Thursday, April 30, 2009

The First Proofs are in

When I began this blog, I promised a peek into the process of CAD book creation. Well, I have been quite the last few weeks because I have been busy... ehem.... creating CAD books. :-)

Well, I started getting proofs back.In the old days, you would literally get a printed proof to review. These days we get a PDF. The PDF looks like the final page will look in the printed book. It is the first time I "see" what the final pages will look like. The publisher has changed a few things this year. There are some new header graphics and slightly different fonts. But the big change is that the books are going to 8 1/2" x 11" trim size. I am not sure how I feel about the new size yet, but everyone else seems to like it and think it is a good thing, so we'll see.

In the image I have posted here, you can see a bit of the process. Basically, I scroll through the PDF document and look for items that need to be fixed. This is my last chance, so if I miss somethign in the proof, then you guys email me about it. :-)
The newest Acrobat has some nice text editing and proofing tools, so the process is pretty easy, if I see something, I just add the edit directly in the page. I can also highlight items or add callouts to explain changes I need. Right now I am working pretty closely with the compositor to get the figures right. They are currently coming out too light and too large. They are working on it and will send an updated proof when they have the changes made. Once we get a final proof that we all like, I "sign" off and that's it. That chapter is ready for press.
Now we just have to repeat for every chapter before we can actually GO to press...

So, with that, I must get back to writing... Cheers.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Video - Revit 2010 Quick Start online class

Here is the video from yesterday's online class. Enjoy. Please follow the link below to fill out an evaluation after you view the video. Thank you.

For a high resolution version of this video, look here:
2009-04-21 13.12 Paul Aubin Revit Presentation


Online Training Delivered Yesterday

Yesterday I conducted an online training session giving an overview of Revit 2010 basic functionality and a look at what has changed in the User Interface. The class was conducted to an invited group of attendees from my client list and was overall well received. I am compiling the recorded session and assuming I can overcome a few CODEC issues I seem to be having, I intend to post the recorded file here.

Meanwhile, let me share some of the questions, comments and other tidbits from the session. First, I showed the "Where is my command" feature at the start of the session. This is a help file provided by Autodesk in all 2010 products to help you find your commands when you upgrade. The new ribbon interface can make it difficult at first to get acclimated, so this tool will help. Simply choose Where is my command from the help menu on the application frame (top right corner) and then choose the menu where it used to be and then select the command. You will be directed to the new location. After sharing this tip, one of the attendees: Sean Walton from OWP/P (who also hosted the session - thank you to them) sent me this link:

This link takes you to a webpage using a flash application that allows you to click where your command was in the 2009 screen and it will show you the new 2010 location. It is not complete yet, but still very nicely done.

Some of the other questions asked by attendees:
Can you bring existing AutoCAD drawings into Revit?

Yes you can. click on the Insert tab of the ribbon and then click the Link CAD button.

I showed customizing the Quick Access Toolbar and ribbons to which an attendee asked:
Can you customize the icons?

To this I answered that I was nearly certain that you could not. This was confirmed by another attendee. If anyone knows differently, please let me know.

I showed the new Project Base Point and Survey Point feature. The question was asked:
Do the Shared Coordinates come across to Navis Works?

I was not certain the answer as I have not had time to review the new Navis Works 2010 yet, but another attendee said that it did work. I would like to learn more on this to confirm so if anyone has information to share, please do.

Finally a pretty standard question:
Can you save 2010 back to 2009?

Sadly no you can't this has never been possible in Revit. Once you go forward you cannot go back except through exporting to DWG or IFC neither of which is an ideal (or even acceptable) alternative. So, stay on your current version for projects that are underway and switch to 2010 for new projects.

Next post, I will try to get the video posted. Until then thanks to all who attended!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

User Interface

There has been a lot of chatter on the new user interface of Revit and other Autodesk products. I believe that now nearly every Autodesk product will be using ribbons. I don't know the "official" reason for the change but I suspect it has something to do with making all of the disparate Autodesk products appear like they come from the same company. Regardless of what you might feel about ribbons specifically, I think that most would expect that when you buy more than one product from the same company that they should look like they come from the same company (at least a little...) This has rarely been the case with Autodesk products. AutoCAD products have always had (and probably always will have) their command line. Max products had the command panels and Revit the Design Bar. I don't know Inventor, but I assume that it looked unique too. So, again, pure specualtion on my part, but I am sure that the new ribbon UI has something to do with unification among the product offerings. The process began last year with the unified appraoch to 3D navigation and continues this year with the ribbons. This in theory anyhow would make using multiple products easier.

In this post, I would like to offer my thoughts on the new Revit 2010 UI. I will comment on the AutoCAD Architecture UI at another time.

