Friday, September 16, 2011

Family Types or Type Catalogs

Jose Fandos wrote a post in August titled, The Death of the Family Types. He thinks that the role and or usefulness of built-in family types is over or "dead" as he puts it.

I don't agree entirely. I do agree that for someone who makes content regularly that adding types to the family directly is a task best left for last. Making sure every type is properly defined can be quite tedious inside the family. It isn't a lot of fun making sure every value is correct in the rows of a type catalog either though. At least it IS easier to copy/paste and then adjust values than within the family itself.

While making "my" life easier when making content, Type Catalogs can be perceived as a hassle by the end user because they need to load the family each time they find they don't have the type/size they need. The recommendation of no more than 5 types in a family found within the Autodesk Seek recommendations is one less than the earlier family editor guidelines that suggest no more than six. The text of the Revit Content Standards document that the team used internally said: (David Conant shared it with me in 2005 while preparing a session for AU)
    Predefined Types:
  • All families should have at least one pre-defined type unless a type catalog is used.
  • Where real world examples come in typical sizes, pre-defined types should be generated.
  • Where there are to be more than 6 predefined types in a family, use a type catalog to organize the types.
Keep in mind that these rules or standards were coming from the viewpoint that they are generic families meant to be pretty broadly applicable. Obviously the document David shared with me came after the introduction of type catalogs since it makes reference to them. Jose's post shares that Wesley Benn provided him with the text from What's New in Release 4.0 that show when type catalogs were introduced. Regardless, the point at which we choose one over the other family types or a type catalog boils down to preference.

As a daily user I don't enjoy interacting with Type Catalogs as much as I prefer them as a person who also makes content. If there are only five types in the family I'd probably be inclined to load them all to avoid doing it again to get the one I left behind. I also find that once users realize how easy it is to create a new type in their project, they are just as likely or inclined to do that instead of editing the family externally and reloading. If users start doing that the type catalog starts getting out of sync with the library. Keeping track of the flock can be hard on the Family Shepherd at that point, with strange sheep showing up in the fields.

I think that family types have a place and the rumors of their demise are greatly exaggerated.

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