The Power of a Pre-Linked ArchiCAD Template, Part 1 – ViewpointsAECbytes Tips and Tricks Issue #73 (June 10, 2015)

Link Ellis
ArchiCAD Technical Director, BIM6x

There’s no disputing that using a powerful template is an essential part of being successful with ArchiCAD, or any other BIM application. If you’re not using one, you need to. If you’re just using a previous project and starting new projects from it, you need one. If you’re using a poorly made or maintained template, you, also, need a powerful template.

But what is a powerful template? It means many things to many people. Some templates are very specific to one business or market, some are highly customized with very unique attributes and settings, some excel with data extraction, and some contain highly detailed library parts or even add-ons.

One thing often overlooked is “pre-linking’” your template. A pre-linked template offers huge benefits in easy adoption, consistency, and of course automation. Once created, it also offers flexibility and scalability, both of which can be achieved far more quickly than traditional ways of building a project structure from a base template.

A pre-linked ArchiCAD template has all the viewpoints of a project linked into sets of deliverables before a model is created. This includes all types of floor plans, sections, elevations, interior elevations, worksheets, 3D documents, 3D views, schedules, project indexes, and lists. With the entire template pre-linked this way, when you start to model and annotate, your deliverables will start populating themselves automatically. The connection between the model and the deliverables typically follows this process (although the layout book can be skipped): Viewpoints> Views> Layout Book> Publisher Sets.

This series of articles will explain some of the fundamentals of creating a pre-linked template based on these four steps. I’m sure by the end of the series, you’ll be excited about the possibilities! All in good time. We’ll start with Viewpoints, but first let’s take a look at some of ArchiCAD’s tools and palettes.

Tools and Palettes

To make it abundantly obvious from the outset, in ArchiCAD, we model buildings in 3D. For those coming from a 2D background, that means, for example, that we don’t draw two lines to represent a wall in plan. We use the Wall tool that represents a wall as two (or more) lines in plan, but also creates a 3D wall that automatically appears in the 3D window, sections, elevations, details, 3D documents, schedules, etc. We use the Window tool to place 3D windows into walls. And the Door tool to place 3D doors, all of which effectively become part of those walls. We draw the outline of a slab in plan using the Slab tool, which creates a 3D slab, and so on. ArchiCAD provides all the usual architectural elements as 3D modeling tools, available in the toolbox.

As we create our virtual building, we use ArchiCAD’s 2D tools to annotate over the top of our 3D model. Some of these can be associated with the model, such as dimensions and labels. When the model changes, the dimensions will update to reflect the new sizes. The data that we enter into 3D elements can be pulled out by labels automatically. The more automation the better, but we can add static 2D elements too. For example we can use lines and fills to embellish a large scale details.

And it’s not just the 3D model that gives us free sections and elevations, or the 2D elements to annotate them, but equally, if not more importantly, it’s about the data that we can extract from the model. This ranges from the automatic labels to schedules and indexes of information that ArchiCAD instantly provides to detailed IFC models that contain all the geometry and all the data to be shared with users of a multitude of other software packages. The data is a very important part of your model.

To begin getting our 3D model and all its data into a deliverable format, we need to view it from different angles, capture those views and either place them onto virtual sheets of paper for publishing, or just publish them directly. There are many ways of looking at the model and data, and many formats in which we can deliver this information.

The first step is to understand ArchiCAD’s terminology and tools. To view the model and data, we can create viewpoints using ArchiCAD’s viewpoint tools: the Section Tool, Elevation Tool, Interior Elevation Tool, Detail Tool, Worksheet Tool, and the Camera Tool.


ArchiCAD’s viewpoint tools are quite self-explanatory, and although they each work a little differently, it is important to note that once you use them, the resultant viewpoint will appear in the Project Map of the Navigator or Organizer. There are also viewpoints not created by an ArchiCAD Tool, such as Stories, 3D Documents, 3D, Schedules, Project Indexes, Lists and Info.

Whichever way these viewpoints are created, it’s good to think of them, as obvious as it seems, as points of view. Using the Navigator or the Organizer, you can navigate freely between these viewpoints quickly by double clicking on them. Doing so will not change anything but the point of view. It will not change the layers, or the scale or anything else. Just the direction you are looking at the model. Or in the case of schedules, indexes and lists, the way you look at the data in the model, and the data of the project structure itself.

At this point it’s a good idea to become familiar with ArchiCAD’s Navigator and Organizer. The Navigator is basically just a smaller and simpler version of the Organizer. ArchiCAD 19 also introduces a new Pop-up Navigator, designed to save screen space. All of these can be used for navigating around the model, but the Organizer is better used for creating views and placing them onto layouts.

The Navigator and Organizer both have four modes as shown across the top:

  1. Project Map: Contains a tree structure of viewpoints
  2. View Map: Contains a folder structure of views
  3. Layout Book: Contains a folder structure of layouts
  4. Publisher Sets: Contains sets of views or layouts for specific publishing purposes

For now we’ll focus on the Project Map.