Overall Impresion
Overall, I like it. I didn't think I would to be honest. I have held off on upgrading to Office 2007 and the ribbon had a lot to do with it. SnagIt took me awhile to get used to with its new ribbon, so when I heard that Revit was being "ribbonized," I was skeptical. However, when I got a chance to use 2010, my overall impression was and remains favorable. Mostly this is my impresion in the Project Editor. I am less convinced in the Family Editor. Let me offer some specifics.

What I like about the new UI
In the project editor, I am pleased with the organization of buttons on tabs. I like that we now have all modeling tools on the Home tab where before they were on basics and modeling.
Split Buttons - I like split buttons. The most common function appears on the main part of the button, but other related tools are tucked away on the pop-up part. Consider Roofs for example. In previous versions of Revit, you clicked the Roof tool, and the pop-up always appeared even if you wanted the most common roof type: the footprint roof. Now, if you click the Roof tool, you get footprint roof automatically unless you click the pop-up part of the button for other options. I think that works pretty well. The split button is basically a combination of the other two kinds of button. Here is a picture:

Customize the UI
We had really no way to customize the UI in previous versions of Revit. 2010 offers several opportunities:

Three ribbon modes - Don't like the default ribbon with its large icons? Choose from two other minimized modes.

Don't want to see the panel titles? Right-click and hide them.

Want to move the Options Bar? Right-click it.

The QAT (Quick Access Toolbar) - the Quick Access Toolbar, has some default common icons, but you can add almost anything you like to it. Simply right-click any tool and choose Add to Quick Access Toolbar.

Want more room on the QAT (to add more buttons)? Right-click and move it below the ribbon.

Upset that they moved the Type Selector off the Options Bar? Add it to the QAT.

Tear off the Project Browser! And it Remembers! Unlike previous versions of Revit, you can tear off the Project Browser and move it wherever you like (even another monitor) and it will still be there tomorrow when you launch Revit again.

I have added buttons like Align and Trim to the QAT, we use them all the time so this is a good spot for them. I also put Switch Windows there. It was really bothering me that I had to go to the View tab, then click Switch Windows, then choose the Window from the pop-up. But adding it to the QAT eliminates that and makes it easier to switch windows. Of couse all open and recent documents and windows are also available on the Application Menu. So that is a good alternative as well.

Recent Files Window - This was added in the previous release, but was a little clumsy. It showed on the Window menu all the time and was always sort of in the way. Especially when you tile windows. But now, it only appears when there are no projects loaded or when you decide you want to see it. If there is a project loaded, go to View tab, and choose Recent Files from the User Interface tool. Pretty good improvement.

Tear off Panels - Ribbon panels can be torn off. Nice.

Type Selector - I really like the inclusion of previews, tooltips and recently used Types. The menu is more graphical and you can see what Family a type belongs to at a glance.

What I don't Like
I am not as enthusiastic about the Family Editor. Buttons seem to jump around when you go from mode to mode. Switch Windows is a good example or when you go into a sub-mode like Extrusions or Sweeps. The tabs do not seem as well organized as they are in the project editor either. Dimensions appear on the Detail tab. They are not being used to detail anything in the Family Editor. Dimensions drive the geometry so this seems misplaced to me. I am not sure why we need Create and Detail. In the Family editor, it is all about creating something and you will have to flip back and forth between these often. Maybe they should just be the same tab?

I don't like that the QAT is different in each environment. I am sure there is a logical reason, but I hate that I have to add my custom tools to the QAT over again in the Family Editor. Nit picky yes, but still a bit of a pain to me.

New UIs are always tough. We get so used to where tools are and how things function and even if it doesn't make sense, or it is five clicks, I know the five clicks by heart now dang it!

However, I was comfortable in about a day in the new UI. I actually prefer it now over the old one and was bummed when I had to go back and do a Revit project in 2009 recently. Overall, I like it. I hope that you will too. Comments welcome.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Imperial and Metric

Years ago I started including both an Imperial and a Metric dataset in my books. Since most of my titles are heavy on tutorials, this is a good way to open the book up to readers outside the US. However, royalty reports have shown that sales outside the country are in the realm of what I would consider disappointing. This has been the case for many years, but nonetheless, I continue to maintain both datasets. This does slow things down a bit during writing because I have two sets of numbers to check and two complete datasets to build and check.
Recall in an earlyier post where I described the recapturing of images as one of the major bottlenecks in the writing process. Well, building and/or maintaining datsets is perhaps the next biggest time consumer in the process. The only real difference is that sometimes I can get away with using last years files and just resaving them. This is more true with AutoCAD files than Revit files. Since a Revit project is saved in a single file, even a small change requires me to resae the file where on the AutoCAD Architecture side, I might get away with making a change to just one XREF and can leave many other files as is. Of course there are far more files on the AutoCAD Architecture dataset. Something like 6000 total DWG files. (Half Imperial and half Metric). On the Revit book, I have gotten to the point where it is easier to resave each chapter's start point from the previous chapters "Complete" files because enough small changes have accumulated and this is the only way that I can be sure they carry forward.
The dataset update process has a couple advantages. First, having two datasets allows me to sometimes use one to check the chapter. I often like to go through the initial edit in the Imerial files and then come back and quickly run through the steps again in the Metric. This gives me a quick proof read and allows me to complete the dataset concurrently with the manuscript files. The other advantage is that if this doesn't work out on a particular chapter and the dataset requires more work, I do not have to deliver the datset files to the publisher until well into the proofing/press phase, so I have some extra time without impacting the schedule.
Well, that's it for now. Thanks for visiting.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

