The genesis of SP.Writer
SP.Writer came out of a need to be able to produce shared parameters as fast as possible while I was participating in a Revit MEP implementation at KlingStubbins. The Autodesk interface for creating these is just terrible if you have to create tens or hundreds of these things. Oh, and if you made a typo or mistake, forget it. So a little brainstorming with my co-worker Phil Cunningham, who had some pretty mean VBA skills, and SP.Writer was born. Phil and I both left KlingStubbins and I continued to polish SP.Writer and post updates to my blog.
SP.Writer had a lot of problems that I didn’t really have a way of addressing. I also had grown tired of VBA and its limitations and didn’t feel like making any substantial updates with the Excel platform. Of course the macros are completely transparent and open source so anyone could have run with it if they wanted. Nobody did. Here are the problems that Sp.Writer has when working in the real world of an A/E/C firm.
- No way of collaborating amongst a large team or firm
- No way to manage permissions easily, IT has to use Windows active directory or whatever…bleh
- These types of files are always getting lost deep in folder structures of the file system
- No version control, maybe you have backups
- No good configuration tools so match existing firm standards (more on this later)
With all these shortcomings though SP.Writer, while not glamorous, was actually a big success. The Excel tool has been downloaded hundreds of times. I have receive some of the most amazing emails from users and BIM managers (many from very large well known firms) that I wish I could share because it means a lot to me how much this tool has helped firm productivity.
So I was extremely excited to give a sneak peek the other day on Twitter of what I have been working on the past couple weeks.
It’s called BIMSets, and it is an evolution of SP.Writer (the revolution will be coming later ;)). It is meant to solve most of the issues that I listed above, but it is still a work in progress and some issues still remain. Most notably is customization. This is a difficult topic as part of me would love to see a standardization around shared parameters so that the industry can move forward and not even have to use tools like this anymore. That is why it would be great to lock down the groupings, etc. but we will see where that goes. I made a short video on how it how it works in its current state.
As you can see this is a complete transition to the cloud. Importing and exporting is primarily handled though files that exist on Google Drive and the idea of the desktop is mostly removed from the workflow.
Google provides a great way to deploy add-ins for their suite of cloud office tools and I am currently in the process of having this add-in reviewed. Google is pretty big and they have a lot of add-ins to review rom developers so they have indicated this can take weeks. In the meantime I can continue to improve it while waiting for the green light from Google to deploy in there add-in system. So if you have feedback feel free to send that my way either on Twitter or in the comments below.