Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Revit Technology Conference is upon us...Sign up today!

The Revit Technology Conference for North America is fast approaching, and Washington, DC will never be the same. RTC is a mini "AU" conference that focuses strictly Revit and its associated programs. This really helps the user get focused on the tasks we need to improve on, and gain more efficiency when using the tools.

The event, scheduled for July 23nd-25th at the Crystal Gateway Marriott, and includes some awesome speakers, including Paul Aubin, Jim Balding, Jason Boehning (one of my co-authors at CADLearning), Don Bokmiller, Matt Murphy, Brian and Desiree Mackey, Kate Morrical, Marcello Sgambelluri, Beau Turner and a whole lot more...that I'm humbled to be a part of.

So here's what I'll be covering, in a lab on Friday morning. We're going to review some advanced Revit family editing tips, focusing on the MEP side of things, but are also applicable to other disciplines as well. We'll spend time reviewing nested families on a rotational basis, as well as 2D annotations. We'll also cover key shared parameters and how to edit vendor content to clean this data up, and manage it as well. Time permitting, we'll show a few tools you can use to help you manage your content more effectively, and cut down on project production time.

There's a lot of great classes that I'm really excited to be attending, and hope you'll be able to join us. sign up early and often, and we'll see you there!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Updating a Revit Family, and you don't get a dialog...Head Scratcher time!

Had a user that had loaded a family with a lot of types in it. He purged his project, but then discovered he needed one of the types he had purged. So, he opens the original family, and tries to use the Load Family tool on the ribbon, but he doesn't get the normal overwrite  dialog (which allows you to either load just the family or load and overwrite the parameters). He also didn't get the original types reloaded into the file. His first thought was to just delete the part(s) and reload the family, but that added a lot of work.

At first I thought it was a bug, but the big man upstairs (my boss, Norb Howell) reminded me of a behavior in Revit. You only get the overwrite dialog if the original model has been changed or saved, since it's the date stamp that kicks this dialog off.

So how do you fix it? Easy - just open the original part and save it. You might have to edit a parameter, or make a minor change (better yet, fix something that's actually broken). Reload the file and you'll get all the types back.

Better yet, add the Smart Browser tool from AGA CAD (Tools4Revit) at http://t4r.aga-cad.com/Smart-Browser-download-page/. We love this app, it's a real time saver.

This add-on, which has free and pro versions, allows you to locate a family, and then load just the types you need, in the event a type catalog (.txt) doesn't accompany the file. You can pick and choose the types you want, and only load what's required. The same rule applies, but if you're thinking ahead and know you'll need more than one type in a family, it's a better way to load these to your project.

Check it out - happy BIM'ing!

David B.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Are You a Bag...or a Box?

Life has an interesting way of throwing you curves…and an occasional epiphany. This past weekend, as families go, we had a dust up about a family event. Too many things were happening at once – a call should have been made, feelings were hurt, voices were raised. That’s usually when things don’t end well. After having a long and sometime contentious talk with my nephew, I had to force myself to sit back and listen, putting my own emotions on the back burner.

As he spun on about how his life was structured, and went into great analytical detail about how I was wrong, I tried to make sense of why this was so difficult for the rest of my family. And as usual, at 5:00am, waking up out of a deep sleep (and great dream, I might add), it hit me. He’s a box.

And that’s when my understanding opened up. For all the people I have to interact with, both professionally and personally, you can really sum up lifestyles into two groups. You’re either a bag, or a box. Each one has its own quirks, rules, behaviors and more. For example, my nephew is definitely a box. He’s defined by his daily life, which is carefully organized, and fits into a nice, neat little box. Every action he takes is planned out in great detail…even down to his “social” time which is carefully allotted to permit interactions with family and friends within the constraints of well documented studies (I swear, he really said that to me). If an interaction is not suitable given the parameters, he simply replaces that event with another box.

And here I am…a wadded up piece of paper. I don’t necessarily fit into this nice orderly system, so he’s immediately ready to begin reworking me into a shape that fits his box. You see, I’m a bag…more specifically, a 55 gallon, plastic, draw string bag…stuffed to gills with all kinds of interactions, tasks, relationships and more. While details are important, I’m not as prone to being upset when something doesn’t fit into a box.

Want to out to dinner? Text me that morning…if I’m open, let’s go. Need help with a cranky BIM model at work? I can sit aside what I’m doing at that moment, jump onto webex, and try to help solve the problem…and go right back to the wadded up piece of paper I was working on before.

