Whenever I think about template migration, I think about baggage and Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal. Isn’t there a scene where the urRu/Mystics (The hunchback good-guy wizard bird creatures) are wandering around with all their stuff piled up on their backs? That’s what I remember at least. And this is what I imagine we all face when dragging a template from version to version. At some point we need to say: enough is enough. It’s time to start fresh. Or as fresh as possible.

Back in October 2012, I wrote a massive post on fixing errors and ugliness with the Attribute Manager. One of the things I learned while writing that post was that my template, which has been evolving since ArchiCAD 11, looks pretty and functions well, but if you open it up and look at the nuts and bolts, it’s an ugly, ugly beast. My template, which started as a mishmash of two existing templates from two different firms (one commercial and one residential) has had a long and twisting history. It has been carried over version to version (with aspects dating back to version 8.1, 9, and 11), firm to firm, and bent to the whims of a few clients I consulted for in my post-employee life at Shoegnome. While there is a lot of value in my template, there is also a lot of old baggage. And a lot that’s been ignored: I’ve never gotten around to incorporating renovation filters in my template. I want to fix all that. As I create my template for ArchiCAD 17, I’m determined to do things right. I’m building everything from scratch. Nothing will be imported from an old file (I hope). Even if I use the same Layers and Favorites from my old template, I will rebuild them. And I will finally incorporate all the things I’ve been meaning to add.

ArchiCAD 16 to ArchiCAD 17

But I am getting ahead of myself. Creating a template from nothing takes time. And I’ve been talking about this for months and months now. Long enough that I’m starting to doubt my own timeline, knowing that there are future versions of ArchiCAD in the pipeline. So in preparation for building my new template, I converted my old ArchiCAD 16 template to ArhciCAD 17 to see what would happen— and to have it ready for any potential projects that might start with short notice. I’ve recorded two videos on that experience so far, both of which focus on Building Materials. My hope is to record more.

ArchiCAD 17 from the Beginning

ArchiCADOne question I’m faced with when starting from zero is where and what is zero? You really can’t start an ArchiCAD file from nothing. You have to begin with something: an old project that you’ve emptied of 2d and 3d elements (DO NOT DO THAT), the Latest Project Settings (DO NOT DO THAT), a file you’ve stripped of all elements and Attributes or a pre-existing template. I’ve ruled out my existing template because it has so many legacy holdovers from old versions, old coworkers, and old ways of working that I don’t agree with anymore. Using a file that has no elements, layouts, Attributes (well it’d have to have 1 of each), etc. is just madness. Can you imagine rebuilding every Fill and Line Type? I don’t have that kind of time. The obvious answer is to start with the template that comes with ArchiCAD, straight out of the box. But…but…but…is it? Or better question, which one that comes with ArchiCAD? Because there are more than one out of the box template. There’s two that come with the ArchiCAD USA version.

ArchiCAD is LocalizedBut then there’s not just one version of ArchiCAD 17. ArchiCAD has 26 localized versions. We live in the Internet Age, so getting access to those other localized templates isn’t hard. After all, we all have ArchiCAD friends from all over the world. And if you remember from last Fall, there’s a lot to learn from a template, even if you can’t read the language it’s written in (though Google Translate is a big help). Choosing a starting Template written in a language I can’t read (sadly anything other than English) is a little extreme. Furthermore the US template has been geared towards the US market. So it seems obvious that I should start with a USA template. That said, I’ve had a look at the INT template and will definitely be incorporating some ideas from that in my final template decisions. In fact the way the INT template sets up Building Materials is almost exactly the way I want to set them up. So I’m debating just using their Building Materials (and fills). Building Materials by the way are one of two major forces of change that driving me to rebuild my template. The other is being faithful to this post.

Now that we’ve established that starting from scratch means starting from something, and that something is presumably a template provided by Graphisoft, I want to talk about how to augment an existing template. By the way, this would also work with a template you’ve purchased from someone with more time and understanding of template creation than you have. When building/revising a template you should always augment, whenever possible. Avoid adding new when possible. What does that mean? If your template needs a dashed line, but that dashed line is different from the default, revise the default to what you want. There are a few lessons here:

  1. Architects typically connect the quality of their work to the visual quality of their documents. And architects aren’t about to let someone dictate what their drawings should look like.
  2. Everyone ignores or tweaks the default template. We all just have too many preferences.
  3. Work with rather than against the default template.
  4. Every time you deviate from the out of the box template you are potentially adding more work (both now and when updating the template to future versions of ArchiCAD).
  5. Be very deliberate about where you go directly against the default template.

