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.work environment update

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.

shortcut list in browser

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.

Work Environment More Options

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.99 steps of freedom

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. Do Not Be GreedyA 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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  1. Eric Schermer

    When it installed and asked me if I wanted to import any settings from previous version, I said no. That means I’m good, right?

    • Jared Banks

      Yes. That means all your old Work Environment garbage shouldn’t show up in ARCHICAD 19.

    • Daniel Lindahl

      Yes, I discovered some time back (I think it was when the shell tool was introduced) that importing settings from the previous version was definitely NOT a good idea, as you will search in vain for the fancy new tools that you’ve heard so much about! After that I took the trouble to go through all my favourite tweaks all over again with each new version – and reassess the need for them in the process.

      • Jared Banks

        I know I learned the same lesson with the shell tool. I remember looking for it and getting really annoyed…until I realized that I had migrated my toolbox.

  2. Ben H

    My template update checklist usually includes at bare minimum:

    1.) Work Environment Update (setting office default settings that everyone can start from & minimum required toolbars/pallets for basic productivity) 2.) Removing unnecessarily nested and subnested menu items (items that deep never get used properly). 3.) Adding a morph toolbar with for advanced morph manipulation. 4.) Review of pens, materials, and surfaces. 5.) Adding new favorites.

    • Jared Banks

      Good checklist. I’m always wary of removing menu items, but I also haven’t been responsible for a large team of users in years. Do you ever think of making a company specific menu with just the main items your coworkers need? For a while I got really into custom toolbars, but have moved away from them. I think I might return to that concept in 19 in order to get the most streamlined UI as possible. I definitely will remove things like open and save buttons, undo/redo buttons, etc.

  3. Link

    One thing I modified in the new ArchiCAD 19 Work Environment was to change the Highlight Snap Reference time to 0.25 seconds, in the Input Constraints and Guides panel. Brings up the Snap Reference nice and quick and you can always hit esc if you don’t want to see them or just hover over the element to remove them individually.

    • Jared Banks

      Great idea. I find the default wait a bit too long. I think I’ll start with .25 seconds myself and go form there. It reminds me of the default wait time on typing in numbers into boxes. Years ago I had a few newish users who wanted me to max out that time for them, because they’d click to type a number then spend forever thinking and get annoyed when ARCHICAD assumed they were done typing.

  4. Jared Banks

    Okay, today I’m actually setting up my keyboard shortcuts and I’m making one change from what I said above. L is staying polyline. Option + L will be show/hide guidelines. I need that more than show/hide guidelines (I presume I’ll usually be showing them) and the other keys around L are other tools. So sorry box. You’re not 100% to my liking. But the rest of my comments stand. I have defaulted so many things and it feels good.

  5. Mats Knutsson

    Good post!

    Snap reference time…haha…after setting it to the shortest possible (co-workers demand after using it for 10 seconds…) I totally reversed and set it to 3 secs to force the use of shortcut instead. I find it more fluent to Q-click where I want the reference. It will be interesting to see what my colleagues think…internal template release is next week.

    I like what you’re saying about old habits regarding lines vs guide lines and will put it into our template. The catch is that guide lines need to be activated for the snap guides/references to show. I’m not sure I like that…yet…:)

    • Jared Banks

      I love the idea of the super long time to force people to use the shortcut! I’m not sure how I feel about lines vs guide lines either. I’m experimenting still. I really like the guidelines and am learning to trust them. But there are still many instances when I want a semi-permanent 2D line that I completely control and trust and want to leave on the view for days or hours as I design around it.

      I think the key is to think of guide lines and polylines along a time continuum. More ephemeral needs should be guide lines, more permanent should be polylines/lines. But the transition point between the too should be drifting to the right (ei, towards more usage of guide lines).

      Have you turned on the guideline tabs at the edge of the viewpoint/drawing/modeling area? I always forget about them, but that’s also where the real guideline power comes in because they are so easy to create, delete, and they automatically realign to whatever you want.

      Seems like we need to check back in on this topic regularly!


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