Exploring Options in Navisworks

Autodesk® Navisworks® is a great tool; however, there are many customization fields that must be selected in order for the tool to function at optimum efficiency.  This article reviews the essential features that must be enabled to ensure you are getting the results you desire.

Changing Unit Measurements and Snapping

If you work in imperial units, the first thing I suggest you do is change the display units.  The display units affect the entire project because every number displayed in Navisworks is set by default to  meters.  To change this, open the Options Editor by selecting the Application Button > Options (The quick key to bring up the options menu is F12).  In the Options Editor, expand the Interface node and select Display Units.  Change the project’s units to the desired display.  I suggest Feet and Inches Fractions.  You can also change your precision display setting by selecting the drop-down box labeled Fraction Display Precision.

Figure 1: Display Units

The next key feature to check is snapping options.  Out of the box, Navisworks does not allow you to snap to the edge of modeled content.  In order to customize Navisworks so it works the way you predict, it is necessary to explicitly select how you wish it to snap.  Open the Options Editor (Application Button>OptionsF12) and expand the Interface node.  Select Snapping.  Snap to Vertex allows you to snap to a point that is created by two or more objects connecting together forming a vertex.  Snap to Line Vertex allows you to explicitly snap to a vertex created by lines.  Snap to Edge allows you to snap to the exact edge of an object. 

Figure 2: Snapping

The Tolerance option is another critical setting to adjust.  This option allows you to define how close your cursor must be in order to snap to an object.  The smaller the value, the closer you must place the cursor to be able to snap.  I suggest a tolerance of 5.

Viewpoint Can Do That?

A well-kept secret in Navisworks is the ability to customize how you persist viewpoints.  When you save a viewpoint, Navisworks can save much more than just the location of the camera.  For instance, say you wish to click on a viewpoint and always have that viewpoint section the model and have certain objects highlighted differently than in a normal view. This is achievable by changing a couple of options.

To customize viewpoints, open the Options Editor (F12).  Within the Options Editor, expand the Interface node and select Viewpoint Defaults.  The checkboxes allow you to customize how viewpoints are saved. 

The first checkbox, Save Hide/Required Attributes, will save a number of key features.  First, it saves sectioning.  If this option is selected and you save a viewpoint, the section you defined at the time you save your viewpoint will always be activated when the viewpoint is selected.  You can leverage this to your advantage when you work on a project with multiple floors.  Simply create a viewpoint for each floor with a section that cuts the model to the location you wish to see.  By saving key viewpoints, you can quickly navigate a model during a meeting without having to fight gizmos and views.

Figure 3: Sectioned Viewpoints

Another key feature of the Save Hide/Required Attributes option is that when it is selected, you can hide objects and have them stay hidden when navigating between views.  This again becomes extremely useful when you wish to customize a view to allow you to quickly review an object that would otherwise be obscured by other objects.

The Override Material option allows you to change the material, color, transparency, and transforms of an object.  This empowers you to easily create two different scenarios by manipulating objects’ color to highlight the differences.  This allows you to be very creative.

With Override Linear Speed, you can change the speed at which you will navigate scene view.  I suggest 20 ft/second.

One caveat to keep in mind: overriding items can get confusing.  If you color code your project for coordination, but you had set a view before you color coded and the Override Materials Option was set, all your hard work color coding will be eliminated when that view is selected.  To change an individual viewpoint’s options, right-click the viewpoint and uncheck the Save Hide/Required Attribute, Override Material, and Override Linear Speed options.

Too Many Links

If you decide to enable links from the Home tab of the ribbon>Display panel>Links you may notice hundred of links that appear in the scene view.  To customize these links so they become meaningful, open the Options Editor (F12).  In the Options Editor, expand the Interface node and select Links.

In the main Links window, you can select high-level information.  I suggest setting the Max Icons to 25 or fewer on the screen, which number of links that actually appear on the screen.  If there are too many links, you won’t be able to find the link you are looking for.  I also suggest changing the Cull Radius to about 40ft.  Culling allows you to exclude all links in the scene view that are greater than the predefined distance set.  If you desire, you can offset the link from its attached objects by manipulating the leader offsets for the X and Y. To customize Links even more, expand the Links node in the Option Editor and select Standard Categories.  Navisworks allows you to customize how and which Link categories you wish to display in the scene view.  Uncheck the visible category on all items you wish not to display in the scene view.  I uncheck all categories except hyperlinks because I only want to see hyperlinks to useful objects in my model.  You can also change how the links appear.  The drop-down menu labeled Icon Type has two options, Icon and Text.  Icon represents the link with an icon indicating the icon type.  Text represents the link with a text box with words you define. This is the option I typically select as it is more descriptive for my use.

