Sunday, 28 May 2017

New Parameter Category: Schedules

When Revit 2018 was released, Autodesk highlighted three new categories available to us for the purpose of scheduling & creating parameters; Revit links, Model groups & Schedules.

We can now create a project parameter for schedules, the same way we can for views and sheets. I am still thinking of what I could potentially use this for, but the first idea that came to mind was the ability to sort schedules in the project browser, unfortunately, we still can't do this though. 
Can you think of another useful purpose for it? Leave your idea in the comments. 

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Revit Roadmap Update

The release of Revit 2018 last month saw the Revit Roadmap also get updated. Some things have changed since the first edition, mainly due to feedback and ideas posted in the Revit Ideas Forum. Knowing that multi-monitor support is on its way, can't wait!

To see the latest Autodesk Revit Roadmap, click here. 

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Why is Revit Not Backwards Compatible?

Ahh, the million dollar question. The question most often answered with a cynical response "Autodesk do it, so we are forced to upgrade".

Obviously, after enjoying the days of AutoCAD, (that could be rolled back 10 versions) moving to Revit with NO backwards compatibility what-so-ever, can be a shock to the system for first time users. Even seasoned users express frustration with the complications that come with making sure everyone (including consultants) are on the same version. 

So it was no surprise then when it was posted on the Revit Ideas Forum by a user titled "Save as Previous Version". The idea gathered 260 votes and by the forums standards, that is very high. As you can imagine, it got a healthy discussion going, some comments less helpful than others. 

It has since been Archived. 

So, here it is, why Revit is not, and will not, become backwards compatible...
The following is a post by Sasha CrottySasha is one of Autodesks core product managers for Revit. She responded to the idea explaining why the development team decided to archive the idea. It is the most detailed explanation I have seen so far from Autodesk responding to this request. I would also recommend listening to Episode 87 of BIM Thoughts, where Sasha is a guest and they briefly touch on the subject of compatibility. 

"With regrets, as I am sure there are going to be a lot of people here who will be disappointed, I am archiving this idea. While we fully understand why this request is important and would be of great value to you, it is not feasible for us to add it to the Revit roadmap. Before you share your thoughts, I do ask that you please read my full response here as I will do my best to explain the reasons behind the decision.

First off, let me say that this is not a decision that we take lightly. Further, there is no motive that is not expressed in this post. Despite what a few posts here suggest, this decision has nothing to do with how we sell our products, nor is it a strategic move on our part. It is quite simply an exceptionally difficult (impossible?) technical challenge, which, were we to embark on fixing it, is unlikely to fully deliver on the expectations and experience that you deserve (more on this later). If backwards compatibility was an easy thing for us to do, we would do it in a heartbeat because we understand that this would enable workflows that are a true challenge today.

There are two ways we could approach the problem: freeze the file format or add converters that transform new data to old data to recreate the old file format. Let me address each one in turn.

To be quite frank, freezing the file format would significantly hamper the speed of Revit development as the majority of Revit features require changes to the file format. I took a quick look and by my estimation at least 14 of the top 20 ideas on this forum would require changes to the file format. Comparing our development build to the 2017 file, there are about 3,000 changes to the format. So, on average, there are over 10 format changes per development day. This also doesn't account for the fact that one change can have a huge impact. For example, the ability to have OR in filters could arguably be reflected as one format change, but that change could impact hundreds of views and sheets.

If we had to wait 3 years to get significant enhancements you, it would also mean we would it would be another 3 years before we could make further improvements/corrections to features. We often hear feedback that we don't improve the product fast enough; unfortunately this would aggravate, not alleviate the problem.

