On Land

Environment Information
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.
Tips Archive

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This started, as so many things do, with making a symbol fill for a tile pattern. A challenge of symbol fills is they need to tile (left and right meet, top and bottom meet, invisibly).

You can make new grid, running bond, and herringbone fill patterns by duplicating the extant ones and changing the dims. Anything more complex, you need to draw and work out the tiling.

That's just the fill pattern, which is vectorial, meaning you can use it in plan and surface fills in elevation. But you are on your own in 3D (OpenGL, BIMx). If you are delivering BIMx, you need to keep your textures in sync with your fills. Here is a simple way to do that.


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

(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

Much faster than adjusting each one.

Here is a massing model showing existing conditions and a proposed addition. It is mostly done with renovation filters, with a couple of tweaks from graphic overrides.

existing-new massing model

Existing is overridden with one surface, the light color in the picture. If you are OK with existing elements not having fills in elevation, you can leave this override on. If you want the fills in elevation, you need to turn the surface override off, and switch it back and forth manually. This setting can't be saved with views or filters. We really need per-filter renovation overrides.

New is overridden with a different surface, the red in the picture. New elements are generally shown, not overridden. So the surface override can be left on. It is currently the only active override setting for New.

There is a new renovation filter, 07 Massing by Status. Existing=override, Demo=hide, New=override. Again, in all other filters, New is shown.

These are the graphic override rules:

Site Green finds 3D elements (in practice, they are meshes with the occasional slab) on the layer C Site3, and changes their uncut surfaces to 'Grass - Green'. Graphic overrides happen after renovation overrides, so while the site has existing status, it is not shown with the white color.

3D Lines Match finds All Types of elements, and changes their Line Pen to a medium gray pen. (It's our pen 137 in the picture, the default pen 2 would be fine too.)

Glass can't be overridden within windows and doors. (This would require attribute-level graphic overrides.) If you want clear openings of any sort, you have two options I can think of:

One way is to use 'Filter and Cut Elements in 3D' to hide the doors and windows. This will give completely empty openings.

The other is to use a graphic override rule similar to the site/grass rule, where doors and windows are chosen to be overridden by a clear surface. But, all parts of the doors and windows will be clear, not just the glass.

Some are redundant. I will probably think of more.

• Use the 'Working Dims Plan' Layer combination.
• Option+click on existing strings to maintain witness line justification as you move in.
• To add one string's ticks to another, select the string to keep and Cmd+click on the string with the points to add.
• Use the arbitrary angle setting when dimensioning walls, for auto-orientation.
• Use the 'place, rotate, drop' construction method with the CL object.
• To graphically justify a group of witness lines: Select the ticks. With the dimension tool, click on the segment and drag it to the desired justification point. Useful for backing up a few witness lines where the plan is very near.
• When you select a tick, the element the tick is connected to will briefly show as selected. To maintain this effect long enough to actually observe it, hold the mouse button down on the tick.
• Ticks can accumulate at a single point. If you try to delete a tick and it stays put, keep trying.

See also:
Dimensioning, General Principles

Are you interested in unsolicited email management advice?

This isn't a lightly covered topic by any means, but I find a lot of organizational guidance to be perfectionist bordering on, no offense, compulsive. I don't care if my inbox is completely empty, or if I have too many folders or too few. I only care that:

• No important messages get missed

• No less-important messages get to interrupt me. I'm busy.

Throughout this discussion, I am using a narrow definition of 'important', which is roughly: Having some legitimate claim on my near-term attention. And don't get me wrong, where would we be without so-called less-important stuff?


Update: This method works through Archicad 12, with the key Recent Files. In 13 through 15, it still works, but the key you need to modify is called "Recent Documents". In 16, the Recent Documents key disappeared. Unfortunately I haven't been able to find where the recent documents are stored in 16 and 17.

Also: Under Mavericks (OS X 10.9), the developer of Pref Setter comes up as unidentified, and the current version will not run without modifying security preferences. The old version (I have 1.2.2) will run and seems to work fine.

It may happen that you would like to manually hack Archicad's recent files list. Recent projects are shown in the Start Archicad dialog box when AC launches. Recent projects and library parts are shown at File -> Recent Documents. One good reason to prune this list is that you can get apparent-duplicate items if you open a files from different locations, such as a server v. a local folder. Another reason is if you change servers and you need to make sure the recent items have the right address.

