Tame the Dimension Line Preview!


Dimensioning Linear elements in ARCHICAD is very simple.  However, the feedback given by the Dimension Line Preview can appear a bit wild sometimes - so it is important to understand what is happening!

Let's start with the basics and begin with choosing the correct Geometry Method:

Three types are available:

  • Any Direction and X-Y Only (grouped)

  • Arc Length

The Any Direction Method is the most useful one, and the main one that we at BIM6x use day to day - but this is also the one that some users find daunting because they are unsure of the information the feedback is providing.  Some users switch to the X-Y Only method, but to be honest, once you know how to tame the preview, there is no need :-)

The Arc Length Geometry Method is used for measuring the lengths of arcs (funnily enough!).  This is ideal for showing opening sizes of Windows in curved Walls for example.

In the vast majority of cases, standard Linear Dimensions are the ones that are used.  

If your dimension points that are aligned to each other horizontally or vertically, the Any Direction dimension will give only one option which is parallel to the points chosen.  

However, if the points are not completely in alignment, further options are shown to dimension along the X axis, Y axis or parallel to the points chosen.  This is the bit that can appear confusing.

After clicking all the points you want to dimension, double-click the mouse in a free space - the cursor changes to show a black hammer and a preview of the dimension line is shown.

In the example shown below, a simple shape has been created and two points chosen to dimension on the upper left corner.  The three options given for the dimension line placement are as follows:

Horizontal placement


Vertical placement


Parallel placement


With all of these examples, you can move to the opposite side of the preview circle to position the dimension line above or below, left or right etc.

The secret to using this is to move slowly and pay attention to the feedback the preview placement guide gives:

The sector of the circle that is active is always highlighted so you know which angle you are working too. In addition, if you move further away from the circle, the sensitivity lessens so the placement preview is easier to control.

A further placement option is also available and this is the one that often can cause confusion as it makes the preview line jump position.  This is particularly noticeable on large or busy documents.  

To see this option - move the cursor to any straight line or edge (Slab, Wall, Roof, Line etc) after the black hammer has appeared.  Below is an example:

You will see the Mercedes cursor with Parallel snap appears to highlight the edge the dimension line will follow.  Once you click on the line / edge, the dimension line will become locked parallel to that angle.  Once locked, you can place the dimension line as normal.

Showing this behavior in screenshots is pretty tricky - so take a look at this recording for further details:

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Salt Lake City, UT