Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Use the Front Door

I find myself looking for metaphors as I help people learn Revit. We rely on them all the time, work them into our speech without even thinking about it. Lately I've settled on another to describe the various ways Revit lets us do things. There are usually at least a couple ways to start something or solve something in Revit, like life.

I'm frequently asked which "way" is the best or the correct "way". It seems to me that Revit provides any number of "doors" to access information and tools.

Let's take the notion of working with materials. I have a desk and I'd like it to have a specific material. These days I can select the desk, click Type Properties and, assuming the person who made the family provided a parameter to manage its material, I can click on the material value, which exposes the sneaky "Browse" button. This is a "side door" that lets me select and possibly alter material settings. If I don't find a material I want I can make one while I'm here, click my way back out of the dialog and have a desk that looks great (hopefully).

In the past, if I didn't like the material and there wasn't one listed that sounded like one I wanted I'd have to bail out. Once out of the family's Type Properties I'd open the material dialog and create it. Then I could go back to the desk and assign the material. They created the side door access so we could avoid that inefficient back and forth process.

I run into people that think the side door is the only way to create materials. That's how they learned to do it and they keep doing it that way. The "front door" for materials is really on the Manage tab, the checkered globe button. This front door is the administrative task minded entrance while the side door is more the "spontaneous task" minded access point.

Another example is changing the number of a sheet. We can select the sheet view name, right click and rename. We can open the sheet view and select the title block family which in turn let's us select and edit the sheet number. We can select the sheet number parameter in the properties palette too. Then again we can deal with it in a schedule instead. Keeping count? That's four "doors", a front, side, back, and "secret" door to accomplish the same task.

That might seem like too many options, which one should I use? Easy, which one is the closest to you? Where are you? In the back yard? I'd pick the back door then. Not in a sheet view and needing to renumber a bunch of sheets? I'd pick the "secret door" and use a schedule.

Nearly everything you need to do has at least a front and back door, and very often more. Pick the one that best fits your circumstance. When one door closes another opens...or something like that...


Brian Beck said...

Sometimes I think the spare keys are in the top left drawer only to realize someone moved the keys and now the door is locked. Yearly updates to the various Autodesk applications that we support leave me feeling like this at times.

Michael Clothier said...

Cheers Steve, this is great. Part time I lecture at a college on the subject of Revit. I'll definitely be using this little analogy in the future… I currently use a ‘Super Mario’ analogy, that finds ‘hidden’ buttons, or ‘coins’.

Ericg said...

The door is a nice metaphor and work. The perfect door for me could be the elevator door that open in front of you! That would be the perfect template.
I posted ealier, but on my gf account, sorry.

peter said...

I often use the spreadsheet analogy. Create something 'in a cell' somewhere, and voila, it appears when you are in another cell using a pull down menu that accesses the element, annotation, profile, material, etc you made. For first year students, I don't show all the 'doors', I keep a couple for surprise showings. That helps the memory retention. And besides, I am still finding the 'doors' myself!!