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  • PDF markups for Architects

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    One of the tasks in Architecture which still requires printing and scanning, is the markup of drawings and renderings.
    Mostly markups are created by experienced staff to instruct and communicate with their teams and collaborators, thus clarity and time are both critical factors.

    We find that either of the below soft- & hardware combos, go a long way in streamlining this process…

    OPTION A – expand your existing setup with a Tablet

    1 x Apple iMac or MacBook Pro, ideally with a 27 inch screen or display connected
    1 x Wacom Intuos Tablet available in various sizes, we think small is big enough

    OPTION B – use an iPadPro 12.9 inch

    1 x Apple iPad Pro 12.9 4th gen 256GB WiFi only
    1 x Apple Pencil 2nd gen
    1 x PaperLike iPad screen protector

    Regarding software, there is the obvious choice of Adobe Acrobat, however if you are not yet invested into the Adobe universe there are also other options available.

    PDF Expert (iOS and macOS) > easy to use markup tools, including arrows that are easily adjusted plus custom stamps;

    morpholio trace (iOS only) > the sketch design app geared specifically for architects: grid, stencils, hatches and more;

    For ideas which other apps and accessories to use on iOS, have a look at our iPad in Architecture post.

  • iPad for Architects

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    Almost 10 years have passed since our first iPad in Architecture review – fast forward to 2020 and the new iPad Pro 4th generation has arrived.

    So here is our latest setup:

    1 x Apple iPad Pro 12.9 4th gen 256GB WiFi only
    1 x Apple Pencil 2nd gen
    1 x PaperLike iPad screen protector
    1 x Anker 5-in-1 USB C Adapter with 4K USB C to HDMI
    1 x iClever BK06 foldable bluetooth keyboard
    1 x Logitech MX Master 3 Mouse
    1 x AmazonBasics Multi-angle stand for Tablets

    In a nutshell the above setup essentially, sets us free of having to log a laptop around. Please note this assumes, that you have at least a 27inch iMac as your base CAD or BIM station at your disposal. Interestingly, a MacBook Pro (with 32GB RAM) plus 27inch 4k monitor is about the same price as a 27inch iMac plus the above iPad Pro.

    There is also the Apple Magic Keyboard for iPad which looks good (and is very expensive!), but we do not think adds any value to our setup. Especially, as our main goal is to travel as lightly and be as flexible as possible.

    Regarding the iPad’s performance there are plenty of in-depth reviews available, which in detail outline the capabilities of this latest iPad generation. Apart from almost reaching MacBook Pro level processing prowess, the main drawing card for us was the new LIDAR sensor that is part of the camera setup. Although there are no apps available that make use of it just yet, this new sensor promises improved AR based architectural workflows – such as iPad based measure-ups of existing buildings / rooms as well as obstruction detection for 3d model overlays into real environments.

    Once these AR apps become available, we will post some more reviews.

    Another interesting development is that Apple has introduced support for bluetooth Mice with iOS 13, which makes navigating around so much easier.

    So to get you started, below is our take on some of our favourite apps for Architects in no particular order…

    linea sketch (syncs with macOS viewer app) > brilliantly simple drafting tools to create diagrams that pop;

    tayasui sketches (syncs with macOS app) > upgrade to pro for additional rulers and a symmetry tool;

    morpholio trace > the sketch design app geared specifically for architects: grid, stencils, hatches and more;

    Archipad > our go to for any onsite defects, simplifying the process drawmatically. It is as easy as uploading your drawings, going to site and marking defects (observations) in plan, taking a photo and making annotations (the app remembers previously used abbreviations) which you can then create a report from on your way home. Done. Archipad also allows for sharing of projects across ArchiPad accounts, which can come in handy if you have more than one iPad in your office.

