXF file to import into your CAD software, you'll need to pay $2.49 (volume plans and monthly subscriptions are also available).