Thursday, November 17, 2011

IConstruct - Round Tripping your data through Excel!

As I mentioned previously, this month I am going to discuss a plugin to Navisworks Manage called IConstruct. This is an add-on tool that will allow users to add additional data to the Navisworks model without having to go back to the native datasets (i.e. Autocad, Revit, Microstation, Inventor, AutoPlant, etc.). Currently, driving data from Navisworks to external databases is problematic at best. For instance under data tools, the user must really be proficient in SQL programming to get this to work in any usable way.

And please, do not even get me started with the whole 64bit ODBC Driver issue! Frankly, I think having to upgrade to MS Office 2010 just to get the functionality is really depressing. You can thank Microsoft for this! Additionally, the Appearance Profiler that I mentioned in a previous post lacks some basic functionality and ease of use issues.

Below you can see an image of the IConstruct Integrator Configuration dialogue box. This is the fundamental step in the entire process. As you know, in Naviswork, you cannot edit any of the property tabs that come in with external datasets. The only data the property window reports are data that came in with the dataset (Revit Parameters, Autocad attributes, etc.). The Integrator lets you do two things:
  • Create a custom data tab
  • Migrate data from any other tab available
  • Edit the data on the tab

IConstruct Integrator Configuration
Once I have created my custom tab and migrated the properties, you can see in the image below that when I select a wall in the model, my tab appears in the properties window.

Now that I have this custom tab, I can do a number of things, including change the values.  For instance, the wall is an Exterior Precast Panel.  If I wanted to change this wall or all the exterior walls to Exterior CMU, I can do so here on this tab.  Now if your thinking I would now have to do this individually, you would be incorrect!  IConstruct provides me with a Find and Replace tool for Data.  With the Find and Replace tool,  I can search the Navisworks database for that specific piece of data and replace it with one of my own, leveraging search sets in the process.  How awesome is that?!

IConstruct Find and Replace Configuration

Customized Properties - Navisworks

Finally, because I have a customized tab, I can:

  • Link any/all the fields to Excel
  • Modify the data in Excel
  • Add additional data fields and data in Excel
  • Update the properties in Navisworks.

Excel Data Fields

As you can see in the image above, I have added some fields in Excel.  When I refresh the data in Navisworks using the Datalink tool, my properties are updated and populated in Navisworks!

As an added bonus, if the data has changed in Excel, when you refresh again, it will ask if you want to update the information (overwrite) in Navisworks.  You can actually control whether or not it prompts you to overwrite the data or just does it automatically.

I see this tool solving a number of critical business and workflow issues for design build , construction and contracting firms as well as facilities management clients:
  1.  Ability to drive data from the Excel/Navisworks side rather then having to wait for third party consultants to update base files in Navisworks (Revit, Microstation, Inventor, CAD Mech, etc.).
  2. Ability to tie Navisworks search sets, which allows for wholesale updates to groups of data in the model for inspection purposes, costing and/or site staging activities
  3. Allows end use clients (Facilities Managers, Building Owners) to link Navisworks to maintenance schedules and work tickets.
  4. Leverages the model geometry for multiple downstream uses while allowing customization of the data.
  5. Properties will be saved and can be viewed in Freedom viewer to the reduce the need to field supervisors to have a full version of Navisworks.

You can find out more about IConstruct here:

For those attending Autodesk University, see you there.  I am teaching a class on leveraging the tools in Autodesk's Building Design Suite at any stage of the building process. AB4384-P.

Sunday, July 31, 2011


This month I will be talking about a new tool that works with Navisworks called "IConstruct".

Essentially this tool allows you to roundtrip, aka "drive" your date from Excel or Access or any other database software. It also allows you to quickly add groups and custom property sets to the Navisworks model. For those whom have tried this using just the OOTB tools, you know how painful this can be.

I will be discussing some of the various features over the next few weeks.

Alas, it is late and I just got back from a K.D. Lang concert, so I am a little tired.
I will write more in the next few days.
See you soon!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Appearance Profiler

The Appearance Profiler first appeared last year as a subscription tool, available for download from Autodesk Subscription Services. This year, it is incorporated into the main Navisworks 2012 interface.

The Appearance Profiler allows users to quickly assign trade and dataset colors to incoming datasets via search or selection sets. If you have ever attended any of my classes or you have read my previous blog posts, you will know that I hold Search and Selection Sets in high regard. To access the Appearance Profiler use Tools Panel on the Home Tab or the View Tab on the Workspace Panel>Windows Button.

To use the Appearance Profiler you will need to have either Selection Sets created or know which Search Sets you would like to use for the purposes of assigning colors.

