gCADPlus is designed to be used with templates. A well designed template can contain all the settings and drafting ingredients needed to get off to a flying start on any new project. A template might well store a defined set of carefully named layers, some preferred text, linetype, dimension, and multi-line styles, a plant database file (.gcp) and some common symbols stored as blocks with the drawing. Combine a template such as this with the suite of automated drafting tools in gCADPlus and you are well on the way to becoming a power landscape drafter.

This module describes the development of a template suitable for a landscape architectural practice called Biosphere Designs - a practice that specializes in work for remote rural areas of Australia. We will focus on the development of a Biosphere template based on the default template supplied with gCADPlus. We will ensure that drawings created with it match the Australian standard for technical drafting - AS1100.

Tip: The philosophy behind the changes we make can be applied to other drafting environments where a similar standards apply.

In order to create the Biosphere template, we recommend starting with a clean slate using the (empty) default template in gCADPlus as a base.

Tip: under no circumstances should you try to create a template by starting to work on a file converted from the AutoCAD environment. AutoCAD files are at least 10X larger than a gCADPlus drawing containing the same amount of information. You do not want every drawing you do that will be based on your template to carry that much baggage - we want snappy CAD performance.

1. A note on base units

All landscape CAD drawings should show the major portion of the design in model space at full size. An enquiry of a design using the DISTANCE command should report meaningful values. gCADPlus like AutoCAD, works in drawing units and the unit of measure is a 'setting' in the mind of the designer. A line 2000 units long in drawings based on this template, will represent a distance of 2000 mm. 

Distance command Distance command This movie provides some comment on units in CAD drawings and uses the distance command (in model space) to interrogate a gCADPlus drawing 

 We will repeat the use of the distance command as shown in the movie

Download this drawing and save it to your desktop.

Distance command Distance command This movie shows the importance of checking a drawing for the units used.

Start gCADPlus drawing and use the DISTANCE command to check the length of an object in the Lock drawing. Note that the numbers returned indicate that the drawing has been built using METERS as the base unit, not mm.

This Landscape Architect practice prefers to works in millimeters even though it receives drawings from civil engineers and survey firms that are constructed with meters as the base unit. It makes good sense to continue with this practice as in Australia, and many other parts of the world, the building industry works in mm as the base unit. 

Zoom out, select all entities and us the SCALE command [right click to select], zoom extents, turn on all layers and scale by 1000 using 0,0 as the base for scaling.

Now use the Library drop down menu to insert a gCADPlus symbol. It should be sized correctly. 

Tip: The symbol library in the metric version of gCADPlus is also designed to work with mm as the base unit - each plant symbol in the general group is 1000 units in diameter. In the Sized group, symbols are different, but scale appropriately - Tall Trees 3000 units [mm] canopy diameter, Small Trees 2500 units, Large Shrubs 2000 units, medium shrubs 1500 units etc.

Tip: Because the Australian Map Grid coordinate system (MGA) is linked to a global co-ordinate system with a base unit in meters, not mm, scaling of incoming drawings to be used as a base for landscape design will be required when using this template.  In the same way as the Lock drawing was scaled by 1000, base plans coming from surveyors will need to be scaled by 1000, making sure that 0,0 is chosen as the base point. Reverse this if the AMG system for generating set-out point using Eastings & Northings is required.

2. An aside - attach  a URL to Windows TrueType text in a gCADPlus drawing

It is possible to attach a web address to any piece of Windows text in a gCADPlus drawing. This ability can have many uses. In the movie below, we show how double clicking on a piece of text under a plan view of a shelter can link to a manufacturers catalog and another text link shows an example of a particular species chosen for the design.

Distance command Distance command Using the distance command (in model space) in a gCADPlus drawing 


 Add a URL link to a drawing

Switch back to the Lock drawing.

Double click on the text GABLE SHELTER and note that your web browser is activated and links to a manufacturer's web site.

Do the same for the text BANKSIA.

Now try adding a URL link of your own. Later we will put a link in our title block to the web site of our design consultancy. 

3. Making the template

We will base the template on the gCADPlus default drawing because it is very simple indeed - there are no layers apart from layer zero, no linetypes, no special text styles apart from the embedded ones, no blocks etc.

Start a new drawing

Start gCADPlus, select File>New, choose default template, save the file as YourDesignPracticeTemplate [e.g. for a practice called Biospere the template might be called BiosphereArchitectsTemplate.
Biosphere Architects
Attach a plant data file

gCADPlus comes complete with a gcp file containing information on more than 300 species. It is a good idea to load that file into your template drawing.


The unit settings in the Format drop down menu allows control over a number of aspects of the drawing environment. This UNITS option allows custom a set up for your usual drawings. It covers units preferred units, scaling insertion of objects (mm or decimal feet being the most common), rotation angle, desired precision etc.

 Set units

For landscape use, make sure that Type is set to Decimal, output precision set to one decimal place, units to scale inserted components to millimeters, decimal precision 3 decimal places, counter clockwise for angles and the base angle coordinate 0,0 as shown below


Save the template file, but keep it open.

Text styles

It is well worth creating some text styles and storing them with the template. We think that a standard, Arial and hand lettered style (Architects Daughter) should be enough. Apart from style standard that uses the isocp.shx font, the text styles are named after the font in use. This is good practice.

 Text style

Download ISOCPEUR true type font


It is an advantage to pre-load a set of suitable linetypes into the template. If you start a new drawing, use the default template supplied with gCADPlus, the only available linetype is the continuous linetype shown in the figure below.