I also want to point out that we already make an effort to identify and work on improvements that don't require a format change. These changes are shipped as part of our point (previously R2) releases. We're excited that we are able to get these new features to you as soon as they are completed. That's why we’re all here on Revit ideas right? So that we can get you the improvements you need. I, for one, don't want to wait three years to make that happen.
So, approaching this from the other angle, why not save back to older versions? I'm going to give you three examples of why this is an exceedingly difficult technical challenge, and why, if attempted, it would not result in the behaviour you would expect.
  1. Imagine for their birthday someone gives your kid a gift of alphabet blocks in a fancy gift box that is just big enough to house the blocks. The next year, someone else gives them a set of nicer blocks, but the blocks are 5% bigger in size. You want to keep the new set, but store them in the old box, but no matter how you try they just won't fit. In fact, if the box housed 36 (3x4x3) original blocks, the box will only house 12 (2x3x2) new blocks! You could start sawing the blocks I suppose, but I think that defeats the purpose of alphabet blocks. File formats work in a similar way, a small change in the definition can have a huge cascading effect on the look and behaviour of the file.
  2. So why is the impact so big? Let's take our OR in Filters example again. In a greatly simplified solution, the change from AND to OR could be stored in one new true/false property of filters (true = AND, false = OR) in Revit X+1. Of course, Revit X has no idea about this property, so as far as Revit X is concerned all filters are AND. Now imagine saving back a file from Revit X+1 to Revit X where you've used OR filters in 10, 20, 100? views. If we literally copied the filter conditions back to the Revit X format, suddenly your filter would be an AND filter. What happens to those views? Elements change color. Or worse, elements appear/disappear. Schedules change. I could go on. Ok, so that's not a valid solution. Can we have developers write code that converts OR filters into AND filters and saves them that way? I'm a CompSci major and let me tell you - this is not straightforward code to write. And in some more complex cases I'm not sure it's possible to write it in a way Revit X would understand. This is why OR filters are being requested in the first place, right? Now imagine doing this for every one of the 3,000 changes…
  3. If that hasn't convinced you, here's a simplified element-based example. Friendly reminder: in Revit geometry is derived, not primary, data, so it's not necessarily even stored in the file. In a world where Revit X only knows how to create linear walls and Revit X+1 introduces arc walls, what would happen if you took a Revit X+1 arc wall and saved it to Revit X? Because Revit X code has no idea how to use the extra data, your arc wall would show up in Revit X as a linear wall!

So at least for model objects, if we can’t write back to data, can we somehow save the exact geometry? Maybe (assuming the geometry kernel hasn’t changed), however this would mean that all of the intelligent behavior that you expect with Revit would be gone. So the arc wall would show up as an arc, but you wouldn’t be able to change it and Revit wouldn’t know how to make it act like a wall (e.g. clean up wall joins, etc). It would be a geometry that does not understand that it is a wall, so at that point what we have is un-editable CAD, not BIM. Exporting to IFC and importing it in the earlier version will give you at least the same, and likely much better, geometry consistency.

All this is to say that if we were to save backwards without freezing the file format, we would be unable to guarantee consistency of view settings or contents and it will result in the loss of intelligent behaviour for elements. In other words, views would look different and elements would be frozen. The amount of work to achieve this “broken” state would also be huge. Giving you an unpredictable backwards save would not really help you with collaboration problems, in fact, it would quite likely cause errors in your deliverables. We don’t consider this an acceptable solution from a customer experience perspective, which is why we have chosen not to pursue it.

So that brings us back to freezing the file format as the only option we can consider. I mentioned earlier that this would slow down our development process because it makes it harder for teams to fix bugs (yes bug fixes often require format changes) and hinder our ability to give you the improvements being requested right here in Revit Ideas. In truth, we are looking to change the process in the other direction. We want to give you the latest and greatest as soon as it is available. We realise that that means reworking our install infrastructure and experience so that it is easier for you to get the latest version and increasing the reliability of upgrades so that you are able to trust the quality of the upgrade. We have not done a fantastic job of this to date, so there is a lot of space for us to improve. The ideal state is the Google Chrome experience. How many of you know which version of Chrome you’re running? We realise that there is a lot more complexity to installing and updating our software than Chrome, so I am not implying that this is the right solution, but that kind of simplicity of experience is the direction we want to pursue. Wouldn’t it be nice if you didn’t have to care about Revit versions in the first place? We think so and that’s why we’re archiving this issue. We understand that there is a problem, but we believe there is actually a better solution than backward compatibility."

