Building Information Modeling (BIM)

BIMlist 2012

27 Jun, 2012 By: Patrick Davis

First Look Review: Revit utility gives users an easy way to organize and find content families.

Highly RecommendedIf you have used Autodesk Revit for any length of time, you know how hard it can be to find the Revit content you're looking for. Whether you're searching through the default Revit content or your company library, it can be a time-consuming task. In many cases, you may choose not to use a corporate library and turn instead to online resources such as Autodesk Seek, which lets you search for content by keyword.

What Revit needs is a built-in search tool for content. Good news: CAD Technology Center (CTC) offers just such a product. BIMlist 2012 is a new tool for organizing, locating, and inserting content families in Revit Architecture, Structure, and MEP 2012 (32- and 64-bit versions).

The Setup

BIMlist is available as a standalone deployment for single users or as an enterprise deployment for networks. The Enterprise version lets users share the content database, simplifying the process if you need to distribute your BIMlist database to multiple users. Both versions use SQL as the database for tracking Revit families.

Once BIMlist is installed, you'll do preliminary setup and maintenance via the Database Administration panel.

Figure 1. The Database Administration panel lets you create groups and subgroups and associate either individual families or entire directories of families to them.
The Database Administration panel lets you create groups and subgroups and associate either individual families or entire directories of families to them.

First, you'll define the organizational structure of your content family listings by creating groups and tabs (subgroups). Examples of groups include medical, retail, hospitality, and the like. You can then create (and color-code) tabs to organize the content specific to that group, such as doors, equipment, and windows. This lets you organize your families logically. Here lies my one complaint regarding BIMlist: the tabs term, which caused a lot of confusion with my test group. New users would have an easier time grasping the tool if the developers changed the term to subgroups.

BIMlist Info BoxNext, add your content families to the groups and tabs, either individually or by entire folders. The files and folders can be located on your local computer or in a network location.

Search for Content

To locate the content you need, use the BIMlist browser. Activate the browser by clicking on the Revit Express Tools tab in Revit 2012 and on the BIMlist panel clicking the Browse button. This opens the CTC BIMlist browser. You can browse through groups and tabs to locate the desired family, or use the search functionality.

Basic search. This allows users to perform keyword searches for the currently active tab. Users can apply specific parameters to their searches as well.

Figure 2. The BIMlist family browser interface performs basic searches for Revit families.
The BIMlist family browser interface performs basic searches for Revit families.

Advanced search.
BIMlist also offers advanced search capabilities to query the data contained within the families to find specifically what you need (figure 3). You can search for specific parameter names and values. A reverse-lookup function is also available. For example, you could search through a door category using the criteria of "double" for the family name and "75" for the height.

Figure 3. Advanced capabilities let you search using multiple criteria.
Advanced capabilities let you search using multiple criteria.

Search results display in the browser. You can use filters to narrow the results by searching through all the data fields that BIMlist tracks for each family. These include the family and type names, as well as all the parameters for the families in the group. As with the basic search function, you can expand any result to see all its associated family types and parameters.

Once you find the family you need, simply click on the family type and drag it into your Revit project.

Create and Edit Type Catalogs

One interesting feature of BIMlist is its ability to create and edit family type catalogs. To do so, right-click on a family in the Database Administration panel and choose Edit Type Catalog. If no type catalog currently exists, the software automatically creates one. If a type catalog does exist, BIMlist brings up the information available in that type catalog. You can then edit type information by clicking in a box and typing in the desired information. You can also create new types using the Add Type button, and you can copy an existing type and delete a type from the catalog. If you are not familiar with creating type catalogs, this functionality simplifies the process.

Speedy Tools

In my tests, I used a stand-alone version of BIMlist. Our corporate library has more than 50,000 families, plus a substantial library of typical details. The library is located on a single server, and all our U.S. offices pull from that library.

For testing purposes, I created seven groups and a number of tabs consisting of approximately 2,000 families. Creating the BIMlist library was a very straightforward process. Once I defined the groups and tabs, I was able to quickly add individual files or entire folders. On average it took approximately three seconds for BIMlist to load each family into the database and catalog it.

Searching for content is very fast. If you have a very large content library, the advanced search feature lets you quickly filter your search results.

The amount of time and effort BIMlist saves will vary from user to user. Although I do not administer our content library at work, I am responsible for the content and organization, so I am very familiar with content and family locations. I did a time test to locate content using BIMlist vs. manually searching via Windows Explorer or Windows Search. Using BIMlist's basic search function was 20 times faster, on average. Using the advanced search functionality when dealing with large search sets averaged 50 times faster. The primary reason the advanced search function was so much more efficient was its ability to filter the selection set by parameters rather than having to open each family in Revit to determine if it was the right one.

BIMlist was very easy to install and set up. Several YouTube videos are available that demonstrate how to create groups and search for content. Most users will be up and running in a matter of minutes. This is not a complicated tool, and the interface is simple and clean.

CTC provides unlimited, free technical support for BIMlist via phone or e-mail. I was able to learn and use BIMlist without technical support, but I made a call to test the service. The response to my questions about creating groups was helpful, quick, and accurate.

Final Thoughts

I am very impressed with this first release of BIMlist. It helps you quickly organize content, the search function works very well, and it even performed well finding content located on a server in another office. If you use Revit 2012, consider giving BIMlist 2012 a try using the free 14-day demo version. Highly Recommended.

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