Saturday, December 31, 2011

Show Your Constraints

In Revit we can apply constraints (padlock and EQ) using dimensions. These dimensions can get deleted and if the person doing the deleting doesn't respond to the warning well...the constraint remains intact without any obvious visible evidence.

Choosing Unconstrain will eliminate the constraint when the dimension is deleted. Unfortunately many users just click OK, leaving the constraint to come back and bite someone later, maybe themselves.

For example, years ago, a friend started modeling a tall building. He locked the distance between a few different floors and then later deleted the string. Eventually he needed to change the floor to floor height and Revit crashed. I took a look at the model. When I used Zoom to Fit in an elevation view I noticed that a little padlock appeared when I selected a Level. Revit tends to display the icon for a constraint at the opposite end of what is being examined, usually off screen unfortunately (less clutter with other icons is my theory). Using Zoom to Fit meant I could see the whole level, and the constraint icon, like in this image at the far left.

Software programmers "comment their code" so that it is easier to figure out what a section of code is intended to do later. It's etiquette, good practice, nice... Half the time it's self serving too. I've returned to some code I wrote months or years later pleased to find my own comment helping me remember why I did "that".

To mimic this notion of "commenting our code", I frequently suggest that if this sort of constraint is really important then consider making a duplicate view called Level 1 - Constraints (or somesuch). Lock and constrain it there. With this special view any/everyone can see the constraints anytime they want and see why they are there because you can add a note saying so.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Shades of Grey Revit Blog Plug

This is a brief post to plug Andy Milburn's blog Shades of Grey. He started blogging in October of 2010 and his work is a fine testimony to quality over quantity.

Lately his posts have been about his exploration into the work of various masters and how he's used Revit to further his study of  them. I enjoy his work and appreciate that he takes the time to share it with us. If you haven't already found his blog I think you owe it to yourself to subscribe so you won't miss future posts.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

My Revit and BIM Blog Lists

A brief post in the midst of a holiday hiatus from blogging. I started a couple lists of blogs years ago, Revit Focused and BIM and Misc. Originally they were all on the right side bar of the site. That got tedious fast so I moved them over to their own pages when Blogger added the feature. Slowly since then I've added to it as I became aware of others. Between the two lists there are well over two hundred to chose from. A few months ago I added a "Must Follow" label to some. That generally means they are part of my own reading list.

Lately I've either received email about not being on the list or read Tweets mentioning my list and then lamenting not being on the list. In every instance, so far, the blogs that were supposedly not listed...were/are.

For what it's worth, I'm not selective or exclusive about which blogs are on the list. I only have one criteria, that I know they exist. How could I put them on the list if I didn't?. Some blogs on the list have just one or two posts total. That just shows it's easy to start a blog, harder to keep at it. I leave the blogs that are hibernating on the list because you never know if the few posts that are there will be helpful to a reader.

If you are looking for your blog on the lists you need to be aware that there are two lists.

When I picked which list to place a link to a blog I tried to decide how "Revit" biased/focused they were/are. If the blog was distinctly ended up on the Revit list. If the blog ventured off on other software or included the BIM acronym in the blog title then I picked the other list. In some cases blogs have changed their name or focus since I first saw them or the people that write/wrote them have changed employers/careers. I don't get as much time to revisit the lists to check URL's or names as I'd like.

If you write a blog and read this one it is very likely yours in on one of the two lists already. If it isn't, just let me know.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Unconventional Revit

Back in 2005 I wrote about using Revit to choose my son's soccer team lineups. Since then I learned that a friend used it to help her plan the seating for her friend's wedding reception. Now Case Inc. has offered up yet another way to use Revit in unconventional ways, Checkers! Must use worksets though. My mind wanders to four player Battleship? Cool game Case guys!

[Added: 12/29/2011]
Zach Kron "one-upped" the Case boyz with his Chess Set version. Read his Buildz Blog post. Next up Mouse Trap?

Thursday, December 22, 2011

You've Got a Bad Profile

Considering the time of year and checking lists you don't want a bad profile. If you create a profile family for a railing and don't do a very good job of it Revit won't offer you your profile in the list of available profiles.

The missing profile you expect to find here is a clue that your profile is bad. You need to check your sketch to  make sure you don't have a Bad Sketch. Only kids with a good profile get to use their profile in their railings.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A Little More Dialog Resizing Please

It would be nice if the gang at the factory would add some re-sizing magic to this dialog too!?! The Tag All dialog can be a bit hard to deal with the type name when some company naming conventions result in long names. There's only so much room to adjust the column widths within the fixed frame of the dialog. Seems like such a minor kind of finesse?

In the past I wrote about a free utility (that David Kingham found) called Resize Enable that permits some "hacking" overrides of the dialog sizing. I just downloaded it and ran the app again tonight. It does work to allow for stretching this dialog though it gives no visual clues that it will work. You just have to and drag to see if it does and it does (true for me using Win7/64)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Bending Railings to Your Will

Food for thought, what if we used railings for millwork and egress paths? By millwork I mean custom work, not fixed sized cabinets which are often referred to as casework by some architecture and interior firms). As for egress paths, I've written about them many times (I've put a list of those posts at the end of this one) in the past and the example of using a line based family kept me busy for quite some time with requests from people to get their own copy. Busy enough that I finally made it possible to download directly without needing to ask. I also recently mentioned the technique that Brian Mackey uses to demonstrate stair clearance using a railing, so that's yet another way to bend railings to your will.

A railing can do the same task as the egress path I've written about. That example only came about as a possible example of how to use the new line based family template (new in 2006), not something optimized for the task but it's worked pretty well over the years. If you consider applying a "person" profile to a railing, like for Brian's stair clearance, you've just got to sketch the path the railing takes. You can schedule the railing and provide a similar tagging approach to identify each path as different as well as display the total length. Give it a go?

Back to the idea of millwork. Railings are based on profiles, so are cabinets, at least when you are being really schematic. Obviously it won't really do the job for fabrication or construction documentation. If you want a fast way to "draw" millwork a railing works pretty well. A railing sketch is really tolerant of the path being straight or curved too. To get started you sketch the base cabinet profile, save it. Sketch the upper cabinet, save it. You can incorporate the counter profile in the base or make it separate. Load the profiles into a railing type and adjust some values and you can get something like this.

It works pretty well as long as you don't care about seeing drawers and doors. What you see in the image above is railings posing as millwork cabinets and face-based families (line work only) assigned to the Casework category.

It is necessary to keep the upper and lower cabinets separate otherwise you can't get them (upper cabinets) to show up above. In the plan view you see here I've temporarily turned on the underlay so I can apply the Linework tool to see the upper cabinet. Relatively small price to pay for the views that really need to see it.

The neat thing about this approach is that you can get schematic design info such as overall length of different millwork conditions via a schedule. Then when you are ready to dive deeper you can replace them or, as in the image, overlay face-based families to "finish" the detailing. One schedule (early) for schematic and  another (later) for a more detailed summary of cabinets pieces and parts. It isn't hard to make a railing look a lot like something else in a schedule. Just change the schedule title, rename the railing type, change the assembly code values and you've got a pretty convincing railing slash millwork. Maybe call it milling or railwork?

It won't satisfy everyone or maybe anyone...well it did make a few folks more content than they were a few years ago when we decided to do it.

Past Egress Posts (a summary)
Egress Path
Egress Path Update
Egress Path Tags - New Versions
Egress Path of Travel Uh Oh
Egress Example Update
Egress Regress
Egress Family Arc Version

Monday, December 19, 2011

RTC Alumni Early Bird Registration

As promised during the wrap up of RTC USA 2011 it is now possible for alumni to take advantage of early bird pricing to register now. The email inviting past attendees to register early went out last night.

If you have not received an email let the committee know by responding to the thread(s) at the RTC Linked In community. If you aren't a member at Linked In send an email to the Conference Secretary.

Friday, December 16, 2011

To Host or Not Host

This isn't asking about a Xmas party or dinner party. This is a frequent topic with anyone digging into making content seriously.

Usually the bias is toward defining the answers according to architectural needs. No offense intended, whoever is asking the question is going to have some bias. I spend as much or more time these days dealing with the "other" disciplines and this question.

If dealing with the other disciplines, the typical quick answer is usually face-based as well. True if we assume a Revit to Revit consulting relationship. If an engineer wants to use their cool new software (Revit of course) and their architect isn't using it then a face based family will need a face that isn't there. With a solid library RME can be quite effective even without an RAC model (though a bit harder without something to create spaces in). In this situation we can't just put those families on the level's work plane because they won't be oriented correctly. A reasonable argument (I think) can be made for families that are not hosted at all, even if assuming an engineer is dealing with "your" architectural model linked into their project.

To be most flexible, as "crazy" as it might seem, the answer may be starting with non-hosted content. Yes, it is nice to have a family follow "your" walls when they move (face-based will). Yes, with non-hosted content you may have to move (more) things when designs change. Change quite often isn't just a wall sliding left or right, it can also mean a completely new wall or walls or a different layout entirely. When the original host gets deleted the orphaned face-based family ends up "wanting" a new host and resolving that is usually an onerous (not difficult) task too. A family that isn't looking for a host won't move automatically but fixing that situation isn't really any harder, all that different a task or substantially more work when you compare the "doing" of the tasks.

