Monday, 23 January 2017

Revit User Interface: The Filters Dialog Box

I am not sure I could model without filters. How do Revit LT users work without them? (Revit LT doesn't have filters). As good as filters are, there is certainly room for improvement. For example, do we really need the 'Add Filters' dialog box you see when you access filters through the visibility graphics? To add a newly created filter to the visibility graphics, you click 'add', then you have to click Edit/New to actually create the new filter. So you create your filter, go back to the 'Add Filter' dialog box, find the new filter in the list and click 'add'. It's just not as simple as it could be. The separate Edit/New button in the visibility graphics dialog box is even more useless.

So, it got me thinking, why don't I come up with my own?? Did you notice anything different about the filters dialog box in the image above? 

My Proposed New Filters Dialog Box Explained

A good interface is an intuitive interface. Relevant tool, all at your finger tips.
Revit suffers from too many hidden settings, behind layers & layers of dialog boxes. (Yes, stairs & railings, I am thinking of you!)
I kept this in mind when creating this new filters dialog box interface. The intention was not to redesign the style of the interface, but to simply add more functionality & tools I felt are relevant when using filters.

My Proposed Filters Dialog Box

1. Add Filter: As mentioned earlier, I have proposed to delete the little 'Add Filters' dialog box we get when working through the visibility graphics. This new icon adds the selected filter/s to the visibility graphics. It is only active when you access the filters via the visibility graphics.

2. Save Graphic Overrides: We have all wished for it. There are add-ins to help us with it. The ability to save the graphic overrides with the filter so when we apply it to a view, we don't have to manually match overrides with previously setup filters.
Click this new icon to open the 'Global Filter Graphics' [3]. Assign your overrides and they will save to the filter. When you add the filter to the visibility graphics, if there are overrides applied they will automatically populate. To easily identify which filters have global graphics saved to them I have borrowed something from the family environment when using instance parameters. When we assign an instance parameter in a family, we see the word '(default)' in the type settings, so we can easily identify instance parameters whilst building a family. In this case, we get the word '(graphics)'. 

3. Global Filter Graphics: You will recognise these tools from 'View-specific element graphics', We want consistency with familiar interfaces. This panel is a fly out panel, similar in operation to the view range or editing wall assembly dialog boxes. This fly out opens (if closed) when you press [2] Save Graphic Overides.

4. Reset: This is not a new button, but Reset will not only reset the overrides, but prompt you with a warning asking if you wish to 'reset' the overrides globally. If you click No, the overrides already applied in other views will remain, but no longer be controlled globally throughout the model.

5. Show / Hide Graphics Panel: A simple button to open or close the Global Filter Graphics.

6. Add Filter to selected View Templates: Sometimes we have to create a new filter that we would like to apply to multiple view templates. After creating the filter, this icon opens the View Templates dialog box, allowing you to select one or multiple view templates to apply the new filter to. 

7. Find views with the selected filter:  Click this icon to get a simple panel listing all the views your filter belongs too. The panel looks exactly the same as the 'Go To View' panel we get when using the 'Find Referring Views' tool. The same function is also available, select a view and click 'Open View'. 

8. Show All Categories. In my opinion, when you open the filters dialog and select a filter, you want to see everything that makes up that filter. At the moment Revit requires you to select 'Hide un-checked categories' if you want to see which categories the filter applies too. To me, this is backwards, I want to see the categories that apply to the filter first. If I want to choose additional ones I select 'Show all categories'. When creating a new filter, Show all categories is automatically ticked.

9. Help: You may have noticed I have removed the text at the top of this section of the palette. I think the first time I read that sentence of text was when I wrote this blog! So whilst I think it is important, it is only relevant to beginners, once you know it, you never read it again. I have therefore removed it and in its place added what I think should be in many areas of Revit, a help icon for users. It will provide a short-cut to the knowledge network page on creating filters. 

10. Width of the categories window: This has been increased to remove the horizontal scroll bar at the bottom. I don't like horizontal scroll bars in dialog boxes. Just make it wider so we can see everything. Thank you. 

11. Invert button. Consistency, it's one thing that lacks a little in Revit in my opinion. For example, visibility graphics and object styles have 'Check All' & 'Check None' buttons, next to these is an 'Invert' button, so why not in filters? Added.  

12. Discipline Filter Checkboxes: We want quick and easy tools that aren't hidden. A drop down menu hides items. In my dialog, I want to easily see and filter my categories list. So I have brought them to the front so we can quickly use them. 

13. Select all categories with parameter: Sometimes we want to create a filter that applies to all categories. The problem is you can't just select all categories in the list because then the parameter you want, won't display due to some categories not containing that parameter. The work around has been to select one category, then select the parameter you want, then check remaining categories. Every time you check a category without the parameter, you get this warning:

This subtly indicates the category doesn't hold the selected parameter, so you skip it.
I want to make this process more intuitive. So I have created a check box for 'Select all categories with parameter'. This allows you to select a parameter you wish to filter by, then if you tick 'Select all categories with parameter' it will automatically search the categories in the list and select them for you if the parameter is available. Simple & fast.

14. And / Or function: This needs little explanation, we all know what it does and we all want it. It is probably the longest unanswered wish list item of all time. Finally with the Revit Ideas forum Autodesk have listened and we will hopefully get an 'Or' function in the near future. 

So that's it, that is my proposed filters dialog box. What do you think? Did I miss something you would like to add? Feel free to leave a suggestion in the comments! 

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