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Welcome Window

The Welcome window opens by default when you launch HighDesign and presents the options to create or open a project, open a recent document, choose a template for a new project, or open an example.

  • On the right side of the window you can use the quick links to access the Resource Manager window, the application Preferences window and the Project Settings window. The “What’s New” button opens the release notes web page of the current version within your default browser. 
  • The “Guided Tour” button starts a short tutorial that describes and highlights the different areas of the project window: a popover window explains the corresponding functions of each area. Use the “Next” and “Back” buttons of the popover window or the arrows of the keyboard to browse through the different elements of the main window. 
  • When you launch HighDesign after the program did not close properly, the Welcome window opens with an additional “Recovery” panel listing the auto-saved files. Use this panel to select the files you wish to open. Once a recovered file has been opened, it is removed from the list. During the current session, you can access the Recovery panel at any time by opening the Welcome window from the Help menu.

Project Window 

HighDesign project window

The main functions of HighDesign are visible and ready to use in the Project Window and in the surrounding toolbars and Sidebar. 

  • The Drawing Area in the middle of the project window displays the project views and the sheets used to draw and edit drafting objects and project elements.
  • The toolbars provide essential functions, such as the drawing tools, the drawing methods, the input fields and commands, the edit functions, and the properties controls. Through these commands, arranged in logical areas, all the drawing functions are easily accessible. 
  • The Sidebar provides functions that are mainly used to organize the project and manage project elements: the Project Browser and the Views panels, the Object Info and the Project Styles panels. 
  • The Menu bar on the top of the project window displays the menus listing almost all of the program functions, commands and features. 


As any other application, this is the horizontal bar placed on the top most edge of the visible screen area (Mac) or main window (Windows) and contains the following pull-down menus: 

  • HighDesign, the standard application menu. It contains the items “About HighDesign…”, “Preferences”, and the standard application commands such as “Hide” and “Quit”. 
  • File, for file management (open, save, import, export, merge and save special) and print. 
  • Edit, is commonly used for standard commands like undo and redo an operation; cut, copy, paste and clear; select, invert selection and deselect; search function; arrange and align items. 
  • View: includes command to set the current zoom, display options of pen weights, layers and drawing. In the Standard and Pro editions, it also includes the display options of sheets. The Pro edition adds the commands to manage project views. 
  • Project, for key functions and tools of project organization. This menu includes commands to manage, create and delete groups, layers, drafting sheets, details, layouts, title blocks and viewports. Use this menu to access the panes of the Project Settings and Resource Manager windows.
  • Drawing: this menu lists all the main commands and functions used to modify drawing elements and to change the drawing scale of the current sheet. 
  • Tools, contains more advanced functions such as “Photogrammetry”, “Render”, “Adjust Image” and tools used to transform project elements such as “Scale Drawing”, “Fillet”, “Chamfer”, etc.. 
  • Window, is used to browse through the list of currently opened project windows. Use this menu to switch between sidebar and floating panels and show or hide individual panels or rulers and scrollbars. 
  • Help: access the Welcome window, Guided tour, User Guide, Support links and the Repair Document and Purge commands. 


The Toolbox is placed vertically on the left most edge of the main window. It contains the buttons to activate all the project tools. This toolbar is organized in sections: 

  • Selection: select project elements by direct click or by selection area; modify  selected elements 
  • Sketch: create and modify 2D drawing elements. 
  • Documentation: insert and modify texts, dimensions, text notes, tags, and define detail areas (standard/pro) and add temporary measurements. 
  • Design: create and modify architectural elements like walls, openings, columns (Pro). 
  • View: change the position of the drawing in the canvas via the panning function, the level of zoom; by preferences these tools can also be grouped in a dock and displayed on one side of the drawing area. 
  • To activate a tool, click once on its icon. Some buttons show three dots in the bottom right corner, meaning those tools have specific tool options dialogs displayed on the tool Settings Window. To open the Settings Window and change a tool settings, double-click on the icon. 
  • Double-clicking the Panning tool (the open hand icon), activates the Fit To Screen command, and the Zoom tool (the magnifier icon) resets the zoom of the current view to 100%. 
  • Project tools can also be activated via keyboard shortcuts: each button has a corresponding key on the keyboard. To see a tool shortcut, move the mouse cursor over the button and wait 1-2 seconds until the Tool Tip opens with the name of the tool and its shortcut. 
  • When you select an object in the project, a color marker on the tool icon highlights the class of the currently selected object. 
  • Many project tools have multiple construction methods or include the options to create related or similar objects (e.g. the Hatch tool includes the options to create islands within hatches, whereas the Arcs tool has different construction methods). These tools with methods have an arrow button on the right of the tool icon: click the popup arrow to show the available methods and options.
  • Tool methods of the currently active tool are also accessible through the methods bar.
  • The project tools bar can be arranged on one or two columns by clicking the expand/collapse button in the bottom-right corner of the bar. This functionality, however, is only enabled when there is enough screen room to accomodate one column of icons.

