Troubleshooting Slowness in Chief Architect Plans

Reference Number: KB-00521
Last Modified: June 27, 2016

The information in this article applies to:

Chief Architect Premier or Chief Architect Interiors


I am working in a large plan and I notice that the program is working very slowly and is sluggish or seems to lag. Is there something that can be done to remedy this?



In this article, we will discuss the most common reasons for encountering slowness in Chief Architect plans starting with the most common to the least. Please make sure to review all of the information in this article, as the cause for slowness that you may be encountering could be related to one or more of the items listed below.


By far, the most common reason for Chief Architect to run slowly is working in an unsupported fashion, such as over a network server location, external hard drive, or usb flash drive device. 

In addition to experiencing slowness working in files, working in this type of unsupported fashion is very risky because it can lead to file corruption and data loss.

For these reasons, it is extremely important to always work on files that are saved on your local hard drive. This means that you should copy the file from a network server, external hard drive, or usb flash drive device's location to your computer's hard drive before opening it in the software.  Then, make your changes, save the file, exit the program, and then copy the file back to its network server, external hard drive, or usb flash drive device location. 

If you are working on your computer's hard drive, with file's being saved as recommended in the
Guide to File Management, and are still experiencing slow plans, then please continue with the information provided in this article.

There are a number of things that you can do to speed up the drawing process when working in a large plan that is saved on your computer's hard drive.  We'll go through each of these in order of importance, starting with the most common reasons you may be experiencing slowness in a plan.

Verify System Requirements

First, verify that your computer meets, or better yet, exceeds,  the minimum system requirements for running your version of Chief  Architect.

These system requirements for the current version of the software can be located online at:

  • If you have a 64-bit system, make sure you have installed the 64-bit version of the current Chief Architect software program.

  • If you primarily notice slowness with regards to 3D Camera views, check to see how much dedicated video memory is on your video card. 

    If it only just meets the minimum system requirements, then you may want to look in to replacing it with a video card which has more memory.

    Please note that an integrated chipset, such as those produced by Intel, which shares system memory, does not meet the minimum system requirements for running X5 or earlier versions of the software, and requires a driver from 2012 or newer for X6 and a 2014 or newer driver for X7 and X8.

  • Update your video card's driver to the most recent version compatible with your operating system by following the instructions in Knowledge Base article KB-00106 , then verify that the appropriate card and driver are listed in Chief Architect's Preferences under Video Card Status.

  • If you are looking in to purchasing a new system and want to make sure that it offers good performance in Chief Architect, on the System Requirements page, pay special attention to the Tips for Buying a New Computer section, and check your potential hardware purchase against the benchmark websites listed there in addition to posting in the ChiefTalk user forum for current recommendations from other users.

Run a diagnostic memory check

If your system meets or exceeds our minimum system requirements, it may be worth running a diagnostic memory check to see if there are any issues with your computer's memory. For information on running a diagnostic memory check, please view the appropriate link below based on your operating system.


Mac OSX Mountain Lion:

Mac OSX Mavericks:

Mac OSX Yosemite:

Mac OSX El Capitan: 

3D Views

Avoid working with multiple 3D camera views open. Every time you make  a change to the plan, the program will redraw the entire model.  Depending on the complexity of the design, this may take a long time.

You can see how many view windows are opening by selecting the
Window menu. Open view windows are listed at the bottom of the menu.

If you are using the Generated Sky setting, keep in mind it takes in to account the orientation of the sun, so if you've set the sun to follow your camera, then the generated sky will regenerate each camera movement to account for the new sun direction, which can cause slowness in 3D camera views.

Manage Displayed Layers

If you need to work in 3D views, turn off any layers that aren't needed for the task.  This will improve your redraw time.

For example, if you need to work on landscaping or roofs in a Full Overview, consider turning off the layers for Fixtures and Furnishings in the Camera View or Section View layer sets.

You can even create new layer sets with these layers turned off, and use them as your default when new camera views are created.

In elevation and plan views, if you use a high number of macros in text or labels that are displayed, this can slow down panning, zooming, and moving objects in these views.

Manage 3D Surface Count

Avoid importing 3D objects from outside sources that have a large number of complex surfaces, as these can greatly slow down camera views.

To check the number of surfaces for imported symbols:

  1. Using the Select Objects tool, click on an imported symbol to select it.

  2. Next, click on the Open Symbol edit button to display the Symbol Specification dialog.

  3. On the 3D panel, take note of the Number of Faces.

  4. If you aren't certain whether or not a symbol has an unusually high number of faces, you may want to repeat this procedure on a similar type symbol from the Chief Architect catalogs and compare the Number of Faces.

