Are you excited about ArchiCAD 18? I sure am. While we wait for June 2014 and the official roll out, it’s worth looking at the big picture of what this release signifies. Don’t worry, there will be plenty of time to go into all the nitty-gritty of this version soon enough.

Each year Graphisoft builds their releases around a theme. Here are my thoughts on the big ideas behind ArchiCAD 17. That post is worth reviewing as it also sums up a lot of what I was writing about at the time and not coincidentally ArchiCAD 18 builds on those changes. Let’s look at the theme of ArchiCAD 18: Join the Creative Flow. What does that mean and why should we care? Why should we be so excited about Cinema4D integration, Revision Management, BIMCloud, the inclusion of BIM Collaboration Format (BCF) support and everything else? And where is the damn stair tool??? I’m sure that tool is coming, someday; but the future of BIM isn’t about a new stair tool (more on that in a moment). It’s about process. The quote in the official press release by László Vértesi, Vice President of Product Development at GRAPHISOFT, is perhaps the most important sentence you can read about ArchiCAD 18. Here it is again:

“BIM innovation has been shifting from adding new features to introducing innovative new workflows — this is exactly what ArchiCAD 18 offers end-users”

– László Vértesi, Vice President of Product Development at GRAPHISOFT

When we BIMnerds debate BIM, one of the things that comes up again and again is that BIM is a process. We all love to say that. Graphisoft gets this. They understand that as we all delve deeper into our software of choice, how we design and document changes; how we choose to communicate with clients and consultants changes; how we want the AEC industry to work changes. If you look at the evolution of ArchiCAD since about ArchiCAD 13, you’ll see that the big features are getting grander. The shift is from lonely BIM to social BIM features—if you are unfamiliar with those terms, read this article about the Primary Benefits of BIM. One could argue that this shift is just towards Open BIM, but it’s more than that.

But before we talk about ArchiCAD 13-18, let’s look at ArchiCAD 10, which was for ArchiCAD users a sea change for many, many reasons. If I had to go back to using pre-10 ArchiCAD…well I don’t want to think about that. In ArchiCAD 10, Plotmaker and ArchiCAD merged. We also got multiple Pen Sets and Complex Profiles (and the official start of yearly releases). These features were amazing. But they were all internal fixes. They unlocked so much potential for the typical user, making sheeting views seamless, adding immense graphic control (I’m STILL writing about the power of Pen Sets eight years later and have another post coming next week), and allowing us to model almost any form (with complex profiles you can model any stair). But these are all things that are in a sense meaningless to those outside our organizations. They helped us do what we always did in a more integrated, better fashion. But they didn’t provide us opportunities to do more. Likewise ArchiCAD 11 and ArchiCAD 12 continued that internal development trend. As a user who worked through that era, what I did within ArchiCAD became so much more advanced. And by ArchiCAD 12 there was almost nothing on a typical project that I couldn’t model, if I wanted or needed to.

At some point though we run out of the need for new modeling features—or more importantly the addition of another modeling feature fills minor gaps, rather than opens new terrain. Now with the Morph Tool and Complex Profiles just about any form can be created. And yes before I set a trap for myself, NURBS are missing and tools could use refinement. But, is architecture just about form? No. Is the value of an architect based on shapes? No. What we provide goes way beyond visual prettiness. If ArchiCAD just focused on refining 3D geometry, we wouldn’t be adding value at a fast enough rate to maintain our relevance. After all, BIM is the intersection of 1D, 2D, and 3D data. We need to improve all three of those data inputs and outputs.

Who are These Features for?

I’m going to return to that one endless user gripe: an improved stair tool. Who would a new stair tool affect? The person making the stair. Yes I want that. Yes it’d make my life easier. And yes each year it doesn’t appear it makes me a little sad and a little hopeful for the next version. But ArchiCAD and BIM are so much more than productivity tools focused on building a better pencil.

ArchiCAD since 2009

  • ArchiCAD 13: Teamwork 2
  • ArchiCAD 14: IFC Integration
  • ArchiCAD 15: Renovations
  • ArchiCAD 16: Integrated Energy Evaluation, Morph
  • ArchiCAD 17: Junctions and Building Materials
  • ArchiCAD 18: Rendering, Revision Management, BIMCloud

What do all those features have in common? They are about strengthening ties to other team members and data sets—other ArchiCAD users, other non-ArchiCAD BIM users, energy data, more accurate quantity take-offs… Junctions and Building Materials fit into this spectrum because while those advances improved the quality of our models and our workflows, what they really did was push the Digital Approximation agenda—and that is not about the form of the elements but about their hidden data, about all the stuff that helps make elements more real. And thus helps us align our digital models with the final built projects: a step towards the merging of the digital and the physical. Morphs too aren’t really about 3D form making. What’s the best thing about Morphs? That external content can be turned into Morphs and manipulated, and that along with Morphs came an improved Object workflow (which just like the new ability to explode PDFs into 2D vector data allows us to absorb more data from the Internet). In other words the new features of ArchiCAD, for YEARS now, have been about helping us evolve as designers, architects and engineers. The form of ArchiCAD continues to push in the direction of the future. Towards the integration of teams and data, towards openness, and towards dismantling our old ways; not just to have new features each year, but to aid in our own relevance.