Methods Bar

The Methods Bar displays the construction methods and available options of the current tool, e.g. Line from one endpoint or from its midpoint, or arc by center, by diameter, by three points, etc. This bar is contextual and changes its contents according to the selected project tool and can include an additional input field to quickly insert a parameter value. 

Edit Bar

Placed on the top margin of the drawing area, the Edit bar lets you quickly access the main functions used to modify the drawing with just one click on the icon. The buttons are contextually enabled when the conditions for the use of the tool are met, like number and type of selected items. 

Geometric Transformations:

  • Move 
  • Duplicate 
  • Multiply / Distribute items along a line 
  • Multiply / Distribute items on a circular arc 
  • Rotate 
  • Angle of Rotation 
  • Mirror 
  • Mirror & Duplicate 
  • Stretch 
  • Scale drawing 

Object Editing

  • Find the intersections between two items 
  • Intersect two lines 
  • Extend one or more lines 
  • Split 
  • Trim 
  • Divide into parts 
  • Break 

Composite Tools

  • Fillet two lines with an arc 
  • Chamfer two lines with a straight segment 
  • Offset, to create concentric copies of the clicked objects at a given distance 
  • Extrude, to create a copy of the selected objects with projection lines 
  • Explode, to convert the selected items into their base components 
  • Convert to Poly-line 
  • Apply Hatch 
  • Calculate Area 
  • Find Center of Mass 
  • Fit Text box 

Properties Bar

The Properties bar is located at the top of the main window, just above the horizontal ruler and below the Edit Bar. You can use it to quickly set the graphical properties of the drawing items and change those of the selected one. 

From left to right: Layer; Pen color; Fill color, gradient and transparency; Line-type; Start and end markers; Pen weight; Settings Window button (active when compatible items are selected); Copy and Paste Properties buttons.

Input Bar

Placed on the bottom of the drawing area the Input Bar provides all the controls to set the drawing constraints, geometric conditions and input of coordinates, lengths and angles.

From left to right: 

  • The menu to activate the snap options. 
  • The buttons to set the parallel, orthogonal and intersection constraints. 
  • The menu to change the drawing units and the drawing scale of the current sheet. 
  • Input fields: X, Y coordinates, length and angle. When drawing an item, the coordinates change from absolute to relative coordinates dX and dY. You can switch between absolute and relative coordinates by clicking the X and Y icons. 
  • The utility buttons and menus, to set the zoom level and the display mode of pen weights. 

NOTE: Depending on the available screen size, the appearance and contents of the Input bar can change. At smaller resolutions, the Snaps menu includes the constraint functions, and the zoom menu includes the Zoom to Fit, Zoom In, Zoom Out and Zoom Previous commands. The input fields are always visible. 

Side Bar and Utility Panels 

HighDesign sidebar and utility panels

The Side bar is an area located on the right of the drawing area that provides important functions designed to help the user to organize and manage the project: these functions are easily accessible through panes arranged in the side bar. In HighDesign SE and Pro the panes of the Side bar can also be displayed as floating windows.

Customize the Side Bar  (Pro)

In HighDesign Pro the Side bar can be customized by using the commands on the Window menu:

  • Minimize Side Bar
  • Panels:
  • Show as Floating Windows;
  • Show in Side Bar;
  • Restore Defaults;
  • List of all available panels or floating windows.
  • Panes can be dragged by the titles to change their position within the Side bar. If you drag them outside the side bar they change into floating palettes. By right clicking on the titles of the panes a contextual menu with the customization options shows up.
  • To add more panes to the Side Bar just drag the floating windows onto the side bar.
  • The button on the right corner above the Side bar allows to minimize the bar: with this option the bar is collapsed as a dock on the right margin of the main window. Click on the titles to expand the corresponding panes.

