AECbytes Tips and Tricks Issue
#13 (December 28, 2006)
ArchiCAD Favorites and Visual Legends
Principal, Bobrow Consulting Group
One of ArchiCAD's "hidden gems" is
the Favorites Palette, a very
powerful resource that improves both efficiency
and consistency. It allows frequently-used standard
settings for any tool or element type to be recalled
at a moment's notice, speeding up both modeling
Another more graphic variation of this approach
is the use of "Visual Legends,"
in which commonly used elements are laid out onscreen
so that their parameters can be picked up on the
fly. Favorites and Visual Legends can be incorporated
in office standard templates, or imported on-the-fly
from separate files in a variety of ways.
Working with Favorites
The Favorites Palette can be
invoked (made visible) using the Window
menu > Palettes submenu.
To create a Favorite, select any element onscreen
(e.g. a wall, window, or object, etc.) and choose
Save Last Selection's
the Favorite Options popup menu
at the top of the Favorites Palette
(where you see the small triangle icon). You will
have the opportunity to name the Favorite, and
it will then be added to the list shown in the
palette. (NOTE: a Favorite can be renamed later
by highlighting it in the list and choosing the
To choose and activate a Favorite,
simply double-click the entry in the palette.
If no elements in the project are selected at
the time (or none that match that tool type),
then the appropriate tool is activated and the
default settings are changed to match the Favorite
(much like how the Eye-Dropper
tool picks up settings from an onscreen element).
At that point, one can draw new elements (such
as walls or slabs, insert windows or doors, or
place objects, draw lines, etc.) with settings
exactly matching the preset Favorite.
If, on the other hand, one or more elements are
selected that match the tool type of that Favorite,
then double-clicking will transform those elements,
"forcing" them to conform to the settings
of the Favorite, exactly like the Syringe
tool (although more powerful since it can affect
many elements at once).
Variations of the Favorite can be made by altering
the parameters, such as the dimensions of a window
or height of a wall, either before or after placing
TIP: Using ArchiCAD's Parameter Transfer
option within a library part dialog box, it is
possible to change from one type of element to
another (e.g., from a casement window to an awning
type, or from a single door kitchen cabinet to
a double door version) and keep the "family
resemblance" or style of the Favorite.
Simply hold down the Syringe
keys (PC: Control-ALT; Mac: CMD-Option) when clicking
to select the new library element; see the graphic
below to see the Syringe used
inside the Settings dialog box.
All possible parameter settings will be transferred
to the new component (rather than getting the
standard or default settings for that part). The
new component will have the same materials, 3D
and 2D options, and general "style"
as the earlier one. This technique applies both
to default settings (next element to be drawn)
and selected element settings (affecting one or
more elements already placed in the project).
With this method, one does not need to set up
as many types of Favorites, since variations can
be created easily as needed.
The standard setting for the Favorites
Palette is to show only the Favorites
for the currently active tool, except when the
Arrow tool is active, in which
case all Favorites are displayed. (NOTE: If you
prefer to see all Favorites regardless of which
tool is active, you can change this option with
the Options menu > Work
Environment > Dialogue Boxes
& Palettes command.)
Favorites can also be accessed from within each
tool's settings dialog using the Favorites
button at the top.
There, in the Apply Favorites
window, only Favorites for the current element
type will be displayed. Add a new Favorite to
by clicking the Save Current Settings
as Favorite button.
Settings can be picked up by clicking the Apply
Favorites window OK
button, which will modify the default settings
(next elements to be drawn) or change selected
elements (if some were pre-selected).
The entire current set of Favorites can be exported
for later use by selecting the Save Favorites
command from the Favorites Options
palette popup menu (at the top of the main Favorites
Saved Favorites files have the extension .PRF
(like preferences) and can be loaded into other
projects (or even other workstations in the office)
using the Load Favorites command.
When loading Favorites, one has the choice of
replacing the Favorites (only
the imported Favorites will then be in the palette)
or merging the Favorites (the
list gets longer).
It is easy to change the Favorites
settings for particular phases of project work,
such as when laying out a kitchen, or when drawing
sections or detail drawings.
