Visual Controls Documentation

This document serves to document the basic features of Visual Controls software to help users become familiar with the basic features of Visual Controls.

Getting Started

Other Topics


Creating a Project

When Visual Controls opens the initial screen is the start page. From the start page you can start a new project from a template, open a folder, or open a recent project. The start page also displays recent blog post and product post to keep you informed about Visual Controls and Acuity Controls products.

Just click the Blank Project template to begin your first project.


By default Visual Controls has one template. A template is basically just a default project. So templates can be used to standardize project information within an office. A template can save design names, products, print pages and even layer states.

Any project file can be turned into a template. To create a template make the modifications to the file you want, then go to the File backstage, select Save As and check the 'Save as a project template' option. Name your template and click save.

You can select the default template by clicking the heart icon next to the template file name in the template list.


The fastest way to move around your design is to use the mouse. Visual Controls requires a 3 button mouse. Use your mouse wheel to zoom in and out. Press down on the mouse wheel and drag to pan the camera. You may also pan by holding control + right click while dragging.

Double clicking the center mouse in the design environment will perform a zoom all.



Visual Controls can import several types of files. In general imported files are used as a reference files, eg a background pdf of the building and then you place your products on top of the reference image.



You can import a single page from a pdf or all pages of a pdf. Currently we cannot select only a few pages from PDF booklet. You can import a PDF one of 3 ways.

PDF format can support vector or raster files. Visual Controls converts either type to a large raster image so that it can be placed in your layout.

You can scale a PDF using the scale drop down in the top right of the import dialog or using the scale commands on the Modify ribbon. It is also possible to crop an imported PDF/Image using the crop command on the Modify ribbon.

By default an imported PDF is placed on its own layer. You may choose to lock this layer to prevent accidentally editing the PDF. You can also turn on selection filters and disable selection of background images to prevent picking the background.

Multiple Pages

If you select multiple pages from the import dialog each page of the PDF will be placed into a new design. The naming convention for these new designs is configurable in settings.



You can import DWG files into your project to be used as backgrounds. The layers of DWG file are maintained in the design's layer manager.

Some DWG files can have a huge amount of entities which may slow down Visual Controls. If you right click in the layer manager you can turn on an option to show entity counts. This option may be used to find layers that have a lot of entities to turn off to speed up Visual Controls while you work, eg 100k entities on a window mullion layer.

Visual Lighting

its possible to bring in information from a Visual Lighting file. Lighting imports bring in information a lot like DWG import with the additional ability to import luminaires.

Visual Controls

Its possible to import other Visual Controls projects into your project. The following project information cab be imported.

Typical use case is to merge files for a large project designed by multiple users or to import office standard resources from another file.


Adding Products


The products tab allows you is where you can search for products, view products in your project, and view favorite products.

Quick Search

you can enter a partial catalog to start searching for a product. Eg results will start showing up once you type 'npp' into the search box.

The search will automatically search within your project, in the database, and in your favorites. Just click a search result item to place it.

Advanced Search


click the icon to the right of search to open the advanced search dialog. Here you can browse for products and even multi select products to add to your project.

Product Sections

The product ab is sorted into 3 sections to make it easier to navigate

Project Section

This sections shows products that have been placed in your project in the following format

Label : Catalog (Project Quantity)

Click a product to start placing it again.

If you place products using advanced search or have canceled out of a place from quick search you may have entries for products that are not in your project. These can be clicked to begin placing them. You can also right click to remove only this type of product from the project section.

Luminaires Section

Here you can select default luminaires shapes. Just click a listing to add to your project.


You can build a list of favorites or import favorites. Favorites allow you to customize products, or store products for working offline.


You can also enable display of favorites hot keys in settings. This allows you to use the number pad on your keyboard to type in the id of product to place it. To do this you would hit the * key on the number pad, then the id of the product and then enter like *,6,Enter.


Place Command

Clicking any catalog from the products tab automatically starts the place command. Simply left click on the layout to indicate product locations.

While the place command is active, its command properties are display on the right. These properties include...