Pictures and PDF files Saved in Plan

By default, picture files and PDF files are referenced from outside of your Chief Architect file.  You can, however, open the Specification dialogs for both of these types of objects and check the "Save in Plan" option to embed the picture, or PDF, in the plan.  If you chose this option, it can cause significant slowdown when working in the plan or layout file.

Instead of saving pictures or PDF files in the plan, the recommended method for transferring a file between computers, or to another individual, is to use the Backup Entire Plan  feature to ensure that no data is lost that would result in a missing file message.  This feature not only allows you to export the picture and PDF files along with the plan and layout, but also all of the associated custom backdrops, materials, and images you may be using for the file. For more information on using the backup entire plan tool, see the Related Articles section at end of this article.

Fill Styles and Patterns

Avoid using complex fill styles and patterns extensively in your plan and CAD Details.

  • Especially for elements of your design such as the layers of your custom wall type definitions, if you use a custom Fill Style that requires drawing many tiny lines on the screen, this can greatly slow down working in floor plan view for such tasks as zooming, moving and placing objects.

  • The same is true of using material patterns, such as complex stone or tile patterns, in views which utilize the Vector rendering technique, such as Cross Section/Elevations and Orthographic Overviews.

Manage live views in your layout

When you send a cross section/elevation, camera view, or overview to your layout, you have the option to select Live View to make the view dynamically linked to the plan file. You can also select for this view to Update On Demand, or Update Always. Selecting Update Always can potentially contribute to slowness in your plan.

To change a view set to Update Always so that it only updates on demand, select the view in your layout, then click the Open Object edit button to open the Layout Box Specification dialog. On the General panel, under Camera View Options, select Update On Demand and then click OK.

Purge Unused Data

In addition to the suggestions above, if you have been using a file through several versions of Chief Architect, you may have unnecessary leftover data such as unused CAD Blocks, materials, and layer sets that can be removed to reduce the overall size of your plan file.

Chief Architect does not recommend reusing plan files by deleting everything out of an existing plan file and renaming it using the Save As option. 

It is important to always start new plan or layout files from a template created in the current version of the software.

If you are unfamiliar with setting up template files, please review the Template articles listed in the Related Articles section at the end of this article. 

To purge unused CAD blocks

  1. Select CAD> CAD Block Management  from the menu.

  2. In the CAD Block Management dialog, there is a list of all CAD blocks referenced in your plan.

    • Click the Purge button to delete any unused block definitions from the list.

    • You can also click on an unused CAD block in the list, then click the Delete button to remove it from the list.

    • In Chief Architect X3 and newer, the Automatically Purge CAD Blocks feature is available. When checked, this feature will prevent unused CAD block definitions from being saved in the plan.

    Note:  It is not possible to delete all CAD block definitions from a plan file. Even if no objects are present in the plan, the CAD blocks associated with default electrical symbols are saved with the plan and cannot be removed.

  3. When you are satisfied with the CAD block list, click OK to close the dialog and apply the changes, then Save the file.

To purge unused materials

  1. Select 3D> Materials> Plan Materials  from the menu.

  2. In the Plan Materials dialog

    • The list on the left includes all materials present in the plan:

    • Click the Purge button on the right to remove any unused materials from the list.

    • You can also select an individual unused material from the list and click the Delete button.

  3. When you are satisfied with the Plan Materials list, click OK to close the dialog and apply the changes, then Save the file.

To Manage layer sets

  1. Select Tools> Layer Settings> Layer Set Management  to open the Layer Set Management dialog.

  2. Use the Available Layer Sets options to manage the layer sets saved with the current plan or layout file.

  3. Click on a layer set name in the list to select it.

         If you have a large number of layer sets named Layout Set #, review the software's documentation on the Send to Layout dialog, as often you will want to be using the currently active layer set, as opposed to making a copy of it.

  4. Click the Delete button to delete the selected layer set from the current file.

    • The Delete button is only enabled if the layer set can be deleted. You cannot delete the active layer set or any layer set in use as a default.

    • Do not delete any layer sets that are used in views sent to layout.

  5. When you are satisfied with the list of layer sets, click OK to close the dialog and apply the changes, then Save the file.

To reduce Chief Architect's window size

Slowness can be potentially encountered when running Chief Architect full screen on an iMac with a 5K monitor. Reduce Chief Architect's window size so that it is not full screen and continue working to see if performance is improved.