Heading to AU2015? See you there!



The end of November brings two time-honored traditions to the design community: the celebration of Thanksgiving (with our family) and Autodesk University (with our other family).


With various friends & colleagues (a.k.a. AU Family) at previous events

This will be my 12th AU (wow), and by now, that community does feel like family. AU is where I find the people who are trying to solve the same challenges I am in the design process, and who know exactly what I mean when I say “can you believe it works THAT way?” Great big extended family…or group therapy sessions. (I’m never quite sure.)

I’m not speaking this year, so I’ll have plenty of time to attend classes and hang out in the exhibit hall. You can probably find me in a Dynamo session, or a structures-focused Revit talk, or at the AUGI booth in the hall. One place you can be sure to see me is at the AUGI Annual Meeting on Wednesday at 5:30…let me just say you won’t want to miss it. :-)

Can’t come to Las Vegas? Watch from the comfort of your home or office! AU is live-streaming not only some of the mainstage events but ALSO a great selection classes! And of course much of the material presented will become part of the ever-expanding AU Online experience.

Hope to see you there–if you see me walking around, be sure to say hello!

Christmas in October: Revit 2016 R2



Where has the summer gone? For that matter, what happened to fall? I’d swear it was Labor Day only yesterday, and here it is Christmas already!

Okay, not really…but it feels like Christmas, because a new update of Revit is here, and it’s more than just bug fixes. As happened last year with Revit 2015, Revit 2016 R2 introduces actual new features — some that you can actively put to use, and some that will quietly improve things behind the scenes.

I don’t have time to cover all 20+ additions & improvements today, but here are a few favorites. (Click each title for a short preview.)

Draw Visible Elements Only

Revit 2016 now focuses its graphic energies only on elements that are visible in a view, instead of ones that are hidden or off-screen. This speeds up panning, zooming, and orbiting — I think you’ll notice the difference.

Family Visibility Preview

Ever work with a family that uses lots of visibility states, and have trouble keeping track of which elements go with each option? Not anymore! Objects that are turned off in the current type can now actually be turned off.

Unload Link Per User

Ever go to turn on a model, only to sigh with annoyance because someone else unloaded it? (only all the time…) Not anymore! You can now unload a link just for you, improving your model’s performance while letting your colleagues load and unload the links they need.

Name Reference Planes

You’ve always been able to name a reference plane in Properties, but now you can do so in-canvas too. Sometimes it’s the little things, y’know?

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a deployment to plan…

BIM Essentials Tip #2: Override View Templates


, ,

Even if you’re a big fan of View Templates (like I am), there comes a time when they’re in the way. Really, that time can be several times a day! Instead of turning off the template entirely–and then having to remember to put it back–use template overrides instead.


Revit 2014 added this handy tool to the status bar and included two options: Enable Temporary View Properties and Temporarily Apply Template Properties. The first one just unlocks all the Visibility Graphics options for you to modify at will. The second lets you use the properties of a pre-existing template. For example, I have a “coordination” template that does nothing except turn on linked models in halftone–I use that one as a temporary override all the time.

And when you pick a template to use as an override, Revit remembers it! That template stays in your status bar menu for easy access later.


When you’re done, simply “Restore View Properties”. The purple border (indicating an overridden template) will go away, your original template will be restored, and you’re back to business as usual.

BIM Essentials Tip #1


, ,

The theme of this series of posts will be “bite-sized BIM” — easily digestible tips, tricks, and hints to help everyday Revit users be more productive.

Tip #1: View Templates

View Templates are a favorite tool of BIM Managers, because they provide control over the graphic settings for plotted views. Turn on or off a linked model, override the graphics for a model category, use filters to select specific objects — it’s all there. Also available are additional parameters for sorting view within the Project Browser, so you can keep your Working, Printed, and Coordination views separate.

1B   1A

Anything with its box checked in the right-hand image above cannot be modified in the regular Visibility Graphics dialog. So if you’re trying to change a graphics setting in your view and can’t…look for a view template! (But don’t change that template without talking to your model manager.)

If you enjoyed this first course, be sure to stay tuned…there’s plenty more where this came from!

I’m baaaack….


Have you ever intended to take a short break from something, but then find that the length of the break keeps stretching…and stretching…and then you realize it’s been over a year since your last blog post?

Well, apparently that’s what happened to me. I didn’t mean to take all that time off, but so much has been going on this past year that the blog got pushed to the back burner.

At any rate, it’s summer again in DC and the heat is back on! (Please excuse my mixed metaphors.) I have a whole pile of content just waiting to be written up, from some tips & tricks I presented at local Revit meetings to tidbits from my upcoming RTCNA class to gripes about phases (still!) in Revit 2016.

I hope you’ve all had a good year, and I’ll see you again here soon. Promise!

Line Breaks in Revit Text


, , , ,

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:

Image Image

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:


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:



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


, , , , , ,

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


, , , ,

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


, ,

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.


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:


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?


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,358 other followers