Saturday, March 28, 2009

Revit 2010 Musings

I haven't said much about the upcoming release of Revit. That's because I'm not supposed to disclose that I've been involved in a program that I'm not supposed to disclose that I'm part of. I've also been busy doing some technical editing for the Mastering Revit Structure 2010 book for authors Tom Weir, Jamie Richardson and David Harrington and their publisher Wiley/Sybex. So much for my true dream of being a professional "Couch Potato".

Much has been said lately in blog posts, youtube and AUGI about the upcoming release's user interface and the new "wascally wevit wibbon" (Elmer Fudd saying it). Most of it blasting the new UI. Rather than pile on I have these thoughts.

I can't help but experience some irony having watched the Revit user community grow since 2003 at Zoogdesign and since 2004 at AUGI as well as during the RUGI and alt.cad.revit years "Before Zoog" (B.Z. = 2000-2003)

- Users and potential users complained relentlessly about the "rendering engine" - The last release has a new rendering engine and for the most part users are ambivalent about it.

- Users and potential users complained relentlessly about the "modeling tools" - now new modelling tools and now users are saying most of us don't actually need them.

- Users and potential users complained relentlessly about the "dated and clunky GUI" - A new GUI is here and now users are saying that the old one was better and more efficient.

Those are three pretty big items. Revit has been pretty consistently beaten up about these by users and competitors alike yet when they've finally taken steps to address them. They are met with ambivalence, animosity and even rejection...

I wonder will Revit users ever be happy?

Rhetorical question, the answer is no. We'll always want more. Besides our subscription theoretically entitles us to something more in every release.

It's possible, if you've read this far, that you think I'm making excuses for Autodesk...being an "apologist". It is just an observation and for the most part, accurate. If it is unreasonable to have "some" empathy for the developers who've spent the last couple years working on these things...then I'm unreasonable.

I do understand that each of my statements has a back story, a side story and multi-level tangentially related stories that help explain the user "reaction". On a simplistic level I can't help but wonder what Autodesk's reaction ought to be?

One could be, "See we gave them a new rendering engine and they don't really use it either". Another could be "See, they've been hounding us for more free form modelling capabilities and now they are admitting that a very small portion of the real world will use them." My fear is that they are "learning" from "us" that we have no idea what "we" really need!?! They've been listening to the cacophony related to those three items and are now potentially facing the ugliest of times as a result?

I'm glad they've been tackling some of the issues that they've been getting beaten up about over the years. There definitely are, however, a lot of "little" and "big" projects that I wish Autodesk would just take care of. The agenda for this release doesn't begin to live up to what my own agenda would have been, assuming I had a say. What concerns me the most is that I'm hearing for the first time ever that people are willing to "take a pass" on this release. This is bad for BIM, bad for collaboration, bad for Revit.

The sky is falling, the sky is falling... Only it isn't, I'll take what this release offers and find a way to make the most of it. Some might say, "Steve's a trainer, this release will be awesome for business!". Maybe...but I doubt it, at least not because of the UI. Experienced users will certainly have some anxiety about the transition and feel frustration getting acquainted but it won't last long. A few hours in and it starts to "fit". Keyboard Shortcuts can help you through assuming you use them at all now.

I recall the 2009 release seemed pretty banal when most people's initial reactions were offered up. Yet I found that I was unwilling to use 2008 nearly immediately. I suspect the same will be true of 2010. I just wish there were more subtle things fixed as well, as there was with the 2009 release.

Every release should address a distinct if not large portion of the "points of pain" that have been identified for many years now. It is important that Autodesk not forget this because a year is a long time to wait for the little things that can change a frustrated user into a thrilled, happy user that goes home at the end of the day happy to have been using the product. Oh, right...Revit users will never be happy. Let's shoot for nearly happy?


Dan said...

Steve i think it is an unfair discussion.

The inability to give us a decent/fast rendering engine (like in the other tools) makes people complain. Why can't it used multi-proc?

The inability to be able to use the new modelling tool in families makes people complain. Why, oh why is it not bundled in family creation?

The inability to make a better UI makes people complain. Why is that new interface so unorganized?

I think there's a reason why people are not using what they've been given. It's basically because it's an unfinished business.
I would be willing to give the software a release or 2 to fix the issues. But it's not even the case.

Dave Baldacchino said...

These are all great points Steve. One of the problems is that the work we all do is very diverse and some issues that are top priority for some, don't even register for others. To make it worse, everyone thinks that their own bubble is everyone else's. So it's expected to see a general sense of unhappiness, regardless of how great a particular release was/is.

I think the state of the economy in general makes most people pessimistic and hard to please ("the sky is falling" is a great metaphor). I generally like the polished look of the UI. Tools moving around bother me a bit, but since I use shortcuts, this will encourage me to use them even more and I suspect this will take higher priority in training as most users don't think of them as important. Power users don't need convincing and use shortcuts in ANY application they use.

It's true that the Factory has given us solutions for the "popular" requests. But users are mostly ambivalent because they're not complete solutions. Take rendering...material management is abysmal and yet a year later, there's no improvement. The new form making tools are reserved for massing and you cannot use them for anything else. I understand why it's like this, but most don't and are afraid the new stuff we get will remain "half baked" and we'll be griping about it for years. Stairs? Railings? We use them all the time and they're far from friendly to design with, not to mention document (cannot dimension railings going from L1 to L2 from L2, etc.). They have remained unchanged for years.

Anyway, my fear is that with the viral nature of our world today, just as the Revit positive spirit spread in the early days and contributed to it's blazing success, it can be reversed even faster and I don't want to see that happen.

Anonymous said...

I agree with your comment about the new rendering engine. It is far better than what we had, and it seems largely unappreciated.