Figure 4: Link Icons table

Old School

I prefer some of Naviswork’s old methods of navigating the model.  I find that the new constrained orbit tool and the new walk tool are not as good as the “good old days.”  Luckily, Autodesk Navisworks understands this sentiment and allows all of us to keep to our old habits.  To change the way the navigate tools work, open the Options Editor (F12), expand Interface node, and select Navigation Bar.  By checking the checkboxes you can change the way the navigation tools work.  I prefer the Use classic Constrained Orbit (turntable) option and the Use classic Walk option.  Check the boxes you wish to customize your navigation ability.

Quick Access Toolbar and Ribbon

Navisworks gives you the unique ability to customize the way you set up your workspace.  If there is a tool you frequently use, you should add it to the Quick Access Toolbar.  This bar is located in the top left of the screen next to the Application Button. 

To add a tool to the quick access menu, right-click the tool in the ribbon and from the context menu, select Add to Quick Access toolbar. Tools I frequently use and have added to the Quick Access toolbar include the tag, camera, redline, and lighting tools.     By adding them to the Quick Access toolbar, I am able to quickly use these tools without having to navigate the ribbon to select them.

Figure 5: Quick Access Toolbar

The ribbon can also be customized.  To move an entire panel, select the panel name and drag it.  If you do not move it back to the ribbon, it will simply float where you release it.  To dock it to the ribbon simply drag the detached panel to your desired location on the ribbon.  This allows you to customize the layout of any tab.  It is worth noting that you cannot move a panel to a different tab on the ribbon. 

If you would like to customize the tab and panel visibility on the ribbon itself, right-click the ribbon and simply hover over the Show Tabs or Show Panels to expose the names of the Tabs and Panels.  Deselect any Tab or Panel you wish to hide.
If you wish to restore the ribbon to its original factory settings, simply right-click any grey area on the panel and select Restore Default Ribbon.

Refresh Options

During the course of a coordination meeting, you often receive a dwg or nwc during a meeting and need to update the model.  If you try to overwrite the file, you will receive an error message stating that you cannot overwrite the file because the file is in use.  To eliminate this problem, open the Options Editor (F12).  Expand the Model node and select Performance where you will find a number of key features to customize.

First, “Close NWC/NWD files on load” must be checked.  Checking this option allows you to overwrite any referenced dwg or nwc files during the coordination meeting.  You can then refresh the model and see the updated changes in the model.

You can also customize other features here such as when duplicates will be merged.  Merging does take time so be careful in your decision of when you wish objects to merge.  By default all of these options under this heading are selected. 

Other Customization

Another useful customization tool that is frequently overlooked is the Recent Documents list.  To modify how many recent files will be listed when you select the Application Button, open the Options Editor (F12).  Expand the General node and select Environment.  Change the Maximum Recently Used Files to the number of your choice. 

If you wish a file to always be listed in the Recent Documents list, select the Application Button and simply select the pin to the right of the file.  The pin will keep the file in the list.

Don’t forget about the Auto-Save function in Navisworks.  In the Options Editor, expand the General node and select Auto-Save.  Here you can customize where your Auto-Save files reside and how often the save files will be created.  You can even set how many versions of any given file you wish to have.

File Options

From the Home tab Project panel select File Options.  These options allow you to customize a number of useful functions.  In the Culling tab you can quickly define your culling planes.  I suggest setting your Near Clipping Plane to 0.001 and leaving your Far Clipping Plane set to automatic.  Change as desired.

The Speed tab allows you to define Frame Rate.  The lower the number, the less drop out you will experience; however, the navigation will be jerky. You can set this number from 1 to 60.

The Headlight and Scene Lights tabs allow you to customize how the lighting in your model will appear.  Adjust the slider bars as you desire.

Saving your Customization

Customizing your documents takes an incredible amount of time.  Once you have all your customization set up, you can save the information to xml files.  To save your options interface, simply click the Export button in the Options Editor window.  This will export all of your customized settings, which can be imported on another system or at a later time.  To save changes to the ribbon, Quick Access Toolbar, or panel layouts on your screen, save a workspace.  To save a workspace, click the View tab of the ribbon > Workspace Panel > Save Workspace, which will export an xml file that can be loaded at a later time.  By customizing Navisworks you will increase your productivity and results. 

Michael N. Smith is a BIM Manager for C.W. Driver, a large general contractor in Southern California. The firm is highly regarded throughout the design and construction industry for implementation of BIM innovations on each project, and for creating customized software plug-ins to increase the efficiency of the latest software releases.  Michael is a guest author and technical editor of Mastering Navisworks 2013 and instructor for Cad Learning’s Navisworks 2012 and 2013 Series. He has spoken at Autodesk University, ASHE PDC, CASH, and other conferences. Most recently he started Blink Forward, a revolutionary approach to make pdf construction documents smart. He can be reached at, or at 909.945.1919.

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