Making ACA Extraordinary

September 3rd, 2012

In every industry, there are many third-party tools that can help in all aspects of drawing quality.  AutoCAD® Architecture is certainly no exception.  Even though AutoCAD Architecture is excellent software with vast capabilities, let’s look at a few of the tools that can help it to become extraordinary.  This article will provide a brief overview of the following software.



PDfImport 2.2 is a great tool developed by DotSoft.  It is used to import the contents of PDF files into AutoCAD Architecture as polylines, text, and images that can be edited. 

Attempts to screen capture a PDF can result in a low resolution image that doesn't plot well and can't be snapped to.  PDFImport fixes this.  If the PDF file contains vector geometry, use of the Import tool will result in highly usable polylines in AutoCAD Architecture.  If the PDF contains text annotations, they will become text objects.  Images embedded in the PDF are extracted and placed as image references.  This program allows a visual preview before the import is complete to ensure you are getting the information you want.  Multiple page files are handled with ease.


ATHENA 2012 is a product developed in Germany by CAD-PLAN GmbH for AutoCAD Architecture versions 2010 to 2012. ATHENA is excellent CAD software for curtain wall/storefront design and facade engineering.  It has been used successfully by many curtain wall companies, fabricators, and design offices involved in curtain wall technology.   ATHENA is used to draft plan views, elevations, sections, details, and workshop drawings in 2D using the intelligence of the ARX objects through to free 3D constructions.  

Isothermals, sound insulation, and metal sheet processing is available, along with the computation of structural analysis.

ATHENA is divided into four sections:  2D Design, 3D Design, Engineering and Metal Sheet Processing. 

2D design is used for quickly creating plan views, sectional drawings, details and elevations.  In addition, production drawings can be produced very simply.

3D design is used for the free planning of complicated geometries, such as sloping polygon facades, glazed roofs, bays, and so on. Part lists and production drawings can be produced from the 3D design.

Structural analysis program (Engineering): Powerful computational tools are available for structural analysis and building physics.

Metal Sheet processing is used to simplify and speed the design of metal sheets and the generation of sheet developments.


AcadDecke 6.6 is a product developed in Germany by IDAT GmbH.  This software is a complete package for prefabricated reinforced concrete slabs and works with AutoCAD Architecture 2012 or higher.  With AcadDecke, the building model from AutoCAD Architecture can be used directly to create the drawings for the slabs.  The program can be used to create hollow concrete slabs, solid slabs, 4 cm thick slabs, etc.  The input data include geometry of the plan, holes, lengths, loading, beams, and reinforcement spacing.  The program automatically generates the mesh for slab elements by considering technical fabrication parameters.  It also performs structural computations.  It is possible for you to input different reinforcement types.  The printout includes a fabrication plan for each slab with all needed construction information, such as dimensions of the slab, reinforcement amount and spacing.  In addition, the software provides a complete list of all fabrication parts and creates a file for the quantity survey.  The input and computation data can be stored in a relational database for further use later.


VisionREZ 7.0, designed by architects and developed by Ameri-CAD, Inc., is an architectural productivity solutions program for residential applications.  This program works well with AutoCAD Architecture 2010 or higher.  Plug In and Stand Alone versions are available. VisionREZ Plug In is purpose-built for AutoCAD Architecture.  VisionREZ Stand Alone is powered by Autodesk Technology on the AutoCAD Architecture 2008 OEM platform.  The VisionREZ platform offers procedures that enhance productivity without compromising power and flexibility. 

VisionREZ includes a suite of tools, which specifically optimize areas such as full-featured roof object and trim, detailing, labeling, and bills of material.  Powered with Autodesk Technology, the VisionREZ advantages extend beyond the model creation to include leveraging the industry-standard DWG file format as well as providing customizable drawing standards.

The VisionREZ residential roof behaves the way a roof does in the real world.  Various styles of fascia trim can be added and adjusted to represent the way it is truly built.  Transitions between rakes and eaves are shown in plan and model views and can be inserted automatically or manually.  The VisionREZ residential roof will span from one floor to another.  Trim can be added to roofs, windows, doors, or openings.  Various styles can be created and applied to the many objects allowing the changing of sizes or shapes while automatically adjusting the trim.