Panes of the Side Bar and Utility panels

By default in HighDesign Pro the panes displayed in the Side Bar are Project Browser, Project Views, Object Info and Project Styles and Types. With other editions of HighDesign the configuration of the Side Bar is different. 

Project Browser

The Project Browser pane lists all the project sheets: drafting sheets, detail sheets and layouts.

Use this pane to manage and organize sheets and to browse the different components of the project. This pane is not available in HighDesign LT.

Project Views  (Pro)

The Views pane shows a list of all the saved project views (available in HighDesign Pro only). 


The Layers pane shows the layers used in the project and provides the functions to manage them. 

Object Info

The Object Info pane allows to view and edit coordinates and geometric parameters of the selection. It also allows the setup of the current sheet and to add information. 

Graphic Attributes

This pane provides in one handy array the graphic features of project elements, including stroke and fill attributes: it also provides the Shadow section for a complete setup of the shadow property of elements.


The Overview utility pane displays a real-time 2x magnification of the sector of the current pointer location on the drawing area; if the mouse pointer enters the thumbnail, an overview of the entire drawing is displayed and it is possible to centre the view of the project with a click. 


This pane provides all the snap options and the main drawing constraints. 


The Arrange panel displays the buttons for all the Arrange Order, Align and Distribute objects commands.

Project Styles and Types  (Pro)

In HighDesign Pro use this pane to view, browse and manage graphic styles and element types of the current project.

Photogrammetry Preview  (Pro)

This is a live preview of the projection of the current photogrammetry (Pro only).


Placed on the left and top of the main window, rulers help drawing and placing objects in a layout with accuracy. Rulers show the current position of the pointer and the bounds of the selected objects and are dynamically linked to the current measurement unit, drawing scale and zoom factor. 

  • The button located on the top-right hand corner between the two rulers lets you place the new origin: click it, move the orthogonal guides appearing on screen and click to set the new location. 
  • On the right end of the top horizontal ruler, a button opens a pop-up menu which lets you select a new measurement unit or open the “Units” pane of the Preferences window. 
  • You can add a horizontal or vertical guide by clicking on a ruler and dragging the pointer on the drawing area. 

Tool Settings Windows

Dimension properties window

Some project tools have more specific options and properties that require an additional window for their complete setup. 

The Settings window can be a multi-panel window and provides access to all the controls to set the graphic and numeric options of the current drawing tool. 

To open this window, double click on one of the drawing tools that show the three dots near the tool icon: the window will display the corresponding tool settings window.  

Radial Menu

Radial menu

The Radial Menu in HighDesign opens as a visual array of commands. These commands are contextual, in that they are only active when appropriate for the current drawing and selection. The icons are arranged in sections: 

  • “Organize” options;
  • “Tools” commands;
  • “Edit Lines” commands; • “Drawing” commands;
  • “View” options;
  • “Edit” commands.  

This menu does not provide additional commands: it is a different and more effective way to provide the user with all the most common editing, transformation and organizing commands and options accessible in the drawing area exactly where you do a click. 

To activate the radial menu, right-click or Control+click on the drawing area. 

Application Preferences

The Preferences window allows to set the global options and settings of the application itself, and personal preferences of the user. 

This dialog is used to set the application preferences to customize the work environment, interface theme and usage options. 

  • On macOS, you can open this dialog by choosing the “Preferences…” item of the “HighDesign” menu. 
  • On Windows, it is available at Edit ▸ Options.

The Preferences window provides three panes: General, Workspace, and Drawing. The Professional Edition adds two additional panes, Shortcuts for setting and editing the keyboard shortcuts, and Templates to save and organize custom project templates. 


This is the first pane you see when you open HighDesign Preferences: it consists of four sections displaying the options about general use, file safety, undoable actions and support folder. 