These are OS X instructions. We use the free utility Pref Setter to edit plist files. On Windows, use whatever Windows users use.

The AC preference files are at [home]/Library/Preferences/. There are a number of AC prefs; the one we want is com.graphisoft.AC .plist. You can right-click on the file and choose Open With... Pref Setter, or open the file from Pref Setter's File Menu.

The Pref Setter window will present all the 'Keys' in the plist file. Scroll to Recent Files.

Recent Files

Projects are listed first: Plan File_1., Plan File_2.,... You can delete any of these items. You can also modify the path in the Value field, to point to a different server, for example. Following the projects themselves, there is a Plan FileType_ item for each project. If you are deleting project items, you can delete these items as well, or not. It doesn't matter. Following that is a Plan Number item. This value is set automatically; you can ignore it.

After all the project list information, there is a similar arrangement for recent library parts that have been created or opened for editing. In this context the word 'Symbol' means library part: Symbol File_1., Symbol File_2.,... You can delete or hack these exactly like the project items.

(There are also integer keys for the number of RecentPlans (projects) and RecentObjects (library parts) you would like to see in the list. These are set to 12 by default, perhaps you would like more or fewer.)

We had to do some of this recently when we moved our projects, libraries, modules, etc. to a new server with a different address. When AC launches, it will try to make sure the recent files are accessible. This may lead to a prompt to log in to the missing server. Or, if the password for the server is stored in the user's keychain, the old server volumes can mount without you noticing it. Next comes confusion about where you are actually working, which is never good. Tip: Delete the password to the old server in Keychain Access. That way, you will be notified when AC wants to go looking where it shouldn't and you need to hack your prefs.

(To be honest, even after carefully working through this, I have seen AC mysteriously seek out the old volumes. There's some glitchy behavior going on, but it seems to settle down over time. We do what we can.)

Dwight Atkinson follows up his expert treatment of LightWorks in Archicad with The Artlantis Attitude. Dwight provides plenty of technical detail and strong opinion, while never losing sight of the professional and artistic goals of rendering production. You should buy this book and then you should read it.

The Artlantis Attitude is being distributed as a personalized PDF file. If you are skeptical you can contact Dwight directly at info.beginnernomore@telus.net to ask for a sample, and he's easy to find on Archicad-Talk. You can buy the book from various outlets that would show up in Google, or you can Paypal US$85 to that address.

The 3D printing consultant was fine with our 3D DXF until he got to the grade mesh. He requested that we send him an STL file, which we did not know what was. It is a 3D Stereolithography file and it's common in 3D apps. Archicad doesn't support it for export. We tracked down an open-source app called MeshLab which saves STL. It does not, however, open DXF. It does open 3DS. So we saved as 3DS from Archicad, opened that in MeshLab, saved as STL, done. From illiteracy to FTP upload complete in about three minutes. MeshLab is free and runs on OS X, Linux, and Windows.

Pen 50 is the poché pen. It is gray (80% +/- I think) in model and layout pen sets. It should be the background color of any cut fill in new construction. (Existing condition elements are white.)

That said, one of the advantages of pen sets is having black+grayscale output while the much more colorful model pens help you stay organized. So we have an alternate poché pen, #70, which is sort of tealy in model but looks exactly like pen 50 in layouts.

Elevator walls
The original intent for this pen was to distinguish multi-story walls (then new in Archicad 10) from their single-story brethren. I don't use multi-story walls as a rule, but I like them for elevators. In any case, the color difference reminds the use that when you edit this element there will be consequences on remote stories.

Lately I've been using them for other distinctive conditions.

Elevator walls
Modeling walls. For example, walls on the layer A Wall3 are usually needed to get a dormer to close in model. The color reminds you they don't inject their misleading selves into the output plans.

Profile Patch

Complicated 'patching' profiles. The color makes clear where the profiles meet the conventional elements.

Every viewpoint has a name and an ID. The name is important and is often used for output. The ID is never used for output, but wherever possible we use the ID to help organize the project map and view map.

Info Box name/ID
For viewpoints with with a marker, the name and ID appear in the Info Box and settings dialog. This applies to section, elevations, details, and interior elevations. (And worksheets, in theory, though in our usage worksheets usually don't have markers.)

