welcome: please sign in



Creation Date:


ArchiCAD versions

• ArchiCAD 11


• Mac OS X
• Windows


• newcomers
• average users
• power users
• CAD managers

Virtual Trace

See also: Trace and Reference in ArchiCAD Help

This feature greatly expands the availability and versatility of the Ghost Story feature of previous versions. Virtual Trace will allow tracing among all model views (floor plans, sections/elevations), drawing views, and layouts.

The new Virtual Trace feature is entirely compatible with the Ghost Story feature familiar to previous ArchiCAD versions. Virtual Trace expands the advantages to other parts of the project and adds visual compare features to make it easy to compare the Reference view with the active view. Any Viewpoint, view or Layout can be a Reference beneath any active window that contains part of the building model. In the example images below, the Reference view is shown in red.

Place a Reference Section below another Section:


Place the Section as Reference beneath a Detail:


The usage of the Reference view is essentially a temporary editing aid that is tied to the currently active window; it is not part of the final drawing output. The user can offset and rotate the Reference view as needed, though logical default Reference view settings usually provide the correct display for the particular context (i.e. model ghost below section; section alongside section; layout below model view).

Three item types can be chosen as a Reference:

  1. Viewpoints. Any item in the Navigator’s Project Map (except 3D items and list-type items) can be set as a Reference. The Viewpoint used as Reference will always reflect the current view settings of the active window.

  2. Views. Any view in the Navigator’s View Map (except 3D items and list-type items) can be set as a Reference. The Reference’s view settings (which are saved) have no connection to the settings of the active window. If a view is deleted from the view map, its Reference is no longer available.

  3. Layouts (and their drawings). Drawings containing a Figure or a bitmap/PDF drawing will also display their content in the Reference, not just a frame.

Only one item at a time can appear as a Reference.

As in previous ArchiCAD versions, the Reference can be printed with the File > Print command, but not plotted.

Virtual Trace Interface

The main UI component is the Trace & Reference Palette

Note: At the top of this palette, the Choose Reference and Drag/Rotate/Reset/Switch Reference commands are the same as their counterparts in the list of Trace Reference commands.

Trace On/Off: Click this button vt1.jpg to show or hide the Reference in the current window.

Choose Reference: Click this pop-up to access a list of recently used Reference items, plus the default Reference item. Click the item you wish to use as Reference.


Note: Another way to choose a Reference is to right-click on an eligible Navigator item and use the Show as Trace Reference command.

Switch Reference with Active: Click this command vt2.jpg to make the Reference into the Active, with the former Active content shown as the Reference.

Drag Reference: Click this command vt3.jpg to drag the Reference to another location.

Rotate Reference: Click this command vt4.jpg to rotate the Reference.

Reset to Default Position: Click this command vt5.jpg to reset the Reference to its original default position after you have moved it.

Update Reference: Click this command vt6.jpg to update the Reference to reflect changes in the model.

Color: Choose a Color for the Reference and for the Active from the two Color pop-ups: either Original Colors, or another, uniform color. Recently chosen colors (up to 14 colors) are offered in this list as a quick way to assign a frequently used Reference color.

Intensity: Use the two sliders to adjust the intensity of the display of the Reference and the Active.


Slide it to the right to increase the intensity; slide it left to make the view “fade out.”

Temporarily Displace Reference: Click this command vt7.jpg to activate the “Temporarily Displace Reference” function. Click anywhere in the window, then move the “Hand” cursor to temporarily move the Reference to a new position on screen. Click again to return the Reference to its original position.

Reference on Top: Click this icon vt8.jpg to switch the display order of the two views.

Splitter: Click this command vt9.jpg to show the Splitter function, which allows you to compare the Reference with the Active by creating a moveable split line between the two views.

Make Fills and Zones Transparent: This control toggles the display of background fills and zone fills.


If this button is activated, then background fills of elements will not be displayed. These include solid fills, empty fills that have a color, and zone background fills. This switch has only a temporary effect and does not affect the settings of the model elements.

Visible Elements: Click the arrow next to the Reference intensity slider in the Trace & Reference palette. This set of options is available only for the Reference.


In this list, put a checkmark next to elements you wish to be displayed on the Reference.