Shoegnome Pen Set 2013I’ll give you an example of Point 5 before returning to Point 3. I fundamentally disagree with the complexity and layout of the pens in the default US or INT template. My pen sets which I have been working on and evolving since 2007 (read about them here), take a different view. To me pen sets are all about Graphic Data. As such the chosen pen shouldn’t reflect the tool or the function of the placed element, just what it needs to look like when printed (or to aid with visual understanding while working in ArchiCAD). I’ve recently refined my pen sets even further, expunging some more held-over garbage from previous versions. I could probably push it farther, but for now let me show you an image of my standard pen set. I’ll write about it (and all of the 8 pen sets in my Template) in the coming months. Probably sooner rather than later because I realize I’m making some bold statements here. All that means I am aware of the extra work entailed in being a contrarian regarding pen sets, vis-a-vis Object defaults, etc. But I feel it’s worth the trouble.

And now to end with Building Materials

One Building Material Many ElementsIf you’re not deliberately and consciously going against the defaults, it’s best to work with the standard template when augmenting it. Let’s use Building Materials as our example. As you refine your template to reflect the Building Materials you need, instead of adding new materials, try to tweak the existing ones to better suit your needs. If you don’t like the OmniClass designation of the Building Material 22-09 20 | Gypsum Board, don’t create a new Gypsum Board Building Material, just rename the existing one to what you want it to be (and change whatever else you want about it). Why do it this way? If you remember my earlier post Understanding the Value of Parameters AND Attributes, I shared a diagram showing how upstream changes to a Building Material affect downstream Attributes and elements.

Change almost everything about attributes in archicadBy tweaking existing Building Materials, you are keeping that hierarchy and logic intact. So if you revise what the 22-09 20 | Gypsum Board is called—and even all its parameters—that Building Material will still be linked to any existing composites (or composites from other properly done templates). Likewise instead of creating new fills and lines, redefine and revise the existing ones. See the out of the box template not as infallible or immutable, but as a placeholder. There is no value in maintaining parts of it untouched just because you feel nervous about changing it, or feel that it should be preserved “just in case”. Furthermore, remember our discussion from last fall about Attribute Numbers: if you obey the logic of Attribute Numbers template migration and the merging of elements from different files will go much, much smoother.

So I’ll stop here for today. My next post will talk one last time (for now) about Attributes in general. Then after that…I might talk about Fills, pen sets, or continue with my adventures in Template migration. Any thoughts, questions, comments, or requests?


  1. Larry

    Jared, one of the things that has driven me crazy in AC is the way the libraries are unusable out of the box, because they use a pen set which is not mine. I was thinking of trying to use the default pen sets just to avoid this, but the default pens are really organized in a way that appears to not have been well thought out. I was wondering if you have run into this and if you have found a solution. Or, do you just save the favorites you use after adjusting all the pen settings the way you like? That is what I do

    • Jared Banks

      Larry, I definitely deal with the same issue. I use favorites extensively to solve this. Which I like because it means all the placed objects have to be thought about. Either in the past when they were saved as a favorite or in the present when they are updated before placing.

      It also means any objects placed without thought will be obvious. So I can look at a coworker’s file and instantly know if there is something wrong. Because if they aren’t using care, things will be obviously wrong (ei objects will look wrong color-wise & wrong color is a proxy for wrong dimensions, layers, etc). Obvious errors usually mean deeper hidden mistakes. I write about the concept here: http://www.shoegnome.com/2012/11/29/little-clues/

  2. Everette K. Mcbride

    The site originally chosen was Arlington Farms which had a roughly pentagonal shape, so the building was planned accordingly as an irregular pentagon.

  3. Glenn Berger

    Hi Jared,
    Re:starting with new template with new version of Archicad

    Please refer me to your post about not continuing to save as a finished project and emptying it of 2d and 3d placed details from the old project. I save as two separate project files, one for residential interior remodel and the other for residential new/addition. Why is a template better?

    Your posts have been both informative and fun to read.

    Thank you,

    Glenn Berger
    Acton Woodworks
    Archicad 17 (since archicad 8)

  4. Jared Banks


    I’m not sure I ever wrote one specific post on the topic. But here’s an article that deals with some of these issues and my template philosophy in general:


    The main issue is if you’re always cleaning out a file and starting from there, odds are is that you’re never cleaning perfectly. That there’s always some overly customized or hidden data that shouldn’t be there. It’s a little different if you’re a one man shop because they all the files are going to be fairly consistent in quality. But if you have multiple people doing various projects, then you run into the danger of someone using some “clean” garbage file.

    One other way to look at it is this: if you have a template file, that’s where all your best practices live. That’s where all your default data lives. That’s where all your additional production tricks live. When starting a new project, one that is going to encompass 10s or 100s of hours of work, isn’t it worth spending 1 or 2 hours to update the template with what you’ve learned from recent projects, and start from a pure starting point?

    When you start your next new project, do your regular process but before you start the project save that cleaned up file as your template. Then for the project after that, take that template, fix any mistakes you found from the previous project, and work from a copy of that. You’ll start to see lots of efficiencies and benefits (like having saved views ready to use, favorites all set up, empty schedules just waiting to be automatically filled up).


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