However, the new modeling tools aren't really integrated as a part of the main Revit program yet. If this happens in 2011, I'll be happy with the new tools then, but not now.

The new user interface seems okay, but not greatly superior to what we had.

The main gripe I have personally is the feeling that wish lists and user comments of all types receive zero attention from Autodesk. How many releases have gone by with no change to stair tools? No change to text tools?

For several years, the architectural program received little attention because all hands were producing MEP and structural. Then it was the rendering engine. Now it is the ribbon and 3d tools that aren't really there yet.

When will the basic day-to-day stuff get attention? Admittedly, I'll never be happy. At the same time, I'm tired of having to model handrails that Revit should simply allow me to make out of the box.

I am sympathetic to the fact that the Revit team can't do everything I want in a single year. But we do need a few basic improvements each year to go along with the big sales features.

Bill McLees

Valkin said...

Steve I agree with your comments Autodesk can only do so much every year. What I've seen of the free form modeling tool I think that would have been enough for this year. Throuing a new UI was just someting else to stir the pot.

The changed the one part of the UI I didn't have a problem with. My issues was always with the Project Browser. I always wished it was more like Autocad's Sheet set managed having tabs.

On the rendering part. I can say this my firm barely scratched the surface of Revit's new rendering capabilties in 2009. That was until 2 months ago. Now that a new version is about to come out we are really using it.

Revit Implementation said...

Steve, another great post.
I am also unofficially "playing" with 2010.
I find this release to be the best yet. So intuitive to the design and work process.(unofficially of course)
I remember from Zoogdesign days that all Revit users were considered (and considered themselves) as software pioneers. If we got a new function or button change we were all over it. BeeGee posted some lyrical chant about the new function in the forum and on his blog, and everyone found some way of using it. I would like to see some of the moaners try Revit 1.0 and see the progression

Unknown said...

This is a great post and certainly highlights the challenges. I guess the trouble that Autodesk have is they will never please everybody. You only need to put a handful of designers in a room and try to get them to agree on something and you will know the point I'm making. I actually like this release, its progressive, although not complete. It would have certainly been good to have seen a few day to day headline features get incorporated into this release. The text tools improvements alone would have made many happy. I guess Autodesk are always going to get a kicking whatever they do, they are in a no win situation, especially if users are paying for subscription each year, they expect something for this investments.
My concern is that the current economic slowdown will have an impact on how companies deploy this release. Autodesk could never have predicted the downturn, you need to blame the greedy bankers for that. However, in many instances Firms just can't afford the downtime, even if in actual fact it doesn't take that long to get to grips with the change to the UI. If firms do not deploy this release then it will be bad for BIM. It will just go to prove the industry still isn't ready and the silo mentality still remains, which is sad. My only gripe is that I'm not that convinced about the order of some of the tools in the UI, but that's only my viewpoint, however, it's like everything you will get used to it.
But Revit 2010 looks the professional looking product we want it to be; the other parts we want will follow all in good time, although it would be great to have them now. Revit 2010 is not unusable, it's just not finished, but will it ever get finished??? Maybe, maybe not. My only final comment is to reinforce what Mike Hardy-Brown highlighted. I was late to the Revit party, I joined it at version 4. But get a user to fire up even version 4 and you will see how far things have progressed!

Robert said...

I'm with most everyone else with regards to their opinions. I think it is not that we are mad that Autodesk has tried to react to user opinion (to a certain extent), its their inability to do a thorough job. For instance creating a local file. If one were to imagine that Autodesk were to include such functionality in their software you would expect that the end user would able to customize the construction of said local filenames, and if the program were able to archive said local files, it would also eventually clean up after itself. But, Autodesk has a habit of putting a new "feature" in, and never finishing it. Legends anyone...?

Anonymous said...

Steve, sorry, but I have to disagree with your points.

The 2009 rendering tool is half-baked as has been described in great detail on AUGI.

The new modeling tools are only available in "massing" - that's the ambivalence about them.

The UI needed much improvement - unfortunately, the new UI doesn't address any of the hundred things about the old UI that drive users nuts. Yes, there were users that complained about how Revit Classic looked clunky (the crayon, etc.), but really, that was a rather vocal, but tiny minority. I, and I think the vast majority of users, liked the "simple" look of the old UI. And unlike the rendering tool and the new modeling tools, the new UI (as currently implemented) makes a mess of overall workflow.

The biggest complaint about 2009, other than lack of new features, was performance. 2009 was the first new release that felt really slow and buggy. That eventually got addressed to some extent through updates, but even with cutting edge hardware, it's still slow relative to 2008.

I was just talking about this issue with a fellow revit user the other day, and we were feeling nostalgic for the days when the lack of an "area tool" was a raging debate. 2010 makes such complaints about past releases seem trivial. That's what a mess 2010 is.

Anonymous said...

I have spent the past day really putting Revit 2010 through its "paces" and have to report that I am very much unimpressed with the release. They still have yet to make any improvements to the rendering engine, which basically shocks me. There are so many glaring holes in the rendering engines abilities that I almost want cry, this release is definitely NOT going to remove the need to export to a real renderer. The new massing tools will come in handy maybe once every year, and I'm really wondering why they would not have made this a tool that could be used anywhere and everywhere.

Basically the "ease of use" they suggest as being akin to SketchUp is a full on farcity. They are falling short of the mark on all counts with this release.

The UI looks snazzy but the organization is shoddy and not very user friendly, I can only hope it doesn't take me another month to get used to the new "improved" layout.

Well, looks like its back to the waiting line for me, I will have to go back to the 2009 release more than likely and hope that one day they will get "it" right.

C'est la vie!