Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Invsible Grid Dilemma

Rarely do I miss a feature from Autocad, but having the ability to create things that you want to see, but not print, has for some reason eluded the Revit wizards at Autodesk. In Autocad if you wanted to create a simple invisible grid it was a snap, you just used a no plot layer. In Revit it's not so easy, but I have come up with at least 4 systems that work I've tried each of them, except method 4, which is my latest idea to solve the issue, the first 2 ideas were devised before the new "Guide Grid" tool was added in Revit 2011, but the new tool does has it's disadvantages which has lead me to the 4th method. Each have their pluses and minuses, so if an invisible grid is something you need you should try all of them and decide which method works best for you, if you have any other techniques feel free to share!

Method 1: Build your grid system into your titleblock using invisible lines.
This method is exactly what it sounds like, you simply draw whatever size grid you'd like using invisible lines right inside your titleblock family.
One downfall is that either you live with the grid on all of your sheets or create a new titleblock just for detail sheets. This can get messy when someone tweaks one titleblock (because the project name doesn't fit or something) and forgets to make the tweak to the detail sheet titleblock. It's also cumbersome in that it's only visible when the titleblock is actually selected or hovered over. What this means is that you have to select a view or view title, then hover over your titleblock with your cursor to visually reveal the grid and then nudge your view or view title into the correct place with your keyboard's arrow keys. It's not very accurate but you can set up any complex grid system your firm's CAD standards require and you can generally get everything looking fairly neat.

Method 2: Build your detail grid as an annotation symbol using invisible lines and load it in as a family.
In essence this is the same as building a layout grid into a titleblock with invisible lines but now it's completely independent of the titleblock. You can keep this giant annotation symbol in your project and drop it on new detail sheets as needed but it will require some manual nudging into place and you'll probably want to pin it down so no one can move it later. You still have to hover over it to see it and you can still create a complex grid system if you want.

Method 3: Use the new Guide Grid tool in Revit.
Revit 2011 gave us a nifty new grid tool, mostly it was designed to align views across sheets using building grids that exist in the model but it can also be used to create an invisible grid system for your detail sheets. It's purely for reference however since only certain model objects can be aligned with it. It's also fairly simplistic and won't allow you create complex grids to help you align view titles or the leader shoulders of text or keynotes (assuming your firm does this). This method is pretty simple, you just go to the View tab and create a new "Guide Grid" that you can place on detail sheets. You'll notice that when you create your grid it will rarely align nicely with your titleblock, but this is an easy fix, just move the whole grid element and re-adjust the outer boundaries as needed. This option will work best if your sheet's drawing area can be broken down into a perfect number of grid boxes (you can't specify x and y grid axis independently) you can however place this grid on your sheets fairly accurately and it's always visible without any annoying hovering and nudging.

Method 4: Build a grid system out of reference planes in a legend view
This is probably the most esoteric method. It exploits the odd fact that you can create reference planes inside of legend views and the fact that legend views can be placed on multiple sheets. In a nutshell, you create a new legend view and set the scale to 12"=1' and create any complex or simple grid you'd like out of reference planes, then you drop this legend onto all of your detail sheets. Unlike the annotation symbol method you can actually place this grid onto your sheets accurately because you can select reference planes without actually activating the view in order to move the legend view around on the sheet. This method also carries the added benefit of always being visible, you don't need to hover over the symbol or titleblock in order to see if you're placing details or view titles in the correct location on the sheet. This method combines all of the benefits of the other methods, accuracy, customization, and visibility. This last method is pretty easy to set up but I haven't actually tried it on a project so I'm curious to see how well it actually works.
Like anything in Revit, there are a million ways to skin any given problem, I'd like to know what your office has done to solve the invisible grid dilemma, feel free to share in the comments! :)

The 4 Methods in action:
Top Left: The invisible grid is a part of the titleblock and thus not visible because the cursor isn't over it
Top Right: The cursor is over the annotation family of a detail grid
Lower Right: The Built in Grid Guide tool, useful but simple
Lower Left: A Legend view is placed on the sheet with Reference planes to create the grid.

A close up of the reference plane grid (method 4), the multiple reference planes are being used to line up the view titles for a neat, clean consistent look that can be standard across multiple projects: