What's New in Revit 2017AECbytes Tips and Tricks Issue #78 (April 18, 2016)


Dan Stine, CSI, CDT
Registered Architect and Author


This year’s version of Revit, which has just been released, has a number of new features that will make many users happy. Now that I have finished updating my four Revit textbooks for Revit 2017 and sent them off to the publisher, I would like to share some of my favorites in this article. Additionally, I will point out a few upgrade warnings everyone needs to be aware of!

Platform Consolidation

No longer are there discipline-specific versions of Revit: i.e., Architecture, Structure and MEP; now we just have Revit 2017 and Revit 2017 LT. This obviously simplifies things for Autodesk and also benefits the end user as everyone now has access to all features.

New Text Editor

The text editor has been overhauled in Revit—this has been a long awaited new feature. In addition to more and better formatting controls, the quality of the on-screen text has been noticeably improved.

Upgrade warning: The first thing to know about the new Text Editor feature is that it will most likely mess up the formatting in any project upgraded from a previous version—“no pain, no gain” as the saying goes. Due to under-the-hood changes required to modernize the text in Revit, the original formatting in existing drawings cannot always be maintained. Figures 1 and 2 highlight the issues. The magnitude of the problem varies, depending on the fonts used.


Figure 1. Text formatted in Revit 2016


Figure 2. The same text formatting changes slightly in Revit 2017.

TIP: Use the Document Compare feature in Bluebeam Revu to quickly find the changed text after upgrading a Revit project.

To facilitate the new text features, the User Interface has been changed. The first image in Figure 3 below shows the Ribbon when a text entity itself is selected: notice the only difference is that B, I, U and List options are missing. The second image in Figure 3 shows the new contextual tab when editing the contents of a text entity. In addition to the new editing tools, there is a Close option—better “way finding” for new users who try to fit Enter a dozen times.


Figure 3. The modified UI for selected text and editing text, respectively.

Some of the nice new features include Subscript and Superscript, Increase and Decrease Indent buttons and a “change everything to uppercase” command. For change to uppercase, this feature remembers the original case and can revert to it if needed.

There is also an Increment and Decrement List Value button, which will allow the first item in the list to be changed to a different value—however this is only done by clicking the button multiple times with no option to enter, say, higher values such as 103.

The image in Figure 4 shows multiple indents. This shows the maximum number of indents plus one. Currently, there are only four list options; Number, Uppercase Letter, Lowercase Letter and Bullet. Tab and Shift Tab work to increase/decrease indents.


Figure 4. Bulleted text.

The new text editor is a welcome start, but still needs work. For example, if the numbering breaks, we cannot right click on a number and select “continue from previous” and there are no columns or line spacing options. We can press Shift Enter to add spaces, but all the text has to be the same height as that is controlled by the text Type parameters. I suspect the framework is now there for these improvements to be made in future releases.

Rendering

The Nvidia Mental Ray engine has been completely removed from Revit, leaving the newer Autodesk Raytracer as the only option. Check out this Autodesk page to see how the settings are mapped between the two engines: Upgrade Mapping for Rendering Settings. One additional point to note is that there is a new background option called Transparent. Previously, just saving a PNG version of a rendering would automatically make the background transparent.

Railings

Railings can now be hosted to the top of walls and sloped floors. The example in Figure 5 shows a railing added to the top of a curvy wall modified via Edit Profile. The other railing is attached to a sloped floor. The curvy rails is the most impressive to me—that feels like it took some effort to implement!


Figure 5. New curved railings in Revit.

The image above does not need much more explanation as the traditional railing workflow remains the same. Sketch a railing and then simply pick the wall or floor as the host.

Upgrade warning: Autodesk recommends reviewing railings after upgrading from 2016, given the required changes in the new railings.

Tangency Locks (Family Editor)

This is one of those super cool surprise new features we will all wonder how we lived without a year from now. Simply draw two lines, fillet them and select the arc as shown in Figure 6 below. Notice the tangency lock symbol visible at each end of the arc. Clicking this lock ensures the arc will always be tangent to the line(s) if the line is rotated. This only works in the Family Editor.


Figure 6. The new Tangency lock for an arc in the Family Editor.

Calculated Values in Tags

Similar to schedules, tags can now display calculated values. In the Family Editor, the Edit Label dialog now has an Add Calculated Parameter to Label icon (#1 in Figure 7 below). This calculation can only use Shared Parameters as that is all that works in a tag.


Figure 7. Creating and editing a calculated value in a tag.

If a schedule and a tag both need to report the same calculated value, the effort to create the formula needs to be duplicated as they are in no way connected. Of course, they would both always report the same information as they are based on the same shared parameters within the project. The only caveat is the calculated value within a family can only be a formula and not a percentage.

One use for this new feature is to report the total occupant load based on the area of each room. However, we still cannot, unfortunately, use Shared Parameters in Schedule Keys. This limits the ability to select the occupancy type from a drop-down list and then use that selected value in a formula.

