Intergraph SmartPlant P&ID User Tips and Tricks for Speed

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Intergraph’s SmartPlant P&ID (SPPID), is part of their data-base driven SmartPlant package. It uses a drafting interface, like AutoCAD, but with some big differences. SPPID is both much more powerful than AutoCAD, and much less suited to quickly creating drawings.

Why? SPPID lets you use the P&IDs to populate the underlying SmartPlant project database. The idea is that you can use this database to get reports (like line lists, valve lists, etc.) and also link to other programs (like your SmartPlant 3-D plant layout). Therefore, in creating your P&ID, you’re also creating multiple documents that rely on and flow from it. All these documents will rely on the same database and therefore always be in agreement.

The program takes a while to master, and the database aspect makes the program slower because everything you do has to be communicated back to the database. Investing the extra time to create that datbase does payoff big down the road, but time is always at a premium and we still want to get our drawings out faster. Here are a few tips and tricks I’ve picked up along the way. I’m going to write assuming you know the program already or have at least taken a course with it, and want to swap some tricks.


In the symbol catalog explorer, you have the option to create your own personal toolbars of symbols. Use it, abuse it, it is definitely well worth the time and screen real-estate it takes to make a good toolbar. You can place/anchor/dock the toolbars to any edge of your screen. You can make several toolbars, and make sub-divisions within the toolbars, and I suggest you make several smaller toolbars grouped by theme. Keep all your commonly used symbols handy and only browse symbols for the rare items. Be careful of making toolbars so large they fall off the screen, however.

As a suggestion, here are some things I have on my toolbar:

Equipment toolbar:

  • Nozzles, both with live connections for new lines and “blinded” nozzles. Also special nozzles like “L” shaped nozzles, nozzles for centrigual pump inlets, nozzles “facing” the reader, manways, etc.
  • Nozzle ID label
  • Equipment ID label
  • Insulation graphic
  • Electric motor symbols
  • Insulation purpose breaks (in case parts of equipment are insulated and parts are not)
  • I usually do NOT keep individual equipment symbols or title blocks on the tool bar, because a) there are too many and they’re all unique and b) you usually only place 2-6 pieces of equipment per drawing. It’s rare. Maybe a common item like a pump would deserve a spot on your toolbar

Piping toolbar:

  • Primary and secondary piping, primary and secondary utility lines, flexible hoses and hose connections
  • Common valves: gate, globe, ball, butterfly, check, etc.
  • Common line labels: line number, line “arrow” (for corner turns), symbols for line specification breaks (e.g. when a line changes from carbon steel to stainless steel)
  • Line breaks for “group” (line number), material class, insulation purpose, etc.
  • Reducer/expander and its size label
  • Labels for piping material class, diameter, design temperature and pressure, for “opening action” (aka fail action) of valves
  • Tie points
  • Stream gaps
  • Handy pipe-line ending items like Off Page Connectors (OPCs), flanges, arrows to grade, etc.

Instrumentation toolbar:

  • Common valves: gate, globe, ball, butterfly, check, etc.
  • Actuators I commonly use
  • Common symbols for devices, interlocks, labeling control elements, etc.
  • Common signal lines (connected to process, electric, software, pneumatic, etc.) and a directional arrow for signal lines
  • Instrument OPCs
  • Instrument element labels like diameter
  • Common inline instruments like flow meters and restriction orifices

Miscellaneous toolbar:

  • Note/label symbols of various size and type
  • Typical elements for drawing borders like company symbol, sign-off blocks, etc.

Those seems like a lot, but just think of how much time you’ll save when you have those symbols always at your fingertips. You can build your toolbar step by step. Just start them in a few categories, and as you find yourself using a symbol time and time again, drop it into your toolbar.

If you have trouble identifying which symbol is which you can hover your mouse over the toolbar to see the name. Eventually, as you work with it, you'll come to memorize the identity and location of symbols in your toolbar.

Use labels to input data

Every element in SPPID has so many properties. And sometimes, from some quirk of the program, some of them don’t even show up correctly! Therefore, it can be faster and easier to input properties using their labels. For example, enter instrument tags by clicking their label. Start line numbers by using their label. Etc.

Snap to grid...sometimes

For aesthetics, it helps to keep everything neat and aligned. Use the grid function, and where possible, use snap to grid to help you. Try to use the grid for the majority of items but turn it off when you need fine control.

If you are working on a drawing that was made without the snap grid, usually it's a waste of time to try to impose the grid on it later.

You may wish to change the grid spacing. If you do, write it down and use the same spacing for all drawings.