Properties in Navigator
For all viewpoints, the name and ID appear at the bottom of the Navigator under the Properties heading. Viewpoints with fixed IDs, such as stories, will have the ID field in gray.

The behavior of IDs varies among the viewpoint types, so here's a cheat sheet.

Story IDs
Stories have unique, fixed IDs based on the order of stories. They are ugly. We ignore them.

Section IDs
Section and Elevation IDs are created by the user, and they need not be unique, but the name/ID combination must be. (If you try to create a section/elevation with an identical name and ID, AC will automatically append a number to the ID.) Sections and elevations should have an ID roughly corresponding to their sheet number. Building elevations and sections get A2-1, A2-2, etc., and wall sections get A3-1, A3-2, etc. For sections, add a letter to indicate the direction the section is facing. Don't put the direction in the name. For 'Junk' sections, used for modeling support and not for output, the ID should be xn where n is a number. (Yes, junk sections should usually be sections, not elevations.) So you end up with a section list of output viewpoints at the top, followed by all the junk.

Interiors IDs
Interior Elevation IDs should start with A5. I like to use the ID to sort the interiors by story: Basement is A5-0, first floor is A5-1, etc. Like the sections and elevations, the actual output sheet may differ. The sorting is to help you know where to look in the view map.

Detail IDs
Detail IDs need not be unique. (In AC10 and earlier, they had to be.) Still, it's a good habit to make them distinctive. I find it helpful to use the detail ID to give the 'category' of detail. For example, a bunch of eave details will have IDs of Eave01, Eave02, etc. The assembly type details have Type01, Type02, etc. Structure detail IDs start with S_ followed by a number. For all details, the name should be presentable for the automatic drawing title.

Worksheet IDs
Worksheets are a new, mostly redundant viewpoint type in AC11. We could easily live without them, but since they exist, we park all the straggly non-detail drawing things there. There aren't enough worksheets in a typical project to worry about sorting the list, so I recommend leaving the ID blank and just using the name.

Schedules, too, aren't abundant enough to sort. Leave the ID blank.

Cameras and paths have unique IDs that can't be changed.

Summary: Viewpoint IDs are not used for output, so use them to help sort the lists. Names are used for output: Use the name you want to see on the paper.

The IDs that do matter for output are those of the layout book items; subsets, layouts, and drawings.

Drawing IDs are usually generated by the layout, either by the grid or the order of drawings in the layout book tree.

Layout IDs are usually generated by the subset.

Subset IDs are set by the user, and the subset ID becomes part of the layout ID.

Views also have IDs, but they should typically inherit the viewpoints' IDs, so the lists will appear the same to us. All view IDs can be customized or set to 'None', but you can usually just leave them be. In the templates, I have deleted all the IDs for story (plan) views, because stuff like "-1. Basement" looks idiotic.

What? I know how to open a file! Jeez!

OK. Just in case:

Always open AC files via right click -> Open With or by dragging the file to requisite AC icon on the dock. I do the dock thing; I'm just not a context menu person usually.

Most important, don't double-click PLNs. Double-clicking will only give consistent, predictable results if you have exactly one copy of AC on your machine.

When you install a new version of AC, as you soon will in the form of 11, that version becomes the default application for opening PLNs. So you double-click your AC10 project, it opens in 11, you don't notice the difference because there isn't much, you save it, and next time you try to open it in 10 it doesn't work. (Yes, backsave. Real convenient.)

Always keep current versions of AC on the dock. Even if you use the right-click method, the dock gives you visual confirmation that the right application is being used.

Graphisoft gives poor support in this area, by making the icons identical and naming each version, precisely, "Archicad".

Double-clicking files is one of those 'automatic' things that's great if you can trust it, but when it's not predictable it makes trouble. It's not just AC either, recently my .docs started opening in Pages for some reason.

What about that 'Change All' under Open With in the Get Info window? That fixed my .doc issue, but it doesn't reliably assign the right 'Archicad' version.

So, right-click or dock. If you have a bad habit here, change it now before 11 starts getting on your nerves.

Update re app icons: Mr. Briggs to the rescue.

11 Icon

Homeworkers: When's the last time you took home the office Library Container File?

The library is always changing and the LCF is updated every Monday at the very least.

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