Friday, January 30, 2009

Department of Quirky - Stair Sketch in Workset Projects Update

I posted THIS back in March of 2007. I was visiting an office recently and we were chatting about this issue and one of them said, "Oh I found a way to fix that situation!" I said, "I'm all ears!" (not's a figure of speech).

She said the key is to draw the boundary lines continuously, don't stop them at the top of a run and the beginning of the landing. In other words don't draw them from point to point along the sloping part of the sketch draw them from the bottom of the first riser up to the end of the landing and repeat for each side.

In the image above I show one of four sides that would need to be done this way. After you sketch in this way, use the Split Tool to split the boundaries into the required segments. The sketch will finish without complaint. Certainly easier than pasting into a stand-alone project file or building the stair in the stand-alone file.

This deserves to be in the Dept. of Strange but I don't want to start another whole department. I'll have to place an ad to get another reporter and Freddy has been so unreliable lately I just don't have the patience.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Aligning Views between Sheets

This is a common question that the answer, for some, causes angst. Stated in the words of one user, "whaddya mean I can't align the view on one sheet with the view on another sheet exactly??!!??"

With other software people are accustomed to orienting their work with a notion of a Cartesian coordinate system (X,Y,Z) even for a sheet. With Revit the sheet is a bit nebulous. This is just a view that a title block family is placed in automatically when you create it AND can also host other views, a special version of a regular view. There isn't a coordinate system in this view, there is, but it isn't obvious to us. The title block family provides this reference for us but if it were to be deleted you'd be lost with no way to determine where you really were looking relative to another sheet.

Technically Revit just uses the outer boundary lines of a title block family to define the scope of the view to print. I'm referring to the rectangle boundary lines you find in the title block templates provided by the installation. It really doesn't matter where you put the views on the "sheet", well....not to Revit.

What is the objection? People want a floor plan on one sheet to sit directly above the floor plan on the next or subsequent sheets so that it doesn't "walk" back and forth or shift its location as you flip from page to page. Revit's "attitude" on this has been..."close enough is good enough". This is the characterization that drives some people crazy. I too was a bit perturbed years ago. I guess I've mellowed some since.

Here's my take on it. In a set of many sheets the portion of the set that will benefit from such precision is probably a relatively small number. Plans of the same scale certainly ought to be positioned on sheets so you see the project from the same "viewpoint" for each. As soon as you start showing partial, enlarged or other plans the relevance of the alignment between sheets is lost or at least less relevant.

That might seem an excuse to not bother to provide the ability to align them? I suppose at some point it might have been a factor in the decision to devote time to it from a software developer's perspective. In the scheme of things they probably thought that a roof tool would bring more value or importance than aligning views between sheets, so it dropped somewhat in the "To Do List". I imagine somewhere, in some office, they are wrestling with this sort of "can we do this or can we do that" argument every day.

What are your options then?

A view placed on a sheet is very much like a piece of paper on your desk. You can slide the paper around your desk (assuming it isn't cluttered) but there really is no point of reference between the paper and the desk. On the real desk eventually the paper will fall to the ground if you push too far. In Revit there is no real edge except for those lines in the title block family, outside of those Revit stops trying to print your work.

Two sheet views are a lot like two separate desks with their own paper and no real relationship between the two at all.

If you want these views to "stack" on these sheets you need to provide some point of reference and that reference can be the title block family itself. Some users will draw a detail line from a fixed point on their title block (in the sheet view) to a location on the sheet where they'd like their plan view to "sit". This line is then copied to clipboard and then Paste Aligned/Current view in the next sheet view. This gives you the same point for reference. Unfortunately the model visible in the plan's view port will not snap "through the view port" to this line so you are back to "close enough is good enough". If you zoom in you can get it so close that it won't be noticeable unless you export to dwg and then externally reference those files together, which does happen now and then.

Another technique is to provide a set of lines in the title block family itself that can be turned of by using a yes/no parameter associated with the Visible parameter for the line(s). Imagine the detail grid of the NCS/UDS (National Cad Standard / Uniform Document System). You can also store a "cross hair" somewhere or in several locations for this purpose. Think a little outside the proverbial box and you can get much more satisfying though not precise results.

