Quick Fixes for Small Errors

Where Did That Model Go?

On many projects as you navigate the corridors of your model, you may notice that if you are in just the right view, the entire model disappears.  Or other times, as you rotate your view it may become invisible even though nothing is obstructing what should otherwise be a visible area.

What is happening is that Autodesk®  Navisworks® is assuming a culling plane.  The plan hides everything in that scene area.  To overcome this, we will use the File Options tool. 

Click the Home tab of the ribbon > Project Panel > File Options.

In the fly out, the first tab is culling.  To fix the random culling areas we will update the clipping plane information.  I suggest changing near clipping planes to 0 or .001.  This will ensure that near objects are not culled.  If you are having performance errors with far away objects, change the far clipping plane.  Users beware when changing the far culling plane:  when this number is changed and as you zoom out far from the model, the entire model will be culled. In other words, the model will disappear.

If you ever want to reset these numbers you can click reset to defaults or simply change the clipping planes back to automatic.

Figure 1: File options fly out.

Who Turned Off the Lights?

There are many lighting settings in Navisworks.  Changing the general lighting will help illuminate a number of issues in the project. 

To change the general lighting, click the Viewpoint Tab of the Ribbon > Render Styles Panel > Lighting.  The default lighting mode in Navisworks is Headlight.  This mode projects a light from the camera.  The setting for this light can be modified with the File Options tool.  Open the File Options tool Home Tab > Project Panel > File Options and click the Headlight tab.  Adjust the slider bars for the ambient light and headlight settings and notice how the scene view changes.  Because Headlight is the default lighting setting, correcting it to the way you wish to illuminate the scene view can save you time in the future.

Full Lights illuminates the scene according to lights that have been placed with the Presenter tool.  This requires more customization, but can have great lighting effects on the model.

No Lights removes lighting from the scene view, rendering all objects with the same lighting style.  No lighting contrast or depth will be seen.

Scene Lights, the final lighting style, will apply lighting to the scene view according to the native lights imported into Navisworks.  If, for example, you bring in a model from Revit with lighting embedded in it, the Scene light style will render the lighting in the model according to the position of the lights in the model.  If no lights are present, Scene lights places two default opposing lights to illuminate the area.  This setting can also be customized with the File Options tool.  Home Tab > Project Panel > File options tool.  Click the Scene Lights tab and adjust the ambient slider bar to customize how the lighting affects the model.

Where Did I Leave that Gizmo?

During the course of coordination, it is not uncommon for you to use Gizmos for a number of reasons.  For example, a good practice during a coordination meeting is to “play pretend” to see if changes to one model will reveal a coordination issue.  For example, the Plumber in a meeting might ask if, by lowering his roof drain 2”, it would eliminate the ducts clash and still keep the plumbing above the ceiling.  In order to check this for him, the coordinator should select the offending roof drain pipe, then select Move from the Item Tool tab of the Ribbon > Transform Panel > Move tool.  When this tool is selected, the Gizmo should appear right in front of you.  Although this happens often, it is just as likely that the Gizmo will appear somewhere else. 

The best way to get the Gizmo to come back to the scene view you are viewing is to unclick the Move Tool then reclick the tool.  If the Gizmo does not appear in the scene view, you will have to navigate to find it.  The Gizmo will sometimes appear in faraway places because it is trying to appear approximately in the center of all the objects you selected.  Some objects when selected also select other primitives that are located far from the first object.   This causes the Gizmo to appear in seemingly random places.

Navisworks Crashed and I Don’t Know Where the Auto-Save is!

If you are asking yourself this, don’t panic. The Auto-Save file still exists.  To find the directory for your Auto-Save files, click the Application Button > Options > General > Auto-Save.  In this window you can view the location path of the directory containing your Auto-Save files.  Simply find the nwf that corresponds with the project that you wish to restore.

The Auto-Save options also allow you to set the interval of when Navisworks creates the Auto-Save file.  This can be important if you are working with a large file and are in the middle of a coordination meeting.  Though I highly recommend using the Auto-Save feature, I often disable it before a meeting because of the time it takes to actually save the file.  I turn it back on after the meeting and I always have it on while I am working in Navisworks because I don’t want to lose any of my work.  However, since the bulk of the work should be done before a coordination meeting begins, I find the time saved by disabling this feature during a meeting remarkable.

