SAP2000 tutorial course for beginners - 1: Introduction

About SAP2000 software

Let's start this course with some information about the software that we're going to learn about. Well, SAP2000 is a structural analysis software, it was created by CSI company which has another structural analysis and design software like ETABS, SAFE, CSI Bridge and many other software used in civil engineering.

Note: There are many versions of CSI SAP2000, every versions fits this course, you can use any one of them.  

Who is the tutorial intended for? 

This course fits civil engineers, and civil engineering undergraduates in 3rd, 4th and fifth year. At the end of this course you'll be able to do structural analysis for beams 


1- Cartesian coordinate system: Coordinate system in SAP consists of two types: Global system, and local system. A- Global coordinate system: The global coordinate system is a three-dimensional, right-handed, rectangular coordinate system. The three axes denoted X, Y, and Z, are mutually perpendicular and satisfy the right-hand rule. B- Local coordinate system: Each part (joint, element, or constraint) of the structural model has its own local co-ordinate system used to define the properties, loads, and response for that part. The axes of the local coordinate systems are denoted 1, 2, and 3. Right Hand Rule: This rule can easily explained by understanding figure 1.

[Fig.1] - Right hand rule

It is important to note that 2 axes must be given to conclude the third axis. Color key for local axis:


Example 1: Figure 2 is an application of right hand rule. Hidden line (z-axis) is the axis to be concluded. Try to solve it by your own.

[Fig.2] - Applications on Right hand rule

2- Units: Before starting your work at SAP, always check your units. Units are shown at down at the right. Drop window allow user to choose the proper units to use [see Fig.3]

[Fig.3] - Units determination before doing anything in SAP

3- Starting a new project: When a user start a new project at SAP the program suggest templates to let user choose one of them [See Fig.4].

[Fig.4] - Start a new project window

Templates as shown can be chosen according to user requirements. In this part, we are interested in Blank option. By default, SAP generates two separate windows to help user with better view.

4- Building a Cartesian grid: Grid system is the guide for user to introduce structural systems. Grids can be either Cartesian, or Cylindrical.

A- Cartesian grid system: to add Cartesian grid system follow these instructions: Right click by mouse ➥ Edit grid data ➥ High light “GLOBAL” ➥ Modify/Show system ➥ now see figure 5.


It is better to change “Display Grids as” from Ordinates to spacing. Spacing is more simple since user do not need to describe point in x-axis (as an example) referring to zero point (ordinates option requires this). Example 2: Define a grid system with 3 bays in x and 3 bays in y where distance is 3 meter uniform in both directions.

[Fig.6] - Step 1 (spacing option)

note that spacing beside Grid 4 in x, D in y is 0. If ordinates option is Used values must be as shown in figure 7.

[Fig.7] - Step 1: Ordinates option

[Fig.8] - Grid system required in example 2

Exercise 1: Define a grid system with the following data: x(3,4,3,5), y(2,4,8).

5- Building a Cylindrical grid: Building a cylindrical grid is an easy process in SAP. To Define a cylindrical system follow these steps: 1- Open a new file; Choose Blank. 2- Right click ➥ Edit grid data ➥ high light “GLOBAL” ➥ Modify/show system ➥ Quick start. 3- To draw cylindrical grid choose cylindrical tab. Cylindrical systems are defined by radius (R) and Theta (ϴ) (see figure 9)

[Fig.9] - Quick start window to define cylindrical system

Example 3: Draw the grid line shown in figure 10.


1- As mentioned before user needs to define R & ϴ, R is 6 m as shown in figure 10. User can determine ϴ simply by dividing 180 on 6 (6 is number of angles):

2- Input at quick start must be as shown in Fig. 11:


Exercise 2: Draw the cylindrical system shown in figure 12. Use R=6 m.


For the rest of the course:

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