Wednesday, April 30, 2014

How Many Levels

In Revit 2014 they added Levels to the list of things we can create a schedule for. Working in a project stuck in 2012 I found myself wishing I could use that feature. I really just wanted to know how many levels were actually in the project. I was pretty sure there were more levels than I could see in a section view. I still got my answer but not with a schedule.

I started the process to create a new floor plan view. Revit's dialog has an option to hide levels that already have views. I unchecked the option: Do not duplicate existing views. Now I was sure how many levels were really in the project, more than I suspected.

It really means don't create new views for levels that already have at least one view associated with them. Their phrasing is less wordy but I usually get furrowed brows at first when we discuss the purpose of the option.

Want to speed up creating views? Close all User Created worksets first. Revit will generate the views much quicker when there is nothing to display in them.

2014 Revit OpEd

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Installing Revit 2015 Standalone versus Building Design Suite

My friend Simon (works with Autodesk) wrote to let me know he's seen a number of support requests recently regarding the Web Update for Revit 2015. The current situation can be described like this:
  • Building Design Suite (BDS) installation does NOT include the Web Update release
  • Revit Architect, Structure or MEP installation DOES include the web update release.
If you download BDS and install Revit the update is NOT already part of the installation package and you need to download and apply it separately. Keep in mind that one of the available options for the installation is to download and let the installation apply it as part of the original installation.

If you download Revit Architecture, Structure or MEP separately (not BDS) then the update IS already included in the installation. As I understand it, the version or build that is packaged apart from BDS is different, including the update's changes.

Regardless of the version you install you may get a notice that there is an update available despite having already installed it (like I mentioned in an earlier post). Go with the flow, let the Autodesk Application Manager (APM) try to install the update. It (APM) will fail to do so if the update is installed. It (APM) will be in sync thereafter.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Revit and AutoCAD

It's been 14 years since Revit formally began knocking on the doors of architectural firms. The first response quite often was, "We've already got {insert your software here}, no thanks"! Other responses were, "Really? Let's have a look"! Which was then followed by "Oh gosh, you mean it doesn't do "X" just like {insert your software here}? Well thanks for coming by, good luck"!

As Revit matured there were fewer opportunities for showstopper items. The rejection response or yeah, but response also matured to focus on the practical side of changing an office from this to that. Such as, "We've got all these people who are {insert your software here} experts. We can't justify the time and effort required to move to Revit". Another familiar one, "We've got a decade of {insert your software here} detail and object libraries, we can't possibly be expected to do that all over again." Revit Structure was introduced (2005) and the conversation began again with engineers. A year later Revit Systems (now MEP) started the same dialog for another set of engineers.

When Autodesk decided to buy Revit Technology Corporation they confused many of their own customers who, until then, were using AutoCAD or Architectural Desktop (aka ADT, now AutoCAD Architecture aka ACA). I think Autodesk has a curious relationship with its customers. All too often I meet (and read people's writing) who, regardless how much they like the software they use, are at best ambivalent about being an Autodesk customer, at worst resentful or angry.

Witness some of the comments in response to my earlier post about Revit 2015's new features. Accused of being a monopolistic company or evil empire, we even joke that friends have joined the dark side if/when they are hired by Autodesk. I'm not sure what they can really do to alter this perception, except to suddenly offer their software for free? I suspect the stockholders might object to that move.

With that in mind, it has taken a formidable marketing effort to get Revit where it is today. In my opinion the phrase Building Information Modeling (BIM) was born in part because Autodesk desperately needed to differentiate ADT/ACA from Revit, at least as BIM is defined and expressed by Autodesk. The notion of using computers to help accomplish the broad goals of BIM is nearly as old as computers so it's not a brand new idea.

And yes, other companies lay claim to the doing of BIM and living up to BIM ideals too. It (BIM) just wasn't on the lips of AEC professionals or their clients the way it is today before Autodesk began expressing it in conjunction with Revit. This means Revit was the latest expression of those ideas on a desktop computer instead of a mainframe. Marketing is the telling of a compelling new story to motivate people, to consider changing how they do things, to buy things. Like them or not, Autodesk has done an earnest job of telling the story of BIM and Revit.

One of the many stories we've heard that was meant to help us in our transition was how easily Revit worked with other CAD software's data. Revit was the new kid on the block. What chance did it really have if it couldn't import a DWG or DGN file? Being able to import external data was meant to ease the collaboration with firms that didn't use it as well as the transition from other software.

All these years later I keep reading, "It is necessary to use Revit AND AutoCAD", or "Revit can't be used productively without AutoCAD" or "...since AutoCAD is a superior drafting tool it isn't sensible to use Revit for basic drafting tasks".