Don’t get me wrong – none of this means that you can’t have good, meaningful interactions between the two types. You just have to understand the ground rules, parameters and functions for dealing with each type. For example, my sister was very upset that I waited until the last minute to let her know if dinner was still on. But for the previous week, I was dealing with the loss of a close family friend, and my emotional mind was wrapped up in dealing with both my grief and the family’s pain.

The solutions were vast and simple. I should have called, or emailed, and let them know earlier, but didn’t. They knew what was going on, and should have called, or emailed, and taken the steps to reach out and make contact. And that’s the real gist of this. If you’re dealing with a box type, you have to respect the fact that not following their structure, their rules, does cause them discomfort and pain…no matter how much it seems cold to the bag type, because you’re the source of the discomfort.

And while most box types are analytical, you have to take into account the emotional aspect of the bag types. Our relationships are much more personal and fluid, so priorities can easily get hosed up, so focusing on your own discomfort, and not reaching out on your own, also causes great angst.

One important note – it’s not that box types can’t be spontaneous and loving. With the confines of their lifestyle, they can have many bag characteristics. But it also doesn’t mean that a bag type can’t be organized or committed – in some cases, those passions run deep and are needed to keep the bag from overflowing. It’s all a case of taking the time to understand these characteristics, respecting them and learning how to deal with them. Bags will have a tendency to associate and have strong relationships with other bag types, while boxes will do the same. It’s when the two try to interact, is when the problems occur – but can be easily overcome.

So how does this fit into a technical blog? The more I thought about this, the more it made sense to me why some users pick up software packages like Revit and AutoCAD MEP more easily than others. Both of these programs are boxes for sure – they require an organized approach, with steps taken in a specific order, and with subsequent tasks being impacted by the quality of each step before. But plain AutoCAD is more like a bag. You can throw a bunch of lines in, set them to any layer, color, linetype, and size you want, and then wait until the last minute to clean it all up.

When training your staff, it’s important to learn which traits the user has. I’ve got one user, extremely intelligent, and very Sheldon Cooper like. His work has to be approached in a very analytical manner, so you can’t just explain how – you have to do step by steps, and explain why, and how it fits into his design process. And as a bag, boy, does that take patience for me. I’ll explain it, think I did a great job, and find out I’m explaining the same thing several more times, as he sorts it all out and gets the concepts organized in his box.

Then I have younger users, the Xbox generation, generation Z…you get the drift. They already have the comfort zone and lack of cautiousness when it comes to working with today’s technology. Sometimes the questions come out in random order, and don’t fit into a nice neat little box. So you’ve got to be able to reach in the bag, find the answer quickly, and send them on their way. They can get by with an outline of the process and then pick up the pieces as the go along, so full day training can be wasted on them.

What makes this all work, is that you have to want to be in that relationship. You have to be motivated, on your own, and be willing to understand the differences between them. This can’t be forced – because all it does is cause pain, and makes the walls go up – quickly. So whether you’re dealing with a mad sister, or a user that can’t seem to move forward, take the time to step back, and understand their own lifestyle and habits. It’ll make it much easier to know this, and how you’re supposed to respect and honor your friends, family and co-workers. And it’s important to understand who you are, and where you fit into this. Your reactions could mean the difference between a valuable relationship, or a lost opportunity.


So what are you – a bag or a box?

Monday, February 2, 2015

Attention All 3D Model Creators and Vendors...for Revit Users - Stop making my life a pain...

OK, it's time for a quick soapbox post.

First up, to all the manufacturers that are making content for us pain-in-the-rear Revit users. We're a whiny bunch, especially when we want our models to closely represent real world conditions.

For the most part, your stuff is good. The end of line guys - making the equipment, the targets and sources...We don't need every nut, bolt and clip, so when you put a preliminary model together, you can leave all that stuff out. I'm going to take it out of the model anyway when I get it to Inventor, since I really don't want a 1gb family. But if the overall skin detail is good, and when you get me a model, I make sure you're at the top of the list for the recommended vendors (even when there's three required).

For the other guys...that are using companies like ARCAT, SmartBIM and others. It's time for some ground rules.

1. First and foremost - I will jealously guard your intellectual property -as a designer, that's what defines us as well. But you need to work with your content developers and understand the chaos you cause with your shared parameters.

