Productivity Boosters for Everyday Work

Tips and tricks are among the most valuable things to know and are always fun to pass along to others.  This article includes a variety of tips and tricks that would be a great addition to any Autodesk® Revit® Structure user’s daily process.

Brace Frame

One useful tip for anyone modeling in steel is to make a slight adjustment to the “L” angles.  The out-of-the-box families are set to be modeled from the centroid of the member, which might be acceptable for some situations but can be problematic for others such as when modeling brace frames.  Fortunately, the centroid is simply a parameter that can be changed; these parameter values are named X and Y. 

To make this modification, duplicate the size that is needed change the X value to 0. This will model the angle from the edge instead of the centroid.  Note that this would not work if the angle had been rotated.  I suggest changing both the X and Y values to 0 so it is understood that the pick point is the corner, and neither of the centroid values. 

Also make sure to model brace frames the correct direction.  Assuming “X” bracing, then the correct direction is modeling from bottom of column up to beam on both sides.  This method will model the braces back to back (see Figure 1).  Conversely, modeling the braces from bottom of column to beam, then from beam to bottom of column results in the braces facing the same direction (see Figure 2). This is true for “C” channels as well.

Figure 1

Figure 2

Temporary Dimensions

Frequent Revit users use temporary dimensions, and  even this simple tool has a few tips.  To activate a temporary dimension, simply select an element on the screen.  Sometimes temporary dimensions don’t immediately display—this can happen if the elements selected are being monitored, locked, and so on. If this is the case, look for the activate dimensions button in the options bar.  Once the temporary dimensions are available, the middle grip on the witness line (called the move witness line grip) can be selected dragged to another object. 

Another option is to simply click the witness line, which will cause it to cycle from one face of an element to the center or to the other face. This works for some elements, but not all (i.e., walls).  Input can also be entered once the temporary dimensions are activated; however, not everyone knows that formulas can also be input.  For example, if an angle is activated and the rise and run are known but not the angle, then entering “=atan(rise/run)” or  “=atan(4/12)” will calculate the angle and adjust the graphics accordingly.  Another temporary dimensions tip is to start dragging one end of an element then start typing in a number.  This will automatically activate the temporary dimensions and the entered value will be applied.


One quick dimension tip is a simple way to dimension all grid lines along an axis.  Draw a wall outside of the building, making sure it crosses over all of the grid lines that need to be dimensioned.  Now use an aligned dimension, and in the options bar change the Pick: value from Individual References to Entire Wall.  Click the options button and check Intersecting Walls.  Then select the wall and place the dimensions.  Now delete the wall and the dimension will remain.

If there is a need to remove only a portion of a dimension string while keeping the string continuous, then right-click on the middle grip on the witness line and select Delete Witness Line (see Figure 3).  If the need arises to break the string apart, then Tab to select the individual string shape handle and delete that portion of the string as normal.

Figure 3

Ever had a dimension and been unclear as to what was actually dimensioned? If so, there isn’t any need to start clicking elements on the screen to see if the dimension turns blue.  Instead, right-click on the padlock, regardless of whether or not it is locked, and select “Show Related” (see Figure 4).  This will bring up a dialog box that will have options to cycle through the two objects that are being dimensioned by that dimension segment (see Figure 5).

Figure 4

Figure 5

When a dimension text value is moved from its origin, there is a tool to move it back to the original position.  Select the dimension string, right-click, and select Reset Dimension Text Position (see Figure 6).

Figure 6

A classic dimension tip is how to use dimensions to move/alter the element being dimensioned.  If a dimension is applied to an element, then selecting the element will activate the dimension and the dimension value can be changed.  Furthermore, if the dimension type is set to fractional inches or millimeters, then those values can be used for input instead of having to input feet or meters (i.e., type “6” instead of ”0’ – 6”, “0.5” or “100” instead of 100mm, “0.1”).


Novice Revit Structure users may find it frustrating when the height of a column moves or changes and the beams that were associated to the top of the column didn’t change elevation with the column.  This condition was changed a few releases ago, but it still seems to be a rarely utilized property. 

