Importing Work Environments/Shortcuts

As discussed in our last Lunch and Learn, it is best to rebuild your tool and palette schemes rather than bringing in an old Work Environment to AC20. Whenever you migrate an old W/E into a new version of AC, you run the risk of missing or locking yourself out of new features, or even relocated old features.

It is generally safe to bring in old keyboard shortcut schemes, but it is also a good time to evaluate what keyboard shortcuts you actually use. So here are 2 tips for keyboard shortcuts in your work environment.

  1. To check what your shortcuts are and evaluate wether you actually use them, go to your work environment and go to the Keyboard Shortcut Schemes section. In the bottom right corner of this W/E tab, you will see a button to show all shortcuts in a browser window. This can then be saved as a PDF or printed out for a thorough evaluation.Screen Shot 2016-08-23 at 3.15.06 PM
  2. Tip 2, when importing a Work Environment, or portion of a W/E, you need to cancel the W/E search or it will just spin endlessly looking for W/E settings available anywhere on your computer or the network. When you click on Import… you will get a window that looks like this image below. This is usually where things start beach balling. If you hold the delete key for about 2 seconds it will cancel the search and allow you to browse for the Work Environment you need to import.Screen Shot 2016-08-23 at 3.16.38 PM

Tabs in AC20

You may have noticed that tabs are a little different in AC20, as some have mentioned. The intent is that they are supposed to be a little more intuitive, and certainly are more flexible once you get the hang of them. Here are the key differences in this feature:

Eye Dropper/Inject View Settings

You can now use the same “pick-up/inject” parameters system used between all elements placed in ARCHICAD, for the view settings between tabs. Injecting the new tab with new parameters does not affect the View Settings, but only changes the viewpoint settings (like the project map navigation).

Injecting view settings into a tab will make that tap a Viewpoint, rather than a view. In order to revert back to the original view settings you need to navigate back to the View Map origin.

Double Click/Single Click Tabs

Double clicking the tab will still revert it back to its view, where single clicking will maintain any the previous Viewpoint settings. Single and double clicking tabs is one feature of the tabs that has changed most significantly. The big improvement here is that each tab, wether opened from the Project Map (Viewpoint) or View Map (View), each tab is able to retain its original view settings. This means that if you open a floor plan from the view map, then switch to a new view (3d, elevation, section), that view is not dependent on the previous tabs view settings.

This also means that navigating between tabs by shortcut does not maintain the current tab’s settings. To match a plan to 3d tab if they are not from views with matching settings, use the eye dropper/inject between tabs.

Right Clicking Tabs

In AC19, there were very limited right click options when clicking on a tab. Now, depending on the tab’s source (Project/View Map), and content, you will get a range of options. If the tab is a Viewpoint, you can actually search for saved views using that Viewpoint by right clicking on the tab. You can also open tabs with current windows settings, right click to get to Pick Up / Inject, and more.

As in AC19, you can still right click an open tab to show it as a trace reference for the currently open tab. There are several other options added to the right click drop downs, such as “Match all to Current” and “Get Last Settings”.

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One last minor feature of the tabs in 20 is the less alarming “!” symbol indicating that the View originally opened for that tab has changed and the tab is currently operating from a custom Viewpoint rather than a saved view setting.

Screen Shot 2016-08-23 at 3.00.36 PM

Custom Surfaces for CineRender

There are quite a few resources for ready made CineRender compatible surfaces. We have 2 catalogues of surfaces in our library folders. If you want to develop a new surface from scratch, you need to duplicate an existing surface, or create a new surface from the Library Catalogs and then edit it. In this exercise, we will be duplicating our basic massing surface to create a new stone surface.


Fig 1.0 Creating New Surfaces

Once the surface has been created by duplicating a previous surface it can be manipulated and edited to include the correct image and render out properly in CineRender, ARCHICAD’s 3D window, and BIMx.


Fig 2.0 New “Duplicated” Surface

The first thing to do after creating the surface is to apply a Surface Texture. This can be an image from our Arroway texture catalog (FS01 > WW AC Library > 01 Arroway Textures), or from a custom photoshopped image. For this example, I am using an Arroway image and its corresponding bump map image (for the CineRender settings).