Every time I get a family that includes copyrights, trademarks, links to your website, your content developer's home phone, webpage, Mom's maiden name, that are defined as shared parameters, I start to use words that will make my preacher blush. STOP DOING THIS! I'm cool with you adding them as family parameters, since those don't show up for schedules and tags. You've got to understand that most of our users don't care what 04 CSI is used for, since we already have schedules defined with our standards anyway. So I wind up wasting a lot of time cleaning your mess up - and looking to either make my own version, or go to another vendor's site - which is not why you do this in the first place. You want to market your products, and we're cool with you doing that, as long as you're not making more wasted work for me and the users.

2. Second of all - I'm cool with you adding design criteria data as well - again, make it family only. And use the right format - like electrical Phase - this is NOT the same as number of poles, so don't create a shared parameter that's named one thing and used another way. Make sure it's related to the category and use as what's defined in Revit.

If I want to use your data in a schedule or as part of a load calculation, I'll use a custom shared parameter that matches my schedule, but is set to equal your data. It's easy to link family data to shared parameter data as long as the formatting is the same. You can do this with a schedule or with a formula in the type properties of a part, and they can be instance or type.

3. USE THE DEFAULT TYPE AND INSTANCE PARAMETERS! Like Model, and Manufacturer - anytime we have a deviation between examples, we make a different type - because, gasp, they ARE different - even if it's something simple as a voltage, or connection size. And stop adding your own model numbers in 3 or 4 different shared parameters. Again, make them family based so the guys making our schedules don't see the word Model show up five times when making a new schedule.

4. And last but not least - be CLEAR when it comes to type names. We edit all of these to include a descriptive name...like, Air Handling Unit. If you haven't heard, we use a really neat tool called Navisworks, that allows us to export our models into a format that can be used for collaboration. When a project is exported, Revit will assign the type name to the solid - if no name is provided, then it uses the family name. But it's equally important in the Revit model to make sure it's clearly named, so we can sort and filter schedules easily. If you name your family type 1234-FRGST-LH-BS-UAUMF-L-2, nobody else knows what the heck that means. Be clear, because my IQ isn't high enough to understand this goobletygook.

Again, I can't thank you enough, but you guys are winding up like the good Samaritan on the side of the road with a toolbox, When they try to help you change the flat tire, they strip your lug nuts when they use a pair of channel locks to loosen them up. Use the right tool for the job, and life is better for everyone.

I'm done, you can all return to your jobs now....and, guys, don't forget that Valentine's Day is in less that two weeks!

Later - db

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Getting your Revit Model back to Warp Speed, Scotty!

We ran into some issues with slow loads and regens with some of our shared Revit models recently, and decided to come up with a checklist to help you look for items that can cause a model to have these issues.Your circumstances may vary, but these should help you eliminate some performance issues.

Location of the Files

How many have servers with mapped drive letters to specific folder locations? And the locations could actually be on servers in other office locations?

When a project is loaded into Revit, the program resolves the path locations to the linked files. But if the drive letter mapping doesn't match from office to office, the program can spend an inordinate amount of time trying to locate files. This mainly occurs when drive letters are not mapped to the same server, or if the server is in a different location.

To resolve this, the first step is the use the UNC file name for the server. This can vary widely across firms, but if a server's actual name is SERVERO1, then you want to start your path like this: \\SERVER01\folder name, etc... This helps out tremendously when you have multiple office locations with a variety of servers in the firm where Revit files are stored.

This applies not only to RVT files, but also any lined DWG or image files you may include in your model.

One other option is to set the pathing to Relative, instead of absolute. If you have files stored on different locations (such as office locations, or practice based servers) and you're not planning on moving the files, then an absolute path option using a UNC name works really well. If you may need to move the project files in the future, and keep them all in the same root folder, then use relative. That way, Revit doesn't spend a lot of time searching for the linked files - instead, it will start in the same root location as the file you are opening.

Workset Control

One item that helps speed up opening a file relates to worksets in a central file. When the program opens a file that has worksets enabled, you get a dialog that asks what workset you want to open:


If you don't need to see or use items in a specific workset, select it - under the Opened column, you can change this from Yes to No by selecting the close command. Since one thing we like to do is place linked files, such as Revit or CAD files, into specific worksets that you can open and close as needed.

