Friday, July 12, 2013

Redlining & Revit

Regardless what you think about Revit, you’ll probably agree that Revit is disruptive technology. You can push rope and try to adapt CAD functionality to Revit or you can adapt/change your workflow to accommodate Revit’s workflow. This process change, good or bad is disruptive. The choices you make can mean the difference between profit and lose on a project.

One area that Revit provides that opportunity for process change is with Redlines. With Revit and Design Review we have an opportunity to create and manage redlines differently than what has been done in the past. This does not mean that the  Revit/Design Review process is better or worse, it’s just different.

Pen & Paper / Redlined PDF

Traditionally redlines have been created using red pen on paper and that gets passed off to someone to get picked up. Those redlines can be scanned and a PDF created or electronic documents can be marked up electronically and passed onto someone to get picked up. As the person picks up the redlines they may or may not highlight which items have been picked up. At some point, we hope that someone then back checks to make sure that the redlines were picked up and addressed correctly.

There are many pros and cons to this workflow. On the Pro side, it is a workflow that is familiar to most users and good or bad, familiarity makes people more comfortable. The Cons to this workflow is that the redline is not integrated into Revit like an overlay, it’s external.

Revit / Design Review

An Alternate workflow to creating and managing redlines is to utilize the Deisgn Web Format (DWF) as a distribution and communication of redlines. DWF files are in many like PDF files, but you use the Design Review application to markup the documents electronically and those redlines/markups can then be linked back into Revit as an overlay. As the markups are addressed, comments can be added.

Before I go into the process, let’s talk about the CONS to this approach. The BIG CON is that DWF markups have to be created digitally using Design Review. It’s been my experience that the drawback is with people learning to digitally markup drawings rather than using pen on paper. In fact, I’m guilty of it. If I have a choice, pen on paper is my preferred method as marking up with the mouse sucks. There is an improvement though when working with a tablet, especially one of the higher end models like the Wacom Cintiq pen displays.


The first thing we need to have to create markups in Design Review with DWF files is Sheets in our Revit model. Revit allows you to export sheets and views to either a DWF or DWFx file type. Now is probably as good a time as any to explain the difference between a DWF and DWFx file. DWFx allows you to export the 3D model and any associate parameter data associated with the objects. DWF/DWFx can be used to export sheets and views to a file.

If you want to use the DWF file to roundtrip redlines (Revit to Design Review to Revit) then you have to export sheet. When we have sheets, we can then export DWF file. From the Revit application button (Big R) select Export > DWF/DWFx.

Figure 1

The DWF Export Settings dialog (Figure 2) will open and this allows us to specify what sheets/views we want to export and to adjust DWF/DWFx export settings. In the View/Sheets tab, select the from the Export: dropdown. From the Show in list: dropdown, select Sheets in the Model, this will allow you to select from just the sheets in the model. Select all the sheets.

Figure 2

After you make your selection, you can save your selection for future use by using the New Set button as shown in Figure 3.

Figure 3
Click the Next button to save your file and export your sheets. The exported DWF file can then be opened in Design Review and your markups added.

Design Review is very similar to Acrobat or Bluebeam. There are tools to make it comments, redlines, measure, query, etc. They are very straightforward and simple enough to use.

Figure 4
As you make your redlines, Design Review keeps track of those markups. Figure 5 shows an example of some markups. Notice the second column of symbols that I have highlighted in Figure 5. These show the status of the markup. The outline of a checkmark means no action has occurred to that markup in Revit. A green checkmark means the markup has been marked as Done. The question mark means that markup has been marked with a question.

Figure 5 - Markup Tracking in Design Review
This markup tracking system helps everyone associated with the redlines keep track of what has been done, what needs to be done and what items need further clarification.

Once you have marked up the DWF file in Design Review, we can link it back into Revit. We Link in a DWF markup set like we would a Revit or CAD file. From the Inset tab, link panel, click on the DWF markup button (Figure 6). This will open the Import/Link DWF file dialog. Navigate to the location of your DWF file and then select Open.

Figure 6 - DWF Markup button
The Link Markup Page to Revit Sheets dialog (Figure 7) will then open. On the left side (DWF View) of the dialog will be a listing of those sheets that have markups from Design Review. It will only list the sheets that have markups, sheets with no markups are not listed. The right side (Revit View) of the dialog will display the Revit sheet that corresponds to the DWF view.

You want to make sure that you review this dialog very carefully. If you have renumbered, added or deleted sheets since the DWF file was created, it is possible that Revit could list the wrong Revit View for a DWF View. I have not had this occur, but something to keep in mind.

Also be aware that if you select a sheet on the DWF View side and then click OK to the Link Markup Page to Revit Sheets dialog, Revit will only link that single selected DWF View.

If your view(s) correspond correctly, you can click OK to start the DWF linking process.

Figure 7 - Link Markup Page to Revit Sheets dialog
Once your DWF file(s) have been linked into Revit, we need to find which sheets have them. Revit currently doesn’t allow us to generate a schedule to easily locate and track them, so we have to do a little digging if you don’t want to open the Design Review file.

The easiest method to find your markups is to open Manage Links (Insert tab, Link Panel) as shown in Figure 8 and make the DWF Markups tab active.

Figure 8 - Linked DWF files
Select anyone of the linked files. Then at the bottom of the dialog, click on the Located In… button. This will open the Link Markup Page to Revit Sheet dialog (Figure 7) and you can use that to make note of what Revit sheets have markups. In this example, the project file I am using only have 5 sheets so tracking done the markups is not that difficult. However on a real projects, you definitely do not want to go sheet-by-sheet looking for redlines.

We can now navigate to one of our markups in Revit. Figure 9 shows an example of a markup. When you select a markup the Properties palette will provide you with some basic information about the markup as well as giving you the options to change the status of the markup. In the example shown in Figure 9, I clicked on the History button in the Properties palette and is gives me basic information about the history of that particular redline.

Figure 9 - DWF markup in Revit
If I click on the Notes button in the Properties palette, the Edit Text dialog will open (Figure 10). This allows you to add notes, comments or questions that you might have regarding a particular markup. Figure 11 shows how that Note appears in Design Review.

Figure 10 - Associating a Note with a Markup
Figure 11 – Note from Revit
When you save your Revit project file, any changes to the status of the DWF is automatically saved to the DWF file.

The great thing about using DWF files for processing markups is that they are easily tracked and they markups are an overlay to the Revit sheets. If you can get over the hump of marking up digitally, then using DWF files can make your life easier.


Andrew said...

This was a great explanation of Design review. I just gave a presentation on Design review as an alternative in my office. I am curious if you have found some work arounds for some of the inherent problems in Design Review? For instance how markups show up in Revit....For one thing visually they do not show up as complete when the status is changed. You could hide the completed items only to have them turn back on when the DWF is reloaded into Revit.

I am really worried that Design Review is just going to be discontinued and not improved anymore. Have you experienced any alternative software to Design review that offers the same linking capabilities to Revit?

Patrick Davis said...

I also share your concerns with Autodesk not improving or discontinuing support for Design Review.

I am aware of no other tool that has the same linking capability.

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