Thursday, April 27, 2006

Cadopolis Offers New Blog Feed Channels

A great portal to other blogs and sources of information:

PRESS RELEASE launches new AutoCAD Blog & Feed Channels for the Autodesk community has developed a central meeting place within dedicated to learning about the AutoCAD community on the web. has introduced five new Feed Channels to lead visitors into five distinct areas of interest within the community. These new Feed Channels allows visitors to stay informed of the latest AutoCAD news both inside and outside of

The most active Feed Channel is the Selected Web Feeds (also called the aggregator). All articles and blog entries from featured AutoCAD Blogs from around the world are feed into this area, LIVE! This allows visitors to read and visit all the Autodesk related Blogs from one central location. Also if visitors have a RSS reader they can subscribe to them and have all the Blogs feed directly to your desktop or online aggregator.

To visit or for more information visit

Google Offers Free SketchUP Download

Get it here:

It has limited file formats, but I assume it's near fully - functional beyond that. I have not tested yet myself. In fact, I'm downloading as I write :-).

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Autodesk Revit - Changing a Project Elevation

This happens all the time. When you start your project you have no idea what the finish floor elevation is going to be for any given level. You typically don't even have any reliable survey data yet. Maybe just an old survey with *maybe* some spot elevations, but certainly nothing upon which to base a detailed topo model on.

So you go ahead and start working with what you have. At some point, you get a detailed civil engineer or surveryor's contour map with accurate elevations and you want to establish your project at the correct absolute elevations. Here's how you do it. It's pretty simple really.

1) Go to an elevation view.
2) From the Tools menu, select Project Position/Orientation -> Relocate this Project.
3) Pick a point. Any point. It doesn't matter.
4) Drag your cursor straight up (or down, if that's the direction you need to go) and enter the amount you need to move.

At this point the entire model will move up or down the distance you specify.

5) Zoom to Fit, then Zoom in on one of the level head bubbles. It will still show the original elevation. Select the bubble, then select the Properties button.
6) Select the Edit/New button in the Element Properties dialog.
7) In the Type Properties dialog change the "Elevation Base" parameter from "Project" to "Shared".

Bingo Bango Boingo. Done.

Friday, April 14, 2006

ADT 2007 New Feature Focus - Automating AEC Dimensions

In an earlier post, I spotlighted the improvements to AEC Dimensions as one of the big new features of ADT 2007. The improvements can be grouped under two main areas: flexibility and control.

While the flexibility aspect of AEC Dimensions is huge, I'm going to focus on the control side of things in this post. If you want to learn about the flexibility part, play with the grips and check out some of the stuff on the right click menu - it's pretty self-explanatory.

On the control and automation side, however, things aren't quite so obvious unless you do a little digging. Good news. I've already done it for you.

The biggest limitation with AEC Dimensions up until now has been that you could not pre-configure exactly which components (and which part of said components) were to be dimensioned in a wall and worse, you couldn't change things much once the dimension was placed. The flexibility of the new AEC Dimensions takes care of the second part, and the new controls take care of the first part.

The first thing you need to do is get your wall styles configured for AEC Dimensioning. When you create a component now you should specify what it's use is - structural or non-structural. You should also specify for each component whether it should be dimensioned or not, and which part of the component should be dimensioned (left side, right side, center or all three).

In the figure below, I've configured the brick veneer to be a candidate for dimensioning on the exterior side of the component. I've also configured the stud as a structural component and made it a candidate for dimensioning on the exterior side of the stud. Also, note at the bottom left corner of the dialog, you now can specify which is the exterior or interior side of the wall. By the way, you can specify both the positive (left) side of the wall and the negative (right) side as exterior or both as interior without ADT complaining, but I wouldn't recommend it unless you LIKE working with bi-polar data...

Once you've configured the wall style, you need to likewise configure the AEC Dimension style. For simplicity's sake, I'm going to work with a single chain dimension to focus specifically on our wall condition, but if you've worked with AEC Dimensions at all, you know you can have as many chains as you like, each one configured for different parameters.

In the Contents tab of my AEC Dimension style, I've configured the "Wall" dimensions to dimension the wall length to the outer boundaries. Most importantly, however, note in the figure below that I've configured the wall width to "By Style", and this causes the indicated result.

Using these simple controls (you might also want to experiment with different combinations of "Wall Length" and "Wall Width - By Style" and "Wall Width - By Structural Style", you can automate a large part of your AEC Dimensions while still maintaining the dimension standards that you prefer. In those instances where a non-standard condition appears, use the grips and the right click menu to remove extension lines, add extension lines and most importantly move extension lines, all the while maintaining the associativity of the dimensions, even across XREFs.

Ever since ADT R3 when AEC Dimensions were introduced, I've told my students that I didn't think they were usable for construction documents but that there was huge potential, and to keep an eye on them. Now, I feel that potential has finally been realized!

A Word on Posting

I recently invoked moderation controls on comments on this blog. I tried text recognition and that works great for the automated spamming systems, but believe it or not, there are bazootieheads who post spam comments in person.

While I do sometimes delight in sending them a flame mail in response, I don't like them polluting my blog with their swill, so...

