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Features List 13
From CAD User AEC Magazine Vol 16 No 11 - NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2003
Richard Martin, a Lecturer in CAD with his own CAD Consultancy, provides one view of the future of AEC software from Autodesk.
At an Autodesk Roadshow this year we were given the impression, perhaps inadvertently, that Revit would replace Architectural Desktop. Now we may have suspected this, and given Autodesk's AEC and ADT up to release 3.3 we may have dreamed of it, but hold on - what of this new and improved ADT 2004? The Roadshow also provided the opportunity to compare Autodesk's architectural and construction offerings (for which much thanks to Datech and it's collaborators).
So what's happened in ADT?
The most significant improvement is that it now handles levels in the detail plan and elevation working drawings that we create for buildings. Previously in ADT 3.3 organising levels was a matter of choosing the least of several evils. Creating separate external walls for each floor of a building left a line on the elevations where they met. Plan views showed all floors superimposed. Floor slabs could be employed to blot out lower floor features like internal walls and doors, but windows and doors in external walls were still visible for every floor.
There were workarounds like creating extra layers and selectively freezing them, or using the very un-user friendly sections. Another option was to create walls that went from DPC to roof level - but then the intelligence of where the upper floors started was lost making the placement of internal walls, doors, fittings and furniture challenging.
ADT 2004 removes all of this heartache with the introduction of levels. You choose which level you want to view or work on and ADT takes care of what is displayed. How does it do it you ask? Well, it creates each floor as a separate drawing and Xrefs all of the floors into the host drawing. This not only works very elegantly, it opens up all sorts of other possibilities. For example, the first floor is OK, the client is happy - but they want to see several options for the ground floor. With just a basic knowledge of how Xrefs work you can build all of these scenarios and finalise the model once the client settles on their requirements.
The really nice thing is that it's simple. It just uses what is an inherent part of AutoCAD anyway. I understand that some enterprising ADT 3.3 users have achieved some success using this Xref approach "manually". Autodesk have developed a "Project" environment to help manage large buildings that can be effectively used on any size of building. Xrefs form the basis of ADT's new Drawing Management feature and have been greatly enhanced from their standard functionality with powerful linking features to ensure that source files can be distributed and found again even on a network. Each drawing has an accompanying XML file that contains the project relevent data such as levels and divisions. Don't delete the XML file! ADT warns you if any of the Xref'ed in drawings have been modified and gives you the chance to update your model.
Revit already has the concept of levels - indeed ADT did with conceptual space models but not with the all important building drawings. The structure of the Revit model is somewhat different however. Revit creates one model file that contains drawing sheets which in turn contain views - along the lines of Autodesk's mechanical package Inventor except that although both contain a browser with a hierarchical tree, Revit's drawings are not separate files. This raises maintenance issues and does not make sharing, traceability and "what if" iterations easy.
Other new features
Wall Endcaps are now divided into two styles in ADT 2004; Wall Endcaps for walls that just end rather than joining other walls, and Wall Opening Endcaps that are applied when doors and windows are inserted into walls. A much improved viewer shows exactly what will happen.
Grips are enhanced to enable more changes to be made without the need for dialogue boxes. For example windows can be moved along walls or have their anchors changed to reposition them within the depth of the wall by using grips and the Control key to toggle through options. Display Manager is still over complicated but more accessible with a button on the new Drawing Window Status Bar. A good idea and very informative, this new bar is where you get Xref warnings for example - but it does steal valuable screen area.
File size is dramatically reduced in ADT 2004 and speed of opening improved, but system requirements are much greater. Windows 95 and 98 are no longer supported. VIZ Render is supplied with ADT 2004. This is a cut down version of 3D Studio Viz which we understand is not being developed as a stand alone product any more. It does however provide ADT with much improved rendering capabilities.
The new Content Browser gives access to many stock styles and tools that you may want to use, including UK wall styles! Access to libraries of existing styles was weak in 3.3. This is an area that needs more development to make the insertion of stock and standard items easier. If one has access to a library of a certain manufacturer's kitchen units or sanitary fittings in 3D then this manufacturer's goods may well get purchased.
ADT has a very strong card up it's sleeve - you get AutoCAD as well for free! ADT 2004 now has a reduced set of pull down menus with a new pallet system providing the Design, Style, Massing etc. commands. (Most of the old menus can be recovered from the Window pull down menu). But replace the ADT menu with the ACAD one (easily done) and you have the best of both worlds, AutoCAD pull down menus with the extra ADT functions on the standard Tool Palette set. Am I being cynical in thinking that perhaps Autodesk don't want to pursue this 'buy one - get one free' approach?
Revit does have one distinct advantage. It is parametric, ADT is not. Revit's parametric capability makes it much easier to change and develop a building by laying down an initial idea quickly and sorting out detail and final dimensions later. Revit is only available on subscription. With Autodesk's other products subscription is optional, but with Revit it's mandatory. The main attraction with subscription as far as I can see is that it protects you from the large cost of upgrades. At the moment though Autodesk is upgrading everything with a vengeance - except Revit, it seems.
We were told that ADT would see another major release and that probably means that it will be on the shelves for another couple of years but how good will it be then, and will it have overtaken Revit's sluggish development?
If Revit is the product of the future, and we are told that it is, then I hope that some of the ADT 2004 functions and features are adopted. Alternatively, why not let the market decide and commit to running both products head to head?
I sympathise with Autodesk's position. It bought a superior product whilst it had a weak ADT. At the same time it was drastically overhauling ADT and now it has a dilemma - two class products and no clear distinction. We now have a problem that we have to face in the CAD business time and time again - where do we invest our time and money? CU
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