You will keep placing the selected product until you exit the command by hitting escape, right clicking, or starting another command.


Product Label

There are three product label styles available in Visual Controls. You can change the setting for your entire project in the View Ribbon using the Labels command.

StyleWhat's Displayed
LabelJust the Label which can be edited in schedule
Product Namelonger nomenclature string that is part of the symbol
Label + CatalogLabel and Catalog

The current default is to use Product Name. Many users prefer this style because the product identification is consistent between projects.


Product Color

You can change the product color for all instances of the product in the Schedule.


Connecting Products

Making connections between products is an important part of your controls design. You can make connections that are represented by a wire, or by an arrow and tag. In order to generate riser diagrams you need to indicate connections in your project.

Like other commands in Visual Controls, you can pre select before starting the connect command, or start the command and then select.

In general, when making connections order matters. You should typically not make connections via a window pre select as the connections and related line work will be in an undesirable order.


Connect Command

If you start the connect command then begin selection, you have more control over how connection wires are drawn. You can see a preview of the wire as you move your mouse between selections. Clicking once in between products allows you to force the connection arc in that direction. If you click more than once, you can force the wire to travel more complicated paths.

After a connection is made, it will stay with the product block when the block is moved. Connections should automatically delete or heal when products are deleted.

Sometimes you may get a message saying that a connection cannot be made. This may happen if a product already has a parent and child connection and cannot make another, or if your connection would make a loop. If you think the connection can be made, try it again reversing your selection order.


Editing Wires

If you don’t like quite where a wire is after it’s created, you can click and drag the wire to edit it. While the wires typically take on an Arc appearance, they are actually splines, usually with two control points. When you drag to edit, you move the control point nearest where you began your drag.

If you are really struggling with an edit, you can delete the connection and remake it using forcing points between products to adjust the bend.

If you have overlapping lines, you can add a line break using the line break command from the connect drop down. Just select the line to add a break, then indicate where.


Bridge Connections


Bridge connections create a text tag with a leader instead of a line going all the way to the bridge. To make a bridge connection, you select a network device from the drop down, then select the products that will connect to it. You can also select the product or products first, then select the bridge. If you can only add as many bridge runs as there are ports available.

The bridge tag either says “BR” + port number indicated as P1, or, if you have supplied a tag for the bridge instance you are selecting, the bridge tag will be “[tag] P1”. Tagging bridge inserts is a good practice to get into. Tags are also displayed in the bridge connection dropdown list to help you identify specific bridges.

After a bridge tag is placed, you can move the location of the tag using the move command. The leader line will automatically update to the new location.

You can delete a bridge run connection by deleting either the text or leader. Bridge runs are automatically placed on a separate layer from normal cat5 connections.


Cross Design Connections

It is possible to connect products between designs if your project has more than 1 design. Select the product in 1 design, then select the cross designer connect command. Then change designs, and select a product to connect to in that design. If you are connecting across design to a bridge, you should just select the bridge from the connect drop down.


Other Wire Types

Before you select a product it is possible to change the wire type created during the connect command by editing the wire type in the command properties.

Smart Connect

The smart connect command allows you to just pick the products and let Visual Controls pick the wire type between products. If multiple wire types could work you will be prompted to specify the wire type. You can choose to save your selection to be remembered going forward. You can edit your saved smart connect rules in the settings dialog.

Auto Connect

Auto connect allows you to make window selections of products, eg a room full of luminaires, and then it will attempt to make a common sense path between the products.



Your project schedule can be viewed by selecting the schedule from the project explorer sidebar. The schedule allows you to view and edit the controls defined in your project. You can filter what types of products you’d like to see, or from what design. You can also change the sorting from by product to by room or by zone.

You can edit a products label, catalog, or description by double clicking into the cell. You can use shift enter like excel to add a line break within a cell

You can delete all instances of a product type by selecting the product row and clicking the delete button.

You can duplicate a definition by selecting a row and hitting copy. This will make a new definition that is not linked to any existing product inserts in your project.