Base linetypes

It is possible (and desirable) to add more linetypes. Some of the other templates supplied with gCADPlus already have a number of linetypes loaded and can be used to illustrate this. The figure below shows the linetypes associated with the gCADPlus template called FormalDesign.

Template linetypes

These lineypes have been loaded from a file called acadiso.lin file supplied with gCADPlus. the software is capable of reading any AutoCAD compatible linetype file. You may find many of these in an internet search.

Load linetypes This movie shows how to load a set of new linetype files into the gCADPlus drawing environment.


 Customize your linetype set

Rather than load a very large set of linetypes into this custom template, it makes sense to load only those in common use in your practice. The figure below shows a list of linetypes used by this particular design practice:


The linetype definition shown for some of the linetypes above could do with some editing and improvement. Several styles use a font called ISO3098B - a CAD font first developed some 30 years ago to ensure that text lettering in technical CAD drawings in Australia was consistent with the international ISO standard. That font has been largely supplanted by the font Isocp supplied with gCADPlus - see the figure below.

Isocp font

Our template will have a much simpler collection of linetypes.

Load a custom linetype file [Biosphere.lin] and attached it to the template as shown in the figure below.

Custom linetypes

Select and load all the linetypes beginning with "BS ..".


The practice uses the layer names based on the system developed by The Task Force on CAD Layer Guidelines sponsored by the American Institute of Architects and other related professional bodies. The major groups are:

A Architectural, Interiors and facilities management
S Structural
M Mechanical
P Plumbing
F fire Protection
E Electrical
C Civil Engineering and Site Work
L landscape Architecture

The task force recommends a dash as a detail separator as thus L-IRRIG rather than the non preferred underscore).


 Customize your layers

It is a comparatively simple matter to create these layers in the BiosphereArchitectureTemplate drawing.

Add your new layers, making sure that you hit the enter key after each new layer name has been typed to 'burn it in'.

Note that line thickness in the settings below is controlled BLAYER and not by setting the line thickness of the entity as it is drawn. As shown in the figure below, we have simplified the layer names somewhat, but kept to the layer convention pioneered by the AILA. 


Final version of layer specification. We try and use a summary layer lists with modifiers as shown in the figure below (example L-NEW-TREES).


Layout (paper) space

The most common sheet used by this practice is an ISO-A1 sheet in landscape view. We created a layout of that size with border offsets of 20 mm as specified by AS1100, the technical drafting standard applying in Australia. The insertion point for the drawing was set at 0,0 with the left corner of the sheet sitting at coordinate x=20, y=20

AS1100 specifies the border lines to be plotted 1.4 mm thick for A0 and B1 sheets, 1.0 mm for A1 and B2 sheets and 0.7 mm for A2, A3, A4, B3 and B4 sheets. Rather than control line thickness by gCADPlus layer or entity settings, in our view, it is simpler to draw the outside border with a polyline 0.7 units [mm]. Click on the image to see the result of a quick test in PDF format. 

landscape sheet

We also made a portrait version of this sheet as shown below.

 A1 layout

 Customize your layout sheets

Insert the two drawings A1Portrait and A1Landscape into layout space.

Dimension sty​les

 Customize your dimension styles

We want any dimension style to provide information to construction teams.

Create one dimension style to begin with. [We  call the style Biosphere in the example below].


Now test it by drawing a typical line in model space and check its appearance in layout space at a commonly used scale (e.g. 1:100)

Dimension style test

Adjusting point styles

The firm has a preference for using a cross as the point symbol.

 Customize your point styles


point style

Adding symbols

Broad scale landscape development uses large masses of planting blocks as shown in the example below. The same symbol is used again and again but is associated with different species. Each group (copse, drift) is labeled with (in this case) a red line and the number of instances of that particular species is indicated by the text note - 3.PCH, 4.CAD etc.

Symbol style

Relatively few plant symbols are used in this broad scale design work. In order to make the template work for us in this way, we need to add some symbols that will enable this approach. The figure below shows one such set.

symbol set

Each of these symbols has been made in such a way that should a 'concept' plan be required, it is a simple matter to edit the block to provide some fill color. Later versions of gCADPlus will allow a transparent fill.


 Load blocks into template

The figure below shows this relatively small set of blocks loaded into the template. [Comment circle vs. cross needed]

Load blocks

Each is ready to insert (and copy) many times to indicate areas of broad scale planting. At this stage, the template is tiny - some 22kB in size (0.022Mb).


Test the effectiveness and smoothness of operation of these blocks by loading a small sample drawing of yours using them.


You could add other blocks such as one for a park shelter shown below.

Park shelter


Rather than clutter up the template drawing with links to blocks such as this that may be used rarely, it is better to save the block in the appropriate folder under the details section of your copy of gCADPlus.

Customize your c​opy of gCADPlus

Movie Shelter Rather than clutter up gCADPlus templates with blocks that are rarely used, it is better to load blocks that you may need in future projects in an appropriate folder in the gCADPlus Blocks folder.

 Add a block to the gCADPlus library

Click this link to download a copy of this design for a shelter.

Let's assume that you have a drawing (block) representing the structure shown above. 

Start gCADPlus, open the drawing after you have downloaded a copy to your desktop.

SaveAs to the MyDocuments>gCADPlus>blocks>Details>furniture folder.

The template is now ready for its first trial. 


Template Make a template for a new consultancy.

Towards greater CAD productivity