Be the Miracle Worker

I want to preface this by saying that I never lie to end users. But here’s some advice that I’ve picked up over my almost two decades of doing this: sometimes you have to keep the magic alive.

If you are general IT support, or if you are specifically BIM support, it often helps when folks pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. This might seem deceitful, and a good argument could be made that it is, but on a practical level you often have a fix for something that on the surface seems really easy, but you know from experience that there’s that one step that people always miss and then they are just going to call you anyway, doubling the time it would have taken to fix it.

So, sometimes, I don’t offer up the information about how I did something. If they ask I would tell them, but I try to be a little obtuse. And this is a tricky line to know when you need to hang onto certain tasks and what tasks you can safely give away. And it might vary per user too, it’s your tricky job to be able to know what to dole out to whom.

As an example, I had a user today ask me about a particularly slow model. The file was tiny (Revit speaking) and there was no reason for it to be so slow. I made a detached copy and did a couple first run fixes, figuring out that a simple Save As made the darn thing pretty zippy. So, I had my fix.

Saving a new copy of a Central File successfully has a lot of steps, and I wasn’t sure about the experience level of some of the users involved. So, instead of simply saying “Go ahead and just save as a new copy,” I said, “let me try a few things.” Innocent, true, and implies that this is a tricky IT task that requires a hydro-spanner and possibly a flux capacitor.

In the “First Word of STAR” universes, I fall way more in the camp of “Wars” than “Trek”, but I am often reminded of a quote from Mr. Spock in The Wrath of Khan:

Saavik: You lied.

Spock: I exaggerated.

And that’s how it goes. I took the numerous steps to make sure everyone had synced, verified no one was accessing the central file on the server via Windows management, opened a detached copy while maintaining worksets, renamed the original’s extension (just in case), moved the backup folder for the “old” central file, saved the “new” model in the same place with the same name as the old one, then did one last sync to relinquish everything. Then I told everyone to get a new local.

Simple, easy steps, but enough little steps that someone could easily miss. Especially that last sync. That seems to be the one that throws people off.

And guess what? The file opened way faster after that.

So just keep in mind that another part of your job, one that isn’t written down anywhere, is to know when to let someone in on the secret and when to keep the secret to yourself.


Don’t Forget You Can Search!

Another one slips through the cracks or user’s minds. Again, funny what gets forgotten or overlooked through the years. It’s critical for trainers to not only teach new features and procedures, but also remind folks of lesser used but critical functions.. and sometimes it’s not a reminder at all.

You probably have a HUGE model with a TON of stuff in it (or even a TONNE of stuff, depending if you work in metric) and sometimes you load in a family or have a view and you just can’t find it.

Do you remember what it’s called, or even part of its name? You’re in luck!

Right-click on anything in the project browser and you get an option at the bottom of the context window to Search…


Type in part of the name of what you are looking for and it will go thru the entire model and find views, schedules, families, etc that match up with that phrase. It will NOT start over at the top, so start your search as high up as you need to.

More Workspace Fun

Thought I would drop an update on my growing collection of Lego Architecture sets. Added a couple more over the last few years and had to spread out the space. It’s kind of meditative for me to dive into a model. And they ALWAYS have all the pieces. Sometimes I think it’s not there, but it is.




Detail Groups

Seriously? You’re still using Detail Groups? Stop it. Just, stop it. I’m not kidding. Make a component. I have witnessed Detail Groups murder a model. I can never forgive them for that.

Seeing Something That Is Up Way Too High – Without a Stepstool

We sometimes have content that gets placed and Revit shows us the message that even though you placed the element, you can’t see it.

Yeah. THIS window. You know it.

Yeah. THIS window. You know it.

The typical user will then try to place it seven more times and ignore reading that Warning each time. Exceptional users will often place 20 instances or more before reading it. Yeah, you know who you are.

There could be any number of reasons the element doesn’t show up, right now I want to address a work around we have for items that are typically placed just above the View Range of a plan, but we REALLY want to see on that plan. Tack strips come to mind. You want those placed up around 7′. The top of our View Range is right around there, too. There’s a good chance we aren’t gonna see that Tack Strip by default. And that’s because it is out of the View Range.

So, we cheat a little, and give Revit a little morsel for the View Range to grab onto. In the family we drop a model line that goes “low” enough to definitely go past the Cut Plane in the view. Then, uncheck the VISIBLE parameter for that line. Reload, and like magic the element shows up in the view. The model line is invisible, so you don’t see it, but it’s there, so Revit considers it part of the family and will include it in the View Range where appropriate.

For the few times that we need it, this has been a safe easy way to get these items to show. Of course, there are dozes of other reasons it might not show up. Just don’t keep clicking after you see that Warning box. Please.


Moving Drafting Views Around

Chalk this up to a quick little reminder. I find it interesting what the experienced Revit users in our office either don’t know how to do, or have just plain forgotten. It’s a good reminder about how complex Revit can be. It is also a reminder that I can definitely not know things or forget things as well. For example, what did I have for breakfast? No one knows!

Someone asked me about getting some drafting views out of a project in a 2013 model into a  2014 model. The basic idea would be to use INSERT VIEWS FROM FILE, but these models were really big. Add to that, the extra memory needed for an upgrade, and we had a recipe for a PC that would catch on fire.

Time for a third wheel! In my mind, I had the idea about using a “tertiary” model: transfer the views from the 2013 model into an empty 2013 project, upgrade that file, then transfer again in 2014.

Not bad, but the user came back and said “really? There isn’t a better way?” Before simply emailing the reply “Hey! Who carries the BIM Stick around here?!!” I thought they were right. That method kind of sucked. And there was a tickling at the base of my brain about a feature I had never really looked into. Maybe it’s time to research and not assume that I know everything.

Seriously, this is my BIM Stick

Again, the BIM Stick

Being in IT, and being in BIM support, one has to have a refined set of techniques for discovering new concepts, an expansive set of tools one uses to explore new ideas, and an organized method of testing each one and documenting the results.

I started right-clicking around in Revit.

BAM! What is this I see? “Save to New File…” right there in the context menu.


Yup. I bet a lot of you know about this. Some of you may not. It’s a cute little function that will let you export the selected Drafting View (or Views) into a teeny tiny Revit file. No extra garbage. No transferring into a tertiary file. This was my tertiary file.

Simple after this. Just open and upgrade this newly exported file in 2014 (a procedure that took WAY less time due to file size) and INSERT VIEWS FROM FILE to get them in there.

This will only work with Drafting Views, sadly, but it should be helpful getting that little detail out of that old project.

And don’t forget that no matter how long you’ve been working in Revit, you probably don’t know everything.