It is NOT necessary to use AutoCAD if you use Revit. The error (thinking that it IS necessary) is mistaking necessity with what is merely an available interim approach as we work through the transition from AutoCAD to Revit.

Using AutoCAD to do detailing is NOT optimal because doing it entirely within Revit is integrated within the project more tightly and logically. If you are not efficient drafting in Revit then the implementation is not effective, but it could be. That's not Revit's fault, it is our fault (though it could always ship with a larger stock library). If you'd like some examples of Revit details that are devoid of lines/circles/arcs/text have a look at ARCxl's free samples. If you are looking for a shortcut to build that better implementation then their library might a place to start.

To some degree the perspective, "It's better, faster to draw details in AutoCAD" is a mind over matter issue, not a software issue. We tend to ignore or forget the reality that we've been changed by {insert your software here}, not the other way around. The software doesn't change to suit us. Our use doesn't change the software, we change in response to how it works. If we are fast then it's because we've grown accustomed to it, learned tricks, customized it, built our own library and so on.

It's no different whether we are talking about AutoCAD, Revit, Excel or Word. We do influence what the developers code into the software but we respond to the software and then provide feedback, not the reverse. The only exception is when no code exists and the software is in its infancy. Once code exists we are always dealing with legacy decisions.

When we say that {insert your software here} is faster or better than Revit it really means we know it better, we are more comfortable with it. There was a time that I'd agree I was faster with AutoCAD or Microstation than Revit. That is far from true today. In fact I find AutoCAD to be a very frustrating experience now.

Faster is also a subjective term. What context? Faster sketching a single line? Faster creating an entire detail? Faster for whom? Me myself and I? What about downstream members of the team? What about the hours of design and investigation required to decide what to draw? What if another section is required to figure out what is required to finish that detail? What if the Revit modelling activity helped inform the decisions? What if the ability to create more sections automatically or have a look at the model in 3D provides more insight?

The further we can step back from our experience and bias with a given software the easier it is to see they are all flawed in some way, Revit included. I clearly remember realizing just how convoluted AutoCAD is when I began supporting Microstation users that had to start using it (AutoCAD) instead. They'd just shake their heads at the quirky rules and methodologies that were in stark contrast with Microstation's own quirky rules and methods. They are ALL quirky. Some quirks just happen to match our own thinking or approach better than others.

As for our legacy library of details, we forget or minimize the fact that it didn't happen overnight. It was built project by project. Remember, all the previous details were drawn by hand, right? At this point I think it's a safe bet that, like most libraries I've seen, it could stand some careful weeding or pruning anyway. Maybe it isn't so precious that we can't consider creating Revit native versions now? The sooner we do the sooner each project can be better integrated.

If you take anything away from this post at all I hope it is this:
It is NOT necessary to use AutoCAD to be productive with Revit. Revit does NOT need a software crutch to be useful or a productive good decision for any firm. The longer you pretend that it does or is, the longer you prolong not being as productive as Revit was intended to help you become.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Revit 2015 Web Update 1

With Revit 2015 comes the new Autodesk Application manager. It is intended to help let us know when software updates are available.

When I installed Revit 2015 the other day I downloaded Update Release 1, which is an option during preparatory steps, and let the installation apply the update as soon as Revit 2015 was installed. When that was finished Revit showed the update was installed as expected. This morning the Autodesk Application Manager told me there was an update available and it seemed to think that Update Release 1 should be installed despite my belief otherwise.

I should add that this is the first morning I've been able to use this hard drive in a few days. A hard drive crash derailed some of my progress toward getting things installed last week. That means this is the first day that the Autodesk Application Manager could attempt to tell me about the update. In other words, I'm not saying that it was late telling me about the update. The installation process for Revit offers/shows updates that are already available, so I did already know it existed though.

Since the manager seemed to think I should, I let it attempt to install the update just to see what would happen. After a few minutes it reported that the update was already installed and continuing to install it wasn't necessary. When I acknowledged the message by closing the dialog my New Updates item reported "installed" (as shown in the image above). Quirky but it now appears to be in sync.

As such it seems to me that the Application Manager isn't aware of installation status (not inward looking) just that updates exist (outward looking to Autodesk). If it is really going to live up to the manager name it probably needs to be a bit smarter in this regard.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Revit 2015 Improved Performance

The Revit Clinic's recent post describes how Revit 2015's performance compares with Revit 2014. Here's the graph they provided to compare the results for various operations in both versions.

I find it a bit surprising that Autodesk has not made a bigger deal of this, especially considering the general malaise felt by users to the quantity and specificity of new features. I suppose improving performance isn't a sexy thing to talk about but it seems to matter in racing? Why not with software? It improves the user experience. It's amazing how loooong 1-2 seconds can feel.

