Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Office Library (part 2)

As i mentioned last week, much of what we did on the Wiki is now Superseded by a new content Navigator we got from a third party developer. What we purchased: the KiwiCodes Family Browser (clicky).
This product looks strikingly like the Design Palette from ACA and Civil3D, if youve used them: And thats a compliment. Now, i have LARGELY been a disponent of using third part Add-ons in my Revit Implementations, as you have many more directions you have to think about in terms of Support, Version upgrades, error checking, etc. But this appears to be a banner year, with so many high powered Add Ons coming in to play... The Family Browser, Site works from Eagle Point, and a few others we cant mention yet, that are in the works. My point is, if my goal is to provide the most efficient tools for Beck, the time is finally here (in my opinion, for those of you who thought the previously available add ons were worth it) to let the add ins in to the workflow.

The family browser itself also meant a restructuring of the Office Content Library, since the tool organizes Tabs by File Directory. The OOTB library largely ships that way- with subdirectories upon subdirectories... And i largely UNDID all of that for our office libraries. When you have to manually search for parts in a kit with that many folders, i dont find it is efficient. Plus, a stringent naming system keeps everything organized alphanumerically anyway, so ALL Furniture being in one folder made sense. All Equipment in one folder, and so on. But, i didnt mind subdirectory usage here, since the Family Browser largely means no one needs to browse the library anymore.

The tool also lended itself to Task Based Organizing: Something i was fond of while supporting an AutoCAD Architecture office at QPK Design, who also used Civil 3D. (Shout out to my buddy Lance King, who helped build all of our networked Palettes there). So i went the same route at the The Beck Group, with our new implementation of the Family Browser. The following are the different "Tab Groups:"



The beauty of the tools organization is several fold: 1. If you check the names of all the tabs, youll see redundancy again, much like the old Wiki. Well, i can think of several different times i may want to put in Cabinets, be it Interiors Work, general Modeling, etc. Since these are AUTOMATICALLY driven by their directories, its zero maintenance to have the tabs in multiple locations.

Plus, props on the Palettes being auto refreshing. I add content to the directory, the next time someone clicks on the tab (note: they dont have to relaunch revit), the tab is updated. ACA and C3D did it, but i had to manually add the content to a palette config. Here, i dont have to. Awesome.
Here is a short video cycling through all of the Beck Palettes:

Philip at Kiwi codes was also great about tailoring this for ease of use. A TON of features were added between v1 and v2, including Management functions to auto load custom sets of palettes, and a button that launches the URL from the Family Type properties, which we use to take you to an instructional page on the Beck Revit Wiki, for using the content.
A few things to look out for: It generates previews in jpg format, and saves them in a directory. Philip and i have noticed some strange-eties with this, but its not quirks in the FB itself, its quirks with Revit. Heres what weve found:
1. If the *initial* save-as that CREATED the family, occurred in the view {3D}, it wont get a preview. Itll get a gray box. This is also true: the preview wont ever work in Win7. It DOESNT MATTER if you "resave" the file in another view. Doing a Save As in a 3D view named something else (View 1) corrects the problem. No idea why. Maybe the Factory can chime in.
2. The previews it generates are 64x64 pix. I made some manually, since some families are difficult to get zoomed in properly. Make sure you respect the 64x64... The FB will grow with the previews, and get ugly. :)

All in all, its a great add on. Unfortunately, the day i showed it to the office, i had to leave town on a Family Emergency. So im heading back today, and it should be fully deployed by Tuesday!

Next thing i hope to write about, is Site works... It looks really exciting!