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Developing GDL – the big picture

While still in the process of actually buying Archicad, I’ve managed to get hold of a demo version, to try it out for myself. My first accomplishment was a neat little house with doors, windows, a stairway and even a toilet, firmly guided by a tutorial.

My first Archicad drawing

After this first and somewhat successful encounter, I started exploring the GDL scripting language, its capabilities and editing environment. I had my hopes up for a somewhat BASIC scripting language, but still powerful and efficient for its purpose. This seems to be true so far.

What I didn’t expect was this incredibly lousy editor. Unfortunately it’s as simple as that. Archicad ships with a built-in GDL editor that, to my great frustration and sorrow, is the worst piece of inconvenient half-done crap, I as a programmer could imagine. I’d rather edit my GDL in M$ notepad, and that should say something about the quality of the editor!

My first GDL object

I’ve been browsing for other editors, and since I had a hard time actually believing what I saw, maybe for some answers to the quality of the built-in editor. I came across the ArchiCAD-Talk forum, where Archicad users where discussing newly proposed GDL coding guidelines from Graphisoft, that among others, suggests that commands are written lower case (commands has, like in BASIC been written upper-case so far):

Case, indents and comments are the only tools we have to make scripts readable. I see no reason to promote a standard which abandons one of these features.

… and the talk goes on with wishes for line numbers, syntax highlighting and auto indentation.
The discussion is from 2004, but nothing really seems to have changed since then.

I have been programming C, Java and C# for a couple of years, and for my part, the tools I use are of the essence. I’ve been used not only to syntax highlighting and auto-indentation, but to auto-completion, tool-tip help and code snippets that help me code the trivial tasks faster and more efficient. This GDL-editor is like returning to DOS, writing .bat scripts with edit – *sigh*.

My hunt for other (and better) editors has resulted in the following:

One editor being used is the 3nf GDL scripter. It has syntax highlighting and line numbers, but the website has not been updated since 2004. I’ve tried it on my XP SP2, and it keeps crashing. Further, if I open an object in ArchiCad made with GDL scripter, I’m issued a warning, that this object is made by an external editor and yada yada yada – certainly not a message I want my customers to be met with.

Then there’s a GDLedit highlighting plugin for a number of editors, including vim and emacs. This could be used for editing the GDL scripts in an external editor, and copy-paste it to Archicads built-in editor.

That’s it. No more editors as far as I can see (let me know if you know any!) – This leaves me somewhat depressed.

Now, why would Graphisoft, a company that has invested so much effort in parametric objects and BIM, abandon the project like this?

Daddy is not angry, daddy is disappointed.

I’ve heard so much about the wonderful GDL-society and the good-spirited, open-minded and ambitious people populating it. But all I find is dead links and closed websites, old tools and people complaining about the stand-still in the developing of new ones.

I hope I’m wrong, that there’s some great, wonderful tool out there being developed or just overlooked, that someone will post the missing link sometime soon. Until then, I’ll be checking out what Autodesks Revit, Bentleys Microstation or maybe IFC can do for me.

My GDL link collection
My IFC link collection

Archicad vs. Revit – and what about Microstation?

While browsing for more knowledge on GDL and what tools exists out there, I stumbled over a discussion of Archicad vs. Revit. Some bright fellow, Dwight Atkinson, had this to share:

The choice of Archicad/REVIT is somewhat irrelevant – while either application might present a killer pitfall for your practice style, buildings pop out of both of them. So don’t sweat it. Ford Versus Chrysler, etc. At one time, Archicad represented an intimidating paradigm shift. It WAS different! You could feel smart if you “got” the BIM idea in 1992, like I did, and create a lot of integrated material quickly. Even ten years ago, it was ahead of the curve. So far ahead, even, that it was around the bend. You couldn’t see it from the back of the bus, where most computer drafting was taking place. But not now. The BIM is an established concept. Now we need to talk about how we want to buildinginformationmodel (to use the German) a building – what’s important, what’s not. When you buy either application, you’ll be furthering the paradigm shift because the culture is still being discovered.

I like this point of view, this means that I am furthering the paradigm shift times 2, since I’ll be using both these applications with my new start-up, to support as many “buildinginformationmodellers” (could this be a word?) as possible.

One question remaining to me is: Where does Bentleys Microstation Architecture position itself in this discussion?

More reading:
The cited discussion
My GDL link collection