Exporting To Agile

Using the schedule Export command you can create the XML files required for AGILE. By default the AGILE export will include your whole project as well is any notes you have entered in the schedule notes. The AGILE export will use the same grouping and column sorting as the schedule.

You can use Phase boundaries in your designs and then group by Phase to group portions of your bill of materials by Phase.


Editing a symbol

If you select a row you can quickly recolor a block using the symbol color and symbol fill ribbon buttons. Double clicking, or clicking the pencil icon when you hover a product symbol allows you to open the symbol designer. This works for both the layout symbol and riser symbol. In the symbol designer you can draw, edit, erase and import line work to customize blocks.


Editing connection rules (Advanced)

You can edit the connectivity properties of a single product by selecting a row, then click the Connection Rules button. Typically, you should use the default settings and not change the allowed number of children. Once a product can have 1 child, it can also have 1 parent (except for system controllers which must be top level). If a product has two ports, it is typically set to allow 1 child control. Similarly, bridges that have 8 ports, are set to allow 7 children. You can use the Update Info command to reset the rules back to the defaults based on the product catalog.


Adding a favorite

You can add a favorite in the schedule. Simply select the row of the product you wish to add as a favorite and use the Add Favorite button to add the product to one of your favorite lists.


Updating a Product

If you select a product row(s) you can then use the Update Info command. This will attempt to refresh the product information from the database and can include updating the description, symbols, spec sheet, and connection rules. This command requires that we can match the product catalogs exactly with a catalog in the database. So if you have replaced XX with WH for a switch plate color we may not be able to find a match. Another example is if the product order tree changed and it now contains EFP.


SOO Table


The Sequence of Operations designer allows you to fill out a matrix of space types (rows) and behaviors (columns).

You can hide individual columns or column groups by right clicking the headers.

SOO rows can be saved as part of template files. Simply start a blank file, edit the SOO grid to match space types that show up in your region/code set, save your SOO changes, then save your project as template (described in 8 Project Templates) and any files created with that template will start with those saved SOO space types.

The SOO matrix can be placed onto print pages in the print page designer. If you create a submittal, the SOO notes and table can be included as part of the submittal PDF.

You can automatically generate SOO for your project using the Generate button. There are 3 Generate options available. In addition to generating the SOO types, the generate commands automatically assign SOO types to your project rooms.

SOO GenerationHow it worksResults
By CapabilitiesCreates SOO purely based on product propertiesfewest SOO types created
By NameCreates SOO based on rooms with same root word and product properties, eg private officeGreat! (if room names contain function)
By Room1:1 With room nameslots of SOO types

If after the Generate command runs you have a few rows that have the same abilities but different names. You can use the Merge Rows command to combine the rows and reassign the linked rooms.

SOO Generation is based on data stored in our database about the products. You cannot edit the SOO product data or add it to custom products or products that cannot be synced.


SOO Assignment

The SOO Assignment designer allows you to see all your project rooms in a grid as well as their assigned SOO. If you click a room a preview of the room loads on the right. If you click the preview you will be taken to that room's design.

This view can be used to step through your project room by room to perform quality assurance checks and to verify SOO compliance.


Print Pages


Print pages are organized into three sub folders based on common practices.



Every time you create a new design, and new linked print page is automatically added in the Designs folder. This link basically just preselects the design from the design drop down in the ribbon for you. The default template places a view on the left and a legend on the right. You can edit the default drawing page layout and save it as a new template if you want to change the layout.

If you right click a design page in the project explorer you can select the 'Use as template' command which will automatically update/add all design pages to match the format of the selected page.


You can manually create riser pages by placing risers on pages using the riser command. However, the auto riser command (wand button next to risers folder) makes laying out all the risers pages much simpler. Simply click the auto riser wand and all the pages will be created necessary to places all the risers in your project. Pages created with the auto riser wand will get a locked icon by default. This means that if you run the auto riser command again we will automatically remove/add/update these pages as needed. You can choose to unlock a page, or all pages with a right click on the page in the project explorer.



