ArchiCAD Training | Do It Once – The Second Step to Best Practices

Eric BobrowIn the first tutorial in this mini-training course, I shared with you a few quick tips on how to get better organized, the first key principle in my 7 Keys to Best Practices for ArchiCAD (catchy name, don’t you think). If you missed it, here’s a link to that ArchiCAD tutorial.

Now, you may think that just because I teach this stuff, that maybe I do this perfectly myself. I have to admit that this is a continual struggle for me as much as anyone – there’s so much to keep up with these days!

I have my share of files on the desktop and strewn about loose in the Documents folder. I periodically battle the rising tide of chaos by filing a bunch of these – but there are always more the next day!

Thankfully there are good tools to search the hard drive these days. Apple’s built-in Spotlight is very fast, and on my PC I couldn’t have gotten by without Google Desktop Search.


Here’s another easy tip on organization: use a consistent naming convention so that you can easily find the right file when you need it.

I don’t like being confused about which file to open and work on. “Smith latest version.PLN”, “Smith final version 050511.PLN” or “Smith – final for plotting.PLN”? I’ve seen things like this on too many occasions while visiting client offices.

Of course, I’ve been in a rush and done this too… until one time, I worked on the wrong file for hours, and it was such a pain to transfer the new work and corrections into the latest version. Well, maybe it was more than one time… but never again, I vowed!

I recommend that you keep your project filename constant throughout the project, while periodically saving backups or archive copies with dates or descriptions as part of the name.

That way, if the file is called “Smith House.PLN”, you know it’s the latest, active version; while if it’s called “Smith House 050311.PLN” you know it’s a record copy from a particular date; and if it’s “Smith House for submission to city 040611.PLN” then you know it’s a milestone archive of the project as submitted.


The second of my 7 Keys to Best Practices is “Do It Once.”

I hate having to do things over again, particularly if I don’t have to. Once is enough, and sometimes it’s one time too many…

When you put in effort and time to create something in ArchiCAD, see if you can find a way reuse it.

In the last email, I discussed how your TPL template could be derived from a completed project, preserving all of the attributes and structure that were in that project.

By doing it this way, you’ll be able to work smoothly from the beginning through the end of your next project. You won’t have to continually add layers, views, or even layouts, because they’ll be carried across from a working file that is already set up perfectly for your practice.


ArchiCAD kitchenAnother idea that embodies this key principle is to save and reuse room modules. For example, after you create a kitchen with lots of carefully crafted objects that all fit together, save this group of elements for later reference and possible reuse.

Select all the elements in the kitchen, and go to the File menu > External Content > Save Selection as Module. Make sure the checkbox “Replace selection with this hotlinked module file” is NOT checked, and save your group of elements as a MOD file.

Later, when you’re working in another project, and want to put in a kitchen, use the File menu > File Special > Merge command, locate the kitchen MOD file and select and Open it. This will act very much like pasting in the elements you had selected in the original project.

After you have pasted (merged) in this batch of elements, you may move them around and modify them as you wish, and delete any that aren’t appropriate. It will save you a great deal of time if you need to create a kitchen similar to a previous project.

This approach will work for any design grouping – instead of starting from scratch, reuse your work whenever you can. You can create multiple kitchen modules, as well as bathroom, office, outdoor decks, anything you might do in multiple projects.


Please don’t take this “reuse” idea the wrong way – I don’t mean for you to copy old models and miss out on design challenges and opportunities in your current project. Rather, you can have more time to be creative, and can try out more ideas, when you don’t have to do everything over and over again.

In the next installment in this series, we’ll extend this concept a bit further, looking at Key #3: ways you can Save Your Settings with the Favorites palette. I’ll also teach you a concept that I call Visual Favorites, which are “kits of parts” that are arrayed for use with the eye-dropper.

These are two of my favorite techniques (pun intended) to save you time and reduce errors. When you learn them, you’ll have more time for fun things like designing – and being more profitable (or getting home earlier).

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial. Please tell your colleagues about it, and share your comments, feedback and questions down below.

Best regards,

P.S. When you have a few minutes, check out my YouTube channel for some easy to digest ArchiCAD tutorial videos. Subscribe to the channel and you’ll be notified whenever there’s a new one posted.


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