Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Installing Revit 2015 Standalone versus Building Design Suite

My friend Simon (works with Autodesk) wrote to let me know he's seen a number of support requests recently regarding the Web Update for Revit 2015. The current situation can be described like this:
  • Building Design Suite (BDS) installation does NOT include the Web Update release
  • Revit Architect, Structure or MEP installation DOES include the web update release.
If you download BDS and install Revit the update is NOT already part of the installation package and you need to download and apply it separately. Keep in mind that one of the available options for the installation is to download and let the installation apply it as part of the original installation.

If you download Revit Architecture, Structure or MEP separately (not BDS) then the update IS already included in the installation. As I understand it, the version or build that is packaged apart from BDS is different, including the update's changes.

Regardless of the version you install you may get a notice that there is an update available despite having already installed it (like I mentioned in an earlier post). Go with the flow, let the Autodesk Application Manager (APM) try to install the update. It (APM) will fail to do so if the update is installed. It (APM) will be in sync thereafter.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Revit and AutoCAD

It's been 14 years since Revit formally began knocking on the doors of architectural firms. The first response quite often was, "We've already got {insert your software here}, no thanks"! Other responses were, "Really? Let's have a look"! Which was then followed by "Oh gosh, you mean it doesn't do "X" just like {insert your software here}? Well thanks for coming by, good luck"!

As Revit matured there were fewer opportunities for showstopper items. The rejection response or yeah, but response also matured to focus on the practical side of changing an office from this to that. Such as, "We've got all these people who are {insert your software here} experts. We can't justify the time and effort required to move to Revit". Another familiar one, "We've got a decade of {insert your software here} detail and object libraries, we can't possibly be expected to do that all over again." Revit Structure was introduced (2005) and the conversation began again with engineers. A year later Revit Systems (now MEP) started the same dialog for another set of engineers.

When Autodesk decided to buy Revit Technology Corporation they confused many of their own customers who, until then, were using AutoCAD or Architectural Desktop (aka ADT, now AutoCAD Architecture aka ACA). I think Autodesk has a curious relationship with its customers. All too often I meet (and read people's writing) who, regardless how much they like the software they use, are at best ambivalent about being an Autodesk customer, at worst resentful or angry.

Witness some of the comments in response to my earlier post about Revit 2015's new features. Accused of being a monopolistic company or evil empire, we even joke that friends have joined the dark side if/when they are hired by Autodesk. I'm not sure what they can really do to alter this perception, except to suddenly offer their software for free? I suspect the stockholders might object to that move.

With that in mind, it has taken a formidable marketing effort to get Revit where it is today. In my opinion the phrase Building Information Modeling (BIM) was born in part because Autodesk desperately needed to differentiate ADT/ACA from Revit, at least as BIM is defined and expressed by Autodesk. The notion of using computers to help accomplish the broad goals of BIM is nearly as old as computers so it's not a brand new idea.

And yes, other companies lay claim to the doing of BIM and living up to BIM ideals too. It (BIM) just wasn't on the lips of AEC professionals or their clients the way it is today before Autodesk began expressing it in conjunction with Revit. This means Revit was the latest expression of those ideas on a desktop computer instead of a mainframe. Marketing is the telling of a compelling new story to motivate people, to consider changing how they do things, to buy things. Like them or not, Autodesk has done an earnest job of telling the story of BIM and Revit.

One of the many stories we've heard that was meant to help us in our transition was how easily Revit worked with other CAD software's data. Revit was the new kid on the block. What chance did it really have if it couldn't import a DWG or DGN file? Being able to import external data was meant to ease the collaboration with firms that didn't use it as well as the transition from other software.

All these years later I keep reading, "It is necessary to use Revit AND AutoCAD", or "Revit can't be used productively without AutoCAD" or "...since AutoCAD is a superior drafting tool it isn't sensible to use Revit for basic drafting tasks".

It is NOT necessary to use AutoCAD if you use Revit. The error (thinking that it IS necessary) is mistaking necessity with what is merely an available interim approach as we work through the transition from AutoCAD to Revit.

Using AutoCAD to do detailing is NOT optimal because doing it entirely within Revit is integrated within the project more tightly and logically. If you are not efficient drafting in Revit then the implementation is not effective, but it could be. That's not Revit's fault, it is our fault (though it could always ship with a larger stock library). If you'd like some examples of Revit details that are devoid of lines/circles/arcs/text have a look at ARCxl's free samples. If you are looking for a shortcut to build that better implementation then their library might a place to start.


