Category: FormIt

Holiday Gifts – Treat yourself to an App

I love this time of year. The time off from work, the promise of snow, the tree, the food, family, the presents… I usually stuff an Apple Gift card in my wife’s stocking and of course, to be self-supporting, one for me. I traditionally go off to their store in search of a quality app. I have been accumulating a few over the years and thought it would be good to share some of my favorites:



Paper by FiftyThree is by far the most seamless Moleskine replacement. I have been complimenting it with their stylus and a Cosmonaut pen. Great way to get concept sketches out and share

Note Taking


I have been going between multiple apps way before palm recognition: Noteability, Penultimate, Notes Plus but what gets my vote is Noteshelf. Don’t get me wrong, they are all competent, but the best behaving, most responsive with my 53 Stylus is Noteshelf. My only gripe is that the pages are too small for my writing. Notability does a great job sharing files, recognizing you palm and combining voice recording, they have even included exporting to social media which is a nice touch. Penultimate I was least impressed with, they have positioned themselves uniquely with Evernote and Jot Script Stylus. Yet if these are your bed fellows, it may convince you to lie with them.

Let’s also not forget the flowing note application of One Note by Microsoft. This iPad application connects to others across platforms. Add images, photos from your camera, write notes and do basic sketching with your pen. A nice feature is shape recognition and stylus support. Totally worth it, especially when it’s free!



Go beyond the sketch and watercolor feel of Paper now place layers and effects to your work. I love the perspective functionality and curve guides of Sketchbook Pro. Procreate is a mature offering and has a nifty time-lapse recording function to showcase your creative skills; Draw feels very responsive and intuitive with some nice UI – hold your pen down in an enclosed region and it automatically fills. All apps allow for PSD export with differing choices to either your Creative Cloud, Dropbox or Autodesk 360 accounts. No clear winner here… love ‘em all.

Diagrams & Illustrations


If flow diagrams are your thing, Grafio is a delightful offering. Simple and easy to use with attractive looking graphics. Only downfall is its limited export functionality with the only options of compressed PNG or JPEG format. Interoperability would be greatly enhanced with scalable vector graphic (SVG) export.

Bez, Inkpad and Graphic are great tools for those seeking Adobe Illustrator on iOS. Depending on what you are willing to spend, Graphic seems to contain the most comprehensive toolset. I find that all provide the necessary tools to produce quality illustrations in an easy and manageable UI. If you are a serious Illustrator, the large iPad Pro and Pencil will be an absolute must.

Immersive gameplay


For anybody who loves atmosphere, puzzles and interactivity… The Room is the best entertainment you can buy… and there are 3 of them! This is a richly immersive environment, from the eerie sounds to interacting with the puzzles to advance you from room to room, this would be amazing in VR. There is even a board game variant out there.

PDF Editing


I always wanted to keep within the Bluebeam stable but PDF Expert seemed to do it better. No arrows or clouds here in this offering unfortunately, but free form sketching can be a good substitute. Functionality includes extracting and reordering your pages, adding images and signatures. Improvements would be to include layer management and a copy/paste snapshot tool.

3D Modelling


FormIt is the SketchUp for the iPad. Connect to Sketchbook and you have a great architectural visualization workflow. Formit is easy, intuitive and has been designed with the iPad and Pencil in mind. Connect to your A360 and you can work on the desktop App at work. Multiple users can even work in the same Formit Session. Just be warned that your tasks are linear – undo your work, can also undo others!

Shapr3D has recently turned up with Pencil support. I have yet to try it but it looks awesome. This offering seems more for product designers and makers, but the intuitive nature of their demo reel is compelling, although the $99 Pro version may be steep for some. The free version may be enough if you are not looking for high quality STL exports or working with any other CAD / BIM models. As @amsbrstr notes, “This does for Solid modelling on iPad what Solidworks did for Windows. Game changer. Great use of Pencil input as well.”



Writing this Blog, I typically fire up my laptop and type away in Word, storing my document on Dropbox or OneDrive. Word is an industry standard and Microsoft have done good job of opening it onto the mobile market. Connecting to WordPress or sharing to social media is usually a multistep process. Of course you can write directly in the WordPress App and check statistics, however it nice to work offline, collating your thoughts and publish when ready. iA Writer does just that in a focused, clutter free environment. I also found Hanx Writer to be a fun novelty to focusing your writing by listening to click clack of an old type writer, albeit without the usual paper wastage.



We all know of Facetime and Skype, but Slack is a neat perpetual chat platform where you can post comments, images and videos in numerous channels across multiple teams. There is direct messaging and video and voice calls. It works across platforms and devices too, but the best part, it’s free until you hit your 5GB limit.

So that’s my list of favorite iOS apps. I do wish there were more cross-platform functionality to some and that publishers would develop more for Windows tablet devices. That said, mobile apps are fantastic to your workflow and most are affordable, if not free to try. Please share if you have any that are your favorite go-to applications. I am always looking for a good app to tinker with.

Hope you all have a wonderful holiday and that Santa brings the App of your choice!


What Dynamo Needs?