As you can see below, I have assigned colors based upon the Search Set CADWorx and property = to _150_MM.

This will find all the data in the model that contains the CADWorx Category that has a Specification of _150_MM. Next, I have chosen a color and use the Add button to add it to the selector on the right of the image. I set up two other colors based upon Selection Sets: 03 - Steel Supports and 04 - Stairs.

You can see the original image below.

After I run the Appearance Profiler, you can see that the color of the pipes, stair and supports have changed.

Once run, the Appearance Profiler state can be saved as a viewpoint and the color changes will be preserved.

The question is, how does this tool help with your day to day workflow? Well, one of the tasks that is time consuming for VDC'ers (Virtual Construction Coordinators) is the importing of data and setting up Selection Sets by trade and then using the Override Transform>Color tool to change the colors of the datasets. If you are using Search Sets that are ubiquitous across many projects (i.e. Revit Walls, Floors, Columns, Ducts, etc.) you can re-use your color schemes simply be exporting them to an Color.DAT file and then loading this same *DAT file into the new project. All you need to do is hit 'Run' and the colors are done! Quick, easy, and scalable! We like it!

As an aside, you can Reset All Appearances on the Home Tab. The Reset Appearances is also available from the Right Click menu.

Give the Appearance

Profiler a try and see if it saves you

some time in your workflow process.

See you all next month!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Collapse on Convert - All Objects!

I know last month I mentioned I would be talking about the appearance profiler this month. However, I have been running a little behind schedule as of late, so I am going to do a quick entry on a super secret setting that may change your world if you are dealing in the currency of MEP clashes!

Most of you know, that you can use rules to filter out unwanted clashes inside of Navisworks. However, the rules are limited in use and frequently you still have a number of "false positives" when running your clashes.

For instance, the image below is from a standard out of the box light family in Revit (Troffer Light 2x4 Parabolic). This family is composed of a multitude of pieces and parts (11). If I run a clash in Navisworks using lights and say steel columns, I will get 4-9 hits per light, because the column is hitting the lens, the grill and the light source object.

Below, I ran a clash against columns and lights after exporting the file from Revit using the "Collapse on Convert" Composite Objects option located under Model>Performance. These settings are accessed from within Revit (not Navisworks!) under the Navisworks Settings when exporting from Revit to Navisworks.

Notice that I get 8 clashes. I purposely set up the Revit file with two columns interfering with two lights. What I want is just two clashes in Navisworks (one for each instance). However, as shown below I get 8 clashes. This occurs even if I set some of the out of the box rules in Navisworks. If you multiply this by how many lights, appliances, and equipment you may have in a file, clearly the number of clashes is expanding geometrically.

Now for the second example, I set my Revit export settings to Collapse on Convert All Objects. I also checked off the following same rules as shown above. Now, as you can see below, right I have only two clashes!

So, the moral of this tale is to use Collapse on Convert-All Objects when exporting from Revit to reduce the number false positives in your clashes! You might want to test this setting with various Revit data sets and check your results. As with anything, you might need to have different export settings and rules for different types of data sets!

Happy Clashing!

PS. In June, I will do a lengthy segment on the Appearance Profiler! I promise!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Search and Selection Sets Part II

Alas! It has been a month or two since Part I. Here is part II, of the long awaited sequel!

As I mentioned in Search and Selection Sets Part I (Post Dated 1-31-2011), Search Sets are the gold in Navisworks. This is where you get to drive. This is where you have all the control. Search Sets, as mentioned are based upon common data properties such as size, name, type, file, units, etc. This is why they are so powerful! If you know the common property to search for, you work here is done! And most importantly, you can re-use searches in different projects if they search for similar properties.

As an example, imagine a file imported from Revit (via *NWC Export). Revit, being the wonderful property based BIM format that it is, contains loads of property data (both instance and type). Now, envision some of the common properties in every Revit file, such as walls, ducts, beams or windows. You can set up a search in Navisworks to find all the walls or windows in the file (see image below).

In the data set shown above, I created a Search Set based upon the Revit Type Property: Wall. When I change this data set in Revit by adding a few additional interior walls, you can see that the Search Set automatically updates. Notice how there are now 9 walls, as opposed to 7 in the previous search.

Thinking outside the box, once you have these searches saved, they can be exported and imported into any other project. To export the Search Sets from a project, simply go to the application menu and choose Export>Search Sets The file will export your searches as an *XML file. You can then import the searches into another project using the import option from the application menu.

From a project perspective, Search Sets can be taken a step farther if you consider file and folder conventions as well. For instance, I can load data from a folder on my desktop named "Demo Files".

