Working Faster Than Ever in ARCHICAD 19

A typical year has four seasons. I’m not talking about Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall. No. I’m talking about the AEC software seasons of Version Anticipation, Version Announcement, Version Release, and Version Exploration. We are deep into Version Announcement season. The hype cycle is in full gear. It seems like every week another iteration of some software is announced and another pre-release review is written (Exhibit A and B). I’m assuming though, since you’re reading a post on BIM Engine, there is only one part of our current season that really matters to you. ARCHICAD 19 is almost here. Soon summer will arrive and everything will go quiet as we all simultaneously dive into the latest version, basking in Version Release season. Fall will descend before we know it; by then we’ll all be deep into exploring ARCHICAD 19, squeezing as much process improvement as possible out of our favorite features. It is usually during this time that the new version really clicks for users. We become accustomed to the big changes and really discover all the wonderful aspects of the latest release. This is why I recommend dedicating two user group meetings to a new release: one right when the version is released, and another after everyone has digested the new features and discover their favorite parts. The first meeting is all about excitement. The second meeting focuses on workflow discoveries.

During Version Exploration season, the latest release morphs from the new ARCHICAD to the current ARCHICAD. Today I feel giddy typing out ARCHICAD 19, like I once felt writing ARCHICAD 18. Now ARCHICAD 18 feels normal and ARCHICAD 17 feels like I’m writing a research paper for some college history class. And yes, I am literally this dorky for ARCHICAD. Concurrently with those subtle shifts, there’s another threshold which I look forward to every year—a shift I find even more fascinating. With each new version there’s a moment when a user says “I can’t go back to the previous release. If I’m going to help on this project, it has to be on the current version of ARCHICAD”.

ac19-caption-tabs

Often new features are clearly great additions to ARCHICAD, but aren’t immediately integrated into standard workflows. Sometimes new aspects of ARCHICAD are beyond our skill set, outside our comfort zone, or just too avant-garde to understand without time. All this affects when the newest version becomes the must use version of ARCHICAD. Building Materials are a good example. Building Materials required us to view our data differently and to approach modeling in a more thoughtful manner. The switch from ARCHICAD 16 to ARCHICAD 17 took a long time for many of us to get used to Building Materials—and there are some people who still struggle with that change. Similarly, I remember in ARCHICAD 10 when Plotmaker became the Layout Book, we got multiple Pen Sets, and Complex Profiles appeared. I was initially wary of the merger with Plotmaker and it took me a little bit to adjust to the unified Layout Book within ARCHICAD. I loved the idea of multiple pen sets (I obviously still do), but even years later I’m still digesting the best way to handle them. In fact when we first got multiple pen sets, other than for color studies, I don’t think I used them for much. And even though I immediately saw Complex Profiles as useful, my usage of ARCHICAD at the time was so archaic that it wasn’t until ARCHICAD 11 that I was ready to use them (and couldn’t live without them).

For ARCHICAD 18, the “I’m never going back” moment happened after many of us had been making renderings for months. CineRender was clearly light years ahead of Lightworks, but just because something is wonderful doesn’t mean we’re ready to use it—our current projects needed to be completed before we could start new ones that fully utilized all the improved Surfaces (which is one of the keys to easy renderings). After a few new projects and some time exploring, the moment inevitably came. For me it was probably early 2015. Whenever it occurred, once a user found/created/tweaked Scenes that produced a pleasing aesthetic, creating renderings becomes too ingrained in workflows to even contemplate a time before CineRender. I started creating renderings during the Beta for ARCHICAD 18, but it still took months for me to develop visuals I liked enough to make them part of my template. So while I enjoyed CineRender, it wasn’t immediately something I refused to work without. The same goes for many other big changes to ARCHICAD. The Morph tool is wonderful, but I didn’t HAVE to have it once I had access to it. I was glad to have it and used it whenever I needed it, but it wasn’t immediately something that I couldn’t live without.