"Lego" my eBay

And now for a weekend post. It is the end of an era in the Aubin household. The last of the Lego is being shipped out in a very heavy box to the lucky winner of an eBay auction. This is a bitter-sweet moment. I loved to play with Lego as a kid. Then my boys (now 12 and 10) became huge Lego aficionados, and I got to play again (ehem, I mean help them build). There were all manner of little plastic pieces on carpets, in heating registers and often lurking in my slippers for years around here. (It really hurts when you step on one of those bad boys you know). Well, it turns out if you have old Lego sets to sell, that eBay is the place. People pay good money for these sets if they are "gently used" and if all the pieces are there. You get much less for incomplete sets, but even big "lots" do well. So over the last several months, my wife has painstakingly collected, sorted and reassembled what seems like hundreds of Lego sets. (We try not to think about how much money we spent on these... but they did provide the boys countless hours of enjoyment, sot that is certainly worth something).

When you embark on this process, you do a little eBay searching and you go "Wow, we have that set, look how much it's going for!" Problem is, you have NO IDEA how long it takes to find all the pieces to be sure the set is complete.
My wife: "Did you find all the pieces?"
Me: "Yes"
My Wife: "Because people will complain if the set is not complete."
Me: "Yes, I know."
My Wife: "Did you find the right pieces?"
Me: "Yes"
My Wife: "Are you sure you didn't substitute anything?"
Me: "Ye, I'm Sure."

And so it goes. Until the very end (hours later, and I mean hours...) when you hear me:
Me (only now very tired): "$#*t, I can't find this last piece" "Are you sure we can't substitute?"
My wife: "Yes, I'm sure. And no we can't"
Me: "#$*t"
My wife: "Yes."

So any how, you get to a point where you just want them out. (Sort of I imagine how it will be when the kids get to college age... but that's another post). So you list a big "Lot." This is what we did. The last 50 lbs of Lego are leaving the building. Anyhow, I have to go the post office closes in a half hour. Until next time....

Friday, April 3, 2009

Everybody needs something...

We all have things we have to do and things we want to do. On rare occasions those two are the same. Like most husbands and fathers, I have the daily kid's activities to attend to: taking them to sporting events, classes, activities. Most of these fit into both categories for me thankfully. I both "have to" to take my kids to their events and happen to enjoy and "want to" to do it. So this is the good part of the day.
However, there are many other "must" and "want" to dos. Some days it is all manageable, others it just feels like everybody needs something...

Writing CAD books (or any kinds of book I suppose) is can be both a "need to do" and a "want to do." I "need" to do it, because I signed a contract, my readers expect it and from a business perspective it does make up the bulk of my marketing efforts. (Less so these days I am afraid). I "want" to do it because even though it takes COUNTLESS hours, doesn't pay well, and can get tedious at times, I still really like it and in some cases even find it fun. What is not fun is looming deadlines and ever-shortening release cycles. So as I cram to try and complete pages, I wonder where the "glory days" have gone. What "glory days" you ask? I wrote the entire first edition of Mastering Architectural Desktop (v3.3) in 7 weeks in the public library. 7 weeks! Now it feels like it takes that to do one chapter sometimes... (exaggeration, but it feels that way sometimes).

In those days, 7 weeks was considered really fast. Now it is expected just to stay on schedule.

Part of the problem and getting back to the title of this post, is that when I wrote that first edition, my children were babies (thus the writing in the library), I was on sabatical from a full-time (real) job and the book was the only thing on my plate. Now I (and for the last five years) I work for myself, must maintain a consulting business, help my wife tend to 3 tween-age kids and their activities, meet my other family responsibilities, keep several book titles alive, deal with MUCH shorter release cycles and try to find time for some recreation and exercise once in a while.

Ah, we do miss those glory days...

Ah well, speaking of someone needing something, I have several phone calls to return, an overflowing email box (if I could just find a way to get paid to read email....), a book deadline looming, Chapter 8 to finish, and my mom needing help with moving some boxes. All in a day's work.

There's the doorbell (and the phone, and Outlook) gotta go...

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

A Rose by an other name...