MEP Issues

This one popped up when we migrated a project from 2013 to 2015. Since it wasn't one we really targeted to get the systems part working correctly, we had a little spate of errors (ok, a LOT of errors) regarding pipe and duct calculations. Since we're running the R2 version with Update Release 3, I found a neat new little feature.

Under the project browser, and families, select a duct system family. Edit the Type Properties, and look for the mechanical settings:


If calculations are set to All or Flow Only, the program is constantly reviewing the duct and pipe layouts and adding sizing values. The old way was just to set this to none, but Autodesk added a Performance feature that helps even more with files have large networks. The details are a bit long, so here's a link to the actual help file.

Another item you can control lives on the Analyze tab. The Check Systems tools for duct, pipe, circuits and disconnects can really help you find errors. These are toggles that I turn on when I want to check, and turn them off when I'm finished. Leaving these off when you leave the file is another good idea.

The last item to check includes the Warning tool, located on the Manage Tab, Inquiry panel. This lists all errors in a file - if there's a lot, the program will be trying to track and resolve them when opening the file. Finding and fixing thse errors makes the file run much smoother, and keeps your model happy - so take the time to review these on a regular basis.

These are just a few tips - I'll add more as we discover them, but consider this your Christmas present. Enjoy the holidays!

David B.



Thursday, December 11, 2014

AU 2014 is in the Can…Miscellaneous Thoughts…

Had a great time catching up with everyone, and meeting new people this year. Autodesk University (@autodesku) continues to grow and add value to the attendees, and it’s the best run event I attend every year. This was actually a light year from me from a teaching standpoint, but the feature class on Managing BIM Projects without Going CrAzY was a blast to teach this time. Even with a couple of minor technical hiccups on my part, the online portion seemed to go off without a hitch (with all 6 users watching…grin). It gives me good vibes about the Virtual events for the future, and I think these can easily be expanded…provided the conference location can handle the bandwidth. That was the only real hiccup this year – with so many online applications, and users pinging the AU app like mad, we did bring the whole network down at least once.

A couple of observations – the crowd varies from year to year, and while last year’s event seemed to have more entry level users, there was definitely a more forward thinking and sophisticated user mindset at this event. And Autodesk leaders, including CEO Carl Bass, and CTO Jeff Kowalski, played to the future visions of the users pretty well in the opening keynote.

One item that made me think a little harder was a comment made by Jeff, about how, at some point, our creations need to learn how to work more naturally (is that right?) towards each other, instead of being “dead” creations that symbolize a static point in time. He made his point by talking about how he wants his clothes washer to communicate with the dryer, and know when the wash is finished, so the dryer can pick up the task from there.

It’s a great idea to have this type of vision moving forward, but here’s where the “but” comes in. We, the users, can’t help Autodesk move this vision forward if they can’t get their current products to communicate, much less coordinate, with each other now. There’s a million examples, but the discussion came up in an Expert Elite luncheon on Thursday. One of the users asked Jeff when he could expect to see the same passion for the civil products that he was demonstrating in his explanation about 3D printing, and how computers can handle the tasks of designing structures and parts best.

At that point, I attempted to rephrase the question, by stating that you can’t get to appliances talking to each other if you can’t accomplish the goal of having a Revit pipe recognize and connect to a Civil 3D pipe on their own now. That’s where the technology is now, but it’s doesn’t work in the Autodesk product line.

Part of the problem is the wide variety of solutions Autodesk offers, and the fact that the different divisions within the company now, such as buildings, infrastructure, manufacturing, etc. are still very “silo” based. Here’s a simple example: Right now, in AutoCAD MEP, if you want to associate information from a light fixture to be associated with a space object, you simply add an anchor object. This creates the relationship between the parts, and allows you to link shared information between the parts.

In Revit, mechanical equipment can only recognize limited data that’s embedded into the programming – for example, the circuit name and number is automatically associated with the equipment, but that’s it. You can’t easily tie other electrical data – such as the section number that associated with an electrical circuit for a motor control center – back to the equipment. Other examples include horsepower, circuit ampacity or wiring in an associated conduit that’s connected to the equipment.

It’s not that Autodesk can’t develop, or even have that kind of programming available. It’s the fact that it’s not there is where the problem exists. And with the new Dynamo programming language available, we’re still a long ways off from having the tools we need to get to this level of optimization – whether it’s Autodesk, third party developers, or our own in-house personnel developing the code.