As I add additional data sets to this folder and append the *NWF file, the Search Set updates. For those of you seeing the big picture here, your job of updating the project from week to week just became a whole lot simpler if you took the time at the beginning of the project to create a tidy file and folder structure. If your current filing system looks anything like the storage system in my basement, you might need to do a little spring cleaning here to smite your errant file/folder conventions to alleviate the issue.

The image below shows how I set up my search to find a particular folder on my desktop. Of course for your office, you will want to path this to a server location and not your desktop for company wide use.

As a final thought, for those using Revit, you could put some custom shared parameters in the file to easily track in Navisworks, such as a FM parameter for items that need to be tracked for Facilities Management, etc.

Next month, I will be discussing the Appearance Profiler. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Navisworks 2012 is coming!

I am sure a number of you have heard the buzz for weeks now. Navisworks 2012 is on its way and now I can talk about it! So, what features does this new version bring? How about switchback to Revit! Yes, you heard me correctly. The switchback feature that works oh so well for Autocad based files (and Microstation) now works with Revit 2012! Wahoo!

As you can see to the right, like Autocad, you will need to launch Revit 2012 and have an empty project open so ou can launch the switchback feature. In Autocad based products, as you are well aware, yo u need to launch Autocad (or Autocad MEP, Architecture, etc.) and then type NWLOAD at the command line to get it talking with Navisworks.

After loading the model, if you select an element in Navisworks and right click, you will see the switchback option on the menu as shown below.

Another huge improvement is also Revit related. You can now export linked files from Revit to Navisworks. Again, this is a setting inside of Revit, but linked files now read through which means you will not have to open up every link in Revit to get it to export to Navisworks. This will solve quite a number of long standing issues, especially in regards to project work points, dataset alignment and project hours spent opening and re-exporting files. You will also note that construction parts ( a new feature in Revit 2012) is also supported.

Other features you may want to investigate:
  • Timeliner Improvements (Gantt view is now editable and more integrated into the tool)
  • Clash Detection Improvements (you can now assign clashes, export to a tabular html format and have a wire frame option in the Clash Detection viewer when looking at clashes)
  • Improvements in 2D file support (including Archicad, Sketchup, Pro/Engineer).
  • Project Browser (more on this in another blog posting).
  • Appearance Profiler (last year a subscription tool, this year it is integrated in the software)
  • Additional Avatars other then T-Shirt Guy and Hard Hat Guy (last year through subscription, this year it is integrated into the software).
  • Vault support
  • Timeline Options (formally known as Global Options)
You can download a free 30 day trial for Navisworks and Revit 2012 here when they becomes available:

Note: You will need Revit 2012 to test the switchback feature.


Tuesday, February 15, 2011


BIMsight beta 1.1
has just been released by the Tekla Corporation. This is a free tool for the construction industry providing building coordination, communication and management across a few standard data types:
  • (IFC (.ifc)
  • IFC XML (.ifcxml)
  • IFC ZIP (.ifczip)
  • DWG (.dwg)
  • DGN (.dgn)
  • XML (.xml from Tekla Viewer)
First Take: Initially, it appears as a free replacement for Naviswork's Clash Detective, but before you jump in, a little review is in order. I tested the tool against the same dataset in Navisworks (two 3D DWG files). Both Naviswork's Clash Detection and BIMsight found the same number of clashes when the tolerances were identically set. Each software could zoom to the particular clash (though Navisworks will do this with more ease then BIMsight) and allow the user to redline, make comments or change the clash status. So far, so good you say?

Unfortunately, the similarities stopped there, as BIMsight does not provide tools for reporting or seamless tracking of changes over time. For some, this may be a non issue, as they are using Navisworks as a per incident on the fly tool, rather then a project life cycle tool. For others, this is a deal breaker.

So here is my short list of a very limited side by side, kick the tires review:

What I liked:
  • Its free!
  • The install was quick
  • Moderately easy to use
  • Minimal interface
  • Ability to load more then one file at a time
  • Easy to create clash types
  • Easy to assign clashes to various trades
  • Different view shade modes (Transparent, X-Ray, Solid)
  • Ease of adding notes
What I did not like
  • Slow loading multiple files
  • Slow click responsiveness
  • Graphics in Conflict mode hard to differentiate
  • Cannot assign color per trade
  • Cannot move individual elements only entire data sets
  • Cannot organize views
  • Small list of file types that it supports
  • Clash Report/Update History
  • Measure tool weirdness
  • Instability (crashed frequently on Windows 7 64 bit)
  • Lack of walk/fly tool
  • Difficult to move entire data sets unless you know exactly how far you need to move it in the xy & Z

Evaluation: As a replacement for firms using Navisworks Manage Clash Detective on small data sets that are *dwg or *dgn based it can be a useful tool in one's arsenal. For instance, a firm with Navisworks licenses, could deploy this tool for project managers whom want to just review very specific data sets. This would free up a Navisworks license for other staff dealing with larger and more diverse data sets and needing the extra reporting and Timeliner scheduling features. In this regard, BIMsights place in your toolbox falls somewhere between the Navisworks Freedom Viewer and the old flavor of Navisworks (Navisworks Review).