With the 2010 release of Autodesk applications starting to hit the streets, one of the questions on everyone's mind isn't what new features are we getting but rather, what did they call it this year? :-)

Let's take AutoCAD Architecture. When the product first came out (V1.0 - yes they did use plain old numbers back then) it was: "AutoCAD Architectural Desktop" (Although some referred to is as Softdesk V9)
Even though it was never official, everyone referred to it as "ADT"
Around V3.0 or maybe 3.3 it became "Autodesk Architectural Desktop"
Then we went to the year numbering with 2004. ADT 2004, ADT 2005, etc.
Then came 2008. Architectural Desktop was gone. Replaced by "AutoCAD Architecture" No more ADT either. Many began calling it "ACA." (Autodesk has never liked either acronym preferring the long full name or the strange Acad-A).

So we came full-circle. AutoCAD Architectural Desktop to AutoCAD Architecture. Well, 2010 is still AutoCAD Architecture. But don't worry there's always next year. Maybe we can look forward to "Autodesk AutoCAD Architectural Desktop" (AAAD)...

So what about Revit? When it was still a separate company (Charles River Software), it was just: Revit. Short, sweet. Easy.
Then Autodesk bought them and Revit became "Autodesk Revit." Then "Revit" became a "Platform" and we got "Revit Building" to distinguish it from the new "Revit Structure" and later "Revit Systems." That lasted a couple releases, and they changed all the names again. So in the same year when we got "AutoCAD Architecture 2008," "Revit Building" became "Revit Architecture 2008." So, what is it in 2010? Well, "Revit Architecture" is actually now formally "Autodesk Revit Architecture 2010." Say that five times fast. (BTW, what is the most popular acronym for Revit Architecture? "RAC" - as far as I can tell, this one is official, although I still can't figure out how they arrived at that one).

Anyhow, I just try to refer to things as officially as possible. However, I have no intention of writing "Autodesk Revit Architecture 2010" everytime I want to refer to the software. So I do use RAC on occasion (mostly in dataset naming) and I have made the decision in my new book update to simply refer to it as "Revit" most of the time. What is old is new again. My rationalle is this: In most cases, when I refer to the product by name, I am talking about something that is actually not unique to Architecture only. In other words it applies to the platform and works the same in Revit Structure or Revit MEP (the new name for Revit Systems). For example, "In Revit elements turn light blue when you select them." This is not unique to Revit Architecture, so I don't imply that it is by writing the full name. Saves me some typing and the reader some reading too.

So there you have it. A Revit or an ADT by any other name would still BIM as sweet... (or something like that, I might have messed up the quote a bit. ;-)

Completing Manuscript and going to Tech and Copy Edit

As I mentioned in a previous post, work on the manuscript is done in Microsoft Word. The publisher has provided a template file that has many standard styles. We have custom styles for headings, steps, instructions, figures, captions, etc. With track changes on, I read through the existing copy, and make edits where needed. Edits show in colors for each editor. Initially, I am the only editor so there is only one color. Deletions show in the margin. I have screen captured a sample from Chapter 7. You can also see the toolbars for the macro in the publisher's template. They help simplify the process of formatting. There are also tools for figures that help keep the numbering in sequence. The blue text under the images does not appear in the final pages. This is a "Production Note" that the compositor uses to locate the correct image file. Think of it like a manual XREF. Page layout software works just like AutoCAD or Revit and links in the image files from the actual source files. The embedded image you see in Word is just for the benefit of the author and editors. (Imagine how hard it would be to work with an XREF if all that appeared was a label saying "insert XREF here.").

When I am finished, I send the file to the tech editor. He and I use Buzzsaw to transfer the files. I like Buzzsaw because I can post the file and email him in one step. He works directly in the file and if he finds an error, he makes edits direclty in Word. More often however, he might have a suggestion or question for me and instead of writing this in the body of the text, he will add a Word comment instead. When I review, I can read the comment and respond accordingly. He also uses comments to tell me if he finds somethigng wrong with the datset files.

The Copy editor follwos the same process. Some authors review the tech eidt, accept or reject all the changes and then send it on to the Copy Editor. To save time, I send the Tech Edit files direclty to Copy Edit without reveiwing them. When I get them back from Copy Edit, I review, accept and reject all changes. My Word documents show three reveiwers when I get them back like this image.
The approved files will have all changes approved or rejected and a "clean" word doc is posted back to the publisher's FTP site. This file is then sent to the compositor for pagination and page layout.

Next time I will post a sample from one of the completed chapters to hold you over till the book gets here. Until then, thanks for reading.


The traditional print publishing industry requires long production cycles before any book or publication can see print. This situation has become more acute for authors like myself who publish books on annual software releases. I hope to use this blog to publish information, updates, addenda, ruminations, and other "mid-cycle" missives. I hope you enjoy it.

Please be sure to also visit my website.

Thanks for visiting.