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A Definitive Guide to Tabs in ARCHICAD 19

ARCHICAD 19 brings us Tabs, but what are they, why were they introduced and what's the most efficient way to use them? We'll answer all these questions as we take an in-depth look at what tabs can and can’t do, then armed with that knowledge introduce best practices to use them efficiently. And who better to collaborate with than the GRAPHISOFT Product Designer tasked with implementing Tabs into ARCHICAD: James Badcock?

James has been very helpful in providing advice, tips, and even technical limitations surrounding Tabs. As with most things in trying to make ARCHICAD simple for the end-user, GRAPHISOFT product designers must solve many complicated issues, and Tabs are no exception!

Why Tabs?

The theme of ARCHICAD 19 is ‘Faster Than Ever’ and a big part of that includes ‘Predictive Background Processing’. Regular ol’ Background Processing should already be familiar to you. Your operating system does it when running multiple applications at the same time. And your web browser does it when you have multiple browser windows or tabs open, simultaneously loading web pages. But Predictive Background Processing is even cooler. So cool in fact that GRAPHISOFT have a patent pending for it. It really is the duck’s nuts.

So how can ARCHICAD predict what you want processed? Well that’s where tabs come in. ARCHICAD simply updates any tabs you have enabled in the background, while you are working in your current tab. Take a look at the image below. The FLOOR PLAN is the currently active tab, but the SECTION and ELEVATION tabs are also enabled. So as you’re busy making changes to the model in the plan view, the section and elevation are calculating in the background. As soon as you click on either of them, they will be updated almost immediately. If the viewpoint is not in the Tab Bar then it won’t be included in predictive background processing. Obviously this is a huge time saver as it eliminates a lot of waiting time, and this is the main reason why tabs were introduced.

I'd rather focus on moving forward than comparing the tab functionality to the window behavior of previous versions, but it is important to know that tabs are essentially just shortcuts to windows! And I don’t mean anything to do with the window tool, I am talking about the various panes we can view our model and its data through. The Tab Bar and tab behavior differ slightly between PC and Mac and this is purely due to technical limitations and behavior of each operating system.

Before we dig deeper, please be aware that there is a rather significant Work Environment setting that affects how tabs are opened. And as we will discover, each active tab takes up just a little more RAM, so this setting can have quite a profound impact on your computer’s resources as well as your workflow.

The setting is under Options> Work Environment> More Options… and it gives you a choice to open viewpoints* in an existing tab or in a new tab. If you choose to open in a new tab that means every new viewpoint will be opened in a new tab. If you choose to open in an existing tab, then ARCHICAD groups similar viewpoints together and opens them in the same tab, thus reducing the number of tabs you can have open at one time and saving your resources. We will go into this in more detail soon, but I generally prefer to set this option to ‘prefer to open in an existing tab’.

*The dialog says ‘When opening view or layout from a menu or by double-clicking in Navigator:’ which is a generalization, as this applies also to all views, viewpoints, layouts, master layouts, renderings, GDL windows, etc. Plus it's not just the navigator from which these can be opened.

There are 37 unique types of tabs (not including some rather obscure and much hidden list tabs that we’ll leave alone):

  1. Stories

  2. Sections

  3. Elevations

  4. Interior Elevations

  5. Worksheets

  6. Details

  7. 3D Documents

  8. Generic Perspective

  9. Generic Axonometry

  10. Cameras

  11. PhotoRendering

  12. Element Schedules

  13. Component Schedules

  14. Surface Schedules

  15. Annotate> Element Preview

  16. Project Indexes

  17. Element Lists

  18. Component Lists

  19. Zone Lists

  20. Project Notes

  21. Layouts

  22. Master Layouts

  23. Profile Editor

  24. GDL Editor*

  25. GDL - Master Script

  26. GDL - 2D Script

  27. GDL - 3D Script

  28. GDL - Properties Script

  29. GDL - Parameter Script

  30. GDL - Interface Script

  31. GDL - Forward Migration Script

  32. GDL - Backward Migration Script

  33. GDL - 2D Symbol

  34. GDL - Picture Preview

  35. GDL - 2D View

  36. GDL - 3D View

  37. Report

If you set your Work Environment to ‘prefer to open in a new tab’ there is no limit to the amount of these you can have open simultaneously. The only exception in this scenario are Stories and the 3D Window (Generic Perspective, Generic Axonometry, Cameras). There can only ever be one story open at a time and one 3D window open at a time. And of course any view whose viewpoint comes from either of these can only be opened one each at a time. It would be great if that wasn’t the case, but it just ain’t there yet!

