Page T1.2 . 29 August 2012   
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  • GTeam Cloud Collaboration Tool


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    GTeam Cloud Collaboration Tool


    No Installation Necessary

    With GTeam, there's no app or program to install. You run the software from a standard browser, like you would Facebook or Twitter. Some of its functions are facilitated in Java apps, so you'll need to download and install the latest version of Java if you don't have it.

    Once you've set up your account, you can log into GTeam and start creating projects. Within each project space, you may create separate folders to archive 3D models, 2D drawings, and support documents (for example, Word documents, PowerPoint presentations, Excel spreadsheets, and PDF files).

    If you've used online storage services, like Dropbox, GTeam's setup should be a familiar one. One feature you get with GTeam that's not readily available in generic cloud-hosted storage services is thumbnail previews of common architecture file types.

    When you hover your mouse over a file, you get a preview of the Revit model, SketchUp model, or DWG file in a thumbnail image. In large projects, file names alone may not be enough to help you discern the correct models.

    Since loading a complex model into a browser could take some time, the chance to preview and identify the model you want contributes to efficiency.

    File Access, Synchronization, and History

    GTeam uses a file check-out procedure to manage the file editing process among individual team members. Once you've checked out a file, that file is marked with an icon indicating it's now in your possession, and therefore, other project participants can no longer edit it. You also have the option to set up a local folder on your desktop or laptop to synchronize with the project's online content.



    The synchronization architecture is designed to prevent multiple project participants from accidentally overwriting one another's changes, so when you upload a file in your synched folder, the local copy becomes a read-only file. If you need to edit this file, you'll need to take possession of it first by checking it out from the online repository.

    When dealing with larger projects that have a long history, you can use the Activity tab's dropdown window to filter the items shown by file updates, comments, users recently joined, and other criteria. The built-in calendar in GTeam lets you select a date to view the project as it was on the selected date. You may use this feature to obtain a snapshot of the project as it was in a point in time, to understand if certain files were accessible (checked in) or locked (checked out).

    Perhaps more important, you may also use this function to view a file as it was on a previous day, or restore a file to its state on a given date.

    Customizing Roles and Views

    The Setting tab lets the project administrator assign access privileges to project participants and grant permissions (for example, permission to release drawings or remove users). The same tab gives the user the option to customize your 3D view, by specifying your preferred measurement units, and the accuracy of onscreen 3D display. The higher the accuracy, the richer the data, so it's recommended that you balance the desired accuracy against the anticipated load time required to display such accuracy. You may also set up a data retention policy, to indicate how many past versions you wish to maintain online.

    Robust 3D Viewing

    With GTeam's online file viewer, you can launch and inspect detailed 3D architectural models from a popup window (make sure you turn off your browser's popup blocker when you initiate this). This feature provides the project team with a way to share a range of standard architectural modeling files with those who don't have access to — or don't have the need to master — such programs.

    The viewer gives you the option to rotate, zoom, pan, and measure building models right from your browser. In 3D View, you can take snapshots of the model and share them with collaborators.

    The viewer supports common 3D file formats, such as DWG, IFC, OBJ, RVT, 3DS, and more, exportable from professional building information modeling (BIM) programs like Autodesk Revit, Bentley MicroStation, and Gehry Technologies' Digital Project. Even though it's called 3D View, you may initiate the same popup window to view 2D drawings, such as DWG, DGN, or DXF, using the same interface to zoom, pan, and navigate the page. It also supports common image files (JPG, PNG, GIF, and BMP) and office files (DOC, PDF, XLS, RTF, to name but a few).

    A custom reporting option in the 3D View lets users selectively work with different classes or categories (for example, all areas tagged as rooms) to obtain quantity takeoffs or costs. The results can be exported as Excel spreadsheets. The View window also lets the user selectively view or hide categories of objects — for instance, with walls or roofs removed.

    Perhaps the most powerful function of the viewer is its ability to overlay multiple 2D and 3D files. Suppose you have energy analysis results, structural analysis results, and walls and elevations of the same building project housed on GTeam.

    You can select these files and then launch them in the 3D viewer simultaneously. This feature could help you identify object collisions between walls and support beams, or could let you study energy consumption on a space by space basis.

    Bear in mind, however, that you must set up your models with the same point of origin (its position along the XYZ grid in 3D space) and identical scale. Otherwise, the building elements in these models won't align correctly.

    Addressing Security GTeam uses Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) and 128-bit Advanced Encryption Standards (AES). The company employs Amazon's Simple Storage Service (S3) to host client data which means that GTeam's security is also tied to Amazon's own security measures. Projects housed in GTeam are purported to be inaccessible to search engine crawlers, according to the company.

    Multiple Pricing Models Expected

    At press time, Gehry Technologies has completed its beta testing of GTeam and is offering the product as a free trial to the public. The company hasn't announced GTeam's commercial pricing (expected to be published in October), but its press office indicates a series of stepped pricing options will be offered.

    Differentiators may include richness of software functions and the storage-space allocation on GTeam. The coming commercial version is also expected to include additional enhancements still in development. Currently, GTeam is only available through web browsers, but future considerations for GTeam include mobile apps, the company's press office revealed.

    For a debut release, GTeam offers an impressive list of functions, making it an infinitely better alternative to ad-hoc project management tools assembled from emails and Dropbox-style storage services. The 3D viewing function, along with the option to launch and view multiple models, makes GTeam a powerful hub for collaboration and communication.

    The SaaS model bypasses the need to purchase and maintain dedicated hardware for storage, for software for data management, and for additional cost for network administration. This may make GTeam an attractive proposition especially for architecture and design firms with limited budgets.   >>>

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    Kenneth Wong, a freelance writer based in San Francisco, has been covering the architecture software industry for more than a decade. He is the senior editor and resident blogger at Desktop Engineering, and also contributes regularly to Computer Graphics World.   More by Kenneth Wong


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    Click for an exclusive five minute video tutorial on GTeam.
    Image: Kenneth Wong/ ArchitectureWeek

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    GTeam supports common office file types, including PowerPoint files, PDF files, and Word documents.
    Image: Kenneth Wong/ ArchitectureWeek Extra Large Image

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    GTeam's built-in calendar (in left pane) gives users a way to view the project as it was in a specific point in time.
    Image: Kenneth Wong/ ArchitectureWeek Extra Large Image

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    The initial file view in GTeam gives users the ability to check in or check out a given file, or download or send the file (like a live link) to another participant.
    Image: Kenneth Wong/ ArchitectureWeek Extra Large Image

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    Launching a file in the 3D viewer in GTeam gives the user basic tools, including zoom, pan, rotate, and measure.
    Image: Kenneth Wong/ ArchitectureWeek Extra Large Image

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    The built-in ruler in GTeam's 3D View gives users a way to point and click on corners and edges to obtain the distance between them.
    Image: Kenneth Wong/ ArchitectureWeek Extra Large Image

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    GTeam's 3D View also supports display of common 2D files, such as DWG floor plans.
    Image: Kenneth Wong/ ArchitectureWeek Extra Large Image

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    With GTeam's embedded 3D viewing function, people without professional modeling software can view and inspect detailed 3D models.
    Image: Kenneth Wong/ ArchitectureWeek Extra Large Image

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    GTeam's viewer gives users the option to select items to show and hide. Shown here is a model with the roof of one story and the wall of another story hidden.
    Image: Kenneth Wong/ ArchitectureWeek Extra Large Image

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    The viewer lets you select multiple files and launch them simultaneously. Shown here is a 3D model and ground plan of the same project, opened simultaneously.
    Image: Kenneth Wong/ ArchitectureWeek Extra Large Image


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