“The need to create automated and user-friendly workflows is key to successful data creation and exchange. The new IFC Scheme mapping enhancements mean that we can now increase automation, providing more reliable data for both IFC and COBie exchange. This, coupled with BCF integration, means that ArchiCAD 18 really will improve our ability to deliver collaborative Open BIM as standard on all our projects.”

Robert Jackson, Associate Director (Architect and BIM Manager), Bond Bryan Architects

The early years of BIM—both from the perspective of the evolution of the software and from an individual switching from CAD to BIM—were about replicating what was done in the past, but faster and better.  For the software developers and for many long time users, we are moving past the replacement of old methods towards value-add solutions. We can link all our drawings to the model. Great. Now let’s link all our revisions and show those drawings in relationship to the model on a mobile device. We can show the model in 3D to clients. Great. Now let’s show them that model with insanely better graphics and/or on smartphones and tablets in the field. A new rendering tool helps the client better understand the project because visualization is integrated and seamless with design and production. At any point in the life of the project the client can see images that they are comfortable relating too, and those images are accurate and up to date with the latest project data. Just like we have had with our 2D documentation since ArchiCAD 10 and before. Likewise revisions, BCF integration, and so much else turns the benefits of ArchiCAD from internal to external in focus.

Watch all the videos on ArchiCAD 18, read all comments, and eagerly await getting your hands on the program. And look at the new features with excitement and hope rather than with trepidation about how they are different from what you expected or provide new functionality that you don’t know what to do with. Between now and June, daydream about how the continued evolution of ArchiCAD, now in it’s 30th year, can push you to be better at what you do. About how ArchiCAD 18 can encourage you to tackle new problems, add new data streams, document important project developments, and communicate in deeper ways with those around you. ArchiCAD 18 is ready to push the boundaries of what we do. Are you up for the challenge?

Are you following Graphisoft North America on Twitter? Click Here to keep track of all the latest ArchiCAD News in North America (and beyond). By the way, I love this ARCHICAD Help Center page and use it all the time for writing articles. For more discussion on ArchiCAD 18, add your thoughts in the comments below or on the forum here.


  1. Scott Graham

    I still want a functional stairmaker, but that’s beside the point for now. The NURBS modeling can be covered by Rhino now that the two play nicely. Best tool for the job… Isn’t that the concept of OpenBIM? As my firm is about to begin expanding into collaboration with our consultants via IFC, the news about 18 is exciting!

  2. Nader Belal

    For me, stair maker tool can wait, what is really getting my nerve are 3

    1- Hand rails, especially joining stairs’ hand rails with others

    2- Curtain walls

    3- A tool for custom facade

  3. Muaz Alnajjar

    one of the most brilliant things that let me stop and keep thinking many times when reading about the new workflow features in ArchiCAD 18 is that it’s now really getting into the era of being a software for the big AEC firms.

    in the case of large projects, a lot of firms and decision makers move their sight away from ArchiCAD as a Lead BIM software because it’s considered as a software that confined to the design phase ONLY, and won’t do any good when it comes to workflow on a larger scale project!!

    now BIM Cloud brings SaaS to the scene loud and clear. basing on a personal previous experience in ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) systems (to be specific Microsoft Dynamics) I believe it’s now time to integrate ArchiCAD 18 to ERP systems via BIM Cloud.
    the approach needs really hard interfacing and connectivity channels between both ends of the equation but at least both of those ends of the equation are there and ready to go.

    Graphisoft did the right thing by creating an outlet to the cloud to represent the project data which is still the first half of the way. the second half has to be start building smart interfaces and web apps and services that will make the BIM projects or AEC projects accessible to high end systems that really control the enterprise and let the decision makers more confident about their next move.

  4. Martin Lucas

    I’m following the developpment of Archicad for more than 10 years, and recently went to an AC17 presentation.

    What dazes me is how cluttered the interface still is. Adding new functions should’nt be the only goal of a software company. Isn’t it time to tidy everything a bit ?
    How come we have so much different “tools” (which are more commands than tools), for very similar actions : drawing a wall/slab/curtain wall ?

    Why so many pop-up windows ? Why forcing every customer into a workflow that is not always convenient ? Why so much libraries, why so much content, especially when what an architect needs, is to craft easily his/her own library without always using workarounds ?

    Archicad is certainly the solution for huge standalone buildings in concrete, but not for integrating small timber buildings in a dense city. These projects need a lot more freedom and undetermination than AC can offer.
    If you want to get more customers, you should create a less cluttered, less determined, more abstract software, allowing to use every tool in as many ways as there are architects.