Then there is the notion of "close enough", which freaks people out too. Consider a electrical disconnect (device) can be six inches, eight or twelve inches from the equipment it supplies power to and it is still close enough. If the equipment moves a "little", no harm done...the disconnect is still fine where it was when you put it in originally because the "whip" the electrician installs between them will deal with the difference. Most engineering solutions have room for "slop" at the end of (at least somewhere along) the system. They have to design in something to deal with the construction reality on site. It seems reasonable to me to mimic that where appropriate/possible in our modeling effort.

The perfect answer, the one solution that fits all situations doesn't really exist at least not one that fits every firm or project. We might get close for one firm or discipline but each project brings new conditions to consider. It's more work but it may come down to having complete content libraries for each condition rather than only having one solution focused on one approach.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

No Way! Way! Live Slices

This is a echo of Zach's post tonight... in his video he says that we will say "No Way" and he'll respond "Way" and it will degenerate from there. Naturally I felt compelled to say "No way!" with a post... He's demonstrating how he built a family that can describe the profile of another form by placing its points on the host form. It's an adaptive point family that includes additional points that generate the same shape as the end result of the points you place on the massing form, "live" slices of the form. Pretty cool, pretty high rests the bar, Zach does...

Here's his video, read his POST on BUILDZ.

Show Title Option

Revit viewports have a parameter called "Show Extension Line". The Type Properties dialog offers us "Yes", "No" and "When multiple viewports". This post deals with the wordy one.

The "When multiple viewports" option is meant to make it easier to leave off a view title when you are only putting one view on the sheet. Most of the time the sheet title is the same as the viewport title, like for overall plans. Seems a bit redundant to put a view title on too?

Unfortunately using it means we have to give up the option of having the viewport title extension line snapping into alignment with other viewport extension lines. I'm referring to the line that shows up when you check the box for "Show Extension Line".

If you are used to these lines snapping into alignment with one another, they won't when you use the "When multiple viewports" option. I captured a short video to help see it in action.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Family Category and Parameter Dialog

Sure wish this guy was more flexible!

This is a minor thing but it suggests that someone assumes that visiting this dialog is a pretty rare event. It is a rare event for someone working inside the project environment all day long. It's a pretty constant stop when making content for a day or week... a living. It is nice that the dialog stretches overall. It would be nicer still to be able to stretch the area dedicated to Family Parameters.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Visualization with Stadia

I recently became aware of a new application called Stadia.

It works like this: Model away in Revit, when you are ready to see something you submit your model to their cloud rendering service. You register your email address with them and you just enter it in the Revit interface. When you press Enter, Revit submits your model information to their cloud.

I believe there is supposed to be a "Bake" button on the panel too, but it hasn't shown up on my UI yet. At least there is an image file for one in the installation folder for Stadia. [I've been informed that I can download an update that will fix it.] After a few minutes you get an email with a link to download the results. Extract the compressed file that arrives, double click on the rendering.exe file and you can wander around your building. Move the mouse to tilt/turn and use the arrow keys to move forward/back/side to side. Pretty simple, once you get the hang of it.

It renders using the materials you've chosen, the lights you've the closer to what you want it is in your model the better the results. It's a bit closer to Revit's realistic visual style than photo real rendering. Naturally your mileage will vary according to your own sense of success.

In my brief experimentation so far I did find it necessary to put some site surfaces around the exterior of the building. Without such features you "fall" similar to Navisworks when "walking" through your building. Make sure you put a building pad in so the site doesn't go inside your building or you'll end up with dirt/grass inside too. Doors "open" when you approach them. They don't swing open, rather the panel vanishes as you approach, more like Maxwell Smart and doors perhaps. You can walk up and down stairs, also much like Navisworks. My first thought was that they are harnessing the Navis API perhaps but I don't actually know.

I did struggle with navigation initially because it wasn't obvious to me how to do it. I tried to use the scroll wheel to zoom but that just seems to "spin" the view in an awkward manner. I'm not sure why but I really found myself wanting to "zoom" at times instead of "walking" forward or back. My last submission resulted in a 20 MB zip file that I downloaded. It took about 5 minutes to get the email once I submitted the model to Stadia. I'm not sure if the result was actually sent to me faster than that because my email address is aggregated via Google so there may be a little delay involved with that step.

