Reviews – Revit 2020

Hello readers,
It has been a couple of months since Autodesk released its annual update of the Revit software, so I figured that it was about time to create my annual review of the new features. Compared to last year’s life-changing introduction of tabs, this year’s feature list pales in comparison. If you are using Revit 2019 now, I would almost not bother upgrading, unless your firm absolutely requires it. That is not to say that 2020 is useless, it simplifies a few things. Here are a list of the most important new features implemented in the new iteration of the software.

Feature 1 PDF Import
This feature basically automates opening a pdf in Photoshop and converting it to jpg then performing an image import using Revit. That is how I used to do this prior to 2020 and Autodesk, almost verbatim copied Photoshop’s dialog boxes then leveraged its pick tool functionality to allow you to choose the lines from an imported pdf to transform them into walls. It is certainly a time saver for sure, particularly if you have to recreate a project initially created in Autocad and make it into a 3D model. From a coding perspective, this was low hanging fruit as the import pdf functionality has existed in Autocad (another Autodesk product) for several years now. Just a matter of copying/pasting the code.

Feature 2 Creation of Elliptical Walls

This is probably my favorite feature of this year’s release. When I created my model of the Robert Mills House (see post) it called for the creation of an elliptical room. Prior to this release you could either create a mass and then create walls around it or do what I did and draw a line-based ellipse and then create short arc wall segments to create the shape of an ellipse. It wasn’t ideal and often the wall joins would be awkward and generate errors/crashes. This new tool simplifies things considerably.

The new elliptical wall tool use case

Feature 3 Path of Travel Tool
This is an egress code requirement and Revit created a tool to allow you to find the shortest route to exit a building. This is definitely a useful feature particularly if you are working on commercial or institutional projects. For residential work it is not as important but nice to have.

Feature 4 Better Importation of Sketchup Files
This bug has been on my hit list for a long time. Up until 2019, Sketchup files seemed to only import successfully with files saved in Sketchup 8 (Sketchup is currently at version 2019) so support for the current version saves you from first opening a Sketchup model within Sketchup, then saving it down to an older version to then allow you to import it into a Revit project or family. Sketchup materials will now import with their Sketchup names rather than the old RGB color value names, and you can also filter on the materials list for Sketchup imported materials. That is huge as you don’t have to play the guess the material game anymore testing out colors to see what part of the Sketchup model corresponds to what RGB material Revit assigned to it. This was such a time waster in the past. Unfortunately Revit engineers didn’t completely eliminate the headache that was Sketchup importing. One still has to manually enter the RGB color values that match or come close to matching the original colors for materials used in the Sketchup model for them to show up in realistic mode within Revit. I don’t know why Autodesk can’t simply obtain Sketchup’s default material library and offer it as an additional material library that you could install with the installation of Revit. That way Revit would be able to just pull in Sketchup’s materials cleanly and everything would render properly without user input. That is the path of least resistance, but the improvements we got are something and are better than nothing.

Feature 5 Material UI Improvements
You can now get large (i.e. readable) thumbnails of the materials in the material library UI. This is nice. Would be nice to get the same large thumbnails for the Archvision plant/entourage libraries as well. More photo realistic materials were added to supplement the default materials library as well. All nice upgrades, although most larger firms end up using 3rd party rendering/visualization tools to create their final project renderings (Luminor, etc.) making these improvements almost a moot point.

Feature 6 Import to the Cloud
You can now save a project to the cloud if you so choose (assuming that you have paid the $420 fee for a cloud subscription). In an era of data insecurity and constant reports of sites getting hacked, I would be hesitant to put copywritable files out on the web, but this feature allows greater portability and access to a Revit project particularly on a very complex job that may require input/changes from multiple outside consultants.

Outside of the ellipse tool and egress path tool, most of the 2020 release features were devoted to enhancing file portability with 3rd party products such as Sketchup or Adobe pdfs. These are important considerations as everyone uses pdf files and most all design offices use the free Sketchup tool for some if not all of their design development work. Revit’s commitment to supporting these 3rd party tools is crucial if it wants to maintain its dominance over the BIM market. For a more in-depth discussion of the new features check out Revit Pure’s blog post on Revit 2020.

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