2020 | 032 – Fast Track – Virtual Trace

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ARCHICAD Training Lesson Outline

Virtual Trace allows any View or Layout to be overlaid on top of or beside any other View or Layout for comparison, alignment or reference.

While most users are familiar with this tool, there are some subtleties worth exploring and clarifying.

We'll start by reviewing the methods for choosing a Trace Reference, with an explanation of all the buttons and functions in the Trace and Reference Palette.

References may be chosen in any of the following ways:

  • Right-click on an item in the Navigator (a Viewpoint in the Project Map, a View in the View Map, or a Layout in the Layout Book) and choose Show as Reference

  • Use the popup menu in the Trace and Reference palette or Choose Reference from the dropdown menu next to the Trace and Reference button in the Toolbar and select one of the built-in options for Stories (when in a plan view) or Source View (when in a Detail or Worksheet)

  • Right-click on a Drawing on a Layout and select View Source with Layout as Reference

Check out my article on ArchiCAD Virtual Trace as a good supplementary reference. In addition to explaining the basic functionality, it includes many illustrated examples of usage. (For PDF version, click here.)

Virtual Trace is a versatile resource with many applications:

  • Elements may be aligned and coordinated between plan views from distinct stories or with different layers or other settings. 

  • Plans may be reviewed in conjunction with elevations and sections, which may also be viewed in relationship to each other.

  • Using a Layout as reference, drawings can be adjusted to fit better or work around other drawings. Drawings from one Layout can be placed in alignment with related drawings on other Layouts to facilitate comparison on a light table.

  • 2D drawings such as Details or Worksheets (for wall sections or enlarged plans) can be referenced to their Source View (often a Section or a Plan View), allowing you to see the project or model context while working on the drawing, and coordinate any changes to the source view.

  • 2D drawings may be imported into Worksheets and used as a reference for tracing and building the model. Examples of this include building a site model based on a survey DWG, creating the actual building model by tracing a set of drawings imported from an as-built or design set created in another CAD program. In addition, consultant drawings may be placed into a Worksheet then compared and analyzed in relation to the current model for coordination purposes.


There are a few instances in which Virtual Trace can cause performance issues. In large projects, referencing a View with different Dimension Preferences and/or Model View Options will cause ArchiCAD to do extra work (since it has to prepare the View using rather different options) and in certain cases may cause subtle or dramatic slow-downs in 2D redraw. If this occurs, use Views with similar settings, or use the Story Below, Story Above or Previous Story options in the Reference menu (which will always show these stories with the currently active settings), or simply turn off Virtual Trace when it is not necessary to have it visible.

The option for transparent Fills, which is found in the lower right of the Trace and Reference palette, may cause confusion at times. With this option activated, if you draw a new Fill you will find that may not appear the way you expect; likewise, existing fills will also be displayed differently.

Other minor issues can include difficulty in selection, and displacement of special snap points when elements in the reference overlap ones in the active window.


Virtual Trace is used to provide quick access to the Interactive Legends in MasterTemplate. Since it is possible to eye-drop elements from the reference, this may be used to obtain quick access to favorite settings. In the simple case, this may be a Worksheet or other dedicated viewpoint with frequently used elements arranged in a convenient manner.

To facilitate Interactive Legends that contain 3D elements such as walls, windows, doors, roofs, slabs etc., a blank Worksheet is set up with a Trace Reference to a special Plan view of these 3D elements. Visibility of these 3D elements is managed by setting them up as part of a Hotlinked Module (HLM), and turning on and off the Master Layer of the HLM with standard Layer Combinations.

ARCHICAD Training Lesson Transcript

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