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Developer(s) Graphisoft
Stable release 19 / June 2015
Operating system Windows, Mac OS X
Type CAD, Building Information Modeling
License Proprietary
Website Graphistoft ArchiCAD site

ArchiCAD is an architectural BIM CAD software for Macintosh and Windows developed by the Hungarian company Graphisoft. ArchiCAD offers computer aided solutions for handling all common aspects of aesthetics and engineering during the whole design process of the built environment — buildings, interiors, urban areas, etc.

Development of ArchiCAD started in 1982 for the original Apple Macintosh. Following its launch in 1987, with Graphisoft's "Virtual Building" concept, ArchiCAD became regarded by some as the first implementation of BIM.[1][2] ArchiCAD has been recognized as the first CAD product on a personal computer able to create both 2D and 3D geometry, as well as the first commercial BIM product for personal computers[1][3][4] and considered "revolutionary" for the ability to store large amounts of information within the 3D model.[5] Today, it has over 120,000 users.

Product overview[edit]

ArchiCAD is a complete design suite with 2D and 3D drafting, visualization and other functions for architects, designers and planners. A wide range of software applications are integrated in ArchiCAD to cover most of the design needs of an architectural office:

  • 2D CAD software — drawing tools for creating accurate and detailed technical drawings
  • 3D Modeling software — a 3D CAD interface specially developed for architects capable of creating various kind of building forms
  • Architectural rendering and Visualization software — a high performance rendering tool to produce photo-realistic pictures or videos
  • Desktop publishing software — with similar features to mainstream DTP software to compose printed materials using technical drawings pixel-based images and texts
  • Document management tool — a central data storage server with remote access, versioning tool with backup and restore features
  • Building Information Modeling software — not just a collection of the above-mentioned applications with an integrated user interface but a novel approach to building design called BIM

Versions and license types[edit]

Supported platforms[edit]

ArchiCAD is available for Windows and Mac OS X operating systems. ArchiCAD 19 runs on Windows 7/8/8.1/10 64-bit, Mac OS X 10.8/10.9/10.10/10.11.

License types[edit]

Commercial, educational and fully functional 30-day trial versions can be installed with the same installer. The license type is chosen upon installation. The installers and the necessary educational or trial registration numbers can be obtained on after registration.

  • Commercial version is protected by a hardware protection key. If no key is present, ArchiCAD switches to Demo mode where Save, Copy and Teamwork features are disabled (printing/plotting is still enabled).
  • Educational versions are protected by registration numbers. Saved files in ArchiCAD educational versions are compatible with commercial ArchiCAD versions, but carry a watermark identifying the license type. Once a project has been edited with an Educational version, the watermark will persist in the file.
  • Trial version is a 30-day fully functional version in which you can save, print and publish projects. File formats are fully compatible with the commercial version once the copy of ArchiCAD has been converted to a commercial license; otherwise, the trial files are only readable on the original computer on which they were created. The trial version is protected by registration numbers.

Languages and localizations[edit]

ArchiCAD is available in a number of localized versions. In addition to a translated user interface and documentation, these versions have a set of parametric objects (object libraries) developed considering the specific requirements of the regional market, and different default values for object properties, menu arrangements, etc.

  • Australian (AUS)
  • Austrian (AUT)
  • Brazilian (BRA)
  • Czech (CZE)
  • Danish (DEN)
  • Dutch (NED)
  • Finnish (FIN)
  • French (FRA)
  • German (GER)
  • Great Britain (UKI)
  • Greek (GRE)
  • Hungarian (HUN)
  • International (INT) (metric)
  • Italian (ITA)
  • Japanese (JPN)
  • Korean (KOR)
  • New Zealand (NZE)
  • Norwegian (NOR)
  • Polish (POL)
  • Portuguese (POR)
  • Russian (RUS)
  • Simplified Chinese (CHI)
  • Spanish (SPA)
  • Swedish (SWE)
  • Swiss (CHE)
  • Turkish (TUR)
  • US (USA) (imperial)


Working with parametric objects[edit]

ArchiCAD allows the user to work with data-enhanced parametric objects, often called "smart objects" by users. This differs from the operational style of other CAD programs created in the 1980s. The product allows the user to create a "virtual building" with virtual structural elements like walls, slabs, roofs, doors, windows and furniture. A large variety of pre-designed, customizable objects come with the program.

ArchiCAD allows the user to work with either a 2D or 3D representation on the screen. Two-dimensional drawings can be exported at any time, even though the model in the program's database always stores data in three dimensions. Plans, elevations, and sections are generated from the three-dimensional virtual building model and are constantly updated if the user 'rebuilds' the view. Detail drawings are based on enlarged portions of the model, with 2D detail added in.

