ARCHICAD 19: now is the time to fix your Work Environment
We are going to read and hear a lot about ARCHICAD 19. We will discuss it at every user group coming up. GRAPHISOFT staff will brag about the features. Coworkers will exclaim passionately about the changes. Gurus will wax poetic about the things we love. Non-users will nitpick. Great debates will rage across LinkedIn, Twitter, the ARCHICAD-talk forum, and elsewhere. There will be no shortage of opinions. I of course will be right in there. Probably too much so: I’ve been writing about ARCHICAD 19 since even before it was officially released.
A lot of all that chatter will revolve around trying to tell you what is most important—what features will change your life the most, what features are most BIM, what features will unlock the future and open you to the true path of whatever vision a given person is trying to sell you on. There are a lot of great features in ARCHICAD 19, big and small. But here’s the deal. Here’s what you should focus on first. Before you rebuild your template. Before you unlock the potential of this or that. The main thing you should do is re-evaluate, dismantle, and rebuild your Work Environment. Before anything else. Okay sure, play around in ARCHICAD 19, open a project, have fun. Yes, yes. But reinvent your Work Environment. Start from the basics. Everything. It won’t take that long. And you can always tweak it later.
Each time we migrate to a new version of ARCHICAD, we are offered the chance to shed excess baggage. And each version implicitly suggests what you should focus on fixing. In previous versions the big rethink revolved around modeling techniques (the introduction of Complex Profiles or the Morph Tool), Attributes (the introduction of Building Materials), IFC property usage and management (IFC Mapping), visualization (CineRender), etc. ARCHICAD 19 has advances in many of those functions and more. But step one is the Work Environment. This is the version you finally give up old habits related to keyboard shortcuts, screen layout, etc. Force the change upon yourself. You’ll hate it and resist at first. You’ll curse that your keyboard shortcuts are different. But realign and adjust. Shed your unnecessary differences. Re-examine the balance you’ve struck between the default Work Environment and your hyper-customization. You’ll probably keep/rebuild much of what you have. But accept that some things need to be changed.
Keyboard shortcuts are of course the major culprit in regards to dragging old habits across time, but this applies to everything in the Work Environment Profiles. Many of my keyboard shortcuts date back to ARCHICAD 9 and ARCHICAD 11. Except back then it was ArchiCAD 9 and ArchiCAD 11 (you’ve noticed the branding change, right?). When I jumped from 9 to 11, I was annoyed that many of my favorite keyboard shortcuts had disappeared or changed. I loved my ARCHICAD 9 keyboard shortcuts and merged them with the new defaults of ARCHICAD 11. Many basic 2D tools lost their shortcuts or had them massively altered. I didn’t like that. So I reverted and have been carrying that unholy union forward, year after year. Many shortcuts I’ll bring back—like Text, how is there not a keyboard shortcut for Text?!—but others I’ll let go. Or more importantly, I’ll let them revert to what GRAPHISOFT says is the new standard.
Goodbye L and ⌥L. Hello L and ⌥L.
Let’s look at the psychological difference between my old shortcuts and my new shortcuts. Shortcuts are a good proxy for everything that’s part of Work Environments—for instance how many settings you have turned on in the Info Box or what data safety options you have checked—so this is a great excuse to go in depth.
Jared’s Keyboard Shortcuts in ARCHICAD 18 (super awesome guru-style customization)
- ⌥L — Line
- ⇧L — not used, what?! Seriously. Wow.
- L — Polyline
- Q — Show/Hide Guide Lines
- § — Force Guide Line Display
- ⇧§ — Create Guide Line Segment
Jared’s Keyboard Shortcuts in ARCHICAD 19 (out of the box, wise guru-style acceptance)
- ⌥L — Polyline
- ⇧L — Create Guide Line Segment
- L — Show/Hide Guide Lines
- Q — Force Snap Reference (previously called Force Guide Line Display)
- § — not used, because is this even a real keyboard button?
- ⇧§ — not used, because AFAIK this is impossible to create on my machine.
There is intention behind the development of ARCHICAD. There are reasons shortcuts evolve and go extinct. And the simple example above makes that clear. Sometime between ARCHICAD 9 and 19, all the bottom shortcuts became standard. But from ARHICAD 9 up until 19, I continued to use the upper shortcuts. What do the upper shortcuts tell you? They tell you that 2D drafting tools are very important to me, that I use them regularly enough to give primacy to their shortcuts, and that I use Guide Lines inefficiently. What are the bottom keyboard shortcuts encouraging you to do? To forget that the Line Tool exists and encourage you to use the power of Guide Lines. Which makes complete sense. And is in fact more in line with how I actually use ARCHICAD. I never use the Line Tool, unless I need it as a guideline in the Complex Profile window. But of course I should be using Guide Lines in the Complex Profile window, not Lines.
We waste so much of ARCHICAD’s potential by holding on to old methods and/or being unnecessarily clever. We can’t strip away all of that self obfuscation at once. But we can continually improve and tackle a few big issues with each version. For ARCHICAD 19, start with the Work Environment. Go through all the preferences one by one. Have ARCHICAD 18 and ARCHICAD 19 both open. Compare your intentional or accidental customizations in 18 to the defaults in 19. Be purposeful with your changes. Here’s a quick bonus tip: when you get to the Data Safety & Integrity tab, make sure to set the Undo Limit to 99 steps (the max). There’s no reason not to.
Once you have completely overhauled your Work Environment—from Shortcuts to how you have the Palettes and Toolbars arranged on screen to whether views open in new or existing tabs—share your Work Environment with others. I haven’t rebuilt mine yet (that’s coming as soon as I can carve out the time), but when I do, I’ll share. And I’m not updating my template or anything else until I fix my Work Environment. It will be my intentional roadblock to learning and using ARCHICAD 19. Something else can be kludged together. But not Work Environments. Not for ARCHICAD 19. For ARCHICAD 19, I would argue that you don’t need a template revolution (if you went through one in 17 or 18). Well you might because template revolutions are great. But if you did a good job with your template in ARCHICAD 18, you will be better served with a template evolution for ARCHICAD 19. However before you block out time or money to do that, you need to rebuild your Work Environment. Make sure the settings are correct, make sure the palettes and menus are current. Now is the time to reteach yourself and break habits. ARCHICAD 19 is explicitly about speed. Work Environments are about working efficiently. Here’s another quick bonus tip: when you get to the Data Safety & Integrity tab, think about checking Release All when closing Teamwork Project with Send Changes. A long, long time ago I did a huge series of blog posts on Work Environments (spanning ARCHICAD 15 and 16). You can check them all out here. I/We definitely need to return to that series. I would so love to see legions of ARCHICAD users share screenshots of their set up. I’m sure between Tabs and dockable palettes on all platforms, there’ll be plenty of things to share. Let’s do it. Post links in the comments. And once you’ve done that, look at other things outside of the standard duties of template set up. Look beyond Attributes and the Navigator. What else could you focus on during the transition to ARCHICAD 19? Have you thought about Project Info recently? Or how about IFC Mapping. Maybe it’s time to focus on those next. What do you say?
Update October 23rd, 2015:
Curious what my ARCHICAD 19 Work Environment looks like? I’ve shared it here. That link also has a video talking about it as well.
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