Remember that "close enough is good enough" happens all the time...our tolerance for it just changes depending what the activity is.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Space Room Update Tool Available from Avatech

I approached Beau Turner with Avatech prior to Autodesk University 2008 about creating a routine to manage the relationship between spaces and rooms in Revit MEP. It has been a good month for extensions as I very recently posted that Autodesk released one too! While the Autodesk tool is good the Avatech solution does a bit more. Autodesk's is available to subscription members only while Avatech's is free to anyone! You'll have to judge for yourself.

Some features of the Avatech solution:
a) You can change only those spaces you have selected (filter first then run the tool) and choose that option.

b) Handle projects that use phasing.
c) Handle situations where there is more than one space in a room (common for analytical purposes) and provide a configurable setup so you can input your numbering standard (ex. Room 101 with 2 spaces becomes 101.A, 101.B (or whatever scheme you need to use via the config file).

d) Once run it will tell you how many spaces it changed/updated
e) Once run it will inform you whether there were any spaces that could not be updated (typical of UnPlaced Spaces created in schedules similar to Rooms)

f) This does not require a subscription account to access
g) This can be installed via batch script to multiple users

Download it NOW!
Scroll to the bottom of the page. Thanks Avatech, Beau and Matt!

Reviteristic - Revit Links are More Important?

When we link a Revit model into another project file there are number of instances where the linked model seems to interfere with selecting elements that are actually native parts of the model. I encounter this the most when I'm working with Revit MEP.

For example, using the Create System option for an Air Terminal the option to Select Equipment seems to only have eyes for the architectural model and it can be nearly impossible to select the very nice Single Duct VAV box right in front of you.

What to do? Well you could write a blog post like this and complain to start 8-).

If you change your view to Model Graphics Style: Wireframe you'll find that Revit is no longer as focused on the linked model. Another solution is to have a view with the linked model and another where the link is not displayed. When you are ready to create your systems just switch to the other "cleaner" view and no such issue.

Happy selecting!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Backward Compatibilty (or rather the lack of it)

Revit does not save backward. Said another way, you cannot save from "this" version to a previous version's format. It never has..maybe never will...but never say never?

One common concern or comment is based on working with consultants, "What if my consultant is using the previous version of Revit? What then?"

The only thing preventing a consultant that is currently using 2008 from collaborating with "you" using 2009 is their subscription status (that and a willingness to install it). They can work with you using 2009 even if all their other projects are in 2008 as long as their subscription is in force. Technically all they'd need is a single seat installed for 2009 (for each user) and a valid subscription for that seat, even if they didn't have a valid subscription for their remaining seats.

(I should clarify that I'm not a reseller and you really need to make sure that your firm is in compliance with the Autodesk End User License Agreement(s), EULA for your products. You really don't want a visit from the piracy folks. Please don't make such decisions on the basis of my post alone! Agreed??)

This means for "your" project the consultant would need to renew their subscription for each necessary seat to get the current version up and running apart from the "EyeTee" department exerting some effort. How much cash is required depends on how many people will need to work on the project and how long ago they stopped subscribing.

Note: In effect a Revit firm that abandons subscription is truly deciding NOT to collaborate... Autodesk definitely has us coming and going on this point.

A "team" of firms using Revit really MUST agree WHEN to upgrade to another version. One part of the team arbitrarily deciding to do so will unfairly burden the others with the timing of an upgrade. It is not necessarily a hard thing to do, normally, but it is very likely to be inconvenient depending how soon the next deadline is.

No backward compatibility has been and continues to be motivated by a greater urgency for moving forward than working out the complexity of supporting firms that don't "want" to upgrade. Anyone trying to truly collaborate with all disciplines right now will agree there is MUCH that needs to be done for every discipline to allow greater and tighter integration of our data.

Some might say that Autodesk "likes" or "enjoys" this situation, being necessary to maintain subscription, and perhaps there is some truth in that. The reality is that in order to progress they must be able to focus forward. If we demand that each release must save back to earlier releases then a considerable force must be applied to make that possible.

Consider that features added in 2009 might not be possible to create in earlier releases at all. A Swept Blend did not exist in an earlier release, what shall it become when saved to an earlier release? Just delete it? Recreate it unfaithfully because the geometry can't be represented? Create an ACIS "exported" and then "imported" instance in the model that can't ever be altered? I imagine that whatever elements are affected by such conditions that the resulting form(s) will not have the same fidelity as the original which calls into question the logic of doing so at all.

