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AECbytes Tips and Tricks Issue #14 (January 30, 2007)

Placing External Drawings in Archicad 10

Tom Waltz
CAD Manager of Kitchen & Associates Architectural Services

Archicad 10 introduced the Drawing Tool. Most people use this tool to place viewports on their layouts without realizing just how much more it can do. Something that is not explained in the documentation is that anything placed with the new Place External Drawing command comes in as a drawing and acts just like a viewport placed on a layout. This command can be used to place external files, such as Adobe PDF files and AutoCAD DWG files. The great part of this is that the external files are linked to the original so that any changes to the original file will be reflected in the Archicad drawing as well. Drawings can also be placed in other types of views like plans, elevations, and details.

One use for the Drawing Tool is to bring in an AutoCAD file without creating all the layers and linetypes that existed in the DWG file. Bringing in a DWG as a drawing (instead of using Merge) will place a single element on the layer the Drawing Tool is currently set to. If you need to edit the DWG, for example, if it is a manufacturer's detail that you want to re-use, you can Explode the drawing.

To place a DWG file into a detail window as a drawing, first open the Detail Window you want to use. Then go to File > External Content > Place External Drawing…

Browse to find the DWG file you want to use, then select Open. (The one used in this example can be seen here.)

Select the units you want to use. Most likely it will be 1 inch. Some civil engineering drawings might use 1 foot.

Place the drawing where you want it in your Detail Window. Unfortunately Archicad does not provide an accurate preview, so you may need to place it and then move it.

This places the external drawing as an Archicad Drawing element. You can modify its scale and zoom using the Drawing Tool. After the detail is placed, you may need to adjust the detail window's scale setting to get the text to appear properly.

Say for example I only want to see the detail on the left. Using Archicad's Pet Palette, I can crop the DWG down to only show that detail.

If you only want to place the detail, you can stop here. You can snap to points inside the drawing to align it with anything you need to.

Note that any changes made to the original DWG can now be updated in your file as well. You have two options: through the Drawing Tool Info Box, you can set the drawing to automatically update, so any changes to the DWG will show up in your project on their own, or to manually update, so you can update the drawings only when you choose to.

To update a drawing, select it, right click, then select Update.

To update several drawings at once, you can open Archicad's Drawing Manager (also under File > External Content), which shows all the drawings you have loaded, their current status, and gives you the commands to update, delete, or re-link them.

One last point: if you want to edit the detail in Archicad, you can explode the DWG file. Simply select the DWG file you have placed, then click Edit > Reshape > Explode into Current View…

When asked, select Keep Original Primitives Only. This will remove the original DWG file and leave only the exploded elements behind.

Most likely the pens will all change, but you can now edit the detail as much as you like. All the elements will be placed on the layer that the DWG was placed on.

About the Author

Tom Waltz is the CAD Manager of Kitchen & Associates Architectural Services, a 50-person firm in Collingswood, NJ. Kitchen & Associates has been using Archicad for Mac since 2003 and continually strives to take full advantage of the technology at their disposal.

Tom can be reached at

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