PDF Tool Enhances Mainstay Design App

5 Nov, 2008 By: Heather Livingston

PDF creation and conversion become cheap and green with Bluebeam PDF Revu 6.5's CAD-specific functions.

Bluebeam released PDF Revu v6.5, the latest version of its PDF creation and editing tool, in September. Among the new features that will be beneficial to CAD users are PDF form filing, batch text stamping, and page de-skewing. The company states that PDF Revu's combined PDF creation, markup, and editing features enable CAD users and project members to collaborate and communicate faster and more efficiently by sharing and reviewing design data electronically.

Founded in 2002, Bluebeam is a spin-off from Alliance Spacesystems, an aerospace engineering firm best known for creating the robotic arm on the Mars Rover. According to marketing director Stephanie Haynes, ASI built the Bluebeam PDF tool in-house specifically to perform better and more easily than Adobe. The company quickly realized there was enough of a market to create a separate business endeavor, and in 2002, Bluebeam launched PDF Revu's predecessor, PushButton PDF.

Since that time, the product has evolved considerably in its functioning and capabilities. PDF Revu now is available in standard and a CAD version that allows one-button PDF creation from within the AutoCAD and SolidWorks programs via a plug-in. The CAD version was designed to work with large-format drawings, making it easy to convert drawings of any size while maintaining precision quality and saving time.

Bluebeam PDF Revu CAD Edition integrates with AutoCAD and SolidWorks, installing a toolbar for one button PDF creation, custom conversion settings, and batch creation of PDFs. All images courtesy of Bluebeam.

Tools of the Trade
The AutoCAD and SolidWorks plug-ins feature handy tools such as a custom settings creation option for PDFs that allows you to select custom paper size, a different scale, and different pen assignments. Haynes noted that the new batch tool is the most popular feature of version 6.5 because it allows CAD users to convert a large volume of drawings to PDFs in a single batch. Other user benefits include custom PDF stamps, automatic PDF bookmarking, enhanced FTP and email functions, text-searchable PDFs, and PDF security. Both the standard and CAD versions have a PDF printer driver with presets for other CAD applications like Revit, Microstation, and Pro/Engineer so it recognizes the CAD file and uses the best conversion settings when converting a file to PDF. Additionally, PDF Revu v6.5 supports today's all-important interoperability needs by offering 11 file formats.

Haynes believes that PDF Revu performs better for AEC than Adobe Acrobat in PDF creation and editing because the interface is very clean and the markup and editing tools are displayed as buttons in the toolbar, making it quick and easy to find the tools you need to get working. "You don't waste time trying to find the different kinds of tools that you're looking for," she said. "Another thing is that [because] Revu was designed to navigate large-format PDF drawings -- not just your 8.5" x 11" document -- we have mouse controls for zooming and panning that mimic CAD applications so the user doesn't have to learn our application. It's very intuitive."

Another bonus for CAD users is that files open in tabs, so you can click on a tab and switch between open files. Bluebeam PDF Revu v6.5 includes exclusive technology called Multi-View that allows you to view as many as 16 different files at once. PDF Revu's Multi-View also lets you see16 areas of the same file at once, which can be helpful in reviewing designs. CAD-specific markup tools also populate PDF Revu with symbols for CAD users such as elevation, building sections, deltas, etc., which allow you to apply the symbol to the PDF drawing just like pushing a button.

Other useful features include a measurement tool for takeoffs; change clouds that call out changes between versions; and a custom Tool Chest that allows you to create and save customized symbols, images, and markups in a tool set. The tool set then can be saved in Revu for future review sessions, but it also can be exported to a network drive for sharing among the design team.

Click for larger image Bluebeam’s Compare Documents feature scans two revisions of a drawing in PDF and automatically highlights the differences with change clouds. (Click image for larger version)

Click for larger image The exclusive Tool Chest lets users save and share custom markups to add to PDF files. Bluebeam PDF Revu is prepopulated with tool sets for CAD users. (Click image for larger version)

Going Paperless Saves Green
Where PDF Revu has real potential to save money for AEC firms is in reducing expenses associated with printing and shipping paper, and faxing and scanning. Bluebeam's web site includes testimonials that vouch for dramatic cost savings when PDF Revu is used instead of traditional paper for design review and editing. For example, KTGY Group says it switched to Bluebeam and in about eight months saved $400,000 firmwide in expenses for printing, couriers, and software fees and support. A second example is from William A. Berry & Son, which tracked its savings using Bluebeam on one project and standard paper on the other. According to the testimonial, the company saved 83% of its printing and courier expenses with Bluebeam, an amount that exceeded $25,000.

As for saving time on a project, if used to its full advantage, Bluebeam PDF Revu has the potential to eliminate steps in the process. Does this scenario sound familiar? You print CAD drawings on a plotter and then scan them to create a PDF file to send to your client or contractor. The recipient gets the PDF and then prints it, does markups by hand on paper with a pen, and then faxes it or scans it into another PDF to email back to you.

With PDF Revu, the CAD drawing is converted to PDF, emailed, marked up electronically, and emailed back. CAD users can save a lot of steps in the process and a significant chunk of time in their workday. Further, by keeping everything electronic, they can avoid confusion and delay caused by sloppy handwriting or poor-quality faxes and scans. Bluebeam reports that one customer has applied for a LEED innovation credit by saving paper and reducing carbon emissions from design review and editing.

The Mobile Workplace
Finally, Bluebeam PDF Revu is compatible with tablet PCs, which is significant because these very portable computers allow AEC professionals to work remotely at a job site and therefore are gaining acceptance in the AEC industry. Bluebeam has developed specific functionality for tablet PC users including pressure-sensitive ink and text recognition that allows you to write on the face of the PDF in the tablet and have it automatically convert to text. Zoom controls make it easy to zoom and pan around the drawing with the pen even without access to a mouse.

"All members of a project team [can] use Bluebeam, from the architect who may convert the CAD drawing to PDF to the engineers to the consultants, vendors, contractors, and clients," Haynes said. "Each of these will use it in a different way, whether it's for file conversion in order to share a document or by viewing and marking up and editing to communicate and collaborate on a project, but just about any person who touches a PDF is a good user for Bluebeam."

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