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VisualAnalysis 12.0 Help

Preference Settings

VisualAnalysis preference settings are default-settings stored within a MACHINE and primarily affect the behavior of new projects. These are not project-specific settings (those are found within the Project Manager). Changes you make here will not affect other machines that you use to run VisualAnalysis, they are stored in the system registry. You may access these settings through Edit | Preferences.

Behavior Preferences: Analysis, Project, Data, Desktop, Files, Reports
Appearance Preferences: Default Colors, Name Colors, Fonts, Filters, Sizes, Graphics
Design Preferences: Defaults, Steel & Composite Beam, Concrete, Wood


Analysis Options are normally set before an analysis using the Analyze | Advanced Analysis Options box. These settings default the values for new projects. See Analyze for more details.

Static Analysis: You can analyze for first-order, second-order or both. There is rarely a need to do both, but you have the power.

Dynamic Modal Analysis: VisualAnalysis can automatically calculate mode shapes every time you do a static analysis.

Shear Deformations:[requires the advanced level] Normally shear deformations in member elements are insignificant, and most engineers do not understand the setup well enough that we have disabled them by default. To enable them, you must check this box and then use "Custom Blobs" with shear areas or define shear areas in custom database shapes.


These preferences are for NEW projects, they do not affect the current project! Use the settings in Project Manager for that.

New in version 10.0You may select which type(s) of Service Load Cases to generate when you start a new project. The default is "ASCE 7", but you may choose from "AASHTO", "Simple", or "All".

Generate Skewed Wind Combinations: The ASCE 7 wind load provisions are slightly insane. Should you decide to rebel, here is your opportunity, but we did not tell you to ignore the code provisions.

Vertical Axis: Specify which direction you normally use for "Up". VisualAnalysis defaults to (and generally works most easily with) +Y, but supports +Z or +X. CAD programs and Revit use +Z and if you exchange data frequently you can set VisualAnalysis accordingly. This setting will affect the orientation of members, which align themselves to the Y axis.

North Axis: This setting is displayed on "the cube" in the graphics, but otherwise has very little impact in the software.


Set the default properties for nodes, members, springs, and plates. These settings apply to the first objects you create in a new project or immediately after restarting VisualAnalysis. Once you edit an object, your changes become the new default, unless you have checked the box to always use default values.



Startup Project: select which type of project to create when VisualAnalysis starts. (We recommend Space Frames!) Alternately you can have the program try to load the project you were last working with.

Warnings: You can turn on specific warnings if you like, they are off by default.

When drawing members that would cross other members or cause them to split, you may wish to be prompted whether to split or combine the members. The default is no message, and you can always split combined members manually.

Some people prefer printing in Landscape mode vs. Portrait mode, you can set that default here. This will affect both graphic printing and Report Views. This requires a restart before it takes effect.

Keyboard hot keys, shortcuts, or accelerators are used as an alternate way to access menu commands. You may customize the keystrokes used for commands, or add hot keys for commands that do not have them.

Restore All Defaults. Pressing this button will restore VisualAnalysis preference settings to the values we ship with the program. Some will not take effect until you exit and restart VisualAnalysis. This command is useful if you are experiencing unusual behavior.


Timed Backup Files

Control the automatic saving of project files at specified intervals. VisualAnalysis offers some disaster prevention by automatically saving your work periodically. These files always go in the TEMP folder defined by Windows. (Please consult the Windows documentation for the location of this folder on your system.) The file is given the name "Your!" and is overwritten every X minutes, where you specify the timing.

The timed backup file is deleted when you successfully close a project. If the software or the system crashes, the timed backup file is not deleted and is recognized when you restart VisualAnalysis. You will be prompted to open the file or delete it.

Project History Files

VisualAnalysis will create one or more copies of your project file each time you open the project. You set the limit on the number of history files to retain, from 1 to 10. Once this limit is reached, older files are deleted. History files are stored in a folder of your choosing, or the TEMP folder by default. The files are given names like "Your Project Version 1.vap". This feature may let you get back to a previous version of your project in the event of file corruption, or undesirable changes that have been saved.

This history feature is also used on customizable report style files, to help prevent losses to customized reports.

Open and Save Options

You can choose to never save analysis results (the default setting) or to limit file sizes when results are saved. Files can grow very large with result information included and for most projects and situations it is not necessary to save results because analysis and design checks are very fast.

You can also choose to ignore saved window layouts and filter settings for projects. This option is useful if you share files between radically different machines such as a multi-monitor desktop and a low resolution laptop. You can also deal with this one file at a time by chosing to ignore window layout by opening projects with File | Open and setting the option for a single file.

Data Files Folder

This hyperlink shows the path to your customizable data files, and allows you to open the folder to manage these files. This is useful for copying files to another machine or backing them up should you wish to preserve your changes. You may safely delete these files if you wish to restore their default values--exit and restart VisualAnalysis then.


Changes things like headers and footers in reports, report margins and report related options. Many of the options are pretty self-explanatory but a few require a little clarification. Note that to edit any of the numerical values in this window, click on the number once to select it, then click on it again to actually edit the value.

Warn if Reports >= N pages: If a report is greater than "N" pages, you will get a warning and a chance to cancel the generation. With large models it is easy to create gigantic reports. For best results with larger models, create custom report styles that filter the data so that reports stay managable.

