Week #5 – General Notes & Specifications

This week we look at ways to create your general notes and specifications more quickly and elegantly with the assistance of Microsoft Word.

ArchiCAD has the ability to format text fairly nicely, but it lacks a number of key features that are particularly important in lengthy documents such as general notes. It has rudimentary tab settings without hierarchy or automatic numbering, cannot add graphic enhancements such as boxes around paragraphs that are tied to specific text within a larger block, and does not have multi-column capabilities so each block must be edited and reflowed manually.

Part 1 demonstrates how to use Word to create the general notes for a project and save them as a PDF to be placed into ArchiCAD. Because Word limits the maximum size of a page to 22 inches square, a custom page is created that is the size of one of the columns on the layout. The PDF pages are placed as Drawings onto the sheet, with one PDF page in each column. When the Word document is revised, after overwriting the PDF file, the ArchiCAD layout is easily updated.

Part 2 shows how to work with larger sheets. To get around Word’s limitations of 22 inches, the column image (which is a single page in Word) is enlarged beyond 100%; the font size in Word is adjusted inversely to compensate so that the resulting font size in ArchiCAD is correct. An alternate, optimum approach is shown that sets up an entire sheet image in Word at a reduced scale.

Part 3 explains how to maintain a set of boilerplate general notes in your template, and create independent editable copies for every new project. I also include some general tips about using the Drawing Manager to update and maintain links to drawings from external files and folders.

Please add your comments, questions and feedback below or on the individual pages.


Thank you for visiting the Best Practices Course website. The video lessons are available for members only. If you are an active member and would like to watch the ArchiCAD training video on this page, please login to the website. If you are not currently a member, please visit the following pages for more information and to sign up for the Best Practices Course, the QuickStart Course or for the Best Practices ArchiCAD Coaching Program. Eric Bobrow, Creator of the Best Practices Course


This 15 minute segment shows how to use Microsoft Word to make a PDF for laying out your general notes and specifications.


This 15 minute segment shows how to use Microsoft Word to make a PDF for laying out larger sheet sizes for general notes and specifications.


This 25 minute segment shows how to maintain a boilerplate copy of general notes in a template, and update independent copies in each project file.

Let us know how you feel... (19 comments so far)

You must be logged in to post a comment.

  1. ShradAmrit
    6 years ago


    I want to include keynotes on my architecture sheets. Is there a way to do that in ArchiCAD 15?
    I know that Revit Architecture allows you to include keynotes, and automatically renumbers them when you add, delete, or change something.

    Thank you for your help,


    • Eric Bobrow
      6 years ago

      CEU –

      There is no automatic way to include keynotes in ArchiCAD. You can type in your notes manually using the text or label tool, but they will not tabulate into a report or summary.

      However, you can buy an add-on by Cadimage called Key Notes that does exactly what you’re interested in. It’s very powerful and flexible, however it does cost some money. If you’re doing a lot of keynotes, it’s well worth it.

      Best regards,

  2. JohnWilson
    6 years ago


    Newby Achicad user Architect from decades on Intergraph, Microstation, etc. You are obviously a techno talent, but I think your teaching demeanor is even better. I am attempting to cram years of equivalent experience into a month transition window- impossible without you or a new hire, thanks for sharing your insight!

    Quick question- went through the Quick Start sessions and the Best Parctices up to week #5 and noticed the model house you developed had floor and roof framing componenets, foundations, exterior materials, etc. that was not covered in lessons. Did I miss a sequencing? Was I to go through the ‘Coaching Calls’ between the two courses?


  3. ThomasMarkunas
    6 years ago

    Eric – I am stunned that general notes and specifications requires kludge after workaround after kludge to generate a sheet of notes, given so much elegant automation in the rest of ArchiCAD. Surely G’soft should have this at the top of their list of required improvements.
    Tom Markunas

    • Eric Bobrow
      6 years ago

      Tom –

      I agree, it would be great if Graphisoft would improve the capabilities in this area. Simply adding auto-numbering sequences and multi-column text blocks would fill in the most important parts.

      However, in practice, the use of a word processor for the things it’s good at, and ArchiCAD for the rest of the process, with a simple PDF placement and update, is actually pretty smooth and easy. It may be a kludge, or a workaround, but it’s really pretty elegant and efficient once you set up the full-page image in Word or Pages.

      I believe Graphisoft’s philosophy is to focus on what they are best at, and link cleanly to other programs that specialize in different areas. This means they are not spreading themselves as thinly, trying to do everything for everybody. There’s something to be said for that.


  4. Kenneth R. Andrews AIA
    7 years ago

    This Tip alone is worth the investment in this course!!!
    There are endless possibilities with this usage of pdf files.

    Keep up the good work, I wish I had this information when I started Archicad…

    • Eric
      7 years ago

      Ken –
      Thanks for your enthusiastic feedback!
      I appreciate that you took the time to add your comment.

