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.


Blogger David Koch said...


5:11 AM  
Blogger Steve said...

Nice article, often contemplated such a post myself since I'm the other side of that "fence" 8-)

My understanding regarding the API is not, "never supposed to have one" rather, "having one when it became robust enough". It was viewed as an undesireable distraction early on.

Regardless it is good that there is one now.

9:32 PM  
Blogger JTB World said...

Well said!

6:00 AM  
Blogger Mike Massey said...

Very nice points. I can understand what you are saying but I am still not 100% clear about what product should be recommended when. After this week though, I am now convinced that ADT is NOT going away and for the first time I got the message from Autodesk that they are not pushing Revit over ADT.

Feel free to check out my blog on a simalar topic.


6:29 PM  
Blogger Mike Massey said...

Very nice points. I can understand what you are saying but I am still not 100% clear about what product should be recommended when. After this week though, I am now convinced that ADT is NOT going away and for the first time I got the message from Autodesk that they are not pushing Revit over ADT.

Feel free to check out my blog on a simalar topic.


6:31 PM  
Blogger Thomas Morales said...

Great article, couldn't agree more with the "AND" comment.

I would also add that the "and" comment will become true as more clients dictate which program the cad files are to be created in. Some will dictate ADT and some will dictate Revit. Either way, we as the users will probably have to become proficient in both programs until the market produces a clear winner, if ever.

7:38 AM  
Blogger David said...

Somehow I regret that there are two paths to travel - two development teams and two sets of user communities. All that energy divided in half.

2:51 PM  
Blogger Mike Harkins said...

Well said!!! Perhaps now we can finally feel secure in developing our compnay standards, add-ons, best practices using Revit or ADT, free from the worry of having to do it all again when one or the other disappeared.

8:11 AM  
Blogger David Butts said...

ditto - wrote a similar blog for my spot couple of nights ago for ABS and Revit Systems - it's all about the workflow and what the user's most comfortable with - both RSY and ABS (I catch on quick) can get the job done

6:40 PM  
Blogger Banjo said...

So I'm writing a paper for a BIM seminar I'm taking at my university, and for it I chose to review a cross section of the blogs about BIM. I've been reading some of the blogs, and I just wanted to ask a question about this one, even though it is somewhat dated.

I don't know anything really about ADT, but I am learning Revit, and it seems to me from what I've read in this blog that if you can design in 3 dimensions first, and then pull out 2D sections as needed (if needed at all, if detailing can be done in 3d), why ever design in 2D? Or do detailing, or anything in 2D first that could be done in 3D, potentially giving one the information for every elevation, view, cross section, etc. in one go instead of a lot of different drawings, each one starting from scratch - BIM, essentially. Not to mention that 3 dimensions are just that much closer to what will actually be built, making the project easier to visualize. So if ADT is just a crutch for users who are used to working in 2D, how is it building information modeling, and why is it still being developed along with Revit? What are its pros other than allowing architects and others to continue to design in 2D except perhaps as a learning tool?

9:07 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Have been an adt user since 3.0 & have been comtepmlpating all the above raised points so I tried the revit demo & asked a colleague to show me how he works with it - my findings are:
- I use v few icons as I know most of the commands in my head - typing using a customised pgp fle is much faster than clicking & reduces the risk of repetitive strain injury - a point I have raised with ADesk - typing & mousing should be used but not one exclusively. ADT therefore has the advantage here.
- the bulk of my work is at the design stage so off the peg readymades are not that useful to me
- ADT allows me to interrogate the 3d model more thoroughly & easily than Revit appears to do at the moment.
- Visually the onscreen graphic representation of the model to my mind is a little more subtle in ADT
Conclusion: for a design office ADT has the edge & I will continue to invest in it.
- for a production drawing environment, easier to learn aspects & for those weaned on icons, Revit is prob a worthy peer programme

1:30 AM  

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