After the Surface Texture is applied, you can start to play with the scale, light settings, and transparency. For solid surfaces, transparency should always be set to 0. Emission Attenuation is not completely relevant, unless you are applying an Emission Color to the surface. This can be a very helpful effect if you want to alter the color of a surface, just be aware that the surface is actually emitting a color with this setting. Below are some examples of various Emission Color Settings. Note that, in order to get the surface to match the original image, the Emission Color should be black, or as dark as possible.

For this Surface, we are simply going to leave the Emission Color Black with no Attenuation. With a black Emission, you will get a solid black surface until you apply Reflection and Glowing Settings. After years of trial and error, I have found that the ideal Reflection Settings for semi-matte surfaces are:

  • Ambient = 75-85
  • Diffuse = 75-87
  • Shininess = 8-15
  • Specular Glowing = 0-12

Lastly, if you have a bump map image for the surface, make sure you check Bump Mapping under Alpha Channel Effects. This will define a bump map option in the CineRender settings when matched to the Internal Engine. A bump map image is easy to generate in photoshop with the threshold filter. Keep in mind that the lightest parts of the map are the closest, or the “bumps”; and the darker portions are the recesses.

From here, lets just switch over to the CineRender settings and match. Simply click Match Settings… and choose Update CineRender Settings (from Internal).

Match Settings_Cinerender

Fig 5.1 CineRender Settings

Match_update CineRender

Fig 5.2 Match CineRender from Internal Settings

From here, you can go to the Bump map tab, and change the image to the correct black and white bump map from the Arroway Catalogue, or one that you have created for a custom surface. The Bump Map and the main image file need to align perfectly and be saved at the same size and resolution.

You can check that they are both being aligned and resized properly in the Size tab of the CineRender Settings. You can click on the more Info “…” to the right of the line that reads Use Image Proportion:

Apply Bump_Surf Images

Fig 6.0 Surface Sizes used in CineRender Settings

You can quickly adjust and test the intensity of the bump map by doing quick “outdoor daylight” renderings of a single element or surface. With a little luck and lots of trial and error, you can come up with a surface that maps out correctly and looks good in all views and formats it will be used in!


Fig 7.0 Rendered Stone Surface


A Simple Look at Complex Profiles

Profiles are a great way to add the level of detail you need in your model; obtaining complete control over the shape, surface and appearance of Walls, Columns, and Beams. But it is important to keep in mind the shape and reference origin of each of these tools.

Profiles applied to Walls and Beams may seem to be interchangeable; or a wall may seem like the better tool simply because it is called a “wall”, or because you need an opening in addition to the complex profile. But Walls and Beams behave very differently, especially when using profiles.

First, walls do not miter, they interlace and intersect at the corners. This is obvious, even when looking at a basic composite wall.

Things get even more cluttered at the intersection when you start to look at complex profiles, especially with curving and sloping faces. The examples below are completely fabricated, but emphasize the downside to using Complex Custom Profiles on walls.

If you look closely, you will see some odd irregularities and jutting projections where the above images are intersecting with another wall at their corners. By comparison, Beams intersect cleanly (as long as they are both flat, non-sloping, and at appropriate angles).

Now I am not saying that we should use Beams instead of Walls for all complex profiles, but being aware of how each tool is placed and reacts to their attributes (Building Materials, Surfaces, Composites, Profiles), how they interact with other elements, and how they affect file performance is critical in choosing the correct tool. I have seen at least one project that poor file performance was pin pointed to overly complex profiles applied to walls.

Missing Fills

Missing surfaces come up frequently, since they are most obvious when looking at the model. But any missing attributes can cause problems. Missing fills can cause issues with library parts not reading properly, and can cause files to slow down.

Fills are also a sub-attribute to surfaces for elevations, sections, and interior elevations. This can be a problem, since the missing fill can often be represented by an undesired fill surface fill in the elevation view. In example below, the fill that went missing was a surface fill for a tub filler. It was supposed to be a simple screened fill, but had been replaced with a really complicated detail fill, as the default “next closest fill number”.