So, there it is. I for one, have few thoughts on the matter. Do I at least wish families could be backwards compatible? Sure, but I know how Revit works, I have systems in place to work with it, so I don't worry about it. To be honest, I rather the effort by the development team be put into the future tools I need as a designer. The idea that in the future, I may not even have to worry about what version I am in, sounds VERY appealing. 

Thanks to Sasha for taking the time to respond to customers in such a detailed manner. 

Again, the original source can be found here with all the subsequent comments. 

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

What Revit Wants - New Web Address

Do you visit and read the 'What Revit Wants' blog by Luke Johnson? I do and you may have noticed last week that his usual web address has been disabled by Google. 

Don't worry, Luke was quickly on to it and you can find his new web address and more here:

I have a number of links to Luke's great & helpful blog content in previous posts. I will slowly make my way through all of these in the coming weeks and where possible, link to his new site address. 

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

My Revit Ideas

*Updated 8th October, 2017
In my last post I spoke about the black hole that is becoming of the Revit Ideas Forum. Whilst I was a bit critical of things, I do think it is a great way for users to have a say and also to learn about what others think is important. 

I have posted a few ideas myself, some popular, others less so. I was starting to lose track of them, so I decided to keep a live list of my own ideas here in this post together with there status. I will update the list when/if I post new ideas. I encourage you to vote for ideas in the forum (as well as my own of course), if you think they are something you would like to see implemented in the future. You can even leave a comment if you having something to add or post your own idea! (Just do a good search before posting!)

In no particular order, my ideas so far...
Red = Under Review (Fingers crossed!)
Magenta = Implemented (Woo! See latest release)
Green = Accepted (It's coming...eventually, see the *latest Autodesk Roadmap)
Blue = Future Consideration (In other words, don't hold your breath)
Grey = Archived (Your idea was either a: unpopular and few people though it was a priority at this time or b: Lost in the black hole of 3000+ other ideas and hence, not voted for c: Autodesk have reviewed the idea and decided it is not worth marking as a future consideration)

Monday, 15 May 2017

Revit Ideas Forum - 12 Months Later...

In May of last year Autodesk announced at the then Revit Technology Conference (now known as BiLT) the new Revit Ideas Station. A short time later I mentioned and collated some of the top ideas at the time.

So, 12 months later, how is it all going? Well, ideas have been coming in thick and fast. In fact, there have been so many ideas, Autodesk seem to be struggling to maintain the forum. I started getting so annoyed by repetitive ideas myself, I even wrote an idea about the idea forum! You can see it here. Repetitive ideas due to the lack of searching before posting & the lack of filtering tools are some of my biggest gripes. Then there are the ideas that are actually just complaints. Many users shared my feelings, with the "idea" gathering over a 100 votes in less than 2 months plus a healthy discussion on what can be done to try and improve it. (I realise that some of these problems are out of Autodesks control such as users posting repeat ideas but providing a tool set to manage them IS in their control). 

One positive I have seen come out of the idea and subsequent discussion is a significant jump in the number of ideas being marked 'archived' and repeat ideas being combined. (Autodesk have told us the 'report' icon under the idea, can be used to help them with this and to provide a link to duplicate ideas when reporting). 

One of the other problems with the forum is ideas simply getting lost. I blame the extremely vague filter category of "Gathering Support" for this one. How do I know they are lost and not just a bad idea? Repeat ideas. You see what happens is, an idea pops up, it get's 20+ votes in a few weeks, yet search for the duplicate idea written months earlier and it only has half a dozen votes. The problem is now, they have been relegated to somewhere between page 5 and page 144. What's that saying about the second page of a google search result??

At the time of writing, there were 162 pages or almost 3000+ ideas. That's about 250+ ideas per month!! How are you supposed to see this many ideas, let alone vote for them without good filtering tools? Well you can't and considering this isn't Autodesk's first ideas forum for one of their software applications, I am surprised they didn't come up with something better. Although, admittedly, the number of ideas in the other forums is, in most cases, less than 500. So maybe the popularity of the station was underestimated?