Regardless of the number of features I'll always appreciate improved performance...bring it on.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Fun Formulas

Saw this via Twitter. Kirklyn provided an example of practical formulas with Revit. You may not need Revit to make this kind of decision for you but the logic can be applied to other decision making. Do you want a sandwich?

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Finding and Loading Content

Dan Stine wrote the other day,more sharing somewhat related to your post…

Finding content: staff often call me asking if we have a “this” or a “that” family. I do a quick search at the highest reasonable folder level in Windows Explorer. Of course, I tell them how I found the content so they can do it themselves next time.

Windows-based previews: Windows Explorer and “File Open” dialogs (see images below) we can Ctrl+Scroll to increase the preview size. [this does not negate the need to clean saved previews as you mention]. Here are some examples.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Reducing Family File Size

We can use Purge Unused on a family as well as a project, assuming Revit finds anything that it thinks can be purged. A family can inherit size from imported CAD data and nested families too. Importing and exploding a CAD source file will add object style sub-categories, line patterns, materials, fill patterns, text styles etc. There may not be any in the family right now but if you didn't create the family from scratch yourself and know everything that it went through until you noticed its size, anything is possible.

I ran into some families recently that were all more than 15 MB each. I first used Save As to create a new family with a new name. This reduced the file size quite a bit. Then I used Purge Unused and between both actions the biggest final file was about 600 KB. If you use Save As on a file and it only decreases in size by about 10 KB then it's about as small as it can get. That's been my observation.

If I really want the original file name to carry on, I just rename it to something like MyFamily-temp.rfa and then rename the original and rename the new one to use the original name again. The key part is the Save As to a different name initially. I've never just overwritten the original though technically I suppose I could do that. I prefer to keep a copy of the original intact, just in case.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Revit 2015 Help is Online

I saw a tweet this morning that said the Revit 2015 Online help is ready to go. I noticed this bit regarding the eTransmit for Revit add-in.

When you transmit a model, you can now select to:
  • Include supporting files such as documents and spreadsheets
  • Disable worksets
  • Delete sheets
  • Include only views that are placed on sheets
  • Include or exclude types of views such as detail views or sections

Luke (What Revit Wants) provided links to download the various versions of Revit 2015 as well as the fact that there is already a web update 1 for Revit 2015. If you want to use a custom Assembly Code file you'll want to make sure you install the update (per Aaron Maller).

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Family Thumbnail View

One little thing you can do to improve the user experience when choosing and loading a family is to prepare the thumbnail view nicely. Revit will use the view that is open (has focus) when you save and close the file to generate the preview we see in the Open Family dialog or in Window's Explorer. Here's an example of a preview for a family in the stock pipe fittings folder.

I really can't tell what it is at all. The connector graphics are making it impossible for me to tell what sort of fitting I'll get when it is loaded. Here's how it looks after I tweak it a bit. Now it is a lot easier to tell what it is.

Most of the stock Revit content already has a 3D view called View 1. If I make a family from scratch I create one too. I make sure I open this view and close others before Saving and Closing the file when I'm done working on it. I caution users to be wary of content that does not have a clean preview, at least if they are using anything I've made. Messy means not done or not ready. Ideally content that isn't ready shouldn't be in a live folder at all but sometimes we get distracted and our own rules or habits aren't followed.

To clean up a family's preview:
  • Use Temporary Hide/Isolate to control what is visible in the view.
  • Use Thin Lines. (I hide host walls and faces for example)
  • Use Detail Level setting to show off the family.
  • Use Zoom Region to maximize the important geometry we see in the preview.
It's all meant to make it easier to understand what the family is and decide if it is the one they really want.

If you examine the stock door folder you'll see that most of the families have been oriented so that View 1 is a Front or Back elevation so you can see the panel design head on. I usually prefer a 3D axon orientation because it can give me a better sense of the frame and other proportions. Try to pick an orientation that best describes the family from the user's perspective, whatever will help them decide that this family is the correct family to load.

A cool feature of KiwiCodes Family Browser is that you can use your own custom Thumbnail images. This means you can set your custom library up in a project setting and take advantage of Graphic Styles like shadows and ambient shadows. This image is a sample of Aaron Maller's handiwork for Beck Group. His thumbnails include context and it really helps to understand what the family is, what features it has. He's put more effort into this than anyone I know of so far and I really like it.

It's the little things in life, every little bit helps the end user experience.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Hidden Parameters

Hey we missed an undocumented feature in 2015! Hidden Parameters! Notice the column for Hidden in the dialog?

Maybe a product manager will see this and blink? Sorry it isn't real, it is a mock-up. Yes, it's a few days late for an April Fool's joke.

Daniel Stine and I traded a couple emails recently and part of that conversation included the concept of making parameters hidden. He passed along this image to illustrate his idea.