If a beam is modeled to a column, two properties are applied: Start Attachment Type and/or End Attachment Type.  These values, when set properly, allow the beam to move up or down with the column.  By default, the values are set to End Elevation, which doesn’t associate the beam to the column.  For the beam to be associated, this value should be changed to “Distance.” Once distance is selected, then two additional properties appear: Attachment Distance and End of Referenced Column. The distance value can be used to adjust the end of the beam such that it isn’t aligned with the end of the column.  Unfortunately, this value will always move the beam away from the ends toward the center of the column and not outside the ends.  End of Referenced Column can either be set to the top or bottom of the column so the beam moves accordingly (see Figure 7).

Figure 7

When coping beams, especially steel beams, there are many complaints that the cope doesn’t include an automatic radius.  However, if a custom beam is created such that the flanges have a slight radius to them, this shape will be used for the cope and coping will include a radius (see Figure 8).

Figure 8

When modeling beams on a sloped work plane, a new beam instance property becomes available.  A new value of orientation is displayed.  There are two options for this property: Normal, which has the member perpendicular to the work plane, and Horizontal, which changes the member to be plumb.

With beam members there has always been the ability to show start or end connection symbols.  In the early releases connection symbols were limited to Moment Frame and Cantilever Moment.  These symbols could have any graphics desired, but they were the only two options.  In the last few releases this feature was opened up, so many connection types and custom symbols can be created.  Several firms have used this feature, but since it has been opened up, the applications can go beyond the FE classic option.  Firms could use this feature for all types of building construction.  For example, it could be used in wood construction to show the different types of hangers and/or fasteners in plan graphics.  Customizing this feature is a multistep process, but once added to a template, the options will be available for the entire team to use (see Figure 9).

Figure 9

  • The first step is to create the connections symbols.  There isn’t a template specifically designed for this, so start with a generic annotation family.  Then, using the Family Category and Parameter button, change the family type to Connection Symbol.  The intersection of Reference Planes is the insertion point, which is the end of the beam.  The symbol should be drawn to the right of the insertion point.  There is also an option for “Automatic Cutback for Beams and Braces.” This option allows the symbol to add an additional cutback to the beam’s symbolic line in the project.  If the intent is to have the symbol added directly to the beam line, this should be unchecked.
  • Once the symbol is created, load the family into the project or project template.  In Structural Settings, go to the Symbolic Representation Settings tab and add a new Connection Symbol for Beams and Braces.  Once the new Connection Type is created, choose the appropriate symbol (see Figure 10).
  • Now when a beam is created, the new options will be available for connections within the beam instance properties.

All of the above is also applicable to structural columns connections.

Figure 10


If the properties dialog is moved to the second monitor, this also moves the Type Selector.  To keep the Type Selector closer to the ribbon and to the view window, add it to the quick access toolbar by right-clicking in the Type Selector and select “Add to Quick Access Toolbar” or “Add  to Ribbon Modify Tab” (see Figure11).

Figure 11

When modeling a CMU or brick, it is possible to course it automatically.  Change the snap setting to accomplish this.  This may seem obscure, but the snaps dialog can be used for more than just controlling the running object snaps.  It also controls the snap distances while modeling.  It is best not to add additional values to the snaps.  Instead, change the 6” or 150m value to 8” or 200mm so the dimensions snap while modeling.

A great tool to remember is the “Hover + Tab + Click” (HTC) utility.  Most people know that when selecting elements a user can hover over an area and hit the Tab key, which will cycle through different elements, grips, and so on. In addition, the HTC feature will also select elements that are associated at their ends.  The HTC feature is useful in many cases, but especially when modeling wall foundations as well as slab edges.  The HTC feature will allow a few clicks to add slab edges all the way around the slab instead of manually picking each individual edge.

These tips will not only improve your productivity on a daily basis, but also will make your day more enjoyable as you pass them on to fellow coworkers.

Appears in these Categories