Project Preview is a feature that often gets ignored. It’s not BIG BIM. It’s not even little bim. It really isn’t BIM at all. But it is fun and will increase your enjoyment of ARCHICAD. Project Preview is simply the image associated with the ARCHICAD file when you look at it on your computer. Additionally, if a project has a customized Project Preview image, that image will also be used as the preview for any BIMx models created for the file (see link).

Selecting an image for Project Preview is extremely easy. Go to File > Info > Project Preview. Then choose Paste, Paste from Top Window (which will create an image from the active window in ARCHICAD), or Browse for an image. Here’s an article on the help center with complete instructions. That link also mentions image proportions and number of pixels, but don’t stress about that. It’s pretty fool proof, and just about any image you chose will work great. Let’s look at a number of examples.

First, the dull out of the  box image. Welcome to Defaultville, population this boring image.
 boringWe can do better than that, way better. Odds are your project has renderings. Use of those for the preview image.

rendered project preview

But then again, not all projects have renderings (though maybe they should). So you could create a Project Preview that is based on a 3D document.

Simple 3D documentMaybe the project isn’t that far along. Maybe the project isn’t fancy.  Not every project gets completely modeled to the point where 3D views are worth sharing. Sometimes even in our high powered world of BIM, there are projects that aren’t much more than floor plan explorations. That’s okay, perhaps your image could be a plan.

maybe all you have is a plan
Or maybe not a floor plan, but a site plan. After all sometimes the key aspect of a project is its location.a site plan works tooInstead of thinking about the project, you could also think about your organization. The Project Preview could be your company logo. Using your company logo makes a lot of sense, especially if you set it up as part of your template. What better and faster way to tell if your coworkers are starting projects from the proper template file? All you have to do is search the server for .PLN files and look for projects with the wrong preview image. If it shows your logo (or the logo of your current template), you know the file was made correctly. If it doesn’t, then you know there’s trouble.
 your company logo

If you wanted to go the extra mile, you could add your logo to a rendering and have both your logo AND a rendering (or your logo on a floor plan, 3D document, or on a bigger version of your logo…just go crazy!).

add your logos
If a project’s documentation has been superseded by real life, the project preview could be a photo. For completed projects use a photo of the built work to signify that the accompanying file is the as built model. Or if it’s the very beginning of the project, perhaps the photo is of the existing conditions. as built model
If you happen to be using a 3rd party template (like mine), it will probably already have a custom Project Preview—after all it’s good marketing, right? That means you’ll HAVE to replace the Project Preview if you want to avoid all your ARCHICAD files and BIMx models having a preview image that references an ARCHICAD template. It’s almost as if those of us who create templates with customized Project Previews are trying to encourage you to use even the littlest features of ARCHICAD…You better change that image
Use Project Preview as an excuse to do a few minutes of visualization everyday. Set ARCHICAD to render while you get lunch or when you have a meeting. Figure out the Cinerender settings that’ll give you a five minute rendering and run one as you pack up your desk for the night. Or do it first thing in the morning when you fire up ARCHICAD and are sifting through e-mail. Use Project Preview to get yourself in the habit of thinking about the best views of your project. It’ll get you thinking like a photographer and prepare you for taking photos during and after construction. Maybe render a shot of whatever you worked on that day, even if it’s the least enticing piece of the project. Do this and you’ll end up with mountains of content to share on social media.

everything deserves a renderingProject Preview is fun. It gives your files (both .pln and BIMx) a facelift. It gives you more control. It reminds you to take pride in your work. And this is really all about pride. There are a lot of little things we do when working that we don’t have to do. Our leader lines don’t all need to conform. Our lineweights don’t need to have mm precision. Our hatch patterns don’t need to be as pretty as they are. But we are architects and designers. We know that the care we put into one part of our work propagates to other areas. And like everything we do, we need to practice paying attention to detail.

even a simple projectIn the end, the Project Preview can be a snapshot of where the project is. I save a backup of my file every day. I put it in a folder labeled with the day’s date and keep it forever. I don’t update the project Preview everyday, but when I do, it allows me a way to look back at dozens of backup files and figure out easily what the status of the project was. Had I reached a certain point in the design? Had it been developed enough to be rendered? Had we made that major change? Were we enjoying ourselves and having fun yet?

What a difference

Are you following Graphisoft North America on Twitter? Click Here to keep track of all the latest ARCHICAD News in North America (and beyond). Project Preview is about data and the data structure of ARCHICAD. It’s about making you comfortable going up to File > Info. Under that menu are more important things like Project Info, which I promise we will talk about soon. Project Preview and Project Info are project based data. As we dive into ARCHICAD 20, we’re going to be spending a lot of time thinking about project based data—information that lives in the ether of the project and not in specific elements.


  1. vistasp

    Fun post, Jared! 🙂

    I usually don’t put in a preview image until a project is complete — or at least the design is finalised. Older (design) versions get no preview so that the latest ones stand out.

    Another thing I find useful is to customise the icon for the project folder which makes it easy to spot in the file manager.

  2. Alex

    thanks for the interesting ideas.

  3. Dai Gwynne

    I update my template from time to time, so I have a preview showing the version date (e.g Jul’16). That info gets lost as sson as the projects own picture goes in, but as you point out it needn’t

  4. Jacques

    I put it but when I check in Windows explorer on my desktop, I still see a default archicad icon


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