Revit Architecture 2011 in Depth: Part 1
When no element is selected in the model, the Properties Palette displays the properties of the current view, thereby replacing the View Properties dialog found in previous versions of Revit. When one of the element creation commands is active, the Properties Palette shows the Type Selector and other relevant properties previously available by selecting the Instance Properties command; when an existing element is selected, the Properties Palette lists all the information previously available by opening the Element Properties dialog.
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The advantage of having a modeless dialog is that the properties are always visible and can be conveniently edited if required, without having to open up a separate dialog using a command. The changes made in the Properties palette can be applied to the model by simply moving the cursor back into the modeling window, making it a faster alternative to clicking on the Apply button in the palette.
Other interface enhancements include an expanded set of tools in the Quick Access Toolbar (QAT) and the ability to customize it by changing the order of the tools, adding separators, and removing tools from it. Similar to the QAT implementation in Microsoft Office, the default tools that appear in Revit's QAT can be quickly turned off or on using the QAT menu. However, unlike Microsoft Office, there is no interface in Revit to add more tools to the QAT from a list of all possible commands; the only way to do so is to by right-clicking on a tool on the ribbon and selecting the "Add to Quick Access Toolbar" option.
This means that some commands such as those appearing in the main Revit File menu, such as Export, Print, Publish, Close, and so on, cannot be added to the QAT. (As a user, I like to put the Close command in the QAT so that it is possible to quickly close a file without quitting the application, which is what the X button on the top right corner of a window typically does.)
In addition to speeding up tasks by adding commands to the QAT, Revit users now have an expanded set of options for creating, managing, and sharing keyboard shortcuts that can further improve their speed and efficiency. It is now possible to assign one or more keyboard shortcuts to every command in Revit. However, most other design applications already provide this capability, so Revit is really playing catch-up on this front.
Other interface enhancements that users should find helpful are the ability to repeat the last command or select a command from a list of recently used commands, both of which are available from the right-click menu. Another new option on the same menu is the ability to restrict the selection of elements similar to the one currently selected to elements only visible in the current view as opposed to the entire project.
The final set of interface enhancements is much less ambiguous and of definite value — it allows worksets as well as design options, if any, to be accessed and switched directly from the Status bar at the base of the modeling window. Not only does this help to improve efficiency and workflow, it also allows users to see which is the active workset and design option at all times.
Clearly, Autodesk has put in considerable effort to fix the performance and usability issues that its power users had with the last Revit interface, and has made some additional interface improvements that should improve ease of use and efficiency for both existing and new users.
It is possible that the current interface has further room for improvement, and if so, Revit users will be sure to point this out. But it does seem that the tone and the volume of the criticism about the interface have come down.
Enhancements to Conceptual Design Capabilities
In addition to the new user interface, another aspect of Revit Architecture that was substantially overhauled for the 2010 release was the conceptual design environment, enabling it to be used to accurately create complex forms, with the ability to tie geometry to reference lines and planes, and add constraints and parameters.
The 2011 release continues to improve Revit's conceptual modeling capabilities, with a host of new features.
A new Edit Profile tool has been introduced, which allows you to select any of the profiles or paths that were used to generate a 3D form and modify it in a Sketch mode, allowing the form to be easily reshaped as desired. There is also a new Dissolve Form tool, which removes all the surfaces of a form, leaving only its defining curves behind. These can now be edited or deleted, with new curves created if necessary, and used to create a new form.
One of the conceptual modeling limitations in the 2010 release of Revit Architecture was that if a form had to be subtracted from another form, it had be created as a void rather than a solid. This limitation has been removed in the new release, so that you can now use solids to cut other solids, making it easier to create complex shapes that involve carving out of forms from each other.
Hopefully, at some point, Revit will introduce a Push/ Pull capability, similar to SketchUp's and bonzai3D's, that will allow forms to be added to and subtracted from other forms even more effortlessly.
Another significant enhancement in Revit Architecture 2011 is the ability to open up a temporary view called the Workplane Viewer to make it easier to draw and edit elements on any selected workplane. This view is not saved in the Project Browser and can be frequently used as a modeling aid to view a complex form orthogonally from different angles and work on it more accurately.
The capability to divide and pattern complex surfaces that had been introduced in the last release has been further improved by allowing surfaces to also be divided using levels, reference planes, or 2D lines, allowing for even more complex configurations.
Revit Architecture 2011 also introduces "adaptive" components, which have flexible rather than fixed configurations and can be used to fit into different host situations. They are created using reference points that are adaptive rather than fixed.
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Lachmi Khemlani is the founder and editor of AECbytes, an online publication focused on researching, analyzing, and reviewing technology products and services for the building industry. She has a Ph.D. in architecture from the University of California, Berkeley, specializing in intelligent building modeling; a professional B.Arch. (honors) degree from the Indian Institute of Technology in Kharagpur, India; and an M.Phil. in architecture from the University of Cambridge. Khemlani has worked on design projects as a practicing architect, authored books on CAD and modeling, and taught CAD and 3D modeling at UC Berkeley. She currently consults and writes on AEC technology.
This article is excerpted from "Revit Architecture 2011" by Lachmi Khemlani, copyright © 2010, with permission of the publisher, AECbytes.