2020 | 033 – Fast Track – Coordinate Methods, Constraints and the Control Box Palette

By Eric Bobrow

Jun 02
Topic Progress:

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ARCHICAD Training Lesson Outline

Today we'll look at advanced methods for working with coordinates and numeric input. These methods are not necessary for getting things done, but will speed up work when used in the appropriate context.

Coordinate references may be made relative to the most recent click-point, or to an external origin point. 

The measurement origin may be moved to a convenient or useful location at any time using the Set User Origin button or the keyboard shortcut Option-Shift / ALT-Shift.

You can place an element by typing a coordinate name (e.g. x or y) then a value and hitting Enter; or type one coordinate name plus a value, then another coordinate name and value, then Enter. This acts like a mouse click on the desired point. 

The Tracker may be set to Show Always to facilitate study of element locations as well as simplify input of coordinate values for placing new elements. The Tracker also may be switched to show distances and accept input relative to an external (user or project) origin.

Tracker Math Calculations

The Tracker will do math calculations for you if you enter a coordinate value and either a + or – sign. This tells ArchiCAD to add or subtract the entered value from the value that was showing just before the keyboard input. The keyboard input is considered an offset from the indicated value, which often will be based on the cursor position. This allows you to point at a convenient snappable location, then tell ArchiCAD to go a specific distance away from that location before confirming or placing the element or finishing the stretch operation.

NOTE FOR U.S. USERS: Since ArchiCAD accepts the “-” character as a separator between feet and inches (e.g. 5-6 is interpreted as 5′-6″), when you want to subtract a distance offset using this method, you must have two “dashes” or “minuses” before ArchiCAD will calculate the subtraction. You may type in 2-0- to subtract 2 feet, or 2– (two with two minuses) will also be acceptable.

Additional Tracker Controls

The Tracker has some additional icons to the right of the active coordinate value (the one that is currently being entered). Clicking on the checkmark will confirm the current values in the Tracker and click the mouse at that point in space, completing that operation. Clicking on the bulls-eye will project a Guide Line based on the coordinate that is active – for example, if the X coordinate is active, a Guide Line will be projected for that X value, while if the Angle value is active, a Guide Line will be created along that angle.

You may hold down the Option key (Mac) or ALT key (Windows) and type a coordinate name (x, y, a, r or d), and a Guide Line will be projected similar to the bulls-eye option described above, except that in addition, the cursor will be constrained to that Guide Line, similar to pressing the Shift-key but allowing other constraints to be used. This constraint may be released by hitting Escape, or right-clicking and choosing Unlock Mouse Constraint; the Guide Lines may be removed from the screen by choosing Remove All Guide Lines, or using the keyboard shortcut "L".

External elevation datum values (e.g. Sea Level or Australian Height Datum AHD)

Set the relationship of the Project Zero to Sea Level or AHD in the Options menu > Project Preferences > Location. Once this is set, it affects the elevation references for the Project Zero and the Story Settings. In most dialog boxes, values may be input in relation to these important elevation references.

Common uses:

  • Contour lines and grading points - setting elevation values for a mesh or for annotations of level dimensions

  • Placing and coordinating model elements with grade or other non-story based values

Advanced Mouse Constraints and the Control Box

The Control Box provides convenient options for constraining the mouse to click specific locations or move along specified angles. 

The Control Box may be brought up using the Window menu > Palettes > Control Box command. The Control Box along with the Coordinate palette were the two main floating palettes in ArchiCAD prior to version 10, and some veterans still use them. The Coordinate palette is largely superseded by updated graphic interface controls that were introduced in ArchiCAD 10, including the Tracker and the Measure tool.

However, the Control Box can still be helpful in that it provides quicker access to several Special Snap controls, giving drafting options that are not included in the Standard Toolbar:

  • Offset

  • Multiple Offset

  • Perpendicular

  • Parallel

  • Angle Bisector

While one can get along just fine without these controls, for certain tasks, using the Control Box is noticeably faster and/or easier.

Work Environment Controls 

In the Work Environment, there are settings for Mouse Constraints and Guide Lines.

ARCHICAD Training Lesson Transcript

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