Apply Settings to All References: If you click this button, changes you make to the current Reference’s Color/Visibility options will be applied to all References used in the project. Otherwise, these changes will apply only to the Reference of the current window.

Placing the Reference

The user chooses a Viewpoint/View/Layout and the “Show as Trace Reference” command. The Reference appears in the default position (appropriate to the type of the Active Content and the Reference item). In some cases, there is no such default position; the user will place the Reference manually; Guide Lines will be displayed to aid in placing the Reference..

The user can drag and rotate the Reference as needed.

The image below shows an elevation viewpoint as Reference and rotated alongside the Floor Plan that contains the section marker:


  • Drag/Rotate commands applied to the Reference will be reflected in the Tracker’s coordinate data (coordinate data are calculated according to the Active Content’s coordinate system, not the Reference’s.)
  • Certain relevant snap points and guide lines become active when moving/adjusting the Reference.

The Fit in Window command affects the Reference just as it affects the active window.

Working with the Reference

The following functions are available on the Reference (as in ArchiCAD 10):

  • Cursor-sensitive (cursor changes shape depending on the status of the Reference element below the cursor)
  • Parameter transfer
  • Info Tag
  • Editing functions which take Reference lines into account: Trim; Magic Wand; Snap points, Special snap points

When printing the active window, the Reference is printed along with the Active Content.

Copy/Paste Elements from Reference

Elements on the Reference cannot be selected individually. However, any set of Reference elements can be transferred – using copy-paste - into another window:

  • Use the “Switch Reference with Active” command.

Note: This command is not available if a Drawing Section is active and its own Model-based Section is the Reference.

  • Copy the required elements.
  • “Switch Reference with Active”, again.
  • Paste the elements into the Active view.

This workflow can be used if you are working in a drawing view, but the model has changed. To update your drawing, set the model as Reference, identify the differences, switch Reference with Active, copy the updated parts you need, switch Reference and Active (back), and paste.

Note: If you are pasting 3D construction elements into a drawing-type window, these will be exploded into 2D drawing elements when you paste them.

Update the Reference

Use the Update command (available from the Trace & Reference Palette or from the list of Trace Reference commands) vt10.jpg to update the Reference to reflect any changes in the source view. The Reference will be updated automatically as a result of certain other user actions, such as navigating to another window and panning inside a window. However, editing a model view will not automatically update the Reference; you must use the Update Ghost button. Note the following: If the Reference’s source is a manual-rebuild model, then the Reference is updated only when that model Section/Elevation/IE is manually rebuilt. Similarly, References containing manual-update drawings will be updated along with the drawing. If the Reference is an Auto-Rebuild Model, it is possible that you make changes in the Active, yet these are not reflected in the Reference, even after you navigate or pan, because - to avoid slowing down the program - you have unchecked “Update Autorebuild Model Views continuously” in Options > Project Preferences > Miscellaneous. Use the Update Reference button when needed. If the Reference contains an Auto-update Drawing, such a Reference will not be continuously updated, to avoid slowing down the program. Use the Update Reference button when needed.

Trace's impact on 2D Rebuild speed

If a Trace Reference is placed in the active view, it might slightly influence 2D rebuild times. Here are some things to consider:

Trace is a View

A Trace Reference can be a View that has different layer and model view settings than the active window. Such a Trace will rebuild slower than a Trace that has the same settings as the active view. Therefore in case of large projects, it is preferable to use a project map item instead of a View as trace reference, if possible.

Trace is a section or an elevation

If the Trace Reference is a section or an elevation, then during rebuilding the 2D window (e.g. after a zoom or pan) the Trace Reference will reflect model changes. This means that the 3D model needs to be partly rebuilt, which can be a magnitude slower than a usual 2D rebuild process. That is causing that the overall rebuild process will be slower than without the Trace Reference. You can help this if you use manual rebuild sections, or if you set Project Preferences / Miscellaneous setting "Update Autorebuild Model viewpoints continuously" off. Note that if you set this value to off, then you have to manually rebuild any section after editing elements, otherwise elements will temporarily not show properly after editing.

Categories: CategoryTrace CategoryZone CategorySectionElevation CategoryLayouting CategoryMove

Related Pages:


Note: Related Pages / Trackback list is cached. If you suspect the list is not up-to-date, then use "Delete Cache" under "More Options"