HighDesign preferences, General panel

The sections of the General pane are: 

  • Choose the user’s language; 
  • Set the option to open the most recent document when the application starts up; 
  • Choose to check for new updates at application launch. Automatic checking only occurs at application launch and no more than once in 12 hours. If there is no Internet connection available or there are no new updates, the function is dismissed with no message. 
File Safety
  • Set and adjust the automatic save options; 
  • Check the option to automatically save a backup copy of the previous version of the document. This feature provides the option to select the location of the Backups Folder and to set the maximum number of backup files stored as .zip archives in the Backups folder. In HighDesign for the Mac App Store it is not possible to select the Backups folder.
  • Include symbols in saved documents. By default, the symbols you insert in a project are linked to the original symbol files saved in the Support folder on the user’s disk. By selecting this option, the symbols used in the project are saved inside the document, making it independent of the disk. With this option, the file size can increase depending on the number of symbols used in the project. 
  • Activate the option to send automatic feedback reports to Ilexsoft. When this option is enabled and the application encounters an error, it will send an anonymous report to Ilexsoft about the kind of error and the current environment. No personal data will be sent. 
  • Change the maximum number of undoable actions, up to 300 actions; 
  • Activate the automatic undo reset with each save action (excluding the automatic save). 
Support Folder
  • The location of the Support folder that contains custom resources like symbols, hatches, styles, etc. Not available in HighDesign for the Mac App Store. 


HighDesign Preferences, Workspace panel

This pane lets you customize your HighDesign work environment. You can:  

  • Switch the interface theme between dark, light and by system (macOS 10.14 Mojave only); 
  • Activate the full size crosshair cursor; 
  • Play sounds during drawing sessions; 
  • Choose not to display help messages; 
  • Use a classic contextual menu instead of the radial menu; 
  • Set the zoom speed when using the scroll wheel and invert the scroll wheel direction; 
  • Enable auto-scrolling on the main window. When this option is on, the drawing scrolls automatically when, during a construction or editing operation, the cursor is inside the main canvas near the margins of the main drawing area; 
  • Use the arrow keys to scroll the page and Shift-Arrow for nudging objects; 
  • Activate the long click to pan the drawing; to use the long click, press and hold the mouse or pad button. 
  • Refresh view during scrolling: when this option is not selected the speed of panning and scrolling can improve with large and complex projects.
  • Set the position of the View controls: choose to show the controls in the main toolbar or grouped in a dock on the margins of the drawing area.
  • Update default settings for a tool when editing a selected object. E.g. editing the text font of a selected dimension will set the new font as default for all new dimensions. 
  • Set the default behavior of clicks with the Arrow tool. When this option is active, clicking an object selects it and deselects any previously selected object; when inactive, clicking an object adds it to the current selection.


This pane lets you change the options for drawing mode and drawing tools:  

  • Drawing mode, which lets you set the way items are drawn on screen. “Click-Drag” is the classic Macintosh method of click, hold and release; “Click-Click” is the standard CAD method of click, release, move, click. 
  • Snap tolerance range, in pixels; 
  • Show/Hide on-screen help tips on snap status; 
  • Show/Hide on-screen info about angle and length of the current vector; 
  • Choose the pen weight display mode from “Hairline” (constant weight), “Bitmap Weight” and “Print Weight”; 
  • End Caps option – butt, round or square; 
  • Line Join option – mitre, round or bevel;
  • Disable zooming of pen weights when zooming in;
  • Show/Hide the axes of the current coordinate system;
  • Mask the area outside the current page; 
  • Freehand lines smoothing. 

Shortcuts (Pro) 

HighDesign Preferences, Shortcuts

Use this pane to assign key commands and customize the shortcuts. It is possible to change shortcuts for almost all commands of HighDesign menus: File; Edit; Drawing; Tools; Organize; Window; Drawing Tools. 

To change a shortcut, select one or more check-boxes corresponding to Shift, Option and Control keys, double-click the field on the right and push the new key. 

Templates (Pro) 

HighDesign Preferences, Templates

The Templates pane of Preferences allows you to select a template from those already provided in the HighDesign Library to be opened as default each time you launch HighDesign (architecture and engineering templates according with the imperial and metric drawing standards, available in two sheet sizes). You can also save the current drawing, including used layers, sheet size, units and line-types as a new personal template in the User Library. 

Resetting all Preferences

When you want to reset all the preferences to the default values, launch HighDesign while holding down the Command (cmd) and Shift keys on the keyboard. 

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