RevitDesk versus AutoRevit
Jerry Laiserin

Although the folks at Autodesk now insist that their strategic intentions in the Revit acquisition earlier this year were always clear, they do concede that such intentions were not always communicated with sufficient clarity to those outside the company. Well, those intentions are unclear no longer. The company now says "Autodesk Revit is Autodesk’s strategic authoring application and platform going forward for building information modeling and the building industry." Just in case you didn't get the hint, the company recommends, with minor exceptions, "...that design firms and other businesses in the building industry begin using Autodesk Revit now for design and production work..." So, while it still may not be clear how to get there, it is clear where Autodesk is telling their customers to go.

Understandably, Autodesk's concern for interoperability between Revit and anything else is focused primarily on interoperability with other Autodesk products. As was the case prior to the acquisition, "...Revit can import, export, and link DWG files" for AutoCAD compatibility. For those customers farsighted enough to have committed to and done significant work in Autodesk Architectural Desktop (ADT), Autodesk " researching tools users might need to migrate libraries developed for use with Autodesk Architectural Desktop onto Revit including tools for converting Autodesk Architectural Desktop multi-view blocks to Autodesk Revit components." For folks who may not wish to wait while Autodesk is researching this issue, the company notes reassuringly that "(T)ools within Autodesk Architectural Desktop can be used to convert Autodesk Architectural Desktop content to DWG format for transfer to Autodesk Revit," and further that "Autodesk Revit has a comprehensive interoperability strategy for managing and delivering value for customers’ existing DWG content and block libraries." A company spokesperson asserted that Revit fits "perfectly" into customers' existing workflow—such as between an architect and various consulting engineers—because "in 99% of the present cases you're just flattening the model and exporting straight DWG anyway." It was not clear whether the quoted "99% of the cases" implied that 99% of the 200,000 seats of ADT that Autodesk has shipped are not being used (if that were so, the 1% implicitly in use would equal 2,000 seats—ironically the same number that is widely believed to be the pre-acquisition seat count for Revit).

Regarding compatibility with Autodesk Architectural Studio (AAS), the workflow is DXF out from AAS to Revit, and JPG out from Revit to AAS—considerably short of the round-trip compatibility currently available between AAS and ADT 3.3 (which has a "save as AAS" command). However, "Autodesk is investigating further integration between the two products."

Regarding compatibility with Autodesk VIZ (which many rendering and visualization pros prefer to Revit's built-in Accurender capability), the unspoken trade-off is that no other application can directly edit a Revit RVT model file (which is one reason Revit needed a built-in renderer in the first place). However, "Autodesk is investigating closer integration between Autodesk VIZ and Autodesk Revit in future releases."

Compatibility with Autodesk Buzzsaw is not a problem because RVT files, once posted online, can be printed and exported by Revit. On the off chance there are any "team members who receive Autodesk Revit models but who are not using the software themselves," Autodesk notes that "(a)n unlicensed copy of Autodesk Revit... serves as a robust viewer and file translator..." Of course, there's always the old reliable "flatten to DWG" or publish to PDF options.

In terms of compatibility with non-Autodesk software, Autodesk handles Bentley Microstation DGN files the same way it handles DWG, even mapping "...a specific DWG layer on input to a specific DGN level number on output or vice versa in any combination." However, whereas "Revit can produce DWG deliverables just as AutoCAD can," Autodesk makes no similar claim of native DGN functionality. Thus far, Autodesk is silent on the subject of interoperability between Microstation Triforma for Architecture (TFA) or for Structural, Mechanical or Electrical. Presumably this is somewhat more remote than interoperability between Revit and ADT multi-view blocks. These incompatibilities should not be construed as failings of Revit, ADT, TFA or their makers—rather, it is the dirty little secret of all proprietary object-model CAD software (that proprietary objects are inherently UN-interoperable absent a neutral model exchange mechanism such as the International Alliance for Interoperability's (IAI) Industry Foundation Classes (IFC)).

Revit Technology's steadfast refusal to develop or publish any application programming interface (API) to support third-party add-on, customization and direct data-linking capabilities was, in my opinion, one of pre-acquisition Revit's greatest shortcomings. Many computer industry observers believe a major cause of the Apple Macintosh's relegation to a 5% to 10% market share (rather than the market dominance its original technological advantages seemed to justify) was Apple's refusal to open up the platform, so there may be reason for optimism in Autodesk's announcement regarding Revit that "(P)lans are under way to open the product further for third-party applications..."—in contrast to the present ODBC-compliant data-dumps that Revit Technology had dubbed Concurrent Building Assets. However, in terms of creating "...opportunities for developers to add value on top of the Autodesk Revit platform today," the primary thrust remains with "(S)upport for ODBC-compliant database products in Autodesk Revit and the Revit family editor..."

Anyone wishing more detail on Autodesk's view of interoperability between Revit and "legacy CAD" (which includes Autodesk's own products) can download a white paper on Autodesk Revit interoperability that appears identical (right down to the old Revit logo) to Revit Technology's pre-acquisition white paper on the same subject.

In the near future, we'll look further into real-world workflow issues that may arise during The Long March or The Great Trek or whatever it is that the worldwide Revit migration comes to be called. In the meanwhile, Autodesk clearly has accomplished a lot during the eight or so months since the Revit acquisition was announced and the six or so months since the acquisition closed. No doubt Autodesk would have wished to accomplish even more by now, but a company spokesperson conceded that "due to internal considerations, the acquisition closed several months sooner than originally planned."

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