Member Output Sections: This value controls the number of member sections at which results are reported. Note that this does NOT increase the number of sections that are analyzed. VisualAnalysis simply linearly interpolates between analyzed points to obtain the additional values. To increase the number of sections per member that are analyzed go to Analyze | Performance vs. Accuracy. With some member result reports, you will NOT necessarily see the actual extreme values, setting this number higher will give you better results in the report at the cost of longer reports. If you are looking for extremes, find the RIGHT table to include!

Default Colors

Change the colors of objects in Graphic Views. Every visible object type shown in graphic views have a default color. For example, members are blue by default. If you find these colors difficult to see or just do not like them, you may change them here. Use the 'Selected Wireframe' color to change the highlight color on members, plates, and area objects when they are selected. Click on the name of the item to open a color selection dialog to choose a new color.

Name Colors

Change the colors of named objects in graphic views. If the first letters of a member element's name matches the letters specified here, the object will be given this color rather than the default color. Use this to separate different types of member elements. Using good descriptive names also has other advantages for reporting and filtering. Names are case sensitive. Click on the color box to the right of each name field to change the colors. To make use of Name colors, the Filter tab of Project Manager has an option to show Default, Name, or Material colors (not available when High Quality mode is turned on.)


Change the character size and styles used to display text in graphic views and reports. Click directly on the text to open a font selection dialog. Fonts for menus and dialog boxes are controlled in Windows using the Control Panel, Display Properties item.


Change the default appearance of new windows or for new projects. These are mostly the same filter options found under the Filter tab in Project Manager however these settings only effect windows you create with Window | New Graphic View commands.


Change how objects are drawn in graphic views. If you have a hard time seeing objects in a Model View, you can increase their size (length or thickness) using these controls. Changing the thickness of Member elements may also make them easier to select. If you have large, complicated models, you may want to make objects one unit wide so the display is less cluttered.


In general, the default settings should work for most machines/graphics adapters. The settings here can improve performance, help you work-around legacy system issues, or provide a slightly different behavior, if necessary. These settings only affect new "future" projects, unless noted otherwise.

If you are having issues with your display (or selection) you may need to update your video card driver! Drivers are updated regularly.

Quality: Default is High. There may be performance gains by using a different setting.

Element Detail Level: The default is High detail, which is a Picture View like display. If you prefer the old VA 5.x style model view (line drawings) you can set this to Low. The Project Manager, Filter: High Quality Drawing option is the equivalent way to change this setting in an open window.

Transparency: (Effective immediately in all windows, use the Apply button to see it.) This option controls whether or not plates, areas, rigid diaphragms, and some types of area loads are drawn as transparent (when not selected). When on, you can often get a better sense of a full 3D model, but views can also become more cluttered.

Lighting: (Effective immediately in all windows, use the Apply button to see it.) When enabled, items will appear brighter in the display.

Rubber-Band, Texture Fonts, Hardware Acceleration, Use Anti-Aliased Text. You should use the defaults for these unless all other settings and video card updates fail to give you reasonable graphics or behavior. If you have a really old (or really underpowered laptop) video card, you may need to adjust these settings.

Design General

Unity Success Limit: If you like to push the envelope, you can allow a slightly greater than 1.0 unity limit to be defined as success. (You could use this to hide a 1% overstress in a graphical report you create for clients who don't understand engineering, for example.) This setting will affect the current project, the next time unity checks are made.

Design Search Items: Applies to searching the database for members that meet design criteria, you can reduce this number to improve performance or increase it to find more options. This setting will affect the current project, the next time a "design" command is issued.

Echo Parameters: Change the default for "Design Group Results" reports. This setting will only affect "new" reports, not any existing reports or report styles.

Default to Sidesway Frames: Changes the defaults for column design groups.

Do All Checks: For performance you could uncheck this to get faster checks and shorter reports. But treat this like a 'preliminary' design mode because it is quite possible to miss controlling design checks! This setting will affect the current project, the next time unity checks are performed.

Auto-Groups: VisualAnalysis can guess how you want members grouped based on their materials, lengths, orientations, and more. It doesn't always get things right, especially if you have unusual structures, custom shapes, or work with composite beams. If you don't like the automatic grouping, you may just turn it off by default.

Most preference settings are defaults for NEW projects, not for the current project, change the Project Setting to affect how a specific project behaves, or change Design Group settings to affect groups already set up in a project!

Auto-Stress Checks: (Design level) For custom member shapes or materials, where the built-in design checks do not apply, you may use simple stress & deflection checking to get preliminary checks on members. This feature will automatically generate design groups for members that are not already grouped (or cannot be). If you wish to use stress-checking exclusively you can turn off the Auto-Groups feature and turn this one on.

Auto-Connections: (Design level, requires IES VAConnect) VisualAnalysis will identify potential locations of steel connections and group them according to geometry, shape types, etc. in the Design View. These groups provide the link to IES VAConnect tools for base plate design, shear tab design and more in the future.

Deflection limits: VisualAnalysis can check member deflections with a span ratio or an absolute limit, you can specify the defaults here for any one of four 'deflection categories' as defined in IBC.

Steel & Composite Beam

Composite beam design involves many input parameters. You can define defaults for many of these. Note that these won't affect any existing design groups in a project you have created, but will be used when a new design group is created in any project. These settings are self-explanatory or see the Steel Design reference for more information.


Concrete design involves many input parameters. You can define defaults for many of these. Note that these won't affect any existing design groups in a project you have created, but will be used when a new design group is created in any project. These settings are self-explanatory or see the Concrete Design reference for more information.


Define some default options for new wood design groups. These settings won't affect any existing design groups you have, but will be used when a new design group is created. See Wood Design for explanations of these options.