Increasing Revit Productivity and Efficiencies

One of the challenges of new software versions is that even the slightest changes to tools or icon locations in the ribbons can be frustrating as you retrain yourself to where certain tools are now located.  New additions are always made with the best intentions—making end users more efficient in performing their jobs and making it as easy as possible to perform certain tasks.

One way to avoid such frustrations with new versions is to utilize the Keyboard Shortcut in Revit®.  Either using the out-of-the-box keyboard shortcuts, customizing the defaults, or a combination of the two. I typically recommend a combination of using defaults and some customization. Typically, Autodesk does not retool the keyboard shortcuts from one version to the next (as a general rule).

The intent of this article is to share how we utilize keyboard shortcuts to help improve our productivity and efficiencies, not only when transitioning from version to version, but for our everyday workflows as well.

Getting Familiar with Keyboard Shortcuts

The first step is locating and reviewing the OOTB (Out of the Box) Keyboard Shortcuts.  This is found under the View > User Interface drop-down menu system (another way to open this dialog is to key-in “KS” on the keyboard).  You can also find the physical file stored in the user folder of your hard drive as well (…\Autodesk\Revit\Version #).  This will be in the .xml file format and will require either an application that can read the .xml file or you can import the file into Excel.

Before changing the OOTB shortcuts I suggest looking at the already defined shortcuts and plan what changes you want to make to the keyboard shortcuts file. I also recommend making a copy of the original file so you have a way to get back to a clean starting point should you need to roll things back.

When the Keyboard Shortcut dialog is first opened, the filter is set to show All Revit tools (defined, not defined Revit commands, and reserved by Autodesk).  Using the Filter drop-down, change this setting to show all Revit commands that have been assigned OOTB.

In most cases I tell my staff not to redefine the OOTB commands as they will find that much of the time, the assigned key-in actually makes sense and is easy to remember.

For instance, simple commands such as Group (GP), Visibility / Graphics (VG or VV), or Move (MV) I would recommend leaving as they are assigned.  Typically, I try to encourage our staff to not reinvent the wheel, but add to and improve what is preset by Autodesk.  We don’t do MEP work, so I typically recommend that we reassign (or remove MEP assigned commands), as they will not be used in our workflow.  Doing this frees up some defined keystrokes that we can reuse to activate other commands that make more sense for our workflows.

Figure 1: Keyboard Shortcut dialog

Reserved Key-In Commands

Revit has a series of commands that are reserved by Autodesk for basic software functionality.  Some of those reserved shortcuts are:

  • Exit / Close
  • Printing / Plotting
  • Copy / Paste
  • Etc.

These Keyboard Shortcuts are hard coded into Revit and cannot be modified; the reserved (or system shortcuts) typically appear greyed out in the dialog menu, making them easy to identify.

Keyboard Shortcut Organization

To help navigate and find commands more easily, Autodesk has grouped all Revit commands into 15 main groups, shown below.

Annotate Analyze
Architecture Collaborate
Context Menu Context Tabs
Create Manage
Modify Navigation Bar
Snaps Structure
Systems (MEP) View
View Control Bar  

When naming your shortcuts, try to keep in mind the reason for modifying the OOTB keyboard shortcuts in the first place…. speed and efficiency is most important.  Try to make the key-in shortcuts as simple as possible so you don’t have to look up the shortcut to use it.  Try to keep the keystrokes relatively close to one another on the keyboard as well.  You don’t want to have a shortcut where the keys are on opposite sides of the keyboard as that won’t typically promote quick response times. 

Most people who utilize keyboard shortcuts typically have one hand on the mouse and one hand on the keyboard.  You have the flexibility to use a number of character combinations to activate commands (not limited to just letters).  I try to limit the number of keystrokes to three characters or less (any more than three probably is not going to help speed up your workflow).  This eliminates the amount of time spent hunting and pecking for the right keystrokes. 

Keep in mind that the whole intent of using keyboard shortcuts is to increase speed and productivity in your workflows.

Add Custom Keyboard Shortcuts

Adding shortcuts to unassigned or reassigning commands is a very simple process.  Simply select the command to which you want to assign/reassign a keyboard shortcut—use the filters to select the specific sections of commands you are interested in or use the search bar to search for specific types of commands.  Then, using a combination of keystrokes, key in the designation you want to assign and select the Assign button at the bottom of the dialog.

Figure 2: Set keystroke assignment

Go through each category and define a shortcut for the commands that you use most frequently.  The intent is not to have a shortcut for every command in Revit, but to assign shortcuts to the commands you most frequently use when working in Revit.  You will still use drop-downs and icons to access some tools, but if you get in the habit of using keyboard shortcuts as much as possible, you will be more proficient.  Even if you know where all the icons are for a majority of the tools you use you still have to navigate through the menu system to activate them.  If you can set up and use a shortcut for those commands, your time is reduced to two or three keystrokes versus locating and activating a tool from an icon or drop-down menu.

Keep it simple and remember, speed is the key to successfully using keyboard shortcuts. 

Shortcut Examples

When I started using Revit I used the icons to activate commands 100 percent of the time.  Over time I looked for ways to become more efficient and increase my productivity, so I started looking at the keyboard shortcuts and over time started using more and more of them.  Start with the common tools you use the most.  Learn those shortcuts first and add new shortcuts each week to continue to increase your productivity. 

Start adding new shortcuts to your toolbox and set up custom tools for those commands not already defined that you use every day.  When you define shortcut definitions for other tools use keystrokes that help you remember what command they are used for.  For instance, here is a short list of common shortcuts I use frequently on projects (some of these are OOTB and some are custom shortcuts that I have added to my workflow over time).

Ctrl + Tab – Switch between open views

Tab – Using tab key cycles through nearby elements

Space Bar – Change object orientation

HL – Set view to Hidden Line

WT – Tile open views

ZA – Zoom all

TL – Change view to thin lines

VV / VG – Open the visibility graphics dialog

RH – Reveal Hidden objects

MV – Move selected elements

CO – Copy selected elements

SS – Create section view

33 – Open default 3D view

CL – Activate place column command

GR – Activate place grid command

BM – Activate place beam framing command

BS – Activate place beam system command

These are just a few of the shortcuts I use when working in Revit.  In all there are probably 40 to 50 shortcuts that I have learned or defined over time.

Tip:  when navigating the visibility graphics dialog, use the first letter of the category you want to change to jump to that section of the list.

In closing, if you are looking for ways to increase your productivity and efficiency with Revit, one of the best ways is to learn more the keyboard shortcuts.  Once you start using shortcuts you will not want to go back to the icons.

Kenn Farr is currently the CAD and BIM Manager for Teasley Services Group in Nashville. Tennessee. Previously he worked in the Practice Technology Group for 13 years in charge of training, development, implementation, and support for the Building Engineering groups.  Kenn has more than 24 years of experience in the AEC industry.

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