So having dabbled in Dynamo on an off for the best part of the year, I am in no position to greatly comment on what Dynamo needs. It is a complex animal and seems you need a good bit of Python to tweak what is on offer. There is a good smattering of custom packages out there that can really aid in productivity and open avenues within Revit that were seemly impossible to do.


From newbie with no virtual computational experience, to having created a number of successful graphs either interoperating with Rhino and adaptive components, placing complex railings equidistant over a curved floor perimeter, or generating site plans with Open Street Map data, I am now in a position of understanding, yet having frustrations both at the same time.


It is a great feeling to nerd out and get a graph to function, minimizing the nodes and playing with Dynamo’s logic. It is frustrating to see those little yellow error messages appear without explaining very much, or that the definition seemingly works, only to find out the next time you run it, it inexplicably doesn’t; trying to locate that node to do something simple or that the Revit API isn’t exposing itself.


Arghh! Those error message, deprecations and unresolved statuses


My colleague Dane Stokes, a Grasshopper whizz and Rhino jockey, gets easily frustrated with Dynamo. He likens Dynamo to a British car: finicky, powerful but good luck getting it started and seemingly in the shop most days. 

The functionality and polish of Grasshopper attract many graduates, who typically aren’t constrained to producing construction documentation. Given a choice, most simply gravitate to Rhino and Grasshopper for their needs, leaving few that can aid with Dynamo in the professional setting.


Dynamo is a great tool to Revit, but best practices, workflows or documentation have not been developed in industry. The standalone Dynamo Studio is being used with FormIt to create geometric shapes and change their properties. Josh Goldstein at Autodesk has provided tools that generate louvers on a building or create a staircase in FormIt. Yet this added functionality provided by Dynamo already exist in the Revit product with parametric families and tools. So when is it appropriate to implement Dynamo with Revit? What are the best workflows if you are pushing data back into Revit in a Work Shared and live model? How can we share and document our custom graphs that we create?


Dynamo Studio Properties in FormIt


Dynamo Player has arrived as of Revit release 2017.1 which helps, but varying inputs need to be incorporated for the Player to function effectively. When we get input functionality, should we create a Dynamo graph or create a dedicated Add-in tool using the Revit API? I feel Dynamo works well for custom situations that require hacking Revit’s stubbornness, yet if there is a repetitive task or a function that is being used consistently on all projects, it is probably wiser to create a tool using the API to share with your entire firm or industry.

I realize that you have read all the way to here and I haven’t addressed what the title of this blog asks, What Dynamo Needs?:

I feel Dynamo would benefit by:

  • Improving search functionality speed.
  • Filtering a list of compatible inputs from an output.
  • Make error messages make sense.
  • A Python debugger.
  • Inputs to Dynamo Player in Revit – akin to the how Dynamo Studio interfaces with FormIt. I have been told by sources that this is coming soon!
  • Dynamo Studio communicating with a headless Revit in the Cloud.
  • Increasing mobility with an iOS application.


Kudos by the way to the Dynamo team to having done a great job on the Dynamo Dictionary and the new list level functionality. I look forward to future developments. It is fun to get under the hood!

What FormIt wants?

What has informally been dubbed the “SketchUp Killer“, hasn’t quite delivered up to its full potential. Certainly within our office, Trimble SketchUp users that dictate early schematic design workflow have casually rejected the threat.

The ease of modeling that the designers enjoy, frustrates those that are working further downstream. The SketchUp model cannot be used effectively and remodeling efforts undoubtedly occur. This is true the reverse direction, when the updated Revit model is imported back for further iteration within SketchUp. There is no-live linking within SketchUp or sharing of efforts. Even materials do not talk to one another.



SketchUp design model


SketchUp model linked into Revit – where did the materials go?


Linked SketchUp model does not cut in plan?


So why is SketchUp still a market force? It has been around a grand old time, over ten years in my career, which in software terms is a lifetime. It has had multiple development cycles and the financial support of Google. What makes is so compelling is the ease of use, even my father of 79 years is a keen user! However things shift and newer kids on the block want in. My 10 year old son every morning fires up Autodesk FormIt on my aging iPad. Tweaks and builds his fantasy baseball stadium at Rat Field. Even his 6 year old younger brother is competing, modelling his police cars and bus stops, although scale can still be somewhat of an issue!

For me, I want an intuitive and efficient workflow that really talks to Revit, our tool for documenting and modelling our designs. It should maintain parametric data and interoperability, not wasting effort in remodeling or sharing assets. If this can be done on a mobile, non complex application that can create forms that make designers happy, we have hit the jackpot. We may not be there yet, but not having to think of file format or be restricted by what the tool can and cannot do, is something we should ask software developers in the AEC industry to produce.

I think FormIt has potential. I really do. It is no Rhino for modeling or SketchUp for intuition and speed, but it does provide a cheaper, nimble, efficient, mobile, analytical, iterative (combined with Dynamo Studio) platform that in someway can inter-operate with Revit. It is relatively young and needs some work to be a mainstream architectural application. For that to occur, FormIt needs to seamlessly work with its mature uncle: linking between one another and sharing the same resources.


A potential FormIt workflow to Revit?

I don’t think it is too much to ask to have our multi-generational teams work in the same sandbox, never having to remodel, work in isolation or be dictated to by the tool’s functionality.