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Element Visibility Control


When modeling I often feel hamstrung by a lack of control over the visibility of elements in model space which can be traced to the fact that its tied to layers. 


Ignoring any discussion about layers raison d'être in todays object oriented applications I just note that its strange to rely on a coarse and rigid structure as layers for visibility when we have access to a much finer and flexible selection functionality. 


At the same time there are functionalities already in place that undermines the hegemony of layers regarding visibility.


  • We can hide elements in 3D by type.
  • We can hide elements in 3D by selection.
  • We can hide elements in both 2D and 3D by renovation filters.


I would like to see a effort to consolidate all this control functionality in to one tool and base it on the same logic as the Find & Select tool.


My rather spontaneous concept idea for intuitive visibility control is a toggle between 'Show All' and 'Hide All' with an exception/inversion list based on Criterion Sets or Criterion Set Combinations. 


Show All

Hide All



Criteria Set 1

Criteria Set 2

Criteria Set ...


Another functionality that would be useful is the ability to set hidden elements as reference - locking and fading/wireframing/x-raying them.  


Hi to the dynamic think tank. A lively discussion here about navigating the 3D model to include and exclude elements. Also to partially hide elements in 3D as well. Some good ideas are presented here that could be beneficial to many of us users.


The removing of the layer system would need a replacement of some other system. Before we get too deep into the further development of AC and come up with our own personalized programmed versions. We need first to get those elements hosted by walls on their own specific layers. I focus on this because I think that is a very good step in the right direction. Even if they want walls to host different types of openings they could at least provide a way to separate them.


After all they do want to separate elements or composites into components. I’m not sure how this would all work but let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves because we might go to rest for good before they even get near to what we are all proposing above. 

It might be good to have more control right down to the skin level in 2D & 3D in the near future. To do that skins would probably have to be on sub layers or some system to be able to turn them on or off in 3D or to display as wireframes. Like @thesleepofreason has shown in his excellent diagram as partially shaded. Separate Skins/Components is where we are all heading at present as outlined on the current RM.


All good fun discussing these important things.


AC8.1 - AC27 ARM AUS + CI Tools
Apple Mac Studio M1 Max Chip 10C CPU
24C GPU 7.8TF 32GB RAM OS Ventura

No need to remove layers - they just become a criteria as any other based on which visibility would be controlled.


Getting separate (sub)layers of hosted elements and skins/components would help with current management issues but is ultimately a step in the wrong direction - towards a dead end. The right direction is introduction of generic property bearing objects with nested structure which in contrast to sublayers would make it possible for nonexclusive membership (as implemented for IFC already).


Regarding the prospect of this wish getting implemented anytime soon - or before we are all out of business. As I see it (and as shown in this thread) - most of the tech for this is already implemented in one way or another and whats keeping AC from supporting a modern workflow is a decision made by GS to stick with layers for the foreseeable future. I haven't managed to get an answer to if it's due to technical or conceptual reasons but given how visibility actually is set in AC it is clear that layers is a relic.

We have all noticed that much work has been done in recent versions with layer improvements. 

Do you have an example of a CAD software that doesn’t use the traditional layer system so I can understand what you are proposing for the future of AC ? We are all layer conscious at present and my middle button on my 3DConnexions CAD mouse is programmed to bring the layers up. I use it all the time.


different views require different combinations of elements that show and don’t show. So how do you do that without layers is my question because I don’t understand what “generic property bearing objects with nested structure” is all about. I would like to know if you can explain it more clearly to me as I am not always firing on all cylinders in my older age lol.

AC8.1 - AC27 ARM AUS + CI Tools
Apple Mac Studio M1 Max Chip 10C CPU
24C GPU 7.8TF 32GB RAM OS Ventura

Layers = a single tag (each element can sit on only one layer) which controls visibility and a few other aspects (locking/freezing)

Revit formally lacks layers, but has means to manage this with Filters & Worksets


Layers is recognisable for CAD users, but in itself is nothing more than a single value from a list of allowed values. You can already do most of the filtering with the Graphical Override system. You can also notice that the Renovation Display is now also part of the Graphic Override (but not quite, as they still have a special status and dedicated attributes and configuration palette). And you can't "hide" objects using GO.


I agree with the feeling that all the techniques are there and work, but are scattered over different toolsets, developed at different times over the years.

