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At Rill Architects we run ArchiCAD on Mac OS X. 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.
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July 2017 Archive

In Archicad 21 you can use autotexts in labels. Rather than describing an element in disconnected words, you can display the actual properties, attributes, dimensions, etc. of the element. Use Archicad properties and name your building materials, surfaces, and composites carefully, and you can get good automatic notes. GDL-scripted labels have long been able to do this, but it's an order of magnitude more convenient to have this built into the basic text label.

Generally, such associated annotations are better, because if anything changes in the elements the annotations change too. Think ordinary dimensions. An element and its associated annotations are one thing.

But my goodness they botched this for US users.

If you use (feet and) fractional inches for your dimension units, you can't use any dimensional autotexts in labels without looking like a hack. This is because autotext dimensions are formatted according to the calculation units preference rather than the dimension units. There are no fractional length unit options in the calculation units preferences.

Here are two simple dimension values. The wall thickness is a dimension and the fixture elevation is a label autotext. Archicad says with a straight face that one of them is a dimension and the other is a calculation. A calculation with no operators and a single term, apparently.

calculation
Doesn't everybody vary units within drawings? No, no one does.

Wait, here's a label that works.

This is the Archicad library's Elevation Label 21, a scripted label (no autotext) that has been available for years. (Like a lot of Archicad library parts, this label over-serves and you have to fiddle a lot to get it looking right, but it's functional and reliable.)

dimension
That's not so hard, is it?

This label is scripted to use the dimension units, as common sense would dictate. There are global variables for the calculation units too, so they could have this label use them, but it's not even an option, because that would be (is) ridiculous. If I wanted decimal units, I could just set the dimension standard that way.

Maybe in Archicad 22 they'll fix the Elevation Label to use the calculation units for consistency. (KIDDING!)

I don't know how this decision made it out of committee, and I'm sorry I didn't notice it earlier, but that usually doesn't matter. This is worse than How Could This Possibly Be What I Want, it's just carelessness that never got reviewed because it doesn't affect metric users. (But it's wrong there too.)

Why don't I care about the reason?

Because I'm a user, not a developer. My job is to make my projects work, and the developers job is to make the program work. I'm sure there's a reason for this situation, and it might be very interesting from a development point of view, but that's not my point of view. To a user, it's just wrong and needs to be fixed. (In all honesty, as an Archicad observer I'm curious about the reason, but it's not the user's role to care.)

And, the whole dimension and calculation units thing probably needs a do-over. It would be welcome to have units control at the level of the element (dimension, label) or schedule. An electrician might prefer that fixture elevation in fractional inches, for instance. This will become more important as more annotations become automatic.

PS, metric people: Sure sure, I'm with you but you're not helping.

Element Transfer Settings is a new feature of Archicad 21. It allows the user much greater control over what settings are injected during a syringe operation and/or when favorites are applied. I haven't explored the feature enough yet to be inspired by what it can do, but I think it's going to be helpful.

But I have a problem with the way the feature behaves in projects migrated from Archicad 20. When you open a project in Archicad 21 the first time, a single ETS option is created, Transfer All Settings. As you would guess, every setting in every tool is checked off. This includes settings that didn't transfer in Archicad 20, such as story, ID, and zone name and number. These are the personally annoying results that drew my attention:

• Favorites are set to include the story. So on every story except the home story when the favorite was created, you will get that wonderful dialog box about changes on an unseen story, and then you undo, fix the story, and do it over. (In 20 this just behaved badly and acted like a bug. It works perfectly now once you know what ETS is.)

• ID is included, so if you use unique IDs to schedule elements such as doors and windows, you are going to start to see duplicate IDs (i.e., data loss) from using favorites or the syringe.

• I don't think I've ever eyedropper/syringed a zone, but if I did, I wouldn't want the name and number to transfer, that's crazy.

The old way in Archicad 20 offered some control over these things, so if you wanted to transfer ID via favorite you could, though you couldn't via syringe. (That's really confusing and the new way is better, once you know about it.)

So a migrating user of Archicad 21 is probably going to encounter frustration and data loss, before they even meet the new feature that is responsible. The migration process should have created a safer default ETS option. Note, this is only an issue with migration - the templates have a sensible assortment of options.

I have only made a few ETS options so far, but my default one excludes story, ID, name, number, reference ID, title, and label text content. I have a separate option to transfer label content. And I renamed the bad one to: 'Transfer All Settings BE CAREFUL'.