If you choose to set your Work Environment to ‘prefer to open in an existing tab’ then ARCHICAD will open the 37 types in 17 different tabs:

  1. Stories

  2. Sections/Elevations/Interior Elevations > Sections /Elevations /Interior Elevations

  3. Worksheets/Details > Worksheets /Details

  4. 3D Documents

  5. 3D Window > Generic Perspective/Generic Axonometry/Cameras

  6. PhotoRendering

  7. Schedules > Element Schedules / Component Schedules / Surface Schedules / Element Preview

  8. Project Indexes

  9. Element Lists

  10. Component Lists

  11. Zone Lists

  12. Project Notes

  13. Layouts

  14. Master Layouts

  15. Profile Editor

  16. GDL Editor* >

  • GDL - Master Script

  • GDL - 2D Script

  • GDL - 3D Script

  • GDL - Properties Script

  • GDL - Parameter Script

  • GDL - Interface Script

  • GDL - Forward Migration Script

  • GDL - Backward Migration Script

  • GDL - 2D Symbol

  • GDL - Picture Preview Picture

  • GDL - 2D View

  • GDL - 3D View

17. Report

In this case 17 tabs is the most you will get, and you can only have one viewpoint active in each tab. For example you can only have one section or elevation or interior elevation open, since they belong to the same tab type. And only one layout open. And only one 3D Document. Etc. The only exception in this scenario is Photorenders and the GDL tabs. These types are generally considered ‘outside’ the project and you can have as many of these open as you like regardless of the Work Environment settings for tabs. You can even close all the other tabs including the story tab and these will remain open.

*A note about GDL tabs, regardless of your Work Environment settings, if you click on the window icon next to the script’s name ARCHICAD will open a separate tab for entering or modifying the script. But if you click on the button instead, editing will take place inside the GDL Editor tab.

Opening Tabs

If you don’t have a Tab Bar visible in your work area, you can enable it via Window> Show Tab Bar. You can also hide it the same way. These options are new in ArchiCAD 19 and come standard with the out-of-the-box Work Environment profiles, but you may need to include them in your own menus or as toolbar buttons or shortcuts. Once you have chosen to show the Tab Bar however, its status will be saved with the Workspace Scheme of your Work Environment.

You can open new tabs by double-clicking views in the Navigator or Organizer or by right-clicking on markers, or even via the menus if you get paid by the click. Whatever way you choose, the viewpoint will open in the Tab Bar. Try opening a bunch of different tabs. You should notice that each new tab opens to the right of the tab that is currently active. The only exception is the Report tab which will always open on the far right of the Tab Bar. Since this is usually used for warnings, GRAPHISOFT didn’t want it interfering with the rest of your tabs or disrupting your workflow if a warning did appear. How considerate, right?

Once tabs appear in the Tab Bar, you can drag them left or right to change the order. There is no hierarchy to the order of the tabs so arrange them however you like. As you start incorporating tabs into your workflow, you will order them so that you can quickly switch between them and accomplish the task at hand quickly.

The number of tabs you can fit into the Tab Bar depends on your Workspace Scheme, the extents of your ARCHICAD application frame and the resolution of your monitor. Basically everything that affects the width of the Tab Bar. So the actual number of tabs can vary depending on these factors. Each tab will be 200 pixels wide. When they get a bit crowded the widths of all tabs will shrink to accommodate more. The tab names will become truncated, but if you have Help>Tool Tips enabled you will be able to hover your cursor over the tab to see the full name.