The lack of BIMsight's support for other file types (this is in part planned) other then IFC, DGN or DWG is a huge issue, especially with firms using Revit, Solidworks, or SketchUp. Moreover, point cloud support is lacking as is the ability to publish to Google Earth.

Conclusion: I realize that this is a beta release, and more features, etc. will probably be available in the final release. All in all, I think it is a useful tool in one's toolbox, but it no more a replacement for Navisworks Clash Detective then my hammer is for my framing nailer. Each has a specific use and function and should be viewed as such.

In regards to BIMsight (via Tekla Corporation) pushing the IFC issue (open source format for BIM) back into the limelight, only time will tell. IFC seems to come and go and occasionally shows promise, but there is a huge gap between the dream and day to day reality (i.e. production and getting projects out the door).

To find out more about BIMsight you can click here:

You can also read Revit Uberman Steve Stafford's review here:

Monday, January 31, 2011

Search and Selection Sets - Part I

Search and Selection Sets are the most important feature inside of Navisworks, bar none. This is the only place in the entire program where you have full control of naming conventions, organization and selection. In light of this, it still amazes me how many people are using the software and not using this feature.

This will be the first post in a series that demonstrates how we can utilize this feature to quickly find all the ducts and steel in a model and use what we find for coordination purposes.

Let us dive right in and explore this feature. First, you need to turn the feature on in the interface. In Navisworks 2010, you can go to View>Control Bars>Selection Sets (shown below)or you may use Shift + F2 to turn the window on in the view. In Navisworks 2011 you can turn the window on by going to View>Window and checking the Selection Sets option from the list or you can use the short cut listed above.

Once you have the window open and docked ( I usually have it on the upper right side of my screen) you can utilize the feature as necessary. As you can see in the image below, I have created two Selection Sets and two Search Sets. Searches are shown as a small blue square with a pair of binoculars, sets are shown as a large blue square circumscribed by a circle.

How do you create Search and Selection Sets you ask? They are created in different ways within the program. Let's look at Selection Sets first. A Selection Set can be created by one of the following methods:
  1. Select some items in the view window by either picking on them and holding shown your Shift key to add items to the selection or you can use Select Box (in Revit this would be Select Region and in Autocad this would be known as a Window Selection or Crossing/Fence Selection). After selecting your items, simply put your mouse in the Selection Sets window, right click and choose Add Current Selection from the right click menu options.
  2. Select items from the Selection Tree and then place your mouse in Selection Sets window and choose Add Current Selection from the right click menu options (see image below, left).
Notice in the image on the left, that you can also add folders to the Selection Set window. We will discuss this in a later post, but be aware that organizing your data within Navisworks is 50% of your success in using the software. The other 50% is Selection and Search Sets as well as Viewpoints.

To update a Selection Set you will need to select additional items by one of the two methods mentioned above, and then right click on the Selection Set in the Selection Set window and choose update from the menu options as shown in the image below.

This is an important distinction between Search Sets and Selection Sets. Selection Sets are a snap shot of a point in time (when you created them). The do not update on their own. If you add more data to the Navisworks project, such as more steel or ducts, the Selection Set will not update to reflect these changes. You will need to manually update the set.

Search Sets on the other hand, do automatically update because they are not based upon a manual selection, but rather search the dataset for a specific property such as a word in a layer name (i.e. steel, duct, conduit, valve, etc.) or a material name (ASTM - A572 - Grade 50), or even a specific cost!

To create Search Sets, you need to utilize the Find Items tool to first search for the specific property and then save the search in the Selection Sets window. I have provided an example in the image shown below. As you can see I searched all the data sets in the file for a property that has a material assigned to it that contains the word "steel". The Find Items tool (Shift + F3) quickly found 9601 items. Imagine how long it would take you to select all the steel in the dataset manually! You can see that this feature alone will increase your ROI within a week's time!

The great thing about this search is that because it is based upon a property, the next time I open this project with an updated structural model, it will update to reflect all the steel in the model. I will not have to update it manually. Looking forward, you will see how this will impact your clash events in Clash Detective.

In my next post, I will provide some tips and tricks on how to create search sets that can be utilized project to project as well as some tricks about folder structure within the project.