    • Karoly

      Well mate, if you think that ArchiCAD is not abstract enough or does not offer enough design freedom, then try the biggest conpetitor and I am sure you will change your view…

  5. Clarence Bricklyne

    With all due respect, this reads a little bit like an apologia for Graphisoft’s decisions with regards to their development strategy for ArchiCAD and specifically the apparent decision to continue neglecting improvements to much-requested tools like the Stairmaker (which, you mentioned and stated you’d return to but never did) and others like a Custom Object GDL editor/creator interface and for which there’s has been a lot of angst amongst users for the seeming lack of interest to improve on GS’s part.

    There’s a reason why with every new version, we tend to hear the same remarks of disappointment from users to do with the, once again, neglected tools and elements as Graphisoft pursue their ostensible goal to reinvent the workflow and the way we work with BIM.
    I’ve already voiced my misgivings elsewhere with this strategy which supposedly seems to focus on the “bigger picture” at the expense of more basic tools and features.
    Suffice it to say that the reason you hear these sort of complaints all the time is because in the case of the stair tool for example, everyone uses Stairs in their buildings (assuming they’re designing multi-story buildings and sometimes even beyond that).
    Not everyone is going to (nor want or need to) take advantage of new workflow improvements like Building Materials – especially if they’ve come to a place where they can achieve pretty much what they need with the traditional and conventional methods in a more efficient manner.

    I believe the bigger problem for Graphisoft is that they longer they continue to ignore these user requests and wishes in general, the more likely they are to find alternative solutions (as happened for most users who got tired of waiting for them to update the horrible Lightworks engine and moved on to other solutions that now render the new Cinerender engine mostly useless or at least unnecessary for us).
    Same thing will probably happen for those other tools they keep ignoring (if it hasn’t happened already) to the degree that when they do decide to upgrade it in ArchiCAD 21 or 22 (if we’re that lucky) and release it with much fanfare, it will be met with a collective ho-hum.

    Some times it helps to actually listen to your users and Graphisoft have proven over the years that outside of a few select insiders, and inner circle, they’re not very good at that – to their grave detriment since users are the ones who sustain this product.

    I can’t tell them what to do with regards to their development strategy (not that they would ever listen anyway).
    I can only voice my opinion based on my observations as someone on the ground outside their ‘bubble’ in the hopes that someone somewhere in there might still be listening.

    But who knows?

  6. Ville

    I TOTALLY do not agree with Clarence. GS listens to customers BIG time. To my opinion late developments like Morph tool, changes in Save as an object, and adding IFC parameter support to ArchiCAD, are fundamental to creating ultimate Stair or GDL editor tools. These make totally free modeling possible already (+editing further a stair created for instance with Stairmaker). And yes, these are also things that one needs to create new kind on logic for Curtain wall/Facade type of elements. It’s obvious that parametric modeling is on the way for Graphisoft tools. As an excuse coming from the rest of the construction industry (which actually is the CLIENT of Architects, PAYing for BIM and who in the end needs BIM-models), Graphisoft needed to ensure that they get what they need first. I’m not sorry for keeping my job Clarence… There’s plenty of product modeling software such as Rhino, which are more specialized in Stairs, products etc. area, and deliver more than ArchiCAD (why compeat with those). These product/stair modeling software even produce cnc-codes (how many Architects do you know that really live on Stair design fees?). Trying to fit all Architect needs to one package is truly difficult task, for that i don’t envy Graphisoft. Architect is not their only client, they shouldn’t forget that.

    With Martin i totally agree on the need for unifying the user interface, once the IFC (OpenBIM)/Freeform/Visual parts have been solved, it would be time to revamp the UI big time. For instance once they get the IFC data merged with project’s data, they can unify a lot. Best for this is that they actually could uniform Mac&PC-versions even more. The new OS versions on both platforms actually make this easier as well. This would be great!

  7. Andrew Zarb

    A stair tool? Really? When Graphisoft hands over this Holy Grail to the faithful, will ArchiCAD then be the greatest BIM tool in the universe? I have used ArchiCAD for over twenty years, almost every single working day of my working life and I don’t give a rip about the stair tool. If the stair tool of stair tools does eventually arrive, I’ll be quite happy. I won’t bemoan the waste of energy that has been put into the latest feature. Until then, I’ll continue to model my stairs with the myriad of tools available to me to create what I find to be elements in a building that are as unique as the buildings they sit in. I’m sorry but I can’t imagine a tool flexible enough to satisfy my stair building demands, other than ArchiCAD itself as that tool.

    • Patrick

      Well said Andrew… I’ve been thinking a lot about what ArchiCAD vs its add-on third parties offer. If you don’t have the tool, someone else may have it compatible with AC… and even if they don’t, what can’t be modeled with AC right out of the box?

  8. Kaps

    Quick question… Bit confused… I understand that NURBS cant be modelled. But can it accept them without converting it to a mesh?

    We use Rhino a lot in the office and migrated away from archicad to revit because of this. Is there any change in this field? For some reason archicad 17 found it hard to accept a poly-surface which had a simple curve form in the x-plane and another in the y-plane.

    Any advise would be good.



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