My latest thoughts on improving the idea station is to have the ability to filter or categorise ideas by tool, instead of the vague tagging categories of 'User Interface' or 'Multi-discipline'. 
For example, let's say you had an idea about design options. You would go to the forum and select or search from a list of tools in Revit. You would find and see only the ideas relating to 'Design Options'. Furthermore, they could be filtered by discipline, vote count, status, date, author, etc. If you can't find what you are looking for, write an idea and categorise it accordingly. This may even help Autodesk see what the discussion is around a particular tool set. 

"There are a lot of tools in Revit" I hear you say? Yes there are, but here is some food for thought... In another 12 months, assuming some slow down of ideas pouring in, there will be well over 5000+ ideas. Good luck sifting through all of them...

Thursday, 11 May 2017

What's New in FormIt - v16.0

Autodesk FormIt v16.0 was released last month. The update is a big one with some significant updates to the material editor & performance improvements. You can now import DWG files too. 

Visit to get the latest update and read more about new features. 

I would also recommend watching episode 24 of FormIt Friday which covers some of these new features. One thing to also note is when you create a formIt file, instead of an RVT file being created in 2015 format (within your A360 account), it will now be created in 2018 format. Don't worry though, because you can still use the FormIt conversion tools if you need a previous version of your FormIt model. 

Oh yes, and you may notice, they have removed the '360' name, so now it is just FormIt. I believe we may see a similar change to the Insight plugin in the future too.  

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Lots of Revit Schedules - Managing Your Model Data

Schedules aren’t just there for documentation purposes. They can be a great tool in managing your model data and components.
Take a basic room schedule for example; even though a room schedule may not form part of your typical documentation set, they are the best way to quickly identify rooms ‘not enclosed’ or ‘not placed’. When you delete a room from the project, doing so from the model environment prompts the following warning…
‘A room was deleted from all model views but still remains in this project. The room can be removed from any schedule or placed back in the model using the Room command’.
Use the delete row button in the schedule ribbon to completely remove the room from the project.

Another example of a must have schedule in your project is a ‘View List’ schedule. Large projects can have hundreds if not thousands of views to manage. Ensuring all the right data is in place through the properties panel of each view is a tedious way to manage so many views. A view list schedule will give you a global look at the parameters related to all your views in the project. View templates can expedite much of this data entry. 
When it comes to sorting your schedules, there isn't much choice. Naming convention is the only option really. You can't custom sort schedules in the project browser the same way you can for views. We all wish we could! It has made its way to the Autodesk Idea forum HERE, but in the meantime I typically prefix schedules created solely for data management with '_Manage'. This keeps them together and clearly identifies there purpose to other users.

I make 'working views' of most schedules. This allows me to place instruction for users to help with data entry and I format a number of columns to make it clear where data is needed. All working schedule headings are shaded yellow for easy identification whilst in the schedule.

Another advantage of separate working schedules is the issue with text wrapping. Only when a schedule is placed on a sheet does text wrapping occur. The schedule itself, does not text wrap. A few releases back, Autodesk made a change that meant the column width adjusted in the schedule, matched the column width on the sheet. The downside to this is narrow columns adjusted on the sheet, makes the column difficult to read in the schedule view, because there is no text wrapping. Staff would adjust columns to work in the view ruining the formatting of the schedule on sheets.
Hopefully one day schedules will be viewed as 'what you see is what you get'. 

Don't limit your use of schedules to just what you need for project output, use them for model management as well, it will save you a whole heap of time. Combine this with Dynamo or addins such as Ideate BIM Link and you have some very powerful tools for controlling data.  

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Material Take-off Schedules & Wall Sweeps

Problem: "Materials from my wall sweeps aren't displaying in my material take-off schedule".

If you use sweeps for things like skirting boards in your model, you will likely want to be able to see the applied material listed in your schedules.

In my quick example below, I have applied a default wall sweep to my wall. You can see in my 'Material Take-off Schedule' the material I have applied (Interiors - Paint - Blue) does not display.

The solution is to select the sweep and convert it to "parts" first. 

As soon as you do this, you will notice the finish applied to your wall sweeps, now displays in your schedule.