The Layout Book is a very strong feature of ArchiCAD, but sometimes it’s easy to forget how powerful it is. How wonderful is it that one can just drag and drop to place views? And that views are numbered correctly (by either using a Grid or the views’ navigator position, which is my current preferred solution). Of course there are ways to mess this all up, but building a template and following your own rules should make arrangement and automatic numbering of sheets and views nearly flawless. I’ll talk more about all that in a future post. In the meantime, if you aren’t 100% comfortable using the Navigator and the Layout Book, here’s a video I did that you should watch.

Today I want to look at a non-traditional use of the Layout Book

ArchiCAD Layout EditorWhen the Layout Book was integrated into ArchiCAD 10 and Plotmaker went away, I started using the Layout Book as a PDF printer for all sorts of things. I found it so easy to drop PDFs, JPGs, or whatever I needed into ArchiCAD and then print to PDF (dragging and dropping from the desktop is so great). I would take a multi-page PDF, place the few pages I needed individually into ArchiCAD and then print a new PDF containing just those required pages. Sometimes I’d cut a hole in the placed PDF or cover up things with white fills. It was easier than messing with other ways to chop and mask the PDF.

Placing PDFs in the Layout Book makes me daydream about a more powerful opportunity: ArchiCAD and Shop Drawings. On your next project, instead of doing shop drawing mark-ups by hand, why not do them in ArchiCAD? Here’s the basic process:

  1. Create a new subset in your Layout Book and label it Shop Drawings.
  2. Make sure to exclude this subset from your sheet index and your larger numbering system (future post, I promise!).
  3. Create new Layouts using Master Layouts that have no title blocks and match the sheet size of your shop drawings.
  4. Place PDFs or JPGs of your shop drawings in the empty Layouts.
  5. Use all the various ArchiCAD tools to mark up the drawings. Create a pen that always prints red and use that for your annotations.
  6. Add live links back to the rest of your set if you want. If you print the marked up sheets as a multi-page PDF with both the shop drawings and the sheets you linked to, the hyperlinks will be live (more on that here). One more reason that we need to keep the documentation digital and smart, not dumb and printed.
  7. If you need or want to use dimensions or other tools that aren’t available in Layouts, place the shop drawings in Worksheets, scale them to full size and work away. If you want to add features to the shop drawings that use 3D elements, place the shop drawings on a story (though this gets trickier and might mean you should use a separate file or place the shop drawings on a dedicated layer in the location of the actual thing being detailed. I know, that gets squirrely).
  8. If you start doing this method a lot, have a big project, or do a lot of shop drawings you might want to use a separate file for your shop drawings anyways and link to the model and main Layout book in other files.

ArchiCAD Shop DrawingsInstead of shop drawings sitting in a box you can have them in your ArchiCAD file, right near all the other information you might need. Nothing is lost. Everything is accessible. Everything is connected (well more so than before). And don’t forget about Trace and Reference. Use that to view the shop drawings overlaid atop your model. Oh and also don’t forget about Teamwork 2; Teamwork 2 allows shop drawings to be accessed remotely by many different members. Imagine multiple people marking up and reviewing the same shop drawing together on different computers. How about a laptop on site for the contractor to check on things. This gets me thinking about access for the model by various members of the team. Perhaps the contractor can access the shop drawings part of the ArchiCAD file and make comments and revisions. He can view the model, but can’t make changes. He can get into the Layout Book where the Shop drawings live and mark them up with his own pen. Maybe a blue pen. I am not that familiar with ArchiCAD’s mark-up functions, but maybe that’s what we should be using here instead. I’ll have to investigate in the coming weeks.

A Small Step towards a Giant Leap

I’ve been thinking about this idea for awhile. It was the topic of one of my earliest wild hair posts on Shoegnome. Long term we’ll have an even better solution—3D model shop drawings, everything connected into a super model that holds all disciplines, etc. But this is a great first step and it reinforces my thoughts on why we should not be printing as much as we currently do. For some more reasons why we are over-printing, check out this post (make sure to read all the comments, there are some great ones).

Dave OlufsI’ll end this post with a comment from Dave Olufs, an ArchiCAD user that already uses this process:

“When reviewing shop drawings, I request/require SD submittals be PDFs, then put into an AC worksheet. There I mark them in red, use a digital shop drawing review stamp then return them as marked up PDFs… It’s faster and minimizes the monotony of reviewing 3 or 4 or 5 sets of hardcopy shop drawings. Still fine-tuning but contractors seem to like it…

I keep all the shop drawings in my computer folders under #### 06 Shop Drawings. Each trade has its own folder under #### 06 08 Openings, etc. with all submissions in and out. It’s readily accessed in my job folders and easy to send back to engineers and contractors.

Shop drawings could be included in the original AC file… depending on size. But to-date, I put all the shop drawings in a separate AC file. I don’t use my borders but use whatever comes with the SD, place on a layout sheet, print out as PDF, send and I’m done.” (original full comment here)


  1. Jack

    Jared, Is there a way to bring multi-page PDFs into sheets in one step? Last set of shops I reviewed was 25 pages. Would be nice to do this in one step instead of 25.

  2. Jared Banks

    Unfortunately not that I’m aware of. I think it’s one of those tasks where you turn on a podcast and just be a little robot for a few minutes.

  3. Dave Olufs

    I believe I do it… You just have to sort them out inside the worksheet. One thing I’ve noticed is some PDFs can be quite large, slowing down the regeneration process.

    • Patrick

      This might not be related to your slowing problems; but I always encourage my the guys in my office to minimize the archiCAD windows that are open to just what they need to be working on. If you have three elevations, a few sections, a 3d document or two, the model view and the floor plan open the file will slow. I also try to close all but the floor plan when saving and closing files, this makes opening the file again tidier and quicker.

  4. Saad Al Jabri

    I would like to have this topic on email to share it with some one. Can you help me in that?


    • Jared Banks

      It’ll probably just be easiest to e-mail them a link.

  5. doug engel

    hey Jared,
    “Make sure to exclude this subset from your sheet index and your larger numbering system (future post, I promise!).

    How is this done?

  6. doug engel

    Its the larger numbering that I am having trouble with.

    • Jared Banks

      Doug, when you set up your sheet index you can set up the criteria to either include or exclude by Master, Subset, or published (on/off). So if you put all your shop drawings in a Shop Drawings Subset (folder), you can exclude all layouts in that subset.

      For number, I assume you mean not messing up detail and elevation tag numbering…those if set up by first placed view will always reference the first placed view. So if your shop drawings are placed at the end of your subset list, they won’t mess anything up. If you need details to reference the shop dwgs, then you’ll have to create new details, manually override, mask, etc. Hope that helps.


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