On Land

Environment Information
At Rill Architects we run ArchiCAD on macOS. If you work at Rill, this is your stuff. If you don't, but you work in ArchiCAD, you may find something interesting. Anybody else, I don't know.

Happy anniversary to this post from October 16, 2006. That's the year of Archicad 10.

The post is called Ways Objects Have to Be Right. (I should have said library parts, I regret the error.) There were a lot back then:

  • Plan symbol
  • Plan symbol on remote stories
  • 3D hidden line
  • 3D shaded
  • 3D render
  • Elevation
  • Elevation in distant area
  • Section
  • Polygon efficiency
  • Scale sensitivity; which compounds the plan symbol, section, and polygon issues
  • Listing
  • Labeling
  • User interface
  • Parameter list
  • Parameter transfer management (Unique parameters)
  • 2D graphical editing
  • 3D graphical editing
  • Selectability
  • Code maintainability
  • Intra-library consistency

And that's still most of them. The user interface options have become more complex, and the new rigor around using certain global variables in the parameter script has been disruptive, but most of my day to day concerns are on the old list.

At the time I noted that the GDL editing environment ignores a lot of well-established GDL features:

The development environment gives very poor support for many of these requirements. As Archicad adds features, items are added to this list. Irritatingly, the environment has not kept up, and is way overdue for a tear-down. There is no section window, no remote stories, no graphical editing. The full features of the current GDL architecture are not supported, so we can't even imagine modern development features such as syntax coloring and auto-completion.

To that I would add: Cutting, wallhole (and later wallhole2) and solid geometry operations.

Ten years later, the GDL environment is practically unchanged. Not entirely: You can create a new parameter in the middle of the list, and you can search for a parameter name. They ironically gave the hide parameter button a red 'X' for version 20. I'm grateful for two of those and neutral on the third.

But every one of those unsupported features is still unsupported. You still can't Cmd+G to Find Next. The error messages are still deliberately vague. (How many parameters too few, or too many? Which !@#$% variable wasn't initialized?!) Check script still lights up random macro calls, so you have to check again, note the line number, and navigate there yourself.

Frustrating neglect reached a new peak with Archicad 19, as the new tab interface (tabs are great!) couldn't remember that GDL windows should be undocked, always, and no one who had actually worked in GDL would dream otherwise. Archicad 20 is an improvement - The windows stay undocked, but they don't remember their positions and stack order well at all, so there is still a lot of inefficient UI overhead.

When I wrote that post ten years ago, I think I thought there might be a GDL editor section window someday, or that you could see cutting geometry in wireframe. The verdict of history is clear!

I still think GDL is one of the most important features in all of Archicad, and I think it had the potential to be a key technology for custom content in the larger BIM world, though that horse is long out of the barn. No serious developer of anything works with such poor support. At this point, GDL is valuable to our work so I work with it a lot, unable to forget that it's an abandoned 20th century artifact.