--- stefan boeykens --- bim-expert-architect-engineer-musician ---
Archicad-user since 1998
my Archicad Book

As said - no need to abandon layers if they are too rooted in code or minds and they could continue top fill a role as a hard data separator. So your request should rather be for examples of software where layers isn't the primary visibility control which would be pretty much all BIM focused viewers which prompts the question as to why that is? I don't think Revit uses layers, Rhino does but isn't really standalone object oriented BIM (and they actually have a proper layer functionality in contrast to AC, not sure what recent improvements you are referring to?) But more importantly - AC itself is an example. If you do use criteria you should understand the proposed goal - there is no difference between visibility in a schedule and visibility in model space.


Regarding the generic property bearing objects with nested structure - it has little to do with this wish but was more to point out that layers are a dead end in a modern BIM world. Instead of keeping elements together by placing them on the same layer we should keep elements together by placing them in the same abstract information object - akin to IfcGroup.


I fully agree with @thesleepofreason objective and in a BIM model filtering by layers is a blunt tool.


There is however another aspect to this that I believe GS need to resolve before Criteria Visibility Filtering can be properly implemented, and that is presentation in the 2D Plan Window. That 2D reference already sounds inappropriate and is also closely tied to the Layers concept. More recently, (and this is only because my model content allows it), I regularly present plan views using 3D Documents. Why?  - because it provides a stable view where dimensions aren't constantly recalculating to suit a changing 2D plan view. Unfortunately 3D Documents don't allow elements to be edited unless modified through parameters. The funny thing is, the Elevations & Sections are basically 3D views but they do allow editing and seem also to be annotation stable.


You can use is zero height stories to establish a stable view and avoids creating duplicate layers for dimensions etc, but for story height sensitive objects this becomes problematic.


If AC was capable of generating Views that allowed annotation to be reliably connected to elements, then views using any filtering method should become a possibility e.g. Annotations applied to a view are exclusive to that view.


It is another example of all the technology is there, it's just not used with modern joined up thinking. What I am suggesting is the section / elevation view coding should be repurposed to also include plans and details. Maybe one day it might happen, but there again it may be "the legacy code just is too complex"...

Apple iMac Intel i9 / macOS Sonoma / AC27UKI (most recent builds.. if they work)

The OP’s suggested criteria based filtering sounds like coming from Navisworks. And it surely is a modern way of filtering.

While we probably won’t change GS’s thinking about how messy and outdated has the layer system become, let me try to list out the things GS uses layer for:


- object Visibility (on/off)

- lock for editing (to be confused with object lock)

- intersection group in priority junction

- wireframe or shaded in 3D


Some other things recommended to be done by layers:

- design options (new tool introduced)

- phasing more than existing / demolished / new

- showing finishes only without structure & core

- list go on...


Ways to organise layers:

- layer extension

- layer combination

- folder

- search


To me Layer is a dumping yard. Whenever I need to produce drawings / visualisation for some special hide / show set, if not already achievable by other archicad hide / show functions, I would be always recommended to use and add layers. Having said that, to counter the layer bloat, GS has been introducing ways of finding way through layers while spending no effort to reduce the layer bloat.


Happy Adding Layers!

MacBook Pro (16 inch, 2021) Apple M1 Max 64GB macOS Monterey Archicad 26 MBP trackpad Logitech Master MX3

@Scraptrash wrote:

The OP’s suggested criteria based filtering sounds like coming from Navisworks. And it surely is a modern way of filtering.

As it turns out it could just as well have come from AC itself. Model compare already has not only it but also interactive listing of the criteria extension for overview and quick selection. Apparently GS doesn't consider it useful when actually designing/modelling and decided to put it in a niche. And given the current development I would not be surprised if we see it introduced on BIMx for mobile devices before it becomes part of the everyday workflow.




@Scraptrash wrote:

While we probably won’t change GS’s thinking about how messy and outdated has the layer system become...

No - and it seems impossible to even get them to realise what's needed for a layer based approach to be tolerable. Instead we get folders without hierarchical control and interactive visibility control (and proper edit lock) for design options rather than layers. 




If these already implemented functionalities where to be consolidated, generalised and somewhat enhanced as to be a a part of the general workflow - rather than some specific niche on-screen only effect - AC could make up for much of five year's neglect in one release.


All the above ideas are great but I think for GS to grasp the issue they need to understand our objective in a modern 3D design workflow. It is a simple concept...


I want to filter which parts of the model are displayed using attribute filters and when I set a view point it should show the model using 3D the same as elevations & section cuts.


The use of criteria should allow you to filter the model, even if it is just "by layer", but equally we need to remove the storey based view constraint, which appears to be the root of many documentation missing/changed/display annotation issues. There is also a strong argument for annotation moving outside the viewport.


If someone from GS could perhaps engage on this issue then perhaps there might be a chance of moving it forward... 🕰

Apple iMac Intel i9 / macOS Sonoma / AC27UKI (most recent builds.. if they work)
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