Have you tried? Investigating Revit features and workflows.


By Jeff Hanson

Each month, we profile a useful feature or workflow in Revit. We look across what’s new, what’s been around for a while, and we try to find things that can make quality of life for working in Revit better, while making you more productive. 

Have a feature you’ve wondered about or would like us to try? Tell us about it in the comments.

To recap, so far in 2020 we’ve highlighted:

Our next topic is a favorite of mine and I want to share with you a couple of BIM approaches to conceptual design.

Conceptual Design with FormIt Pro and Revit

Both Revit and FormIt Pro back geometry with analytical properties, meaning early on in a design process, you can start to use data to drive your decisions. Above: an insolation study in the FormIt Pro 3D-modeling environment.

In the early stages of a project, you might not be ready to think about detailed elements like walls, windows and doors. You just need to work out the major relationships in your design, like connection to the site and location. Conceptual design tools — Massing in Revit and FormIt Pro in the AEC Collection — allow you to quickly establish design concepts for design development. Keep on reading for my take on the advantages of each, or pop directly over to my new Have You Tried topic in Revit Product Help, for a more in-depth look at your options in early-stage design.

How to choose? 

3D Model studies in Revit and FormIt Pro are effective ways to approach early-stage design.  Both products offer distinctive palettes of sketching, massing, and modeling tools. They both develop geometry with analytical properties, meaning you can sketch for style and back it up with design data, which helps you communicate better with your collaborators and be more persuasive in your review sessions. FormIt Pro and Revit tabulate volumetric and dimensional data, but they’ll also help you see how your model stacks up for solar and energy performance, too, with integration into Insight in the AEC Collection.  

Revit is great for creating design formulas

Maybe it’s the case that you already like using Revit in early-stage design and are familiar with the tools, environment, and the difference between in-place modeling and mass families. The logic of tweaking parameters for your Mass Families is a powerful way to evenly apply the standards and style for your firm or practice to the complexity a site or set of design requirements can throw at you. It does require some skill in family creation to get the most out of this approach. The “By-Face” tools in Revit, which let you easily break down abstract masses into components like walls, floors, roofs, or curtain systems, transform your 3D sketches into building systems quickly, smoothing the way into design development.  

FormIt Pro can get the form making juices flowing

If you like a more tactile approach, you will enjoy FormIt Pro for the focus on form-making. The clarity and control of using your cursor or stylus to move a concept all the way up to LOD-300 can free-up your creativity, and you can appreciate the uncomplicated UI and spacious feel, and the ease with which you can hover, revolve, rotate, or fly through your model. FormIt doesn’t offer the same detailed parametric family creation capability as Revit, but you can create custom content in FormIt and import it into Revit as a Revit Family. Both Revit and FormIt have tools for push and pull extrusion, creating voids, and finer tools for edging, but only FormIt works across platforms: PC, Web App, and iPad tablet, making it perhaps more amenable to your creative process, and open to more diversity in preferred ways of working – at the site, coffee with a client, or wherever design may take you.   

Better Together 

If you decide to try out these two tools for early-stage design, the question you might ask yourself is not which tool you prefer, but when. FormIt Pro offers a sketchbook to design calcs experience. Backed by real design data, it can help you win a pitch with an informed sense of how you’re meeting the requirements for a project, all without a huge investment of time. The FormIt Converter in Revit, improved with Revit 2021.1, transfers models from FormIt Pro into Revit, so you really can start with a 3D sketch in FormIt and move into Revit for development without much fuss. Now, if you already have a library of massing families in Revit, and if your early-stage design processes are driven more by an analytical approach than free-hand massing can provide, Revit could be your single software solution from early-stage design on through to documentation.  

For more on trying out these two tools for early-stage design, visit the Have You Tried topic and let us know in the comments if you have a preferred tool and approach. 

PDF and Image Linking

In Revit 2021, the ability to link PDF and image files was introduced. In prior releases importing PDF and images was possible and now you can link these files instead. The ability to link these files lets you keep documents up to date and manage changes to PDF files and images much more easily. When linked, the newest version of the linked file is automatically updated every time you open your Revit project, or you can manually update when the linked files are changed. 

Linked PDFs can be snapped to, allowing you to use them as an underlay to coordinate and author elements in your Revit model. Use those sets of existing documents to develop your Revit model even faster than before. Visit the Have You Tried on the Autodesk Knowledge Network to learn more about linking PDF within Revit models. 

Generative Design in Revit

Revit 2021 introduced generative design tools to Revit. These tools can automate the execution of generative design studies in an iterative way. You can focus your attention on other areas of your model while Generative Design runs in the background. Then you filter the results of the generative design study to find the outcomes that match your goals.

In the Have You Tried topic covering Generative Design, we examine how to use generative design techniques to help redesign the layout of a restaurant to meet physical distancing guidelines published by the MASS Design Group. In the case study, Generative Design in Revit is applied to the small space in order to see multiple options for table layout. A layout is selected based on criteria for the design and the layout is applied to the space. To achieve an optimal layout selected tables are adjusted for the specifics of the space.

Interior restaurant layout informed by safe distancing principles from MASS Design’s May 2020 study “Spatial Strategies for Restaurants in Response to COVID-19.” 

Further analysis with the Path of Travel tool, shown below, allows you to understand both movement through the space and which tables are most exposed to passing traffic.

Even small projects can see benefits from generative design techniques. Do you have a project that could benefit from generative design? Head over to the Have You Tried: Generative Design topic in the Revit Product Help to learn more about Generative Design in Revit and how it can assist you in meeting your design goals.

For more on using Autodesk products to support getting back to work, check out how we’re helping AEC professionals return to and reimagine the built environment.

Real-Time Realistic Views

In Revit 2021 there was a change to the “realistic” visual style. In previous versions of Revit, realistic visual style applied material appearances to elements in your model. In 2021, real-time realistic views applies material appearances and lighting effects to the view as you move through the model.  At it’s core, realistic view style applies real time rendering to a view. Rather than waiting for a view to render, you can now set the visual style to “realistic”.

This is a great tool for presentations, allowing you to walk project stakeholders through your design in real time. Realistic views can also be used in plans and elevations to give a greater sense of realism and material quality in your presentations.

If you have not yet tried realistic visual style in Revit 2021, head over to the Have You Tried topicin the Revit learning center to learn more about it.


Like trying things? We want to hear from you. We’re launching the ‘Have You Tried’ series in product help to profile new features and workflows. Let us know what you think and make suggestions for articles here:

Revit Help: Have You Tried

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