An enormous amount of effort would be necessary to permit this when the much "easier" (for Autodesk perhaps) solution is for customers to use the same release. Compare the few hundred dollars for a subscription per seat required of the customer as opposed to the kind effort required to make this possible in any fashion and you'll see it isn't a very motivating project for them.

Seth Godin wrote about Love and Annoying the other day. He wrote this:

...The goal is to create a product that people love. If people love it, they'll forgive a lot. They'll talk about it. They'll promote it. They'll come back. They'll be less price sensitive. They'll bring their friends. They'll work with you to make it better.

If you can't do that, though, perhaps you can make your service or product less annoying...

Read more...he goes on to say that Apple makes products people love as an example and that an Airline ought to work hard to make air travel less annoying. Seems to me that this issue and Revit as a product is on that "fence" now. People have been and continue to be passionate about Revit and willing to forgive its quirkiness. Increasingly many users however are more interested in it becoming less annoying.

Seth closes with this:

...Put a sign on your office door, or send a memo to the team. It should say either, "Everything we do needs to make our product less annoying" or "Everything we do should be idiosyncratic and engage people and invite them to fall in love with us. That's not easy, which is why it's worth it." Can't have both. Must do one...

It might seem that I am apologizing for something that Autodesk should just "do". Perhaps. At this time I am much more interested in Autodesk spending time and resources to add functionality so that firms can collaborate better. Every penny spent to support backward motion is "negative equity" and as we know that sort of equity has been contributing to the current state of our economy in a fairly significant way.

Monday, January 26, 2009

That Other side of Mr. OpEd

You may have read this EARLIER POST? Obviously I've been a bit quieter on the blog than previous months.

I took the Holidays off and then some! I got sick during the Christmas Holiday, my daughter and then Wife followed. In the midst of all that we also moved, not far, but moved nonetheless so the kids could "keep" their current schools. Folks without kids may not be able to relate to that. It seems like I've had enough to distract me already but then this "other" thing came up and I've been doing that too (being secretive...sorry).

But the REAL reason that I've been quiet on the blog is THIS!

I finally get to cross IT off the To Do List! I picked it up on clearance just after Christmas when the music store was getting ready to move to another location and they didn't want to have to move it and I was willing to move it to my house. Now I have a problem when I walk into my office (when I'm actually home that is) drums or play blogger? Well you know how that equation has worked out so far! No worries, work is forcing me back into Revit mentally again, unfortunately you'll be hearing from me again.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Revit MEP - Space Tool Available via Subscription!

Well I complained about spaces and rooms and every other Revit MEP user I've met has too. In the "they are listening" realm of things they have and have provided a tool specifically aimed at helping RME users deal with the disconnect between space numbers and names and their counterpart rooms. As sports fans sometimes say, hooray!

I do hope that it will be rolled up into the RME product release for 2010 naturally so a separate installation of software won't be required for such a relevant task. I suggested that they provide a separate tool via subscription so it could be done much sooner than waiting for the next release and I'm sure others did too.

I'm really glad they did!


Visit the subscription site to download your copy!

Stephen Roth, Revit MEP's Product Manager posted the following at the AUGI forums today:

I am happy to announce that a new add-in is available for the 32- and 64-bit versions of Revit MEP 2009. The Space Naming Utility software is an intuitive tool that automatically assigns the names and numbers from architectural rooms to Revit MEP spaces.

By downloading the Space Naming Utility software, you can eliminate the need to manually assign names to the spaces helping save a tremendous amount of time and simplify your workflow.

Specifically, it does the following:

1. Can both name and number the spaces similar to the enclosed architectural rooms.
2. Can automatically name/number all spaces in a model, or by specific level.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Moving or Dragging Multiple "Ends"

I received a question this morning asking if it is possible to select and change the position of ends of more than one wall by dragging them at the same time. When I read this I imagined that the walls are parallel but they don't have to be.

The answer is, sure, hover over the end of a wall and use the TAB key to highlight the "shape handle" of the wall. This end line/edge of a wall is called its Shape Handle. Repeat that process and by using the CTRL key you can add the other shape handles to your selection till you are done.

Then either drag them or use the move tool. Dragging is not precise unless there is something you precisely you can drag "to". Move can be more precise because you can specify a distance.

Then again the Trim/Extend tool might take less effort?