Element IDs and the Element ID Manager

Element IDs and the Element ID Manager

In my last post, I talked about an ArchiCAD Champion who was completely unfamiliar with the Element ID Manager—a function of ArchiCAD that would subsequently make his life much better.  The story was perfect for the post, but going in depth into what the Element ID Manager provides was beyond the scope of that post (I had other things to talk about). Now it’s time to look deeper into the cool feature I so crassly glossed over.

Before we can Manage, we need to Define

ArchiCAD Element ID

The Element ID can be found in the Tags and Categories tab of any element’s Default Settings

Let’s first talk about Element IDs. All 3D elements (including grids and zones) as well as fills have an Element ID. Lines, Polylines, Dimensions, Text, and other annotation elements do not. The Element ID is hugely powerful, though most of us don’t use it that much. So let’s talk about baby steps. The Element ID is a great way to organize your windows and doors in schedules. This is often the first introduction for most of us. But remember, all your 3D elements can have IDs. So once you’ve grown accustomed to using Element IDs for windows and doors, think about expanding your purview to appliances, plumbing fixtures, floor finishes, millwork, roof materials… It’s quite simple to label all your cabinets and get them scheduled (clearly we need to talk about schedules as well).

There are a few ways to think about choosing an Element ID. Is it unique to the element (i.e., each window has a separate ID… W01, W02, W03) or unique to the specific group of elements (all roof elements that need to be scheduled as Green Roof are labeled such)? Is it a full piece of legible text (sink, refrigerator, toilet), or is it an abbreviated shorthand (18″ base cab, W01, D02)? Does the ID include information about story or ownership? What about a product number?

When a project is complete, my windows will eventually all be labeled with a unique ID (what that is varies from project to project and client to client). But while I’m working, I often label them differently than in the final schedule. Instead of labeling windows W01, W02, W03… they are usually first labeled with a product number (CUCA3654 or CUAWN1616 for instance). Once I’m ready to start scheduling them, I can then decide if that stays as their ID, if it moves to the Model Number column, or something else. But early during the design phase, I care more about the product number or maybe which is an awning and which is a casement than what the potentially arbitrary final ID will be.

Now to the Element ID Manager

ArchiCAD Element ID Manager

Find the Element ID Manager under the Document Menu

However you’re setting up your IDs, it’s nice to be able to label them in batches. If all your walls are going to be given the same ID (don’t know why you’d want this), you can just select all your walls in any view and edit the ID. Like we’ve discussed in earlier posts, if you select a bunch of elements and change a parameter or attribute, only that one piece of data will be changed (in other words, if you make all the walls have the ID Wall2013, you don’t need to worry that all their heights will change as well). Remember though that if you want a few walls, slabs, and morphs to all have the same ID, you have to select each group separately. You can’t change parameters or attributes of multiple element types at once – unless you know the secrets of this post. But even in that case, you can’t change the IDs of two different types of elements at the same time.

ArchiCAD Element ID Manager Element Type

Select an Element Type in the Element ID Manager

When you open the Element ID Manager, you can select which type of elements you want to effect. You can then select from a number of criteria to organize how the element IDs will be created. For instance in the image above my walls will have their IDs set by story, layer, then width. So first floor walls will be numbered before second story walls. And first floor walls on the Exterior Wall Layer will be numbered before Interior Wall Layer elements (layer order is alphabetical). And then skinny walls will be numbered before fatter walls.

Another way to make sure elements are ordered in the way you want is to select them before opening the Element ID Manager. If you do this, then their ID numbers will be assigned in the order the elements were selected. This is extremely useful for making sure your windows and doors are ID’d in the order you want them (hint: select the elements in the 3D window so you don’t miss any and can select them on multiple stories. Warning: this will guarantee that each element has a unique ID, so no ganged windows with identical IDs. Solution to the warning: select only one of the windows in the ganged group and manually change the others afterwards).

ArchiCAD Element ID

Sort Elements with a variety of Available Criteria


In this final image I’ve clicked to the second tab and have set what the IDs will be based on. You can set the ID to have text, story, and counter components. In my example, I’ve chosen the ID to have the following order: (Text) (story) (counter) with the first element to be WALL1001.

ArchiCAD Element ID Format

The ID Format tab of the Element ID Manager

For another ArchiCAD bloggers thoughts on Element IDs, check out Ken Huggins’ Archichazz Blog. Also, if you haven’t already, go ahead and read the Online Help description for the Element ID Manager. It’ll give you even more information. So now who’s got questions?


Everything in ArchiCAD is interconnected and the more you learn about one piece, the more you discover about another. Layers can both help and impede the Element ID Manager. When I was putting together my wall example, I wanted all my interior walls to have a lower ID than the exterior walls on the same story. However if I used Layer as a criteria, my Exterior Wall layer is alphabetically before my Interior Wall layer. Which means in the future, if I want things to work automatically, I either need to want the exterior walls to have the lower IDs or I need to change my layering convention so that Interior Walls come after Exterior Walls (that of course makes me question my whole layering system which feels horribly outdated). Or I need to look for other criteria to use to get to the same end result.