Almost every company I’ve worked for – including ours – still struggles with overcoming these silos, and being able to address the needs of their partners in design without having to take a lot of extra steps. But the fact that Autodesk recognizes the fact that these interconnecting relationships are key to their future is important. It’s just a matter of the company’s leadership to develop and push these goals back to the development teams.

And it’s not for want – Jeff’s key comment back to the crowd was that he was simply a visionist, who was on our side and pushed the same ideas back. At some point, you have to get the roadblocks out of the way, and get the communication and goals directly tied to each other – and develop the features in the products we need day in and day out, at the based product line level.

A360, BIM 360, Field 360, Simulation 360, and other cloud based products represent the cloud-based tools to help make the more complex communications possible. But Autodesk should not get too involved in the development of these present and future applications at the expense of their core product line.

In other words – don’t look past the sliding glass door so far that you break your nose trying to get out of it.

Back to AU – it was one of the best events I’ve been to with Autodesk in a while, and the opportunity to meet Carl and Jeff was definitely a high point (sorry, guys, if I drooled on your foot). But it was just as important to me to meet the people that came into my classes, and participated in the topics that I’m passionate about. It was great share that passion, and hopefully I could help them overcome some of their fears, discover relevance, and change their methods to get the message out (thank you, Mike Lee for those words and ideas – be the change!).

Next year – super excited about being back at the Venetian and Sands Convention Center, my favorite venue. The crowds will be large, and the people motivated – let’s see how far we can get in the next 50 weeks…

Merry Christmas!

David B.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Is your AutoCAD acting up? Fixing the User Profile...

This one goes out as a thanks to our uber CAD Manager, Nick Seman, who works in the home office at Camp Hill, PA. I'd been having trouble creating projects in AutoCAD P&ID, where I kept getting failures trying to create a new project. Since we push our software to our users over the network, sometimes it;s not an easy task to just "reinstall the software", as support is prone to telling us. One important note - if you're not comfortable editing the registry, then don't try this - get some help from someone who is...like one of your kids, or the neighborhood computer geek...

Make sure your AutoCAD program that's giving you issues is closed. If you've customized your AutoCAD, back the user folder (usually something like this: C:\Users\username\AppData\Roaming\
Autodesk\AutoCAD 2015\R20.0\enu) up to a different location (Microsoft Windows stores user profile data in the registry, and you can help AutoCAD rebuild their profiles by simply renaming a couple of keys (don't delete them, in case you screw this up). To get to the registry editor, look at the start menu (if you don't have this in Windows 8, that's a whole other issue - get yourself a start menu app to fix this). Use the Search section to type in "regedit" and press enter to continue. If you get a security warning, select OK to continue.

In the registry, you're looking for the HKEY_CURRENT_USER section - don't make this change in the local machine, as it won't fix the problem.Browse to the Software > Autodesk > AutoCAD key:


You'll see the version first - for example, R19.1 is the 2014 product line, while 20.0 is the 2015 product line. Since this is an AutoCAD issue, you may see several keys that start with ACAD. Each one of these represents a specific product, such as AutoCAD Plant 3D (which is where I had the problem, in the database connection part). To see software a key is used for, select it - the E017:409 key displays the program info in the right pane. this way, you know that both E017 keys are related to Plant 3D. In my case, E006 is related to AutoCAD MEP, and E001 is related to plain AutoCAD 2015.

This fix is easy - simply right click on each key for your product, and then choose Rename. Add an "x" in front of the name - do NOT delete the key. Renaming these forces the program to repair the user profile. When you re-open the software, you'll get an installation dialog - let it run, as this is fixing the problem. Check your program after it opens to make sure it's working correctly.

If this doesn't correct the problem, you can repeat the same steps, but this time, rename the C:\USERS\(your username)\Appdata\Roaming\AutoDesk folder for your product, such as AutoCAD P&ID 2014, or MEP 2015...whatever program is giving you the problem. Simply rename it to have an "X" at the start of the name.

If this fixes the problem, go back and delete the renamed keys and folders...after you're sure it's all working correctly. You might want to check the old folder for plotter PC3 files, CTB files, CUI's and anything else you may have customized. These items should be pointed to a custom folder if you're going to be editing them for company standards...and updating the user profile is one of the big reasons why.

Try this out if the traditional fixes don't work, and you can't get a good explanation for why your program is buggy. Make sure you have administrative privileges to the computer and user folder when you do this - if you don't, get your IT guy to take care of it for you.

Happy de-bugging - David B.