    Sun Seeker > provides detailed feedback to understand solar access on site;

    PDF Expert (iOS and macOS) > easy to use markup tools, including arrows that are easily adjusted plus custom stamps… Adobe Acrobat begone;

    luna display > unless you dare upgrade to macOS 10.15 for Apple’s sidecar, use the luna display dongle to use your iPad with most old Macs with Thunderbolt 2 as external display;

    Omni Graffle (iOS and macOS) > the one and only app for any diagram and flowchart;

    Soulver (iOS and macOS) > a calculator app that works the way you think about numbers;

    BIMx lab > Graphisoft’s BIMx model viewer available for free, to show or share your 3d ARCHICAD model and Layouts with anyone – perfect for client presentations or site visits. If you have BIMCLOUD licenses there is even a feedback loop for markups;

    ARki > an augmented reality app / service that allows you to show your 3d models in AR… early days still, but very promising;

    Apple Files app > comes with iOS and let’s you connect to any SMB sharepoint – no AFP support!

    Zoom (iOS and macOS) > still the best features for architectural presentations and comms – for additional thoughts on Zoom also see here.

    Pixelmator (iOS and macOS) > another strong Adobe Photoshop competitor at a fraction of the cost – basic but effective;

    Shapr3d > essentially this is SketchUP for iOS;

    GoodNotes > fully featured note taking app;

    Nebo > looking for a notes app with handwriting recognition? BINGO.

    Agenda (iOS and macOS) > simple and elegant date focused note taking;

    Microsoft OneNote > if you are already tied into the Microsoft Universe, e.g. via an MS Office 365 subscription, One Note is a surprisingly feature rich note taking app.

    We are sure there are many more apps suited to architect, thus our quest to find the best possible setup for Architects is a never ending journey… stay tuned.

  • mACT ARCHICAD Work Environment

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    As part of the annual development of mACT our ARCHICAD Template, we also produce a continuously refined Work Environment.

    It has been optimised for 27 inch displays or larger and includes the following refinements:

    1. Workflow based layout > from left to right, putting the focus on Favourites for efficient modelling;
    2. Quick menus > providing a logical structure to the most important commands;
    3. Drawing essentials > quick feedback on coordinates and drawing method controls;
    4. Logical shortcuts > providing a logical syntax of key combinations;
    5. Performance based Work Environment settings > all performance relevant settings are optimised;

    Only use for the specified ARCHICAD version.

    Included with mACT or available separately for

    only $0.00

    buy

  • ARCHICAD 23 replacement icon(s)

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    Another year for new versions of our alternative / replacement icons for ARCHICAD 23

    All icons are available in full Retina Display glory…

     

    Click here to download.

     

    To install, simply replace the original ARCHICAD logo in:

    /Applications/GRAPHISOFT/ARCHICAD 23/ARCHICAD 23.app/Contents/Resources/ARCHICAD.icns

    Please note the above was also posted on AC-talk.

  • AC22 replacement icon(s)

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    As every year new here are our alternative / replacement icons for ARCHICAD 22

    All icons are available in full Retina Display glory…

    Click here to download.

     

    To install replace the original AC logo in:

    /Applications/Graphisoft/ArchiCAD 22/ArchiCAD.app/Contents/Resources/ArchiCAD.icns

    Please note the above was also posted on AC-talk.

  • mACT ARCHICAD Template FAQ

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    Can I get a trial version of mACT?

    Unfortunately there is no trial version of mACT available, as we can not effectively protect the contained intellectual property once it is on your computer. Please refer to the extensive information available on this website, and if you still have any questions we are more than happy to answer any specific questions you might still have.

    How is mACT licensed?

    mACT is licensed per purchaser – please also refer to our EULA here.

    Is mACT a stand-alone or subscription license?

    mACT is not subscription-based. You purchase a once-off licence to use the mACT framework. Each major version (eg mACT 22 to mACT 23) requires a new, corresponding licence purchase.

    What is included with mACT?

    mACT includes everything shown in the feature list above as well as a detailed Getting Started Guide, outlining the underlying principles and how to best use mACT.