When creating viewpoints for a pre-linked template consider following the 90% Rule: Create viewpoints that you will use 90% of the time for any type of project. This is based on the fact that it is easier to create more pre-linked views in your template than you’ll typically need in any one project, one time, than it is to create them individually as you need them. Once your comprehensive pre-linked template is established, you simply delete what you don’t need as you start each new project. This subtractive methodology is quick and efficient, as there are always common items to remove, such as excess viewpoints, views, layouts, masters, etc., allowing you to develop your own simple cheat sheet for starting projects.

I have created templates that have just a handful of pre-linked views to huge templates with 2500 pre-linked views, designed to be used for a whole range of project types from high rises, to industrial, to institutional, to residential, to interiors. Apart from very large complex projects, this system works extremely well. And adjusting the template to suit each type takes just a matter of minutes.

Here are some tips on each viewpoint type:


When creating story viewpoints, create as many as you think you’ll ever need in your biggest project type, keeping in mind the 90% rule. For simplicity, set your story heights to something typical or rounded to a simple measurement; they will need to be set when you start a new project anyway. Consider naming your stories with all CAPS to make view naming easier – this goes for all viewpoint names. Keep your Main Floor/Ground Floor story as story no. 1 (US) or story no. 0 (INT) and at an elevation of 0 and build your other stories above and below it.  Uncheck the Level Lines for stories that won’t require them in section or elevation.

Sections and Elevations

When creating section/elevation viewpoints, make your standard front/left/rear/right elevations and sections A, B, C, D, etc., but also make extra auxiliary elevations, building sections and wall sections. Any extra section/elevation markers should be placed on a hidden layer outside the main drawing area until they are required. The extents of the sections/elevations will be determined by your typical layout size, the story level markers you use and the height of the building. As a start, it is helpful to trace reference your resulting layout or master to help determine their extents in plan. Duplicate section/elevations may be required if you want the option of having shadows on and off, or markers referring to specific documentation sets.

Interior Elevations

Interior Elevations should also be placed on a hidden layer outside the main drawing area until they are required. They should have their Reference ID set to <ZoneName> so that they automatically pick up the zone name of any room they are placed in. This name will transfer all the way through to the name of the drawing on the layout. If the marker is set to show on stories partly in range, then when the vertical range is set for a room on a different story, the marker will show on that story only. If you find you don’t need all four interior elevations in your group, you can use the pet palette to remove segments.


Worksheets are particularly useful for things like north points, location maps, notes and legends. Create as many as you need! If you use them for legends, you can also trace reference them to build your plans. Let’s take an electrical legend, for example. It can be pre-linked onto a layout, but while you’re working in in your electrical plan, you can trace reference the electrical legend worksheet and use the eye dropper to pick up the properties of the objects on the worksheet, to place them directly into your plan.


Pre-linked detail markers can be created on the floor plan, but are even better placed on a worksheet, where they are out of the way. Create details at the varying scales you need. Once they are pre-linked, you can simply cut them from the worksheet and place them into your model (plan, section, elevations, etc.), rename and rebuild them and your detail layout will be completely updated.

Independent Details (details with no markers) can also be pre-linked. These can be used for “standard details” that don’t need a bubble.

3D Documents

3D Documents are a little trickier to pre-link, simply because their extents are unknown until the model is built. Nevertheless they can be created to include a larger part, or indeed all of the project, and simply redefined to the appropriate part of the project once the model is in place.


3D viewpoints consist of Generic Perspectives, Generic Axonometric and Cameras, all of which can be pre-linked. It should be noted that cameras are currently only required to set BIMx Gallery Views. Typical 3D views do not require use of a camera. Instead set your 3D projection to look approximately towards where the model will be. If you later realize the view is not angled correctly, simply navigate in the 3D window to get a good angle and redefine the view.

Schedules, Project Indexes, and Lists

These can include legends, schedules, sheet indexes, issue registers, cut lists, zone lists – all manner of data-rich viewpoints. And all can be pre-linked onto layouts or into view sets that can be published directly, such as to Excel spreadsheets. Make as many as you need, but an important consideration when creating these is to keep them consistent. So get the first one set perfectly according to your office standards and duplicate all the rest from that. If they will be placed on layouts, adjust the column widths and row heights then check them as you go to make sure they fit nicely.

Take the time to create your viewpoints and next time we’ll cover how to make views and view sets from them. To give you some food for thought, here are the viewpoints from the BIM6x Power Template. To see these templates in action, please visit the BIM6x YouTube Channel.

About the Author

Link Ellis, formerly of ArchiLINK, is now the ArchiCAD Technical Director at BIM6x. Link is a passionate BIM implementer, specializing in ArchiCAD training and templates. With over 17 years in the industry, he has extensive experience and knowledge of ArchiCAD. Clients have requested his services across the globe including in the USA, Canada, UK, New Zealand, Australia, India, and the Middle East. Link has a long-standing relationship with Graphisoft’s ArchiCAD development team and communicates with their technical support team regularly. He is also an award-winning ArchiCAD alpha and beta tester since 2003, member of multiple ArchiCAD forums, and a highly respected and well-liked member of the ArchiCAD community.

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