  5. Diana
    7 years ago

    These three videos have inspired me to use Adobe InDesign to design the layouts of my sheets, as I’m really used to this program.

    InDesign can handle with no problems larger sheets, also Illustrator, and both work with vectors.

    If I decide to change anything, re-print the PDF file, and “voilà”, changes applied.

    Thank you for all your suggestions and tips. 🙂


    • Eric
      7 years ago

      Diana –
      That’s great to hear how you plan to adapt the ideas in my presentation to use them in InDesign. It should work very nicely.

  6. TimothyBall
    Timothy Ball
    7 years ago

    Great tip on how to use the PDF idea. That would also work with many other documents such as spreadsheets, structural calculations, enerygy calculations, indeed anything that will output to PDF sensibly.

    Are you going to cover automated text using the Info box. I use that for short drawing notes, but its a very frustrating interface and slow to import text from external sources. I have yet to find an XML editor that works with the Archicad info file. Any tips?

    • Eric
      7 years ago

      Timothy –

      I will be covering the use of Autotext and the Info box – probably in a section on construction document optimization. I experimented with various XML editors and found them frustrating too.

      The simplest thing to do is to get the File menu > Info > Project Info all set up for a project, then use the Save or Export button to create an XML file with all the data; later, use the Import or Load button to bring this into another project or template file. That way you’re doing all your editing inside ArchiCAD, but taking advantage of the XML export and import functions to reduce your work on other projects.


  7. Eric
    7 years ago

    Hey Ron –
    Sorry about that. Your monthly installment went through OK on Sunday, but I hadn’t followed up to do the manual update of your access dates. It’s taken care of now, you should be good to go!

  8. Ron Heikes
    7 years ago

    Hi Eric:
    Little bit tardy in getting started here as I’m just logging onto your site course for the first time.
    I effectively logged in and thereafter clicked on The Course (at the left margin) just below the Click here to get started heading. Herein there are two Courses listed, #1 & #5. However, going to the horizontal nav bar at the top under courses all five are listed, yet when I click on Course #2, #3 or #4 I get a error message stating that I do not have access to this material and it indicates a locked icon to the left even though the site tells me I’m logged in. However #1 & #5 are available to view. Therefore this seems to be consistent with the initial courses indicated in the left margin of only #1 & #5 being available. Not sure where to go from here.

    • Eric
      7 years ago

      Hey Ron –
      Sorry about that. As I mentioned in my email to you, our monthly installment went through OK on Sunday, but I hadn’t followed up to do the manual update of your access dates. It’s taken care of now, you should be good to go!

  9. RJ Dial
    7 years ago

    OK, this whole week’s course on Specs has got me energized to replace my decades old set of peel and stick GN’s and update to a 2011 world. Any recommendations on a standard set of Residential notes out there to start with in digital form that I could cut & paste into the Word document I just created?

    • Eric
      7 years ago

      RJ –

      That’s a great question. I don’t have any info on this myself, but would suggest Googling it – perhaps with “architectural general notes” as a starting point.

      If any course member or visitor has a suggestion, please hit the Reply button and tell us what you know!


    • DaveOlufs
      David R Olufs
      7 years ago

      Things have changed quite a bit since the peel and stick or stickies. I use the latest format outline of MasterSpec 2004 but modified to my projects. All my notes are generally subdivided into divisions that relate to the current MasterSpec format. For example all my masonry notes start with 04.01, 04.02, etc. Electrical notes start with 26.01, 26.01, etc.

      Noting things this way helps me to minimize my forgetfulness, errors and keeps things in some logical order. Floor plans might have notes related to Division 08, finish plans would have notes related to Division 09, furniture plans have notes related to Division 12, etc. Exterior elevations could have Divisions 04, 06, 07 and/or 08, etc. It all depends on the complexity of the project.

      Once these are developed with 1, 2 or 3 projects worth of notes, then these can be easily adaptable to other projects with cut and paste OR kept in a word file for inclusion via week 5 discussions.

      The following is a link to a page where I downloaded latest Basic + Supplemental MasterSpec 2004 Table of Contents… I use it as my starting point and then when the money is rolling in (hardly) I may purchase MasterSpec for my specification work. These specifications are based on MasterFormat 2004 which can be purchased for up to 3 stations for $170, less if you’re a member of CSI.


      I’m sure this didn’t answer your question about replacing stickies… Years ago, when I moved from stickies to the digital world, I hired someone to type all my old specs into my computer. For what I paid her, I could have bought 10 to 15 single user stations listed above. Years later, I opted to purchase a short form MasterSpec for about the same price noted above but that version is clearly outdated with, for example; Electrical now being Division 26 instead of 16.

      Further, with approval from my engineers, I will copy their drawing notes and/or specs. I must be mindful that things change and I need to modify my notes accordingly.

  10. Gregory Dobrzelewski
    7 years ago

    This course is awesome! I really like being able to go back and review each class over and over to glean all of the information I can and then put it to use.


    • Eric
      7 years ago

      Thank you Greg!