A great way to set up Favorites for an office
is to take an existing project that is finished,
or at least well-developed, and select elements
that will be useful for future work and add them
one by one to the Favorites Palette
using the Save Last Selection's
command. In just a few minutes, one can create
an entire set of Favorites by picking up frequently-used
wall types, doors, windows, objects, text, dimensions,
slabs, roofs, etc. Then Save Favorites
to create a .PRF file that can be imported into
any other project.
Favorites "live" with the project,
and will be available whenever the project is
opened. In addition, when creating a new project
with the Use Current Settings
option, the Favorites will be included. Favorites
used in a project will be retained when creating
a Template file from that project.
(NOTE: A simple way to create a Template is to
delete all of the actual building model, perhaps
leaving some of the Elevation
and Section markers, then using
the Save As
a TPL file
command from the File menu.)
Using Visual Legends
A great variation of the Favorites Palette
is creating a Visual Legend of
typical wall types, doors and windows, objects,
Legends like this one can be placed to the side
of the actual project, so it's easy to use the
Eye-Dropper to pick up the settings
from the elements, then draw immediately.
Visual legends can include explanatory text notes
to clarify each element to aid quick selection,
and can even have elevation or 3D views pasted
in alongside. Illustrated here is part of an elaborate
project template legend created by Los Angeles
designer Tamir Barelia for the XLArt Design Group.
The advantage of a visual legend is that it is
very graphic, and lots of information can be laid
out in coherent groupings to simplify and speed
up selection. However, one has to then be careful
to exclude the legend elements from 3D views or
Sections and Elevations, because they will tend
to "show up" just like the real model,
off to the side of the building. One approach
is to draw a Marquee selection
box around the actual building, and use the command
Show Selection/Marquee in 3D
(available from the right-click popup menu, or
by typing F5 for PC or F4 for Mac). Similarly,
by carefully drawing or adjusting the Section
or Elevation markers with appropriately
limited side extents as well as limited depth,
the Sections and Elevations will not include the
Another approach is to place the visual legend
onto another Story in the model,
perhaps a "dummy" negative story below
the site or topo. Then it is possible to Ghost
that Story and see the elements in order to use
One can restrict the 3D views (using the View
menu > Elements in 3D View
> Filter Elements in 3D) to
show only the "real" active stories.
I learned this technique from Russ Sanders of
Orcutt Winslow Partnership, who described the
experience of picking up the settings from the
Ghosted elements as "ice-fishing,"
since Ghosted elements usually look grey or pale
in color, similar to being under the ice.
An interesting variation was developed by Tamir
Barelia based on ideas presented by Santa Monica
architect Van Hohman, with help from Bobrow Consulting
Group trainer, Scott Bulmer. Tamir maintains the
visual legend as a Module file.
The MOD file can be merged into any project instantly,
and can be kept on a file server to be easily
updated for an entire office. He places the MOD
file as a Hotlinked Module (using
the File menu > External
Content > Place Hotlinked
Module command), so that the visibility
of the entire legend can be controlled by the
Master Layer of the Hotlink.
This means that Layer Combinations
and Views can be created with
the Master Layer hidden, a very simple way to
make the legend elements disappear when viewing
the model in 3D or working on Sections or Elevations.
Favorites and Visual
Legends are both excellent methods to
"turbocharge" your workflow, whether
you are on your own or are part of a larger office.
They also guarantee a certain consistency within
and between projects, so they effectively embed
and embody office standards.
Users will save time choosing standard element
settings when frequently used options are set
up in the Favorites Palette or
in a Legend. It is so much faster,
and also ensures that, for example, all instances
of Wall Type A are drawn on the right layer, with
consistent materials, thickness, pen settings,
and other attributes. Favorites and Visual Legends
easily extend to 2D annotation as well, so that
dimensions, room tags, callouts and other symbols
and text match the office standards wherever they
About the Author
Eric Bobrow, Principal of Archicad reseller
Consulting Group (BCG), has been using Archicad
and training architects since 1989. BCG is a Graphisoft
Platinum VAR based in Los Angeles and San Rafael
CA that has ranked as one of the top 5 U.S. resellers
every year since 1997. He can be contacted at
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