VisionREZ contains a live background drawing.  By typing in at the command line or selecting simple commands from a toolbar, the floors below or above will appear in different colors in a locked state so one can draw directly on top of them and always have an accurate reference of what is happening with the other floors.  Also, a large number of preset styles have been created to cover a large segment of the residential market, allowing the user to draw out of the box.  These include walls, doors, windows, stairs, roofs, and schedules.  Preset content is available for items such as appliances, cabinets, electrical, and plumbing.  Area schedules have been created that will correctly display the square footage and totals.


CostX 3.30 is a product developed in Australia by Exactal Pty Ltd.  CostX automates estimation for both BIM and traditional design systems and works well with AutoCAD Architecture 2011 or higher.  CostX can use the output from AutoCAD Architecture to extract measurements and estimate costs.  CostX reads all formats produced by Autodesk products.

Various products are available in the CostX range. These include:

CostX – enables you to measure quantities from 2D and 3D drawings and generate automatic quantities from 3D BIM models.

CostX Takeoff – enables you to have all the power of the CostX on-screen measurement system when you just need to takeoff dimensions.

CostX 2D – enables you to measure from scanned, PDF or CAD drawings in 2D using an accurate measurement system.

CostX Takeoff 2D – enables you to quickly and accurately takeoff quantities from scanned, PDF, or CAD drawings in 2D.

CostXL – tightly integrates into Microsoft Excel, allowing you to access all your CostX data in an Excel spreadsheet.

CostX supports existing standard drawing formats (dwg, dxf and dwf).  Measurements and cost information can be exported to Excel.  Automatic quantities can be generated from 3D BIM models.  CostX quickly and accurately measures from scanned, PDF, or CAD drawings.  You can compare drawings, highlight changes, and update quantities and workbooks.  A cost plan can be automatically generated from dimension information.


PointCloud 7 is a product developed in Germany by kubit GmbH.  PointCloud supports the visualization and analysis of laser scanner 3D points in the AutoCAD Architecture environment and works well with AutoCAD Architecture 2011 or higher.

PointCloud supports the visualization and analysis of millions of 3D points in the AutoCAD Architecture environment. The points captured by a 3D laser scanner can be treated by means of the standard 2D and 3D functionalities provided by AutoCAD Architecture.  Enhanced computer graphic technology allows the management of such huge colored point clouds in a CAD environment.  The orbit and zooming functionality, as well as the possibility to hide and show parts of the point cloud, provide a very easy and transparent way of 3D navigation.  The support of the Pointsnap allows the identification of the 3D coordinates of each single point.  This information can be used by AutoCAD Architecture commands to directly access the accurate geometry of the scanned object.  As-built documentation of industrial structures, historic buildings, and many more is possible in all levels of detail.  The point cloud can be augmented or combined with other information like CAD drawings, photos, and floor plans.  The most common data formats are supported.  PointCloud is hardware independent so it will work with any scanner on the market.


GuidSIGN 6.0, developed in Canada by Transoft Solutions Inc., is an AutoCAD-based roadway and highway sign design software and works well with AutoCAD Architecture 2005 or higher.

GuidSIGN is a user-friendly program that automates the process of designing highway and roadway signs.  A user can simply select a panel style from the standard library of Federal MUTCD styles and then add text, route markers, arrows, exit panels, or other sign objects.  Based on the type of sign selected, GuidSIGN automatically ensures that the correct highway fonts are used, text strings are spaced accordingly, border widths and corner radii are correct, and symbols conform to industry specifications.

GuidSIGN's customization options provide maximum flexibility for the design of any type of sign.  GuidSIGN is equipped with all the necessary predefined MUTCD sign styles.  You may also select from more than 60 design parameters and override preset values, making customization an easy process.  You may also incorporate and save your own custom shields, arrows, and standard symbols.  Selected objects within a sign can be exported to dxf format, which is easily read by most cutters and plotters.


This article has touched on just a few of the many third-party applications available to aid your productivity with AutoCAD Architecture.  My advice is to research what’s available and see what works best for you in your individual working environment.  Most importantly, have fun!

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About the Author

Melinda Heavrin

Melinda Heavrin

Melinda Heavrin is a CAD Coordinator & Facility Planner for Norton Healthcare in Louisville, Kentucky.  She has been using AutoCAD Architecture since release 2000.  Melinda can be reached for comments and questions at


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