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Week #14 – Navigation and Drafting Power Tips
14-3. Using the Grid for Sketching and Precise Placement

ArchiCAD Training (Best Practices Lesson 14-3)

This 28 minute lesson shows how to use and control the Grid for sketching and precisely placing elements into your project.

The Grid is often shown onscreen as a visual reference in the background for the Plan and other drawing windows. When Grid Snap is turned on, any mouse clicks are repositioned to the nearest Grid intersection, facilitating drawing in relation to the currently active grid. As a visual cue, you will see a tiny dot jumping from one Grid intersection to another, separate from the normal cross-hair cursor which follows your mouse movement.

Options for the Grid are set using the View menu > Grid Options > Grids and Backgrounds command. In this dialog box, you may adjust the spacing of the Construction, Auxiliary and Snap Grids, as well as the color of the grid lines and screen background.

The Construction Grid is seen onscreen, while the Snap Grid (usually set to a smaller value) is not displayed. You may turn on or off Grid snapping by clicking the Grid icon in the Toolbar, and switch between Construction and Snap Grids as well as Orthogonal and Rotated Grids using the popup menu next to the Grid icon.

It may be useful to rotate the Grid to match the orientation of the building (if it’s not on the axes) or an angled part of the building. This is accomplished by choosing the Set Rotated Grid… command in the Grid popup menu, then clicking to place the grid origin point followed by a second click to define the desired angle of rotation. The visual display of the Grid will rotate, as will the X and Y values shown in the Measure Tool or in the Tracker. If you find that the X and Y values are inverted (i.e. they show negative rather than positive, contrary to the direction you prefer) you may need to set the Rotated Grid going in the opposite direction.

In ArchiCAD 13, a new command called Rotate Orientation was added to the Navigation tools next to the Fit in Window icon. This allows the onscreen display to be rotated (similar to turning a sheet of paper) by clicking on a Rotation Centerpoint, then a Rotation Arc Startpoint, then finally on the desired endpoint. This is independent of the Grid, although it is often useful to set a Rotated Grid in conjunction with this Orientation. This re-oriented Zoom may be reset back to normal by clicking the angle display next to the Rotate Orientation button (it will go back to 0 degrees) or by clicking “To Previous Zoom” from the standard Previous and Next Zoom buttons at the far right of the Navigation area.

Grid snap may be used for sketching walls or inserting elements by eye while ensuring placement on nominal measurement points, thus reducing the necessity of typing in coordinate values. In addition, elements such as doors or windows may be inserted at masonry unit divisions (at the natural end-points of bricks or blocks) through the use of either the Snap Grid or the Construction Grid. To simplify sizing of windows and doors for masonry installation, in the the Custom Settings area select Nominal Sizes and Tolerance from the popup menu, and use the Set as Nominal radio button and choose Rough Opening.

To reposition the Snap Grid to measure from a desired point (e.g. the beginning of a wall) use the Set User Origin command from the Toolbar.

To reposition the Construction Grid to display from an important location (e.g. either end of a wall) use the Set Rotated Grid… command from the Grid popup menu.

The Snap Grid spacing is also used for the Nudge command (introduced in ArchiCAD 12). To nudge an element such as text or furniture a little bit in any direction, hold down the Shift key and hit one of the cursor direction keys (e.g. Up, Down, Left or Right). To move the element a larger distance based on the Construction Grid, hold down Option-Shift (Mac) or ALT-Shift (PC) then hit the direction key.

CAUTION: If Grid Snap is turned on, when you click the mouse to select, edit or place an element the nearest Grid point is used. This may make it difficult to select or edit elements (or Drawings on a Layout) that are not positioned on the currently active Grid or are on an angle. Snapping can be turned on or off with a keyboard shortcut; in ArchiCAD 15, the default shortcut is Shift-S (hold down Shift and type “s”). In earlier versions of ArchiCAD, this shortcut was simply the letter “s”, so it would occasionally get triggered inadvertently from the keyboard (i.e. hitting the letter “s” when intending to hit “a”, for example; note this does not happen when you are in Text input or editing mode). So if you find that it is difficult to select or edit elements, and your cursor seems to act in an odd, jumpy manner, check whether Grid Snap is turned on, and if necessary, turn it off.

ADDITIONAL NOTES: To turn on or off the display of the Grid on the Floor Plan or any drawing window, you may use the View menu > Grid Display command. Each Viewpoint (plan, elevation, section, etc.) remembers this setting independently of the others.

In ArchiCAD 15, the Grid shown in the 3D Window is called the Editing Plane; to turn its display on or off you may use the View menu > 3D View Mode > Editing Plane Display command. The color and opacity of the Editing Plane Grid may be changed in the Grids and Backgrounds command if the 3D Window is frontmost.

Please post your comments and questions below.


Thank you for visiting the Best Practices Course website. The video lessons are available for members only. If you are an active member and would like to watch the ArchiCAD training video on this page, please login to the website. If you are not currently a member, please visit the following pages for more information and to sign up for the Best Practices Course, the QuickStart Course or for the Best Practices ArchiCAD Coaching Program. Eric Bobrow, Creator of the Best Practices Course
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ArchiCAD Training: Using the Grid for Sketching and Precise Placement

Let us know how you feel... (5 comments so far)

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  1. Michael Anaya
    3 years ago

    Hello Mr. Bobrow :)

    I just saw Your ArchiCAd tutorials and they are amazing, I’m sure I will be watching them…

    I hope you can answer my question…
    Just now I changed from Archicad12 to ArchiCAD 16 and i notice that cursor snap is diferent…

    I can’t thrust the snap grid… if an element is over the grid and i click over it, it doesn’t select the snap point, instead it selects the exact point where I clicked… It’s making hard for me to edit 2D objects, because I used to draft everything within the grid, and also the snap grid is useless inside a fill, it just dissapears…

    I hope you can give me some hints about snap grid in AC16 or I would be glad if you could show me where to read about this.

    thanks for your time and congrats for your Website.


    • Eric Bobrow
      3 years ago

      Michael –

      I am not aware that the cursor snap in AC16 is different than AC12. You can turn the grid snap on and off using commands in the View menu, as well as a keyboard shortcut. A long time ago, the keyboard shortcut for this was the letter “s”, but Graphisoft changed that at some point to avoid accidental triggerings of the snap function, so it is now “shift-s” (just like a capital letter “S”).

      You can also switch between the visible construction grid (generally a larger value, such as 4′ or 1 m) and the snap grid (usually a smaller value such as 4″ or 1″ or 5cm, etc.) using commands in the View menu as well as the Toolbar.

      Perhaps you do not have these set in the same way you are used to. Try turning on the grid snap from the View menu or Toolbar icon, and start to draw a simple element like a wall – you should see the cursor and rubber band line jump from grid point to grid point, instead of smoothly following your mouse movement.


  2. RichardHewitt
    3 years ago

    As always – Eric produces interesting outlines and ways of using ArchiCAD – very useful!

  3. ChristopherEllis
    4 years ago

    I’ll certainly be using the grid more frequently now.
    Turning off the 3D construction grid will be better for live client presentations as well.
    Thanks !
    Chris Ellis, Cape Cod, Massachusetts, USA

    • Eric Bobrow
      4 years ago

      Chris – Thanks for posting your comment. I’m glad that you found this tutorial useful!