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Developer(s) Graphisoft
Stable release 18 / June 2014
Operating system Windows, Mac OS X
Type CAD, Building information modeling
License Proprietary
Website Graphisoft 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. ArchiCAD is recognized as the first CAD product on a personal computer able to create both 2D drawings and parametric 3D geometry.[1] In its debut in 1987, with Graphisoft's "Virtual Building" concept, ArchiCAD also became the first BIM CAD software in the world.[2] Today more than 100,000 architects are using it in the building design industry.[3]


  • Product overview 1
  • Versions and license types 2
    • Supported platforms 2.1
    • License types 2.2
    • Languages and localizations 2.3
  • Features 3
    • Working with parametric objects 3.1
    • Collaboration and remote access 3.2
    • APIs and scripting 3.3
    • Data interchange 3.4
  • Extensions 4
  • Version history 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8

Product overview

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 photorealistic 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

Supported platforms

ArchiCAD is available for Windows and Mac OS X operating systems. ArchiCAD 18 runs on Windows 7/8/8.1 64-bit, Mac OS X 10.7, 10.8 and 10.9.

License types

Commercial, Educational and Fully functional 30-day trial versions can be installed with the same installer. The license type is to be 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 educational ArchiCAD 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

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 taking into consideration the specific requirements of the regional market, and different default values for object properties, menu arrangements, etc.

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


Working with parametric objects

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

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.

APIs and scripting

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

ArchiCAD can import and export DWG, DXF and IFC 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.

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 Google SketchUp, Google Earth or 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

  • 1984 - Radar CH (ArchiCAD 1.0)
  • 1986 - ArchiCAD 2.0
  • 1987 - ArchiCAD 3.0
  • 1988 - ArchiCAD 3.1
  • 1991 - ArchiCAD 4.1
  • 1993 - ArchiCAD 4.12
  • 1994 - ArchiCAD 4.5
  • 1995 - ArchiCAD 4.55
  • 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

See also


  1. ^ Building information modeling Two Years Later – Huge Potential, Some Success and Several Limitations
  2. ^ Graphisoft on BIM
  3. ^

External links

  • Graphisoft - The manufacturer's website
  • Graphisoft Help Center
  • GDL / BIM developer for ArchiCAD
  • Lachmi Khemlani wrote a review of ArchiCAD 17 for AEC bytes
  • Facility management software for ArchiCAD
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