Line Breaks in Revit Text

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Today’s tip is about making new endings and new beginnings…for lines of text in Revit.

Did you know you can manually insert line breaks into view titles and schedule text fields? All it takes is Ctrl+Enter. Here’s a view of a schedule before and after I inserted a line break:

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It only looks like the second half of the line is gone–you can still access it with your arrow keys. And of course, you can see the entire text on the sheet, like this:

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A similar trick works for view titles whose contents don’t wrap nicely in the default field width. The only thing to remember is that you have to use Ctrl+Enter in the Title on Sheet field, NOT the View Name field. Before & after:

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Thanks to this feature, you don’t have to worry so much about the length of text fields in titles — just make them as long as possible and add line breaks later.

RAM and Revit: Second Thoughts

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Time for an update on our Revit-RAM process!

First, some successes: We’ve been doing a lot of one-way transfers, Revit to RAM, with pretty good success. It helps that Bentley released a 64-bit version of the ISM link, reducing model export times by a LOT. One engineer in my office modeled up a steel-framed building (with something like 2000 columns) in Revit, exported it to RAM Structural System, and ran an analysis in about 2 hours. I did the same thing with a 53-story concrete building in about 4 hours. And for that building, we also brought the new column and wall sizes back into Revit! I hope it is the first of many round-trips.

It hasn’t been an unqualified success. RAM still doesn’t read the analytical location of structural elements, which can lead to some quirks when importing and exporting elements. For example, steel columns are almost always centrally aligned, but concrete columns are often aligned by face. Same thing with walls; sometimes the centers line up, sometimes the hold point is one edge or another. Not all the walls came back from RAM with the correct hold line, but I can’t be positive I modeled them correctly in the first place, so I’ll have to try again another time. Face-aligned concrete columns are at least a little easier to tweak if necessary.

Concrete floors on metal deck still don’t transfer very well, and we’re still doing all our load assignments in RAM because we aren’t trying to use multiple analytical packages on the same model. But the biggest disappointment so far has been rebar. RAM SS will design rebar, of course, and it can export it back to Revit…as 3D rebar. Which we’re not using yet. So I haven’t been able to find a way to automate the population of the column schedule with the appropriate rebar. Maybe by the time I write “third thoughts” we’ll have made some progress…

But honestly, I think there will always be one major deal-breaker when it comes to a true 2-way transfer of information: engineering judgment. Engineering analysis and design does not always require the same precision that a set of construction documents does. It just doesn’t, and it never will. Tweaks to a slab edge condition that require changes to every floor plan and section cut in Revit may not have any effect on the structural design at all — so what do you do? Stop sending the floors back and forth? Send them back and update the design model? Break the link entirely? All potentially valid options depending on how big the discrepancy is and how far along you are in the design process.

Even with the drawbacks, though, the process is constantly improving and evolving. Here’s to progress!

Goverlan Remote Administration

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Part of my role as Digital Design Manager involves coordinating installations of new & updated software programs. It’s the main area where I overlap with IT — they can handle a lot of the legwork, but keeping up with new releases (and deciding when to roll them out) is mine.

For a long time, we were small enough that we could get away with “sneaker-net” installations…actually walking around to each computer to run the install or start the deployment. But at 140 people, that method is a little ridiculous — not to mention that it provides absolutely no means of inventory control.

So to save us all a lot of time & headaches, we use Goverlan Remote Administration. Goverlan is an all-in-one IT console for management, installation, and inventory. You can control network machines remotely (with more flexibility and convenience than Windows Remote Desktop), set up packages to deploy software, uninstall old software, and manage network properties.

I don’t get into the last item very much (my IT managers are better at that than I am), but the remote control & installs have been an amazing time-saver. This morning, I pushed out a new version of SAP 2000 to 30 machines in about 10 minutes — counting time for setup & testing. And before I did that, I ran an inventory query (in about 2 minutes) that told me which machines needed the update.

Having remote control capabilities means I can quickly see another machine from my desk, either to test a remote installation or launch something directly (if for some reason we don’t have a deployment package). It is SO much easier than walking over to the other machine (yes, I’m a little lazy), and if I’m using it for troubleshooting, my colleague can see her screen at the same time, so it’s easier to figure out what’s going on. Once or twice, though, I’ve checked to see that someone was out of the office before taking over his computer…only to find out that he was logged in from home. (“Hey, why is my mouse moving by itself?” Oops.)

