Reviews – Revit 2015

Splash screen
Hello again readers,

It is once again time for my annual review of Revit software. For the first time in several years I am able to personally evaluate the new Revit software not relying on reviews posted by others. I had been using an older version of Revit (2011) so there were quite a few new additions to the application from what I had been accustomed to. Looking over the list of new features, some have expressed disappointment with the lack of real new features/outstanding issues that were left unresolved in 2015. Autodesk played up the Sketchy Lines feature heavily even going so far as to make the R in the upper left hand corner sketchy to reflect this new functionality. Personally I have little to no use for this new functionality, but some may like it. Below is a demonstration. The photo on the left is a model in normal view while the photo at the right shows the same model in exaggerated sketchy line view.

Model in Normal View
Model in Normal View

Sketchy Line Output
Sketchy Line Output

From an appearance standpoint, sketchy lines look cooler on more modern designs (giving a Jetsons flair to your presentation), while a traditional building just looks less crisp.
Sketchy lines in a modern design
Sketchy lines in a modern design
I do get that Autodesk felt the need to include this functionality to compete with Sketchup’s sketchy line settings, but like I said I personally don’t derive much value from it. This post from RevitCat explores the different settings and options for Sketchy Lines in detail if you want to learn more about this new functionality.

Best New Features
For me the best aspect to the new version is how quickly it handles project files. Once a file has been upgraded to the 2015 format, opening a project is nearly instantaneous, even for large projects above 100Mb; there was literately no wait time for the project to open. I did notice that project file sizes tended to get larger post upgrade in version 2015 while in the past, the newer version of Revit tended to compress the project file. This is a minor issue and didn’t occur on every project I upgraded.

The programers at Autodesk seemed to have spent most of their time optimizing Revit to make transitioning between views much smoother. In 2011 if you had a lot of views open and then selected the close all open views button, there would be this uncomfortable hesitation where the program would freeze up temporarily while it closed the views in the background to free up memory. Those near crash pauses are thankfully gone in 2015 and now I give no thought to how many views I have open nor to the issue of closing views. Panning the model in a 3D view works much better as well with no redraw lag, but I don’t care for the fact that the model goes into a plain shaded with no edges appearance while it is being rotated. Once the model is again stationary it reverts back to the shaded with edges view, the default appearance for current projects.

Great Improvements
I really like the new materials dialog introduced in 2014 along with upgrades to the paint tool so you can paint and un-paint a surface. I also like that the dialog box stays open until you close it while in 2011 you had the annoying fly out menu that closed after one selection. Material purging is nice, yet it doesn’t seem to reduce the size of the overall project if at all. I love select by face (introduced in 2014) as well which makes selecting floors and pads much less painful.

The rendering engine in 2015 was also overhauled resulting in images with better depictions of sunlight and sky. I didn’t care for the fact that the rendered image doesn’t begin to be revealed until the second pass of the rendering engine (after 50% complete), where as in previous versions you could see the image being revealed on the first pass. But this is a minor quip that I can live with to get more realistic renderings.

Revit 2015 seems to support importing all Sketchup 8 models flawlessly where 2011 would only import models generated in Sketchup 7. Not having to save Sketchup files into an earlier version is a time saver and a plus. I would hope that imports of the latest version of Sketchup (2014) are supported as well but I didn’t verify that.

I also noticed that Autodesk stopped bundling the Design Review software (dwf/dwfx viewer) with the Revit install. Apparently 2013 was the last year that program was supported. The Microsoft viewer that comes with Windows 7/8 works ok, but there was some offset of the page in the output compared to the view exported from within Revit.

The energy audit features were new to me as well (Found on the Analysis tab) and I like the ease at which you can setup a test of your model for its energy efficiency (note: to submit a model for analysis you need to be a subscription customer that has paid for access to the cloud based service).

Also new was a link on the recent files page to 3rd Party extensions (paid and free) to extend the functionality of Revit. I would have liked the option of disabling that window (as it felt like advertising).

New Resources Pane
New Resources Pane

The Outstanding Issues/The Bad
The folks at Autodesk need to come up with an easier and less painful means of migrating projects and content to the current shipping version. The upgrade batch file utility for Revit content is glitchy, unreliable, and time consuming. If you have used Revit for any length of time, you have likely generated many projects and created GB worth of content. Upgrading all of that data can take days with the current system. Businesses can’t afford to have that much downtime while the IT staff plods through upgrading every file and family to the newest version. The fact that the application has to open, save and close every file to be read in the new version is a painful shortcoming. Why not adopt version based file extensions (i.e .rvt15 to indicate the file version) then simply run an OS batch file to upgrade all of your earlier projects/content to .rvt15. It would require some coding changes but it would be so worth the effort. Bidirectional material support with Sketchup is also a big need. Having to hand enter materials/color values for every material imported from a Sketchup model is needlessly time consuming and tedious. Both apps share a common set of material types, why not harmonize them? I tend to think that these two reasons alone deter users from making the annual upgrade to the latest version particularly when there is so much downtime required to migrate all of your data.

Wish List
One feature that I would really like to see (and perhaps it already exists and I am just not aware of it) is the ability to schedule railings for rooms in a project’s room schedule. For example, say I want all the rooms on floor 1 to have baseboard and crown molding of a specific profile. Currently you have to draw in those components as railings going around the perimeter of each room, creating a new railing for each wall segment. It would be great to be able to just drop the railings in via a schedule and save a boat load of time in the process. The room function calculates the perimeter of each room already, so it shouldn’t be too hard to leverage that data.

Overall Recommendation
While Revit 2014 introduced lots of great features and is worth keeping, I think that the performance benefits that come with 2015 make the upgrade effort worthwhile. Opening files and working within the 3D model is a much more pleasant experience in 2015. If you haven’t upgraded in a while, the difference will seem like night and day. For other takes on Revit 2015 check the links below.
David Light’s Review

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