    What else do I need to adjust to start working with mACT?

    Nothing. mACT works out of the box. However you can use it also as a basis and customise mACT to your office style, i.e. add your custom title block, adapt favourites to use your office font. We can also do this for you. Please contact us here for a quote.

    Does mACT only work on macOS?

    mACT works on both Windows and macOS.

    What kind of support do I get?

    mACT is sold as is. However we listen and encourage feedback from our clients and release updates to mACT regularly.

    By the way, we are also an Apple-focused IT support provider based in Sydney, Australia enabling us to make all your systems work for you – please contact us if you are interested.

    What if I need support in adjusting mACT to my specific needs?

    We can assist you in customising mACT at hourly rates – for a proposal please contact us directly via email and include some details what you need done.

    mACT is based on the metric system. How do I change it to imperial?

    Please follow these steps to do so:

    1. Start ARCHICAD.
    2. Start a new file. (Opening the template directly will just result in a New Untitled file!)
    3. File > Open > and browse to your copy of mACT (mACT 23.tpl) and open it.
    4. Change working units under: ARCHICAD > Project Preferences > Working Units
    5. Change dimensioning preferences under: ARCHICAD > Project Preferences > Dimensions … (There are presets provided by Graphisoft.)
    6. Change calculation units under: ARCHICAD > Project Preferences > Calculation Units & Rules
    7. Once all is set, go File > Save so that all future projects started from the template will be using your new settings.

    Why call it framework?

    We have used many templates across various practices. As trained architects and experienced ARCHICAD users, we think that ‘template’ is not an adequate word to describe mACT as it implies a one fits all approach and solution. In our experience, this is an illusion: there are far too many different project types, usage scenarios and individual preferences at play.

    “Framework”, for us, best describes what mACT is all about – mACT will give you a solid skeleton to guide you through ARCHICAD without getting in the way as your business and projects grow. It also directly relates to the best practice workflows and modelling techniques explained in our Field Guides for ARCHICAD.

    Who created mACT?

    mACT represents the distillation of our combined 30+ years experience integrating practice and technology in some of Australia’s most successful architectural practices. To meet the team behind mACT please head over to macinteract.com.

    macinteract is a Sydney, Australia-based company providing Apple-based IT services to creative professionals. macinteract is comprised of real people. We are a group of architects and designers with extensive international professional experience using, ARCHICAD, Vectorworks and SketchUp, mainly on Apple macOS alongside several professional rendering and other creative software packages.

    Why do you offer mACT, the Objects and Field Guides?

    In our experience, ARCHICAD doesn’t just work ‘out of the box’. In fact, one major benefit of ARCHICAD over other BIM software is that it can accommodate your specific requirements if you set it up correctly. Additionally, Graphisoft develops ARCHICAD for users worldwide, thus local standards & differences in construction techniques require adjustments.

    As we have been teaching, using and adjusting ARCHICAD for a very long time, we are convinced other users will benefit from what we have developed over the years.

    What happens with the next ARCHICAD version?

    Graphisoft constantly improves ARCHICAD, with new features being released in a new version every year.

    The same applies to mACT, which constantly gets developed based on our users feedback and our own experiences – please have a look at our release notes for the latest improvements.

    Why does mACT cost what it costs?

    mACT is an investment into the productivity of your office and has been constantly developed and improved since 2006. In other words, its value exceeds its price by far.

    To give you some figures mACT’s price is only approx. 5% of the cost of an ARCHICAD license and is less than what you paid in tax for ARCHICAD.
    We reckon this is exceptional value.

    Can I get a refund after deciding that mACT or any of our other products is / are not the right fit?

    Refunds and exchanges are considered to the extent of Australian Consumer Law. Please note once you have downloaded mACT or any of our other products to your device and opened or used them, then change your mind, macinteract is not legally bound to issue a refund. If the extensive documentation provided on macinteract.com does not answer all of your questions, please get in touch before you commit to a purchase.

