Thursday, June 03, 2010

Revit 2011 Ribbon Interface

OK, I have to admit that I did not upgrade from Revit 2009 to 2010. My experience with Microsoft's ribbon interface for Word left me less that impressed with the new way of doing things. Autocad's 2009 ribbon interface left me dumbfounded; I have been using Autocad for 25 years and consistently followed upgrades as they arrived. The new ribbon interface was the first time I have installed an upgrade to Autocad that left me with no idea of how to use the software. Now, remember, this is software that I have been using daily for more that half my life. Thank goodness there was the "classic" interface available, or I would have not been able to feed my family.

The feedback on Revit 2010's new ribbon being disorganised and inconsistent meant that I was not going to upgrade and struggle daily with the software tool that allows me to work.

I have recently upgraded to Revit 2011, and these are my thoughts on the new interface. I do know that if I persevere for some time I will get used to the interface. In truth I will "adapt" myself to the interface and try to make the best of it. I believe the initial use of an interface tells a big story about how effective it really is:

1. Speed.
I have found that the new ribbon interface is very slow to use. The difficulty is that all the tools are located in the same screen area, the Ribbon. The earlier interface used a sidebar menu and a fixed top menu. The sidebar menu changed depending on what tool was being used. The top menu held the editing tools and was consistent no matter what was being done. I find now that I get very easily lost and can not find tools that were so obvious previously.Flicking between ribbon pages is annoying. Placing a wall then placing dimensions requires more mouse clicks and thinking than before.

2. Properties dialogue
It's sort of good to have the properties dialogue open all the time. Some users have mentioned that it can even go on a second monitor. I have found that I use this dialogue a lot. However it is very inconsistent. If I am placing a component, then I can see a list of components within the dialogue. it's a bit clunky, but it works. If I am placing a wall, I can also see a list of walls in the dialogue. If I am placing a floor, I do not get a list of floors available in the dialogue in the same way as walls and components. Why not? It's at this point that I have to stop (slow down, not earning any money)and think about why this tool is different to all the others. The dialogue is also quite small. Selecting levels for wall's top and bottom constraints requires fine mouse movements and is difficult to see clearly. Pause needed, so I am slowing down.... I could of course put the dialogue on a second monitor. I find that I use this dialogue so often that the movement from the main monitor to the second is quite distracting, and once again slows me down.

3. Locating tools:
I am finding it very difficult to locate tools on the ribbon. Some are graphical, some have words, some both. I understand that with more familiarity I will know where to find that tools I use often. My view is that they should not be difficult to find. The whole point of changing interfaces is to make it easier to use, not more complex. My experience of ribbon interfaces on other software is that the software has become more complex to use, not simplified. This is the same with Revit. The ribbon is not great. I liked the editing tools in one area and the modelling tools in a separate location. It was easy to find what I needed. Incidentally, I found the earlier versions of Revit very quick to learn to use. It was the consistency of how all the tools worked and that the screen interface remained largely static. This meant that I could predict where the tools I needed were going to be, no matter what I was actually doing. Now with the ribbon interface, the tools are buried in a ribbon, and I have to click through the ribbon interface to select a tool rather than having it immediately available.

4. Designing
I use Revit as a design tool. when designing my brain works differently than when I am documenting. When designing, I am so immersed in the right brain world, that it's even difficult to speak! If the phone rings, or someone comes into the office, it is really difficult to come out of that design space and back to the real world. It's almost like my brain needs to click over into another mode. When in that design brain mode, I need tools that are predictable and that I don't have to think about. This is why many people still design using pencil and paper. The tools don't require thinking about, they are a natural extension of the designer, and they don't get in the way. Design ideas are allowed to flow. This is the problem with designing on a computer; too often the software interface gets in the way of the designer. I found Autocad difficult to design with because the interface was not intuiative and did not allow a flow of ideas. I am finding the same with the new Revit ribbon interface. It gets in the way and does not allow ideas to flow. The old interface, while not perfect was at least consistent and predictable. It meant that no matter what I was designing, be it a floor, roof, ceiling etc, all the tools worked the same way, all had the same interface. I did not have to flip through ribbon pallets to get to additional tools. It allowed design ideas to flow. I did not have to think about the tool I was using.

Revit used to be a very simple and consistently straight forward program to use. The tools worked in the same way, and the user interface worked in the same way no matter what tool you were using. With the new ribbon interface, I have found Revit to be much more complex to use. Tools are not consistent, the interface for each tool is no longer consistent, and I am very easily getting lost. It's lucky I have many years of experience using Revit so I know what it should be able to do, and what tools to find. If I was a new user, I would be baffled by the complex user interface.

As a piece of software that I use daily, I am disappointed in the revised interface. Grouping all the tools into a ribbon does not work well for me. The sidebar and top fixed menus were consistent and predictable. Unfortunately for me, Revit is no longer the joy to use that it was in it's earlier guise.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Everyone has just given up the fight against the ribbon that they all know has nearly destroyed what used to be an enjoyable program to operate.

But we should not give up the fight because we could AT LEAST keep the DEBUG switch alive so we can continue using the native UI even the way it works for 2011.

We have model lines with the classic now with the convert detail lines to model lines. And a couple of minor things that don't work are insignificant.

We all need to rally in support of keeping the DEBUG switch working. If we don't have that we have nothing.

3:09 PM  
Blogger phindes said...

Thanks for your comments. I agree that Revit is not longer the enjoyable program it used to be to operate.

The debug switch is an option of last resort. I found many new 2011 commands do not work in the old interface.

I have persevered with the new interface, and still do not like or enjoy it. It is clumsy and does nothing to streamline to flow of work. It is a classic example of the interface getting in the way of producing the work.

Rather than keeping the debug alive, I would rather a more sensible interface was designed. Remember AutoCAD 2008 that had the dashboard, and then it was dropped in 2009 for the Ribbon?

This shows that user interfaces can come and go. I just want an interface that works better than the original, or else, keep the original!

3:25 PM  

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