Home > Features > Product Review: Graphisoft ArchiCAD 10

ArchiCAD by Graphisoft has long been one of the standard bearers in 3D virtual building CAD technology. Version 10, released in 2006, is one of the most impressive updates ever. However, before we get into the details of what is new in version 10, it will be helpful to review ArchiCAD 10 as a BIM (building information modeling) application in general so that readers can understand the difference between working in a BIM application versus the typical "electronic drafting" 2D CAD application. (Ed. note: If you are already familiar with the difference or know how ArchiCAD generally works you can skip to the next section in this review.)

Introduction to BIM or the Virtual Building™

While today there are similar "virtual building" programs -- most commonly referred to as BIM programs -- Graphisoft can take the lion's share of credit for maintaining the correct vision for CAD tools in AEC over the past two decades, despite the fact that 2D "electronic drafting" programs won the market share battle years ago. BIM has come to mean essentially the same thing as what Graphisoft had always dubbed "Virtual Building"™ , so for the purpose of this review article we'll leave it at that. For those that would like to go into a diatribe on the BIM definition they can visit this excellent Wikipedia page.

Working in ArchiCAD 10

It is typical of Architosh reviews to provide some basic description of what it is like to work in a given application. And given that many may not understand how a BIM program works conceptually (as compared to electronic drafting CAD) the following several paragraphs will run through some of the basics while touching on new features where appropriate. The second major section of this review concentrates solely on what is new in ArchiCAD 10. If you are a current version 9 or older user feel free to skip to that section now.

ArchiCAD 10 Interface

ArchiCAD 10's interface is elegant and has been updated enough from version 9 that users will spend a bit of time getting use to it. Like any sophisticated program there are many dimensions to ArchiCAD 10's interface but there are two things going for it that make it easy for new users. Firstly, ArchiCAD 10 features a new help system that puts context-sensitive information directly under the cursor. (see image 01). And right-clicking on just about any item in the interface will provide you with a link to the relevant section in the help system, which is also excellent. Secondly, the initial layer of the interface breaks into five very clear regions, identified in the screen capture image. (see image 02).

01 - Extensive Context Help
02 - Five Distinct Areas in Interface

The main window (1 - 02) contains your project model (your building); the initial view is looking down in plan projection. ArchiCAD 10's main tools are located in the Toolbox (2 - 02), broken into Selection, Design and Documentation divisions. Upon picking a tool the Info Palette -- which runs across the entire top of the main window -- displays the modal settings for each tool. (3 - 02). Every tool begins with a "settings" button -- which brings up a settings palette -- and several modal buttons. Directly above the Info Palette is a series of small single-button tool bars organized into logical groups. Windows users in particular will recognize them. To the right sits control palettes (4 - 02) headed off by the absolutely key Navigator palette (more on this palette later). And lastly a kind of properties-coordinates single-row palette (5 - 02) sits directly below the entire length of the main window. Additional toolbars and palettes can be pulled up and placed at the bottom or allowed to float over the main window. So that is the ArchiCAD 10 interface and it will feel quite comfortable to both longtime Mac users and Adobe users.

Getting Started

ArchiCAD 10's preferences panel is clear and logically defined. The new Tracker palette, a major improvement in graphical-numeric input, can be customized for its color and opacity, and whether it is always on or "on-demand." (see image 03). After setting your preferences you can save them as a profile for future use and standardization.

03 - Tracker Palette Settings
04 - Slab Palette Settings

To start a building, you will likely start with a slab. Pick the Slab tool and then in the Info palette pick the first button on the left. This invokes the Slab Settings palette (see image 04). All tools generally produce a settings palette just like this. Flippy triangles (which actually descend from the early classic Mac OS interface, not Vista) expand regions within the settings palette. Like the Slab Settings palette most will break up into Geometry and Position, Floor Plan and Section, Model, and Listings and Labeling. Finally the drop-down menu enables the object defined to be placed on a specific layer. (see image 04).

05 - Window Settings
06 - Skylight Settings

Upon completing the slab setup you close the palette and then draw the slab using the benefits of graphical-numeric input from the new Tracker palette and the improved guidelines. Some palettes in ArchiCAD 10 have an additional left-hand column zone which opens up the OS's directory structure. This way you can navigate to items like Stairs, Skylights, Furniture, et cetera. (see image 05-06). For those wondering, the objects you utilize in ArchiCAD are fully parametric, many to the smallest of detail. In the Parameters region, for example, you can get into the nitty-gritty details of this skylight's dimensions and representation.

As you choose objects and define them you locate them easily into the model using the new benefits of the Tracker palette. Doors, windows and other objects can be freely moved and they heal up former openings. Alignment is made simple with excellent guides and inference systems.


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Home > Features > Product Review: Graphisoft ArchiCAD 10




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