  • Oculus Quest in Architecture (on macOS)

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    OCULUS QUEST headset and controllers

     

    Finally we have found some VR hardware that we think is suited to architectural offices – the Oculus Quest.

    You might rightfully wonder why we have been waiting for so long to jump onto the VR train?

    It is simple really, we have seen a many expensive VR systems come and go and were not impressed beyond the initial WOW factor.

    We think the below requirements are essential to make VR headsets work in most architectural offices:

    1. convenience > do you need to be tethered via cables to some other box in a dedicated area (for tracking sensor setup) and do you require skilled operators every time you want to use the VR setup?
    2. compatibility > do you need to invest in additional hard or software?
    3. practicality > how do you get a model on your VR headset from macOS BIM / CAD software packages, i.e. ARCHICAD, Vectorworks, SketchUP or Rhino?
    4. interaction > can you see what the VR headset user sees, or even better can I join them and show them around?

    So let’s see how the Quest fares against the above criteria.

    convenience > 5/5

    The Quest is completely self contained, and setup could not be easier via the iOS setup. For VR novices it includes a Tutorial that is a perfect introduction to the navigation via the two handheld controllers.

    compatibility > 0/5 on macOS (3/5 on windows)

    Unfortunately, the model conversion & upload process to the Oculus Quest is still not mac compatible – we have tested a few apps and currently PROSPECT by IRIS VR is our clear favourite (although this might change as more Software will support the QUEST).

    practicality > 1/5

    Unfortunately there is currently no easy way to export an ARCHICAD model directly into the QUEST directly from macOS – let’s hope this will change soon, we will update this post once someone comes up with a good solution.

    However, what you can already do, is to export your ARCHICAD model to SKETCHUP and upload this to the QUEST via  PROSPECT running on Windows.

    interaction > 4/5

    With PROSPECT you can cast the QUEST screen either to an iOS device or via an iOS device directly to a Google Chromecast (currently 3rd gen and Ultra are supported). Note you can also share your iOS screen to an Apple TV, but this is not built into PROSPECT itself.

    PROSPECT also allows for online collaboration, i.e. multiple users can join and view the same project at the same time. So far we have not had the opportunity to test this feature, but will report back once this we have.

     

    final thoughts

    Overall the Oculus QUEST itself works really well and both the headset and controllers have good built quality. Some users have reported problems with the controller battery cover coming off, but we have not had any problems.

    Given the self contained nature of the QUEST, rendering capabilities are obviously limited. In other words PROSPECT’s model display is not anywhere near photo realistic and although you can control the sun position based on time and date for ambient lighting, it does currently not display any cast shadows.

    Despite the graphical limitations, everyone we have tested the QUEST with agreed, that it improves the understanding of scale and provides the ability to verify spatial quality.

    Initially we had some issues with some high polygon count SKUP models, however once we controlled our entourage & landscape elements then we had no further problems importing models (up to 200MB) via PROSPECT.

    Please note we are also impressed by IRIS VRs frequent updates to PROSPECT, which  have continuously improved the software.

    In addition Facebook has recently announced that they will allow tethering of the QUEST to external hardware to tap into additional graphics performance. We will have to see if this will make any difference to how PROSPECT renders shadows.

     

    For a detailed look at our current setup and a comparison of the officially recommended hardware by IRIS VR, please refer to our other blog entry here.

    Please note Oculus is owned by Facebook, so we recommend to dial up any facebook related privacy settings – if they really do anything…

  • mACT Custom Label

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    custom label

    The latest addition to mACT library family is the mACT Custom Label.