I know this is probably very basic compared to the setups some of you have. And I’m sure I’m not using what we have to its full potential. But Goverlan is very user-friendly even for those of us who aren’t IT professionals. And when you compare it to what we used to have, we’re happy with it. It’s pretty cheap too, as far as these things go, and I think it paid for itself in the first few months in terms of IT time saved. (And to be clear, my only relationship with Goverlan & PJ Technologies is as a customer.)

Anybody else out there using Goverlan? Or something else you’d like to recommend?

Standards: Process vs. Outcome

One of my (many) projects these days is wrangling our long-standing CAD standards and much-newer BIM standards into a single, unified “Graphics Standards Manual”. As I try to get a grip on this spaghetti bowl of topics, I’ve started to divide them into two categories: process and outcome. You could also call it screen vs. plot. Or, in complete sentences: “How does it act?” vs. “How does it look?”

Today, these two halves of a model or drawing are about equal. I suspect, as we continue to move closer to IPD, the “process” side will begin to prevail. Today, however, I’m more likely to see a QC comment complaining about the symbol representing a kicker than about the fact that it’s a faked-in detail component when it should have been modeled.

This philosophical division also helps categorize standards topics into “CAD”, “BIM”, and “graphics”. The first two are process-based, such as project setup procedures for each system. The last is outcome-based, such as our typical abbreviations and acronyms. Some topics span all three categories, like the information contained in a graphical column schedule. What that schedule looks like is part of Graphics, but getting it there is part of CAD/BIM.

I’m still working on the best way to organize all these discrete yet related topics. My ideal scenario would be a fully-linked searchable database or website. For now, we have OneNote. It’s pretty good, but harder to lock down against inadvertent editing than I would like.

As I keep writing things down, I’ll post the categorization here, but in the meantime, how do you handle unified standards for separate software solutions?

Insert screenshot in MS Office products

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Okay, so this is not really BIM-related at all, but I haven’t posted here in over two months (sometimes life gets in the way of blogging) and when I found this I just had to share it. And if any of you have to create presentations, write training materials, or just put a lot of images in emails, you’ll like it as much as I do.

Here it is: Open up just about any Microsoft Office 2010 product (Word, Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint) and check out the Insert tab.

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Did anyone else miss the fact that there’s a screenshot option right in plain view? I guess my gaze usually stops on “Picture.” And to be fair, if your window is small enough the icon may get collapsed into the mini-version:

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Click on it, and you’ll get images of every open program you have. Pick one to drop in a full-size image of that window, or choose the “Screen Clipping” option to define your own area. (Note that the current program will minimize while you take your clipping.)

Is that cool or what?

Working vs. Sheet views

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When I first came back to working in Revit, I wasn’t convinced of the need to separate “working” views from “plotting” views. I’d never used them in AutoCAD, why start now? Can’t you just hide stuff you don’t need?

Gotta say, though, I became a fan pretty quickly. What changed my mind?

Working Sections 

When you’re working in 3D, a 2D view doesn’t always tell the whole story. (Or even half the story.) Want to see what’s really going on in your plan? Cut a section! Didn’t quite answer the question? Cut another section! Before you know it, your view is chock full of section cuts that you don’t actually need as part of your set.

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Rather than letting section cuts clutter up your views, at our office we change them to a “working section” type and use a filter to turn them off in plotted views. We’ve found it helps eliminate confusion between what’s a “real” section and what’s not.

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“Real” (a.k.a. plotting) section

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“Working” section

Temporary Annotations 

I was modeling an existing structure the other day, and I needed to keep track of the top of caisson elevations. The easiest way to do this was to tag them all with spot elevations — but I did not want that information on the actual plan. Instead, I hopped over into the working view and tagged away.

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They didn’t have to look pretty, because they’ll never appear on paper. I like to think of working views as the digital equivalent of scratch paper. You can scribble all you want, knowing you won’t mess up your sheet. And if you decide later that you do need some of those annotations or sections on the plotting sheet, you can easily copy the annotations or change the section back to a regular type.

Watch out for real objects

The one caveat I would give for working views is that if you change something real, like a wall or a door, you’d better go back and check that in your plotting view to make sure it still looks the way you want it to. Real annotations such as dimensions and spot elevations should follow their hosts, but detail components might not and text notes definitely won’t.

Don’t blame the software…

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Have you ever noticed that people tend to blame software for project problems? Or worse, for people problems?

I’ve been thinking about this for a while, and decided to post after I read Robert Green’s Cadalyst series on the “tool worship trap“. These articles describe how easy it can be to get caught up in the promises of new software (and yes, I’ve been there!), and the reality checks you need to be sure your expectations don’t get out of hand.

