Compare Reference with Active

ARCHICAD provides several functions to help you identify and understand differences between the Reference and the Active content, especially when the Reference is on top of the Active content, or vice versa, and you need additional help to see the differences clearly. The best way to compare the two will depend on your particular task. You can use several of these functions at the same time to get the most accurate information. All the Compare functions can be used “on the fly” while editing your Active content. They are on-screen only functions, with no effect on output.

To access these functions, use the Trace & Reference Palette, from Window > Palettes > Trace & Reference.


Each of the techniques below can be useful in visually comparing the Reference with the Active. Try them out to see which works best.

Tip 1: Use Separate Colors for Active and Reference

You can set separate display colors for the Reference and the Active content: a custom color for each, or else retain the original colors.

You may want to set two sharply different, custom colors for each of the views – say, red and blue – to make it easy to distinguish one from the other.

To set the colors, use the pop-up icons (one each for Reference and Active) in the middle of the Palette.


Note: Even if you’ve set separate colors, the background fills of one view may obscure the underlying elements in the other view.

Tip 2: Make Fills and Zones Transparent

Note the Make Fills and Zones Transparent toggle at the bottom of the Trace & Reference Palette: activate this to make fills and zones transparent in both the Reference and Active views. This way you will “uncover” information that otherwise might have been covered up by a fill in the top view.

This switch has only a temporary effect and does not affect the settings of the model elements.


Tip 3: Reverse Display Order of Reference and Active

When comparing the Reference to the Active, it may help to switch their display order.

Click the “Reference on Top” button at the bottom of the Trace & Reference Palette.


If your Reference was previously underneath the Active, this command will change them around.

Tip 4: Optimize Intensity of Reference vs. Active

A simple way to make an initial visual comparison is to use the Intensity sliders of the Reference and Active.

Note: This method works best if the Active is shown in its original colors, and the Reference in a different color.


Pull the Reference intensity slider back and forth. On screen, the effect will be to flash the Reference “on” and “off”, allowing you to identify places on screen where there are differences from the Active View.

Then you can zoom in on these locations and analyze the differences.

Tip 5: Use the Splitter Bar to “Turn the Page”

This function is useful for identifying differences between the Reference and Active when they overlap. You will drag a Splitter bar across the window, with the Reference on one side and the Active on the other. The effect is like turning the “page” of an overlay to see what is beneath.

To activate the Splitter function, click the Splitter icon from the Trace & Reference Palette.


Four “splitter handles” appear, one on each edge of the screen. Choose any one of them and move it in a perpendicular direction, to create either a horizontal or vertical splitter bar.


As you drag it, the content on either side of the splitter changes dynamically.


Once you let go of the mouse button, the splitter bar returns to its original position.

Tip 6: Move the Reference Over Temporarily (Displace Reference)

Use this function when you have zoomed in to an area where the two views are different, and you want to quickly check what is on the view underneath.

Click the Temporarily Displace Reference button in the Trace & Reference Palette.


Click in the window. The cursor changes to the hand shape, allowing the user to nudge the Reference temporarily (i.e. to move it “out of the way”).

Click again, and the Reference jumps back to its original position.

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