    As the name implies this label can be used with any custom made graphics or library part available in the project libraries – it is as simple as to specify the name of any object in the label’s dialog box.

    mACT Custom Label allows for 2 rows of data, with the ability to choose separate text style between the 1st and 2nd row. The displayed text’s location can be adjusted via pet palette and can be oriented in any way independently to the Label itself.
    The label can display various fields such as: ID, Name, Classification and Properties; Surface, Composite or Building Materials;
    It also includes all standard mACT features like Wall Tag behaviour and link to Model View Options…

    If you want to create your own Label shape simply draw the required shape with 2d elements in the plan view, add hotspots and ‘save selection as’ Object with any chosen (but clear) <strong>name</strong>. Next specify the <strong>name</strong> in the mACT Custom Label settings dialog box…

    The mACT Custom Label is available in the latest mACT22_2 update – new mACT customers get this version upon purchase and all existing customers will receive a download link shortly.

  • AC21 replacement icon(s)

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    As every year new here are our alternative / replacement Logos / Icons for ARCHICAD 21 – this year we did not follow the official GRAPHISOFT colour (darkish blue) but instead opted for a version aligned with the black and white staircase from its physical packaging.

    All icons are available in full Retina Display glory…

    Click here for PC Download.
    Click here for MAC Download. 

     

    To install replace the original AC logo in:

    /Applications/Graphisoft/ArchiCAD 21/ArchiCAD.app/Contents/Resources/ArchiCAD.icns

    Please note the above was also posted on AC-talk.

  • Guide to Better ARCHICAD

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    Use the following Tips and Tricks regularly to keep ARCHICAD project file performance at its best.

    1. SWITCH OFF WIFI on your Workstation
      An ethernet connection is faster and more stable than Wifi. Keeping a single fast connection to the server avoids a lot of problems.
    2. SAVE, BACKUPS & RECORD SETS
      1. Save or at least send your changes regularly when in Teamwork files – this will prevent data loss should your computer crash or the server connection is lost;
      2. generate Record files > PLA’s need to be saved at key stages.
        (Also see note on Libraries below and do not use a PLA as a Library on a bim server!)
    3. CREATE AND USE A CUSTOM WORK ENVIRONMENT
      The main performance hog is the default backup setting set to Ultra Safe, adjust this in…
      ARCHICAD > Work Environment… > Company Standard Schemes > Data Safety & Integrity
      …to either Safe (5 Minutes) or Minimum (20 minutes).
    4. MANAGE FILE SIZE
      1. NAVIGATOR / ORGANIZER
        Besides obviously naming any marker or saved view appropriately:

        1. Sections > remove temp items
        2. Elevations > remove temp items
        3. Worksheets > remove old consultant drawings and temp items
        4. 3d Documents > remove sun studies, diagrams from previous stages
        5. Name markers and saved views appropriately. Including temporary markers so you know they are TEMP and YOURS!
      2. SPLIT FILES
        1. Layouts > separate into a LAYOUT FILE (reduces files size by at least 50%)
        2. split large files > rule of thumb: if it does not fit on A0 at a reasonable scale (very large projects) split buildings into separate files;
    5. 3D ERRORS
      If you get an error report when opening the 3D window, FIX the issues it reports.
      Typically they relate to either:

      1. sloppy editing
        Use a schedule to list elements by type and measured area. Find and select anything that is 0m2 or close to it. Use the show in plan view button and delete if necessary. If the element looks right, but has 0m2, try to cut & paste it in place. Redraw the element if that didn’t fix it.
      2. Library parts parameters.
        Check and adjust parameters. Mostly this is due to incorrect pen assignment of pen 0 or pen -1 to parameters or adjusting a dimension to 0 where this is not allowed. Sometimes the issue can also be a window or door that’s been placed outside of the extent of the wall.

    6. CHECK DUPLICATES & POLYGON COUNTS
      Often Elements such as Grids, Walls or Objects get accidentally multiplied or Meshes get corrupted during editing. These can increase the complexity of a File dramatically, thus it helps to check regularly by using the Check Duplicates and PolyCount Add-Ons available here.