Pinning Tags

Prior to Revit 2017, pinning a tag meant you could not manually move the tag but it would still move when the host was moved. Now, when a tag is pinned, it does not move at all—even if the host is moved.

Upgrade warning: Tags pinned in versions prior to Revit 2016 will not move with their host as they previously did.

Depth Cueing

Making elements further away from the viewer lighter, to suggest distance, has been a challenge some have solved with fairly tricky workarounds. Autodesk has now given use a purpose-built feature to accomplish this aesthetic goal.

Figure 8 below shows an exterior elevation prior to any changes using this new feature.


Figure 8. Exterior Elevation before Depth Cueing is applied.

Figure 9 shows the options related to this new feature. Notice there is an on/off checkbox and two sliders which control how far away an element has to be and, relatively, how much lighter things get. If the Fade Limit is set to zero, which appears to be the default, then keep in mind that some elements might totally disappear, not just get lighter looking.


Figure 9. Depth Cueing settings.

Figure 10 shows the results of the applied Depth Cueing settings. Notice that parts of the PV panels on the roof are gone and the main wall has become much lighter than the smaller, but closer, entry on the right.


Figure 10. The Depth Cueing settings in Figure 9 applied to the elevation shown in Figure 8.

Schedules

Schedules now offer additional options for how totals are calculated as shown in the Figure 11.


Figure 11. New totals options within Schedule Properties.

I think that this drop-down list, shown in the dialog above, should have a heading. For a newer Revit user, seeing the drop-down list that just says Standard is not very helpful in understanding what that setting is for.

Global Parameters

Global Parameters can hold values which, in turn, can be applied to an element’s instance or type parameter. It is also possible to select a dimension and associate it with a Global Parameter as shown in Figure 13. The first image below, Figure 12, shows the Global Parameters dialog, which is accessible from the Manage tab.

This new feature makes it possible to edit one value and cause multiple dimensions and family types to update at once in a Revit project.


Figure 12. The Global Parameters dialog.


Figure 13. Associating a dimension with a Global Parameter in a Revit project.

Energy Settings Dialog

Not much has changed about the fundamentals of the energy modelling capabilities in Revit 2017 compared to Revit 2016 R2 and Autodesk Insight 360 as they currently stand. However, the Energy Settings dialog has been totally overhauled, shedding several irrelevant parameters. By the way, these are the parameters I mentioned in my previous AECbytes article, Building Performance Analysis in Revit 2016 R2 with Autodesk Insight 360, (see Figure 11 in that article).


Figure 14. The Revit 2016 energy settings dialog.

In Revit 2017, the main dialog presented, when the Energy Settings button is selected, represents the minimum information required to derive a valid energy simulation. This dialog is shown in the left image of Figure 15.

Clicking Edit for Other Options reveals a secondary dialog box, shown on the right, with settings which can be thought of as optional, depending on the workflow. For example, when using Autodesk Insight 360, most of these “secondary” parameters are automatically varied between the worst and best inputs—one exception being Export Category (Rooms or Spaces) which effects what information is exported from Revit.

Also note the following:

  • Include Thermal Properties is now Detailed Elements: Checking this option results in Revit using the thermal properties defined within the Revit elements and, thus, ignores (overrides where they are present) the Conceptual and Schematic Type settings.
  • Divide Perimeter Zones is now Perimeter Zone Division
  • The default Mode is now Use Conceptual Masses and Building Elements

Figure 15. The Revit 2017 energy settings dialogs.

Speaking of energy modeling, I will be presenting a session on this at RTC-NA 2016 in Scottsdale Arizona in July; the class is titled Energy Simulation with Revit and Autodesk Insight 360. My other session is Professional Lighting Design in Revit using ElumTools.

Conclusion

As mentioned, upgrading a project to Revit 2017 has a number of important issues that you need to be aware of to ensure your project’s integrity. Be sure to check out this link for more information from Autodesk; Upgrade Information for Revit 2017.

For additional coverage of Revit 2017’s new features, check out Steve Stafford’s blog at Revit OpEd.

Overall, there are a number of nice new features that will help us all be more productive in Revit.

About the Author

Dan Stine is a registered Architect with twenty-two years of experience in the architectural field. He currently works at LHB (a 250 person multidiscipline firm) in Duluth Minnesota as the BIM Administrator, providing training, customization and support for two regional offices. Dan has worked in a total of four firms. While at these firms, he has participated in collaborative projects with several other firms on various projects (including Cesar Pelli, Weber Music Hall – University of Minnesota - Duluth).  Dan is a member of the Construction Specification Institute (CSI) and the Autodesk Developer Network (ADN) and has taught AutoCAD and Revit Architecture classes at Lake Superior College, for the Architectural Technology program; additionally, he is a Certified Construction Document Technician (CDT). Dan currently teaches BIM to interior design students at North Dakota State University (NDSU). He has presented at Autodesk University, the Revit Technology Conference and Minnesota University.

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