Please don’t make me use an old version of ARCHICAD

-Jared Banks, AIA, after working with ARCHICAD 19 for about ten minutes

Even though it is still officially Announcement Season, I’ve been semi-secretly living in Exploration Season. Being a Beta tester means I experience all the AEC software seasons early. As a bonus this year, even though I’ve beta tested since ARCHICAD 16, this was the first time I officially worked on a live project in the beta; because I rarely work alone, it’s hard for me to find a project that doesn’t require sharing (of the ARCHICAD file) with other collaborators. Part way through beta testing however, I had the opportunity to do a small space planning exercise for a friend. This friend understood what it meant to be a beta tester, so I knew if I emailed her and said “oops, the semi-stable beta version of my favorite software just melted down and deleted all my work”, she’d say “that sucks. No problem.” Of course that wasn’t ever going to happen, for so many reasons. But still. I felt comfortable running the beta of ARCHICAD 19 on this project.

Because I had the opportunity to use ARCHICAD 19 before the release, I can tell you now that ARCHICAD 19 and its new features are different from previous versions. For ARCHICAD 19, the moment of never again wanting to use earlier versions of ARCHICAD took about 10-15 minutes of working on that live project. Seriously. Talk about Faster Than Ever. While many of the changes are subtle and non-flashy, I don’t ever want to go back to ARCHICAD 18. In fact now that I am using ARCHICAD 18 again (my non-beta testing collaborators are so wonderful…and lucky), I am constantly aware of how what I am doing will be so much better in ARCHICAD 19. The way labels work in ARCHICAD 19 is just cleaner and more robust. The way guidelines work in ARCHICAD 19 is just nicer and more logical. I already instinctively try to get ARCHICAD 18 guidelines to work like they do in 19 and it annoys me that they don’t. Docked palettes on the Mac and tabs on both platforms are essential. Oh my goodness tabs are amazing. These things make my life easier. They speed up my work.

Here’s one concrete example for you. I was wrapping up a tiny project this past week (a new garage for a neighbor) and all the Dimension improvements would have saved me minutes. You might not think that’s a big deal, but proportionally to the amount of time I spent on the project, that’s significant. For such a small project, it’s kind of shocking what the percentage of time savings is. I won’t write it here. But ask me the next time you see me at some event. Now add in the time tabs, background processing, and label improvements would have saved me and that number grows even bigger and bigger. Do some quick math. Think of the number of hours you spend on a typical project and pessimistically multiply that by whatever tiny percentage of time savings you think I’m hinting at. Then round up a bit, because you’re underestimating. Probably by a lot.

When I first saw the feature list of ARCHICAD 19, I was worried. I wondered how is GRAPHISOFT going to market this? Where’s the the signature cool new tool? Where’s the equivalent of CineRender, Building Materials, the Morph Tool, Teamwork 2, etc.? It turns out I was fretting over nothing. Because there is a huge new feature: it’s speed. It’s abstract, but wow. They aren’t joking.

There will be time later to dive into all the features and talk concretely about how ARCHICAD 19 will make you faster. You already can and should watch tons of videos. But you can prepare for the future in other ways as well. Once you start working on a live project in ARCHICAD 19, you’ll be itching to migrate all your current projects. Research that process now. Here’s some starting points from earlier articles on the blog:

Cadimage Tip – Migrating the Company Template to ArchiCAD 18
Project Migration and old versions of ArchiCAD
Template Creation, Template Migration, and More
Make sure to search around the help menu, the ARCHICAD-talk forum, and elsewhere for more advice and thoughts on migrating projects. Remember you can always just move a project to the latest version and continue to use the previous version’s Library. Sometimes you just want to migrate to get to the new working style, and don’t need to care about other things like updated Objects, new Attributes, etc. This post is in fact based on my brief experience using ARCHICAD 19 with a kludge of old and new. My Work Environment was only partially set up. I migrated my template and was using the 19 USA Library, but without really digging into it. Furthermore, I was barely using any new features. But I was using and seeing enough to know I can’t wait to only work in ARCHICAD 19.