      1. duplicates
        The Check Duplicates Add-on lets you batch select all duplicates in the current viewport, i.e. you will have to do it in both 2D and 3D to detect all duplicates;
      2. polygon count
        Some Objects or Meshes may have a very high polygon count which will slow down your file, use this Add-On to identify anything that contributes a high percentage to the verfall polygon count of your file and then optimise them. It could ne as easy as switching OFF the 3d display for some tapware;


    7. MANAGE EXTERNAL CONTENT
      ARCHICAD continuously checks the status of linked files at various moments – it is essential you control these update processes.

      1. Drawing Manager.

        1. remove or re-link missing references,
        2. NEVER link anything from your own computer / desktop,
        3. Set all drawings to manual update (YOU should be in control of what updates & when),
        4. NEVER place an xref, place a DWG as an external drawing instead. Its layers can be control via the drawings Settings dialogue.
      2. IFC Files

        1. Don’t merge an IFC into your project files.
          Merging an IFC can have a serious impact on performance & file stability for your project file(s). Instead use a separate PLN to merge the IFC and hotlink this into your file. Use it for coordination only. If you need a reference in your project file either model it or use external drawings if a 2D reference is sufficient.
        2. Oblige suppliers of IFC to use the Graphisoft Revit plugin.
          This helps Revit prepare an IFC for smoother transition into ARCHICAD, i.e. more geometry will be properly translated to ARCHICAD elements instead of into library objects. The plugin is free and available from here: http://www.graphisoft.com/downloads/interoperability.html
        3. When merging an IFC you can choose to export the Library it creates to your server instead of embedding it into your project file.
          You can find this setting also in…
          File > Interoperability > IFC > IFC Options:
          “Save Library Parts generated during import to: Linked Library”
          …point it to a default project folder on your server.
      3. HOTLINKS
        1. To control the update behaviour of Holtinks adjust…
          Work Environment > Company Standards & Schemes > Data Safety & Integrity > Hotlink Update to “Ignore Hotlinks”
          …and un-tick “Automatically Check Status of All Hotlinks in Hotlink Manager”
    8. LIBRARIES
      1. check and remove anything unnecessary from the embedded Library.
        In particular any objects of excessive size (>1MB) or have special characters (” ‘ , : !@#$%^&*()+) in the name!!
      2. NEVER load a PLA as a library, instead extract PLA Libraries into a folder when prompted and if required convert this folder to a LCF.
        PLA’s may contain all used objects and textures, which may cause duplicate objects errors when default libraries are loaded and may result in ARCHICAD displaying the wrong object.
      3. Minimise Texture file sizes.
        Loading Textures bigger than 500KB’s in size is going to eat up your computer’s RAM quite quickly. Unless you know what you are doing only use JPGs in ARCHICAD. If you’re not rendering extreme close-ups (and arguably ARCHICAD isn’t the right tool for that anyway), textures should be reduced in size straightaway and saved into a separate Texture folder ub your Project or Office Library.
    9. TEAMWORK
      1. reshare teamwork files, once per month to cleanout old users caches.
        Every time a user joins the size of the teamwork project increases, which unfortunately is not removed by forcing a user out of the file.
      2. Adjust Project Settings IMMEDIATELY after sharing.
        In the Share dialogue, tick “Open Project Settings after Share” in the bottom left corner.
        The default settings creates fat too many backups at the wrong time of day, both impacting BIM server performance negatively.
        Adjust the Backup (or Snapshot) settings to:

        1. not make PLN backups & daily,
        2. after hours (stagger times between project files!), keep 3 copies for BIM Project backups.
    10. RESTART
      Restart your workstation and bim server at least once a month and especially when either is acting up a bit.

    Please remember to allow time for the above regularly, ideally before it starts to slow down your file(s).

    In addition make sure you check the following Graphisoft Troubleshooting Tech notes > https://helpcenter.graphisoft.com/troubleshooting/performance/