Program options - User Interface

User Interface tab of the Program options dialog


You should generally select Learning mode while you gain experience with DesignBuilder. In Learning mode, the Info panel is shown to the right of the main screen, providing additional information and commonly used tools relevant to each screen. Model data is accessed from tabs along the top of  the screen.


With Learning mode switched off, the Info window is not shown and Model data is shown on the right of the screen alongside the Model edit screen.  This allows you to see the effects of updates to data as they are made.

See the New Project and Learning Mode Tutorial

Help system

Select one of:



Use Slider controls

Some significant data items are (by default) controlled using a 'slider' which allows rapid selection of typical values.  If however you need to enter precise values (for example when modelling an existing building) or if you need to enter values outside the slider range you may prefer to type this data in a text box.  In this case uncheck the 'Use slider controls' data. Common reasons for this are to enter Computer gain densities for IT suites or dealing rooms.

Note: when using DesignBuilder with IP units, slider controls are always switched off regardless of this setting.

Sort lists

By default DesignBuilder automatically sorts navigator and other data lists alphabetically. This can make it easier to find the data you are looking for but also increases the time taken to generate lists and so slows some program operations requiring lists to be generated. You can request unsorted lists by unchecking this option.

Line smoothing in the display

DesignBuilder can optionally smooth lines in the Edit screen to provide a crisp clear view of axes, North arrow, construction lines etc without 'jaggies'. Note that this option does not affect the surfaces of the model itself.


On some less powerful computer displays, some line types in the model edit screen can be hard to see with this option selected. You should ensure that this option is unchecked if you have this problem on your computer. The default setting is off.


If you have a good quality graphics card you may prefer to leave this option unchecked and switch on hardware antialiasing on the control panel provided by the software that comes with the graphics card. This will improve image quality without the need to change DesignBuilder settings.

Automatically refresh site navigator lists

By default DesignBuilder automatically refreshes the contents of the site navigator list on the left of the screen as the building is modified so it is in synch with the model. However, when working on large models, frequent rebuilding of the navigator list can slow progress especially when drawing partitions or renaming zones. You can uncheck this option to avoid this problem.

Warning: You should be careful when using this option as the Navigator list can quickly become out of date when you are editing a model. You should be especially wary of clicking on objects in the Navigator which no longer exist in the model as this can cause DesignBuilder to crash. For this reason we can only recommend unchecking this option for advanced and "careful" users!

You can manually refresh the navigator lists by clicking on the refresh list icon above the Navigator panel (below).


Double click to navigate site hierarchy

By default you can navigate to an object in the site hierarchy (building, block, zone etc) by single-clicking in the Navigator. You can change this behaviour by checking the Double click to navigate site hierarchy program option. In this case you must double-click to go to objects in the Navigator and a single click highlights the object in the Edit view (if you are already at the level above). For example if you are at block level and you single click on one of the zones in the block the zone is highlighted in red in the Edit view.

Tip: Enabling this option can be useful for identifying blocks, zones, surfaces by single-clicking in the Navigator. It can also save time when renaming many zones at once from block level as it becomes possible to click on the zone Navigator entries to rename them without navigating down to each zone and then having to navigate back up again to block level to rename the next zone.

Show 'Load data from template' dialog when template selected

When you select a new template by clicking on the browse button in the Model data, by default the data in the template is loaded directly to the current object.  However if this option the 'Load data from template' dialog is opened giving you the opportunity to select various options and load other templates. This option is switched off by default.

Show model data departures from template in bold

Select this option to show any differences in model data relative to the selected template in bold. This option is switched on by default.

Default surface normal view

When working at surface level it can be useful to get a normal view of the surface by clicking on the Normal button in the top right of the screen. By default this will show a normal view of the surface as viewed from outside. You can use the Default surface normal view program option to instead view from the inside.

Maximum characters shown in data display lists

You can control the number of characters displayed in data lists on the right hand panel. This provides a workaround to a problem with the list component used in DesignBuilder which always scroll to the right when an item with a long name is selected. This scrolling can be inconvenient so we have implemented the option to control the amount of text displayed. By default this is set to 35 characters but you can use a larger value if you prefer.


Show tooltips in Model data

With small window sizes or when Learning mode is switched off there is not always enough space to display the caption for each Model data item so DesignBuilder provides the option for tooltips to appear when the mouse hovers over a truncated caption. See screenshot below.


Show attribute names in tooltips

When the Show tooltips in Model data option in active you can choose to display the names of model attributes in tooltips that appear over user interface items. These can be useful when writing EMS, CS-Script and Python scripts. For a full list see: Model Attributes.

Colour scheme

You can control most of the colours used in the DesignBuilder user interface by selecting from a list of pre-defined Colour schemes. The screenshots below show how the 3 Colour schemes provided with DesignBuilder look when loaded.


Classic (Default scheme)


Architectural light



Tip: To further customise the appearance, you can create your own Colour scheme and select that. When creating your own Colour scheme, it is best to start by copying one of the existing schemes and editing the copy.