The Auto-Save options also allow you to decide how many iterations of the project you wish to save.  Changing the value of the Maximum Previous Versions will change how many different Auto-Save files Navisworks will create per project. 

Where Are Recent Files?

Many times, you may wish to modify how Navisworks displays your recent files list.  To view your recent files, simply click the application button and view the right half of the menu. A number of different files will appear in the recent files section.  Above all the recent files is a drop-down, which allows you to organize your view of these files with the following options: By Ordered List, By Access Date, By Size, and by Type.  Changing this setting allows you to change the order in which your recent files are displayed.

If you desire to show more of the recent files in your Recent Documents list, click the Application Button > Options. Expand General and select Environment.  You can change the number of recent files from 1-16.

Navisworks also gives you the benefit of using push pins in the Recent Document list.  If you click the push pin next to any of the files on the list, they will never be removed from the list.  To un-pin a document, simply click the pin again and it is released.

Why Are the Models Different Sizes?

Occasionally when you are setting up a new project you may notice that one of your models is significantly smaller or larger than all of your other files.  When you encounter this, you can quickly identify it as a units problem.  Right-click the offending file in the selection tree.  Select Units and transform in the context menu.  Navisworks will always default to a specific unit for a given data type and sometimes a file comes in at different units.  Because of this, Navisworks gives you the option to change the units in which the model is displayed.  In the Model Units section click the drop-down and change the units to the desired unit.  When you click OK, the model will scale accordingly.


Figure 2: File units problem.

There’s No Place Like Home

Occasionally there will be a model in the project with extreme extents.  This causes distortions when you click any part of the view cube, including the home button.  Navisworks provides a way to handle this error.  To set a home view, navigate to the location you wish to set as your home view, right-click the home button on the view cube and select set current view as home view from the context menu.  This customization allows you to more quickly navigate the model and extends to the Clash Detective by allowing you to view any clash in context of the home view.

Figure 3: Setting the Home View.

Now that the home is corrected, the panels of the view cube still zoom in correctly.  This is because of the large extents of the files in the project.  Remember, the view cubes’ zooming function are defined by the extents of the project.  This can, however, be changed.  To change the extents the view cube follows, select the objects that you wish the view cube to zoom around.  This is typically the main building you are working on.  Once selected, right-click the view cube and click lock to selection. The view cube will now rotate correctly.


It’s nice to know the short cuts in every program to be able to quickly accomplish tasks.  The most useful shortcuts for me involve switching between tools.  Unfortunately, Navisworks does not allow you to customize shortcut keys in release 2013; this feature was removed in 2012.  However, there are still a number of important shortcuts that allow you to quickly accomplish your work. 

Ctrl + 1 activates the select tool.  New in Navisworks 2013 is the handy ability to be able to toggle the select tool to select box by pressing the spacebar. 

Ctrl + 2 activates the walk tool.  This useful tool allows you to navigate the model in a perspective view.  Clicking the middle mouse button allows a camera pan mode and rolling the scroll ball allows you to adjust the angle you are viewing the scene view.

For a complete list of shortcut keys see the Navisworks help system Default Keyboard Shortcuts documentation. 

Another way to increase your efficiency is to add common tools to the Quick Access toolbar.  This bar is located directly to the right of the application button.  To add a tool to the Quick Access toolbar, simply right-click the tool and select add to the Quick Access toolbar.  The tool will then persist in that location, giving you quick access to it.

Figure 4: The Quick Access toolbar.

Workspaces, Avoid the Clutter

One very powerful tool that is rarely used in Navisworks is the workspace tool.  This tool allows you to customize the location of all the different windows in Navisworks.  To create a workspace, simply arrange all the windows you wish open, such as saved viewpoints, clash detective, selection tree, and selection sets.  Then click the View tab > Workspace panel >Save Workspace.  You can choose where you wish to save the xml file. 

This comes in handy when you switch from two monitors to a single monitor.  You can create two different workspaces and using the Load Workspace command you can quickly toggle between the two.

Figure 5: Efficient workspace.

Putting it All Together

When set up, these tips and tricks allow you to efficiently run Navisworks.  If Navisworks has a hiccup, there is usually a way to control the behavior.  This article has reviewed how to handle a number of these negative behaviors.  If Navisworks behaves poorly for you, always try closing the program and opening it again.  Otherwise, submit the problem to Subscription and the AUGI Wish List.  Feel free to email me with questions and concerns.

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

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