Submittal generation is accessed from the File backstage. Click File, then select the submittal tab. Here you can create a combined PDF of entire project.

The first column indicates the main sections of your submittal. Click a section to edit its pages. You can add or remove a page by unchecking it. You can drag and drop to reorder the pages. Some sections will allow you to make further changes when they are selected eg selecting the PDF file of an externally generated bill of materials.

If you right click a pages column you can check/uncheck all sections. You can also insert an external pdf.


Smart Room


The Smart Room command allows you to tell Visual Controls about the space you want to add and then pick a control solution. Then you are prompted to draw the room outline. After that you are prompted to place the products needed to satisfy your requirements. Simply select the Smart Room command from the Room Commands to begin and we will guide you the rest of the way!


Display Tab


Display modes allow you to analyze different aspects of your project to support the accuracy of the design.

Display ModeEmphasis
LayersLayer settings
RoomsAdds Room fill
SOO AssignmentAdds color coded Room fill based on SOO
Bridge ConnectionsProducts color coded by their associated bridge connection
Product CategoriesProducts color coded by type, eg Button Station or Occ Sensor
nLight AirDisplays rooms' nECYD assignment



The layer manager is used to control the behavior of objects in your design based on their layer associations. By default, Solutions Designer will place different types of objects on different system layers.

If you import a pdf or image, it will be imported to its own layer within the system layers. If you import a DWG, all of its layers will be shown in its own layer group.

You can lock a layer by clicking the pencil icon, click it again to hide the layer. You can set the layer a color, or set it to color by entity by selecting the color icon. Settings made on layer groups cascade to all child layers.

You can create your own layers. Use the add button to create a new layer. The new layer will be made active as indicated with a green dot to the left of the layer name. When a layer is active, all entities you create will be placed on the active layer. To change what layer is active double click the layer name. If you make any system layer active the top level ‘System Layers’ will highlight as active and created entities will be placed automatically on to their system layer.

To rename a user layer, click its label twice, or select it and right click ‘rename’. If you delete a layer, it will delete the layer, any child layers below it, and all associated objects.

You can change what layer an entity is on by selecting it, then changing its layer in properties.

User layers allow you to change the color of entities, for example, place all switch on one layer that is green, or all emergency products on a layer that is red.


Audit Tab

The audit tab is displayed in the right tab set on the layout designer. Audit tab will display a list of warnings about your design that updates regularly as you work on your design. You can also manually trigger audit refreshes using the update button.

Audits are there to catch common mistakes as well as to warn you if certain product interoperability rules. Audits are there to help you, however, just because a file has no audit warnings does not mean it is a perfectly designed system.

Below are audits currently supported in Visual Controls (subject to change)

You can click a warning to automatically navigate to the related products.

Bus Power

The calculation looks for devices that add power (npp, nps, npanel) to the bus, then looks up and down the connection structure subtracting bus power for each power consumer, typically 3ma. Typically, the resolution for low bus power is either to add a power pack to the middle or the end of the run. While bridges do contribute some bus power, as a ‘best practice’ their contribution is not considered in the audit calculation. nLight enabled luminaires can contribute 6ma dynamically. However, our initial bus power audit counts their contribution as 3ma up and 3ma down.



Visual Controls DocumentationGetting StartedOther TopicsCreating a ProjectTemplatesMouseImportingPDF/ImageMultiple PagesDWG/DXFVisual LightingVisual ControlsAdding ProductsQuick SearchAdvanced SearchProduct SectionsProject SectionLuminaires SectionFavoritesPlace CommandProduct LabelProduct ColorConnecting ProductsConnect CommandEditing WiresBridge ConnectionsCross Design ConnectionsOther Wire TypesSmart ConnectAuto ConnectScheduleExporting To AgileEditing a symbolEditing connection rules (Advanced)Adding a favoriteUpdating a Product SOO TableSOO AssignmentPrint PagesDesignsRisersSubmittalSmart RoomDisplay TabLayersAudit TabBus Power