Surface Missing Fill

Surface has Missing Vectorial Hatching (Surface Fill)



The PDF Generated with an Incorrect Fill is 285 MB



Once the Surface Vectorial Hatching is Corrected, the PDF is 42KB

Missing Surface Solutions

A while ago I wrote a post discussing steps to take if your BIMx surfaces do not match your ARCHICAD surfaces. This still has some valuable application, but there may be a simpler solution.

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The purple and black checkered surface may seem familiar to some. Other times, the surface just shows up wrong, as in the previous article on mis-matched surfaces. Here are some red flags to look for, listed in order of probability to be the culprit causing the surface errors.

  1. Surface name exceeds 32 characters
  2. Surface attribute number does not match between Module File and Host File
  3. Surface image is not applied correctly in the host file in all viewing engines
  4. Surface image name has special characters
  5. Surface image file size is too large (keep them under 1MB if possible)

Remember, this surface name is primarily used to identify it from a list of surfaces. We need a specific name to differentiate between similar surfaces, but we don’t need the surfaces life story. A simple material_orientation_location is sufficient.

When working with Hot Link Modules, it is really important to be aware of attribute numbering, where surfaces have been generated, and how that works with the 3 different files; Source File, Module File, Host File. The easiest solution to ensure attributes always match is to ALWAYS generate new surfaces in the Source File, even if they will only be used in the Host File. Then use the attribute manager to append to the Host File by Attribute Number.

Make sure you do not have any missing image files in either the Host or Source file’s library. If surfaces are generated in the Source file, the images and surfaces will be appended as part of the Hot Link Module library in the Host File.

With our upcoming new BIM server (its a PC server), it will become more important than ever to get out of the habit of using special characters. Windows doesn’t like anything other than letters, numbers, dash, and underscore. No /\<>,#@$%&*^{[]} will be allowed moving forward. And again, file naming and attribute naming conventions should be simple. Punctuation is completely unnecessary.

Lastly, the resolution of an image used in a surface can be surprisingly low. 161dpi is sufficient in most cases. And the surface image can be a matter of inches when originally created. When applied to the surface, it can then be resized to fit the project needs. Obviously there are limits; you can not stretch a 2″ 72dpi image over a 30′ wall. But you could save an 18″ 161dpi image and it would look fine at almost any size relative to the building scale.


Relevant Stories

Everyone should be familiar with the Floor Plan Display settings for the various element types in ARCHICAD. Some tools are very flexible in regards to which stories they are visible on, others seem very limited; namely the wall and column tool. With these tools, you only get two options; Home Story Only and All Relevant Stories. So what constitutes a Relevant Story?

For this example, I have just thrown together a couple walls in the ARCHICAD20 Residential Template, but it illustrates the point well enough.Screen Shot 2016-07-26 at 4.46.32 PM

The boundary walls are 12′ tall and extend 2′ to the the story above. The bisecting wall is 10 feet tall and is top linked to stop at exactly the story above. All walls are set to show on All Relevant Stories.

The resulting floor plans are as follows (Home Story left, Above Home Story right):

If this is not showing how you need or expect it to you can adjust the view settings to determine the constraints for a Relevant Story in the view map view settings.

Going to the Roof Story’s view settings, go to the 2D/3D Documents section and click on Floor Plan Cut Plane Settings…

Screen Shot 2016-07-26 at 4.32.14 PM

From here, you can define what extents will be considered relevant for this view. If I want the boundary walls to show as cut instead of outline as illustrated in the plan views above, I can drop the Cut Plan height to Current Story to a level that will cut the outer walls. Then if I want to include the interior wall as an outline element (not cut through), I can set the Relative Floor Plan Range: Show down to: Current Story -2′ (or any height that would include this wall.

Screen Shot 2016-07-26 at 4.32.21 PM.png

The result is that the home story for these walls has not changed, all walls are shown as cut just as before, but the story above shows with the taller walls cut and the lower wall as outline only:

One of the amazing advantages of this feature is that a wall may be Relevant for one view, but not for another. Even though the story settings match, the wall height never changes, but the wall appears on one plan view, but not another of the same story. Or it appears as cut in one plan view but as outlines only for another view of the same story.

The default for our floor plans is to have the Cut Plan height to Current Story set to 4′, and all offsets set to 0″, but there are always cases to fine tune this to show or hide elements, or change how certain elements may show in a given view.