Collaboration and remote access[edit]

ArchiCAD released its first file exchange based Teamwork solution in its version 5.1 in 1997, which allowed more architects to work on the same building model simultaneously. A completely rewritten Teamwork "2.0" solution with a new database approach came out in version 13 in 2009 named Graphisoft BIM Server. Since only the changes and differences are sent to the central storage, this solution allows remote access to the same project over the Internet, thus allowing worldwide project collaboration and coordination. In 2014, with the introduction of the BIMcloud, better integration is provided with standard IT solutions: browser-based management, LDAP connection, and HTTP/HTTPS based communication. Also, new scalability options are available, by allowing multi-server layouts to be created, with optional caching servers.

APIs and scripting[edit]

Third-party vendors and some manufacturers of architectural products have compiled libraries of architectural components for use in ArchiCAD. The program includes Geometric Description Language (GDL) used to create new components. Also, API (Application Programming Interface) and ODBC database connections are supported for third party Add-On developers. Via direct API links to 4D and 5D software such as Vico Office Suite or Tocoman iLink, the ArchiCAD model can be exported to BIM-based cost estimation and scheduling. ArchiCAD is also directly linked via API to Solibri's Model checking and quality assurance tools.

Data interchange[edit]

ArchiCAD can import and export DWG, DXF and IFC and BCF files among others. Graphisoft is an active member of the International Alliance for Interoperability (IAI), an industry organization that publishes standards for file and data interoperability for architectural CAD. Graphisoft was one of the founders of the Open BIM concept, which supports 3D BIM data exchange between the different design disciplines on open-source platforms.

ARCHICAD can also export the 3D model and its corresponding 2D drawings to BIMx format which can be viewed on a number of desktop and mobile platforms with native BIMx viewers.


Various free and commercial add-on products and extensions add extra functionality to ArchiCAD or provide further data exchange possibilities with other software applications. Some of these extensions are developed by Graphisoft, such as the freely available Trimble SketchUp, Google Earth or Maxon's Cinema 4D import/export add-ons or other extensions sold separately such as Graphisoft MEP Modeler, Graphisoft EcoDesigner or Graphisoft Virtual Building Explorer; while there are a number of add-ons provided by third party vendors, such as Cigraph or Cadimage.

Version history[edit]

  • 1984 - Radar CH 1.0
  • 1986 - Radar CH 2.0
  • 1987 - Radar CH 3.0
  • 1988 - Radar CH 3.1
  • 1991 - Radar CH 4.1
  • 1993 - Radar CH 4.12
  • 1994 - Radar CH 4.5
  • 1995 - ArchiCAD 4.55 (the first for Windows)
  • 1996 - ArchiCAD 5.0
  • 1997 - ArchiCAD 5.1
  • 1998 - ArchiCAD 6.0
  • 1999 - ArchiCAD 6.5
  • 2001 - ArchiCAD 7.0
  • 2002 - ArchiCAD 8
  • 2003 - ArchiCAD 8.1
  • 2004 - ArchiCAD 9
  • 2006 - ArchiCAD 10
  • 2007 - ArchiCAD 11
  • 2008 - ArchiCAD 12
  • 2009 - ArchiCAD 13
  • 2010 - ArchiCAD 14
  • 2011 - ArchiCAD 15
  • 2012 - ArchiCAD 16
  • 2013 - ArchiCAD 17
  • 2014 - ArchiCAD 18
  • 2015 - ArchiCAD 19

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Lincoln H. Forbes, Syed M. Ahmed, (2010) Modern Construction: Lean Project Delivery and Integrated Practices, CRC Press.
  2. ^ Cinti Luciani, S. Garagnani, R. Mingucci (2012) "BIM tools and design intent. Limitations and opportunities", in K. Kensek, J. Peng, Practical BIM 2012 - Management, Implementation, Coordination and Evaluation, Los Angeles
  3. ^ Quirk, Vanessa (7 December 2012). "A Brief History of BIM". Arch Daily. Retrieved 14 July 2015. 
  4. ^ M. Dobelis (2013), “Drawbacks of BIM concept adoption”, in the 12th International Conference on Engineering Graphics, BALTGRAF 2013, June 5-7, 2013, Riga, Latvia
  5. ^ G. Aouad, S. Wu, A. Lee & T. Onyenobi (2012) Computer Aided Design Guide for Architecture, Engineering and Construction, Spon Press

External links[edit]