Category Archives: software

Implementing Revit in your practice

Changing gearsI started this post as a collection of ways to implement Revit into your practice. As I wrote, I relaised that actually these principles are fairly sound for any software implementation. If you are an IT professional – you should know all this already and I apologise, but this post is not for you. If you do not have a dedicated IT department or if you are the architect tasked (taxed) with implementing Revit (or Office 2007 etc.) – then read on.

A successful implementation will rely on a few commonsense rules and a lot of hard work. Ensure you know what Revit is, I don’t mean that to sound trite, but ensure you know what it is that you are wishing to get from the software. Have expectations, begin them fairly low, but know what it is you want and check that the software will be able to deliver. You will be sorely disappointed if after 6 weeks of work you cannot produce what you had hoped.

Choose a small, simple project to trial Revit on. Begin with simple geometry. Choose a project that is homed in one office (assuming that you may have more than one to begin with), this will make it easier to manage and also to address any issues quickly and simply. Feedback will be given and you can train, teach and mentor as needed.

Have a project champion – this person should be respected, have credibilty and gravitas within the office and should be reasonably senior. They do not have to be actively using Revit, though it would help, but should be actively championing the cause and rallying the team when the going gets tough.

There will be an element of cultural change required. Your champion should be able to help with this. But the whole team needs to know that they will be working differently. The project must be executed differently. A lot of work will be done up front before anything sensible can be delivered. I would strongly advise against changing the model close to the deadline for printing and submission. Allow a few days to “lock “the model in order to get prints out. If you don’t – you might get yourselves in a very bad mess.

Be realistic about what to model and what to draw. Some items should be modeled – some merely drawn. Take for example doors. Model them. They will be used often, they will need scheduling, they will be altered, they have common characteristics (jamb, frame and so on). I wouldn’t model them to the fine detail on the door pattern or handles for example. Draw these if you are planning to render. By not modeling every detail you will be able to save time and use your efforts better elsewhere.

For the project you are undertaking – consider the advantages of Revit for different types of work. Residential – clients understand models and visualisations, they are not so keen on floor plans. The rendered model is key here. Hospitality – changes to items within hotel rooms such as beds or baths can flow through the whole model and make large changes easier to bear. Communicate these advantages wt your team, it will help them see the bigger picture and the advantages to what you are doing.

Revit and BIM (Building Information Model click here for Wikipedia definition) can change the scope of services you offer.  These can be extended and you can work closer with other professions, structural or environmental engineers for example.  Be sensible – don’t offer your services until you have discovered what you can and cannot achieve as a team.  Don’t bite off more than you can chew.

In short, for a successful Revit implementation – begin small, plan, communicate, train and support.  These are absolutely crucial for the success of any project.  By doing these five things you will engage the practice, engage the client and be able to change your CAD strategy and ultimately deliver better value and work more effectively.

Software licensing

What To Do?Software is expensive, more than the cost of the hardware on which it is being run.  It needs to be treated as the valuable asset it is and carefully managed.  In order to do this you must keep very accurate records of its purchase, from whom and where it is installed.

Purchase software assurance, this will let you legally upgrade and keep current. Some software has license management built in; it is worth investigating and using network license managers if you can.

Undertake an at least annual audit of what is installed.

Do not let staff bring in software from home or install themselves.  Consider using open source software.

Invest in software asset management (SAM) software and consultancy to monitor installed software versus licenses owned, but more importantly their appropriate use too.  If you have any doubts as to legitimacy you should check with the software author or one of its partners.

Freeware secrets

It is very easy to buy decent PCs these days that will fulfill most needs such as cad and graphics applications without spending a fortune. It is only when you wish to purchase specialist equipment such as lightweight laptops that the cost starts to rise.

Many paid-for office productivity applications, such as word processing and spreadsheets, could set you back in excess of £300 a licence, yet with a few small compromises one could pay absolutely nothing. Free applications exist that can read and write to the very latest versions of popular products such as Microsoft’s Office 2007. For example, I am writing this on an old Apple iBook G4 using Neo Office Writer which I have just updated to the latest release. The original program cost nothing, and the free update, which took 15 minutes to download and install, is fully compatible with Office 2007. I am using software that is functional, attractive and I can send my output to others. The interface is familiar, the way it works is familiar — I can perform all of the things I normally do in the paid for package on my desk at work. The old adage of people using 10% of the functionality should be remembered. Many applications offer a lot, yet most of us will never use more than a spell checker (and some of us not even that). Why pay for what you won’t use?

Neo Office is a Mac compatible version of Open Office, an easy winner for PC users. Open Office is readily available and supported by a large community of software developers. Sun Microsystems’ Star Office is based on Open Office. The software is now so popular that Microsoft’s Office 2007 will read and write Open Office file formats, so the compatability is complete; Open Office has always inter-operated with Microsoft file types. Upload it at, or for Mac users

Both the PC and Mac versions of the software include databases and presentation tools as standard. The presentation tools are not the best, but the quality of the speaker outweighs the quality of the slides. Like the other tools, the database is good enough for most users.

Google hosts applications online. Word processing and spreadsheet applications are now available. The files can be saved as Open Office format, Microsoft Office or Adobe PDF at no cost. They can be easily emailed using a Google Mail account. The software is free and works for Mac users too – though those who are using the Safari browser rather than Firefox may experience some problems. Word is that Google is developing more applications to add to its suite of tools. Go to, though you will need a google mail account — also free — to gain access.

Get the best out of your BlackBerry

There must be more to this BlackBerry malarkey than just email and a few other features of Microsoft’s Outlook such as the Calendar and Contacts. Isn’t there?

There is, in fact, a plethora of useful applications and gizmos which can extend the use of your BlackBerry beyond the irritation of those around you. For example, Impatica ( produces a way to convert your PowerPoints into a format that can be shown on the BlackBerry. This is useful for both intimate presentations over a cup of coffee, and also for reviewing on the train home. It also produces a handy piece of kit that sits on the back of a projector and connects using the BlackBerry’s Bluetooth to present direct from the BlackBerry. The BlackBerry itself becomes the means of delivering the presentation, and because of its size it is a natural pointing device and becomes the means of scrolling through the slides.

Idokorro makes a number of handy pieces of software useful for both architect and IT manager alike. This Canadian company produces Mobile File Manager, which lets you browse and manage files on your network shares and intranet. You can even email files to yourself for editing and forwarding on.

“Impatica can convert your PowerPoints into a format that can be shown on a BlackBerry”

Idokorro also produces a client for Citrix — this will allow you to connect to your practice’s Citrix server to access applications that have been published there. Obviously some applications will work better than others such as office productivity tools, where screen size is not so important. Some will not such as cad or graphics tools, but it may be useful to get a feel for what is going on, like a quick review of a concept. Other tools, for example PDF writers, can be used this way, extending options for working away from the office.

Finally Idokorro also produces a Mobile Desktop client which can use either virtual network computing (VNC) or the connectivity found in Windows XP and Windows 2003 Server, called remote desktop protocol. The VNC cannot use encryption, but this is tempered by the fact that you are accessing PCs while effectively being inside your network. Remote Desktop is a lot smoother, and both have features to allow easy scrolling of a desktop on a small screen. This is a very useful tool for those who work in IT or other support functions as it allows the management of servers, as well as other important PCs.