Draw lines from and to in the correct order

By default, SmartPlant assumes that lines come “from” where you start the line and end going “to” where you stopped drawing the line. You may as well get in the habit of drawing this way; it saves you time flipping the line and also protects you in case you forget to do this.

You also may want to put a flow direction indicator arrow on any new line you draw. This ensures it’s going the right way and also helps lock in the direction.

If you have several lines joining at one spot, place them one at a time

If you have three or more lines converging at one spot, getting the line breaks correct in SPPID can be a nightmare. Try to add the lines and breaks one at a time.

Use move command and align items

Use the “move” command (the yellow four-way arrow) to quickly move and adjust items you’ve placed on your drawing. Mastering this is the key to making neat drawings. Move is usually superior to click-dragging your mouse, because the move command will maintain connections while the mouse drag will break them. Note that by holding shift or control you can grab several items at once and then move them all.

Also, when moving (or placing) items you can hold your mouse over an already-existing items, and then drag away vertically or horizontally from it. A guiding line will extend from the item, helping you drop your symbol in alignment with the other item. Whenever you grab an item or group of items, you can also start your move command from different points, which can lead to different alignment possibilities.

Common spacing

Have rules for how some typical spacing should go. For example, "Off Page Connector flags always start 1 square from the paper’s edge." Perhaps write a few of these down.

Make new equipment symbols parametric if possible: although it is preferable to always have symbols be the same size, making a symbol parametric can be a time-saver, just in case.

Hovering your mouse can help

When placing an item, sometimes if you pause and hover the mouse a few option numbers will pop up. This lets you change the layout of the item as you place it. (For example, which way the reducer/expander symbol or the Off Page Connector faces).

Also, if you have several items stacked up in one spot, hovering your mouse may bring up a pop-up that lets you select which of the items you mean. This is great for getting at buried inconsistency flags and other nuisances.

Save display sets and filters

Save yourself time when you make a good one.

For small fiddly items like nozzles, a display set can you help you get at them quickly.

Use the “select set” when you can

I find it easiest to hold ctrl and then click several items. This automatically lets you select several items in the select set mode. Then you can change a property on multiple items at once.

Note that if you make any duplicate items (for example, you try to label 3 items LCV-100) then the select set method will not let you create duplicates, even though you can do so one item at a time.

Use Engineering Data Editor (EDE) for widespread changes

When you have to change all lines in a drawing, this is faster.

Rotate and mirror functions

You can use the rotate and mirror functions on both single items and groups of items. Selecting and moving whole groups can save a lot of time.

When rotating, you sometimes seem limited to 90° or 45° turns. The solution: hold your mouse further away from the item while rotating it. You'll be able to make finer angle adjustments.

Use Revisions as a “save as” function

Since SPPID is constantly saving, make new SPPID "revisions" whenever you need to as a “save as” function. I suggest doing this before embarking on a major change to a drawing

Learn system editing and replace mode functions

Very useful. Don’t forget to turn off replace mode when you’re done using it, or you’ll be mystified why you cannot place new items.

Copy and paste drawings as a starting point

Where you can, copy and paste a previous drawing as a starting point for your new drawing. I suggest grabbing the whole drawing, and then holding shift or ctrl to de-select certain parts you do not want to copy.

I find that it works better to not copy Off Page Connectors.

Pasting in the new drawing could take awhile. Grab a coffee.

If your office network is slow, have something else to do

SmartPlant P&ID always has to communicate back to the database. In my personal experience, this is variable but noticable. Sometimes this is just a half-second delay and the program moves beautifully. But sometimes it is just slow. Or dreadfully slow. Or so agonizingly slow you wonder why you bothered to come into work today. (Or it crashes. Or the database is down. Or...)

Whenever you can, have some back-up project to work on.


Let us know in the comments if you have any other tips and tricks.

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3 Responses to Intergraph SmartPlant P&ID User Tips and Tricks for Speed

  1. Radu says:

    has anyone had success on placing a date/time label within your p&id? I created a title block label to show last modified date and time it works, but Intergraph created smartplant to refresh that date and time for every time you open the drawing from drawing manager. If anybody has come across this and beat it, please let me know.

    yours truly,

  2. joseph says:

    What to do when you input instrument tag with the same tag# in the other existing P&ID. AS observed, we cannot duplicate an instrument tag#.

    Appreciate your help.

  3. NM says:

    Hi Joseph,

    If you place the same tag in a different P&ID, is the tag different from the previous? Or is it the same tag and repeated again?

    If you place tag number in two PIDs, the tag gets updated and relates to two PIDs.

    However we can have multiple uniqueness criteria and achieve tag uniqueness through them. I will happy to help, let me know what you are looking for.



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