You can watch this video to see a sample (it's on the Stadia site too) of what you get after uploading your work to their "cloud" service.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Revit MEP - Lookup Table Issues

In October of 2008 I wrote about it being difficult for offices with many users to move lookup tables to a new "central" location. It made it awkward to deal with custom fittings and their lookup tables. A few years/versions later and we have some options now. Darrell Smith with TMA in Austin let me know that he'd resolved their concerns by reading a more recent post at The Revit Clinic.

Initially he reminded me of my earlier post. I didn't remember reading the newer Clinic post at the time and he found it after writing to me. He in turn let me know about it...embarrassed that I didn't remember it myself. I've modified the earlier post to mention this newer development too. Here's a simplified version, read the whole Clinic post for more detail.

If you wish to repath the Lookup Tables for your office to a new location you'll need to consider that Revit 2012 has changed things a bit. The path may also be stored in a second Revit.ini file associated with your user profile (to better support user specific options).

The default installation should be here:

C:\ProgramData\Autodesk\RME 2012\Lookup Tables\Revit.ini

The user specific one is probably in a folder like this one:

%USERPROFILE%\AppData\Roaming\Autodesk\Revit\Autodesk Revit Architecture 2012\Revit.ini

If you find Revit is unresponsive to your new location, check the user folder location. You can read more about it in a Revit Clinic post from August 2011.

Friday, December 09, 2011

RTC Prospectus

If you were a sponsor/vendor at RTCUSA 2011 and didn't receive the new prospectus for the 2012 event in Stone Mountain, GA (June 28-30, 2012) you can download it now via THIS LINK. Phil Read announced this on the Arch | Tech blog earlier today.

Also mentioned in the post, it will be possible, very soon, for 100 "early birds" to register for the conference and secure last year's price. Stay tuned!

Thursday, December 08, 2011

BIM Content Echo

Quick post tonight, James Van put together a post the other day to provide a list of resources for Content. I've got a similar listing on my blog here too but I've been letting it slide for awhile now. Good list and now I've got a nice place to get any that are missing on my page too! :)

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Schedule Grip Control

This change crept in with the 2012 release. In the "old days" the move symbol was in the middle of a schedule. This is the 2011 version, same for older ones as well.

Now it is located at the upper left corner of a schedule.

This makes it harder to see, find and use unfortunately. This fits the old wisdom, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it". It might help to see what I'm writing about in a video.

If having the grip in the current location somehow made it easier to align a schedule perhaps it would better sense. However schedules always snapped into alignment with each other at the top anyway. Didn't seem broken to me...

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Tab Key and Selection

Read a post by Luke at What Revit Wants regarding a tip he heard in Chad Smith's AU Virtual session, 45 Autodesk Revit Tips in 45 Minutes. It reminded me that I created a video of it to demonstrate it a couple years ago. Here's what I wrote back in October 2009 regarding this tip.

This is subtle feature of using the TAB key that many users are not aware of. First of all, it is easier to see than to describe so you might as well watch the VIDEO.

Two items:
  • Select Entire Chain of Walls or Lines
  • Select Partial Chain of Walls or Lines
First item - Hover cursor over a wall or line > Press TAB key once (Walls or lines highlight) > Left Click to select.

Second item - Select a wall or line > Hover cursor over a different wall or line somewhere along the path > Press TAB once (Walls or lines highlight) > Left Click to select. The subtle difference is that which direction the selected chain travels depends on which end of the element you hover your cursor over. Watch and then try it!

NO DISCO tabbing, as my friend Cyril says. Just press the TAB key once. You get the disco tabbing when you press and hold the TAB key down. We call it Disco because the highlighted lines will flash at you.

Last comment, make sure you hover and then hold your mouse steady. If you move the mouse away after highlighting the chain the TAB feature fails. You have to make sure everything is highlighted still before using the Left mouse button to select them. It is a process unlike any other software you are familiar with most likely. Practice a couple times if you aren't already very comfortable with it.

Here's the video...

Monday, December 05, 2011

Free Tools from Case Design

Just a quick one tonight, still burnt out from Autodesk University and Revit Technology Conference committee meetings.

The guys at Case Design created some free applications for Revit recently. They'd like you to know about them, as well as use them!

Just need to register (so they can spam you, teasing Don!), then you can try out their Change and Replace Line Styles, Revision Cloud Data Export to Text File and Door Mark Updater tools!

I'm bugging Don to work with him to build a cool "Where's my Stuff" tool, a clever way to track down things that go "missing in the night" since there's only something like 30+ ways that things can get "disappeared".

Oh, I'll be finishing up my last day at AU post tomorrow...I hope! ;)