But this attitude has a flip side: fear of new technology. Or if not fear exactly, a transference of existing issues onto new software. I’m mostly thinking about Revit today, but there will probably be more examples in a future post.

  • “We’re over budget because we did this project in Revit.” (Are you sure it’s not because of all the client-driven changes?)
  • “Revit should have notified us that the slab openings moved.” (Maybe. But how would we have handled this in AutoCAD?)
  • “I thought coordination would be easier now.” (Well, it can be. But you still have to talk to each other.)

Basically, whenever I hear a complaint or an objection to a Revit-based process, I try to find out if it’s an issue now anyway, regardless of software, and whether it’s something that we could fix if we just talked to the person on the other end.

Revit’s not perfect. (Far from it…although it is getting better all the time.) But I don’t think it deserves all the blame it accumulates for problems that are either long-standing collaboration challenges — that could be just as true for two people working on a Word doc — or that can be traced to other project management issues.

Just some Friday musings…

Drag Listening Dimensions

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If you’ve used Revit at all, I’m sure you know what a listening dimension is, even if you’ve never heard the term before. They’re the temporary dimensions that show up when you select an object.

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They’re GREAT to have — I use them all the time when I know what the distance should be between two points or objects.

But the listening dimensions don’t always show up where you want them. In the image above, maybe I need to set the distance from the selected beam to grid 6.

Before I learned the trick I’m going to share with you, I would have added a dimension from the the beam to the grid, changed my measurement, and deleted the dimension. But no longer!

Instead, I learned (I forget where, sorry) that you can just adjust the listening dimension. Grab the blue dot (the tooltip will say “move witness line” and drag it to your preferred reference.

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Voilà!

And what’s more, this relocation is sticky — the listening dimension will appear in the same (new) place the next time you select that object.

RAM and Revit: First thoughts

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A large part of my role as Digital Design Manager is getting multiple software platforms to play nicely together. Frankly, getting one at a time to behave is often a challenge, but I thought I’d share a few thoughts on the compatibility of two programs that see a lot of use around here: Revit and RAM.

Revit to RAM

The first time we tried to link the two systems, we started in Revit. This was an existing structure, steel framed, that we were modeling for seismic analysis purposes. The goal was to start in Revit (so we’d have a documentation model ready to go for a later design phase) and then export to RAM Elements.

Unfortunately, it turned into a complete mess. We discovered (too late) that the ISM translator only pulls the physical model from Revit and ignores the analytical elements. This meant that our steel joist roof didn’t connect to the beams it was supported by, columns missed their connections to beams, etc. It was a real disappointment, after all the work we’d put in to making sure our analytical nodes were connected.

We eventually were able to get the model to run, but it was a real headache.

HOWEVER, I have not given up! This was only our first attempt, and involved RAM Elements instead of RAM Structural System. I hope to find a good test project soon for Round 2.

RAM to Revit

Our next experiment went the other way — from RAM Structural System to Revit. This was another steel-framed structure, and when documentation started the engineer had already built a RAM model for some schematic design calcs. It seemed silly to start from scratch in Revit when we could at least try the import.

And this one worked beautifully.

All the elements came into Revit right where they should be. The beams had physical and analytical components. (I haven’t figured out that quirk of ISM yet.) Anything that looked off, like a grid line that stopped halfway up the building, could be traced back to the RAM model element’s definition, not the import process. I estimate that it saved us at least 3 solid days of drafting/modeling time, if not more.

The catch with this second project is that it’s historic steel, not modern. So the RAM model had lots of substitutions for archaic shapes, which had to be swapped out in Revit to be properly displayed & tagged. So I don’t know yet if we’ll be able to round-trip the model. There might be some tweaks we can make to the mapping file to accommodate the historic shapes, but my research hasn’t gotten that far yet.

It’s a good start, though…onward and upward!

Quick Rotate Objects

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When you’re inserting objects or components into a Revit view, you may have noticed the “Rotate after placement” checkbox below the ribbon.QuickRotate1

It’s handy, I suppose, but personally, I haven’t used it since I discovered the quick-and-easy way to rotate objects before you place them: with the space bar.

By default, pressing the space bar before you place an object rotates it 90 degrees.

QuickRotate2 QuickRotate3

But if you hover over an existing object first, your new component will rotate to match its alignment.

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I use this ALL the time for placing breaklines along braces and sloped beams, or to align columns with non-orthogonal grids.

Just a quick tip to tide you over while we wait for Revit 2014 to appear…

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