We use labels to show the ID of doors and windows in elevations. The labels are identical to the marker tags used in plan, and the pointer is left off.

With the pointer off, it makes no difference whether you use the single-click or three-click geometry method.

geometry method
Doesn't help

The label will be placed at a (non-user-modifiable) distance from the user-clicked point. (The text appears the same place if you use the single-click method with the pointer on.) Since that clicked point must be on the door/window in order to place the associative label, the label itself will usually show up off to the side of the opening. Then you have to move it into place on the opening.

offset label
Wrong

(The way it should work: With the single click method and the pointer off, the label should be placed where the user clicked. This is one of those design issues that is so obvious I just call it a bug, opinions vary.)

Here is my best compromise method. Turn the pointer on. Use the three-click geometry method. Put the first click anywhere on the opening. Put the second click level with the point where you want the label. (After this click the Y coordinate is set.) Put the third click precisely where you want the label.

pointer label
Wrong, but be patient

Label all the openings in the elevation. Use find and select to select all the labels by name.

find and select
These ones

Turn the pointers off. The labels are off-center with the pointers on, but they will center on the third point with the pointers off.

good label
Done

Much faster than adjusting each one.

This clever trick from Patrick May at 4dProof about labeling zones in section has two parts. The clever part is the lateral thinking of labeling things in the zones rather than the zone itself. The other part is the introduction of autotexts in labels in Archicad 21.

The lateral thinking part could have been discovered versions ago, you just needed to script the label in GDL because there was no label autotext.

So when I got done slapping my forehead I wrote a label in Archicad 20 which matches our zone stamp and the object we have been using to 'label' rooms in section. And while the label autotext is very handy, but, as always, GDL gives you more power and control.

First, let's review the clever trick. You can't label, or even detect, zones in section or elevation. What you can do is label a model element, and have the label state what zone an element is in. (Related zone condition is determined in plan. The elevation of elements and the height of zones doesn't matter.) Turn the pointer off, and you have a word which is the name of the room floating in the room. The label is live data - if you rename the zone, the section labels will be updated. And, you don't need to know the name of the room to label it.

These element types can report their related zone:
• Object
• Lamp
• Morph
• Beam
• Column
• Stair
• Wall, if zone boundary, with caveats

These element types are ineligible:
• Slab
• Roof
• Shell
• Wall, within zone
• Door
• Window
• Skylight
• Railing (AC21)

To label the room, you need to find an eligible element in it. In our projects, considering that not every room needs to be labeled, almost every room has a lamp, object (moulding, appliance, plumbing fixture, etc), or beam in it. If there are none of these in a room, I suspect the project isn't far enough along to be labeling rooms in section.

The main walls of the room, since they are usually boundary walls, are a good choice with caveats. There may be two (or more) zones related to the wall, so you need to be sure the right one is shown. In Archicad 20, sometimes there are two zones available and the label just ignores one of them. (This seems to be fixed in Archicad 21.) If the walls won't cooperate, you'll need to find something else to label.

Room names in section

The basics described so far also apply to labeling with autotext in Archicad 21. These are the additional features of this scripted label:

It precisely matches our standard for room names, including the fussy underline and the ability to 'stack' two-word names.

It can show the name and the number or both, and the font and size of these texts can be different.

It tries to help if you label something ineligible. If you label an ineligible element, there is no text to display. In this case the autotext label just sits there, blank and invisible. Go ahead, place a bunch of empty labels until you notice the pattern! The scripted label helpfully states 'something is wrong' in this case. (The two things that can be wrong are that the element is of an ineligible type, or it is not inside a zone. GDL doesn't offer the ability to tell these conditions apart, otherwise I would have the label tell you.)

If you are labeling zone boundary walls, you can switch between the two zones the label knows about. (Autotext only offers one zone and no way to switch that I can see.) There is a checkbox in settings for using the 'other' zone, and even better there is a graphical switch at the top of the text block. (It only appears for walls with zone zones.) Switching doesn't always help: Since walls can bound more than two zones, the one you want might not be offered. You'll need to label something else.

Update, July 7, 2017
Only the main properties (name, number, etc) of the zone are available to labels. Our zone stamp has additional parameters, such as an optional short name which can be shown in small rooms. These parameters aren't available to the label, so you can't use the short name for rooms that are small in section. In that case you can make the text size smaller or use the number instead.

I have tweaked the label so it behaves more civilized in the settings dialog.

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