Feel free to comment with positive or negative responses to my posts, as long as it's constructive. I get it via email and approve or disapprove. There may be a delay before you see your comment, because if I go on vacation or camping or something the last thing I take is my computer...

Spammers? Fawgetaboudit!

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

My Position on "Revit vs. ADT"

I have avoided posting here on this subject because in the circles in which I am known all kinds of nonsense could be read into any statement that I make on "ADT vs. Revit". (See how I put one before the other in the title and the other one in front in the body? That's 'cause I don't want anybody reading anything into that either).

If you know me personally, you know that I pretty much say what I feel and think and if you read between the lines, you're not getting it, because there ISN'T ANYTHING BETWEEN THE LINES! Get it?

Good. So.. with that in mind...

I was one of the first beta testers of ADT and I've seen it evolve from an idea to maturity over the last eight years or so (has it been that long?). Sometime in 1999 or 2000 (ADT R2 timeframe), I remember sitting down at my computer one night after a couple of glasses of wine and composing an email to some of my aquaintances on the ADT development team, mainly to just put in words some thoughts that had been running through my head. The gist of it was that first, the upcoming ADT 3.0 needed to really add some major functionality to the product and second, that long term, Autodesk needed to consider getting away from the AutoCAD interface and DWG file format, ala Inventor.

ADT 3.0 accomplished the first thing. That's the release that introduced us to curtainwalls, door/window assemblies, slabs, the Display Manager, and a whole host of new features and capabilities. The interface was revamped in 2004, which was another leap forward.

But it was still based on AutoCAD and the DWG format.

I remember when I heard about the Revit aquisition, sort of like I remember where I was when JFK was shot. (No, seriously...). I had just wrapped up a 3 day ADT class in our Dallas office and was checking emails before packing up and heading for the airport. A friend of mine contacted me via instant messenger and posted the link to the Autodesk Press Release announcing the aquisition.

"Shock" does not do justice to what I felt at the time. I had been following Revit as a competitive product for a couple of years and had played around with some trial versions that I was able to sneak away from their booths at trade shows (is that industrial espionage? I dunno... but I digress...). While the idea was exactly what I had been espousing in my earlier email to Autodesk, the execution seemed lacking to me - file size at the time was an issue. Workgroups were an issue. Stability was an issue. And most importantly, there was no API (Application Programming Interface in the product, by design. The feeling apparently at Revit was that architects aren't programmers and don't WANT an API. That was and still is, in my opinion, flawed thinking. The API isn't for the end user. It's for the third party developers who provide the potential for a rich suite of complimentary products that further flesh-out the whole BIM concept.

So, that was then, and this is now. What's changed? Both ADT and Revit Building have continued to be developed. ADT did not get phased out, nor did Revit get buried, even though there was rampant speculation that one or the other would happen. Neither did the two products merge into one. I doubt that would ever happen, although you can see some synergy between the two platforms, with each one borrowing ideas from the other. Case in point: the drawing coordination features introduced in ADT 2005 and the enhanced library of detail families found in Revit Building 9 that are modelled after the ADT detail component library.

Autodesk's messaging on the two products has finally solidified a bit. ADT is being positioned as a "Better AutoCAD for Architects" while Revit is being hailed as Autodesk's BIM solution (although my own personal opinion is that ADT is just as much a BIM solution as Revit - it just gets you there a different way).

As an application engineer and a consultant, it's my job to be familiar with both, so I've been working with both since the aquisition. When I'm helping an architectural firm decide which solution is best for them, I try to keep their interests in mind and not any loyalty to any specific product, or my own personal friendships with many of the ADT development staff.

So where do I see each product fitting in to the whole BIM evolution? It's really not that complicated. ADT is truly more of an evolutionary product. You can pick and choose the features that you want to use and grow into it. If you are coming from a predominantly 2D background or culture and don't feel ready to jump feet first (or head first) into the world of model-based design, you can use those features of ADT that get you immediate 2D productivity, perhaps growing into the 3D capabilities at some point in the future. On the other hand, if you're ready to fully embrace 3D model-based design and want a more revolutionary change, then Revit may be more appropriate. Certainly with Revit Building 9 and earlier releases since the aquisition, many of the issues that may have been barriers in the past have been addressed. Worksets are not problematic the way they were before and should not be an issue at all in a teamwork environment. The myth that you can't do CD's in Revit Building is just that - a myth. You can generate full-blown 2D details, as well as hybrid model-and 2D-based details just as easily in Revit Building now as you can in ADT or AutoCAD. Additionally, Autodesk has been able to somehow shoehorn a basic API into a product that was never intended to have one. How far they will be able to take this is still to be seen, but they've already done more than I thought they could.

In short, my position on Revit vs. ADT is no longer "ADT vs. Revit" (see I switched 'em again). It's a matter of Revit AND ADT - based on who you are and where you are on the BIM evolution, either one could be appropriate for you. Because of that, expect to see more information on both products on this blog, since it benefits us all to see the whole picture, not just one part of it.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Roopinder Tara's New Blog

There's a new blog in town. Roopinder Tara, editor of Ten Links, has started his new Cad Insider blog, with lots of general gossip, info and Cad Stuff in general, and a rather humorous entry on all of the things that CAD stands for.

"cold agglutinin disease"?

That would explain a lot...