For background, if we edit a Shared Parameter file with a text editor, something that we are warned not to do in the opening paragraph of the file itself (see the link for Walking on Thin Ice below), we can set a value that causes a parameter to be hidden from the user when the family is loaded into a project.

This technique only works for Shared Parameters and is really only practical for loadable (component) families. You have to set the parameter to hidden BEFORE you use it AND you can't reverse your decision without removing and replacing the parameter. The parameter remains visible while editing a family. It is not visible to users in their project. By not visible I mean it does not appear in the Properties Palette or Type Properties dialog.

I think it IS desirable to have more control over user interaction with parameters. I'd like to be able to make it more obvious which parameters are for their input versus derived from other parameters. Color coding, locked, hidden, and many other ideas have all been discussed over the years. It seems to me that adding a Hidden column would be an interesting way to define how a parameter should be regarded by a project. Certainly less secretive than the existing approach.

Related Posts:
Walking on Thin Ice
Ignore Good Advice
Making Shared Parameters Hidden (from What Revit Wants)

Monday, April 07, 2014

Revit and iTunes are not Friends

Guillaume, a friend who works in Montreal, wrote to me to share an issue they encountered recently.

He wrote:
We noticed a weird issue with one of our Revit projects. The expected (normal) time to open this model was about two and half minutes. On some machines it would take as long as eleven minutes and browsing through the project was rather slow. We also noticed that there was a pronounced lag while working in the model, while zooming and panning on sheets for example.

After systematically isolating every possible cause that we could think of, we found and we have no doubt, that the iTunes suite of software (including “Bonjour” process) is the culprit. We suspect the likely cause of this is that “Bonjour” uses the same port and background process as some parts of Revit, for example Worksharing Monitor.

We tried removing iTunes from the computers that took nine minutes to open the model and it always solved the issue. We also did the opposite. We installed iTunes on machines that opened the project normally and then they took about nine minutes to open. It is the first time I've seen this presented to us so obviously. We are using Revit 2014 primarily. We don't know if this is true for older versions of Revit.

If you are going to start using Revit 2014 by upgrading a project you'll want to be aware of it. If you have had a similar experience then check to see if iTunes is installed. You may need to remove it completely. If you don't allow the installation of iTunes on office computers it shouldn't be an issue. If users can install software then you'll want to check. It's not safe to assume simply having a rule against installing software is enough.

Friday, April 04, 2014

Revit 2015 Subtle Changes

Reading through the AUGIWorld issue for April I saw two new feature items that haven't been published or acknowledged formally by Autodesk yet. First is a change to the formula options and syntax for Logarithm. Here's what it looked like in Revit 2014 and how Revit interpreted/applied the formula to a value.

Here's what it looks like in 2015. Note the new syntax to express a natural logarithm with ln(x), shown for Value3.

The second is really subtle, more a change that was necessary because of the changes to pinned elements. When you create Attached Detail Groups they used to display a Pin to indicate their relationship to a Model Group. They've changed them to display a Paperclip instead. This is what it looks like now.

There are two articles (in AUGIWorld) that discuss the new Revit features. They also mention items that were not included in the final release, a separate Family Browser and MEP to FAB Fabrication Parts workflow. It's my understanding that it was decided that both are not quite ready so they've been pulled for now.

David Light recently wrote down his thoughts about the new release as well as a summary of other posts about the new features (including mine here).

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Revit 2015 Feature Review

Daniel Stine contributed a feature review on AECbytes the other day. Be sure to check it out as well. His comments are geared toward getting better acquainted during implementation of the new features.

Read his Article There

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Upgrade to Revit 2015

Should you upgrade? Yes!

Not enthusiastic about the new features in 2015? I'm not happy with the scope of what's new in 2015 either but when it becomes available I'll still install it and use it for the very next project and/or upgrade ongoing work too. I'll be happy to do so. I've never regretted installing and using a new release no matter how ambivalent I've been about how well specific changes met my needs or client's needs. Besides, my subscription fee entitles me to it and other new versions (Building Design Suites) so I owe to myself to take advantage of using them and getting as much mileage as I can out of them. It seems like cutting my nose off to spite my face to fail to use it.

Fwiw, I've noticed that I get quite grumpy if I have to use last year's version quite soon after installing and using the latest version. Even more so when I have to use an even older version, like 2012 for example. I'm using a five year old laptop with just 8 GB RAM and so far with Revit 2015 it looks like I can elect to continue to use it for another year. Revit's performance keeps improving with each release in contrast to and in spite of the aging tech of my laptop, at least as long as it (my laptop) continues to want to's hoping it's still happy to hang out with me!

My two cents, I'd upgrade, I'd use it...