To some degree the perspective, "It's better, faster to draw details in AutoCAD" is a mind over matter issue, not a software issue. We tend to ignore or forget the reality that we've been changed by {insert your software here}, not the other way around. The software doesn't change to suit us. Our use doesn't change the software, we change in response to how it works. If we are fast then it's because we've grown accustomed to it, learned tricks, customized it, built our own library and so on.

It's no different whether we are talking about AutoCAD, Revit, Excel or Word. We do influence what the developers code into the software but we respond to the software and then provide feedback, not the reverse. The only exception is when no code exists and the software is in its infancy. Once code exists we are always dealing with legacy decisions.

When we say that {insert your software here} is faster or better than Revit it really means we know it better, we are more comfortable with it. There was a time that I'd agree I was faster with AutoCAD or Microstation than Revit. That is far from true today. In fact I find AutoCAD to be a very frustrating experience now.

Faster is also a subjective term. What context? Faster sketching a single line? Faster creating an entire detail? Faster for whom? Me myself and I? What about downstream members of the team? What about the hours of design and investigation required to decide what to draw? What if another section is required to figure out what is required to finish that detail? What if the Revit modelling activity helped inform the decisions? What if the ability to create more sections automatically or have a look at the model in 3D provides more insight?

The further we can step back from our experience and bias with a given software the easier it is to see they are all flawed in some way, Revit included. I clearly remember realizing just how convoluted AutoCAD is when I began supporting Microstation users that had to start using it (AutoCAD) instead. They'd just shake their heads at the quirky rules and methodologies that were in stark contrast with Microstation's own quirky rules and methods. They are ALL quirky. Some quirks just happen to match our own thinking or approach better than others.

As for our legacy library of details, we forget or minimize the fact that it didn't happen overnight. It was built project by project. Remember, all the previous details were drawn by hand, right? At this point I think it's a safe bet that, like most libraries I've seen, it could stand some careful weeding or pruning anyway. Maybe it isn't so precious that we can't consider creating Revit native versions now? The sooner we do the sooner each project can be better integrated.

If you take anything away from this post at all I hope it is this:
It is NOT necessary to use AutoCAD to be productive with Revit. Revit does NOT need a software crutch to be useful or a productive good decision for any firm. The longer you pretend that it does or is, the longer you prolong not being as productive as Revit was intended to help you become.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Revit 2015 Web Update 1

With Revit 2015 comes the new Autodesk Application manager. It is intended to help let us know when software updates are available.


When I installed Revit 2015 the other day I downloaded Update Release 1, which is an option during preparatory steps, and let the installation apply the update as soon as Revit 2015 was installed. When that was finished Revit showed the update was installed as expected. This morning the Autodesk Application Manager told me there was an update available and it seemed to think that Update Release 1 should be installed despite my belief otherwise.

I should add that this is the first morning I've been able to use this hard drive in a few days. A hard drive crash derailed some of my progress toward getting things installed last week. That means this is the first day that the Autodesk Application Manager could attempt to tell me about the update. In other words, I'm not saying that it was late telling me about the update. The installation process for Revit offers/shows updates that are already available, so I did already know it existed though.

Since the manager seemed to think I should, I let it attempt to install the update just to see what would happen. After a few minutes it reported that the update was already installed and continuing to install it wasn't necessary. When I acknowledged the message by closing the dialog my New Updates item reported "installed" (as shown in the image above). Quirky but it now appears to be in sync.

As such it seems to me that the Application Manager isn't aware of installation status (not inward looking) just that updates exist (outward looking to Autodesk). If it is really going to live up to the manager name it probably needs to be a bit smarter in this regard.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Revit 2015 Improved Performance

The Revit Clinic's recent post describes how Revit 2015's performance compares with Revit 2014. Here's the graph they provided to compare the results for various operations in both versions.


I find it a bit surprising that Autodesk has not made a bigger deal of this, especially considering the general malaise felt by users to the quantity and specificity of new features. I suppose improving performance isn't a sexy thing to talk about but it seems to matter in racing? Why not with software? It improves the user experience. It's amazing how loooong 1-2 seconds can feel.

Regardless of the number of features I'll always appreciate improved performance...bring it on.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Fun Formulas

Saw this via Twitter. Kirklyn provided an example of practical formulas with Revit. You may not need Revit to make this kind of decision for you but the logic can be applied to other decision making. Do you want a sandwich?