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Introducing FormIt 2021.3

by Josh Goldstein 1 year ago

Greetings, FormIt fans! We hope everyone is well.

2020 marches on, but we've got an amazing FormIt update that should brighten your day: Introducing FormIt 2021.3.

Under the hood, FormIt 2021.3 is actually a major release, known internally as v20, and brings with it incredible performance improvements as well as a host of new features and enhancements.

Read on for the details, or jump right in and get the update now for WindowsWeb, or iPadOS

Update October 29, 2020: FormIt for Windows customers will notice FormIt 2021.4 is now available, which addresses Dynamo crashing when FormIt 2021.3 was installed with an older FormIt version present. 


Performance Improvements: The Fastest FormIt Ever

A major focus for this update was improving the performance and responsiveness of FormIt across the board, especially for detailed or high-polygon models. Power users rejoice!

These performance improvements are most drastic in FormIt for Windows, which can harness desktop-only visualization techniques and hardware for extra gains. At the same time, we also made general optimizations and improvements which will be noticeable in all FormIt platforms.

In FormIt for Windows, we've moved many calculations to the graphics processor, so machines with faster GPUs will see even better performance. Note that different FormIt models will benefit differently from our various optimizations, so your experience may vary. But generally, we're proud to announce these baseline performance improvements:

We also improved certain cases and large operations that would previously cause FormIt to hang for several minutes. These operations now take seconds, so you may see 100x or better performance in some scenarios!

Here's a short teaser comparing the performance of FormIt 2021.3 to 2021.2 with a model containing over a million lines:

We think you'll be impressed! Going forward, we have more work to do here. A handful of features, like shadows and silhouettes, haven't yet been optimized. As before, it's best to keep silhouettes and shadows off while editing. These are challenging features to optimize, so bear with us as we continue to improve!

New Location Data: Terrain

As requested by our fans, we've added the ability to import terrain, so you can reference the three-dimensional context data you need to design a building on a topologically-active site.

When using the Set Location dialog to import satellite imagery, you'll also get terrain:

After importing, you can view the terrain by toggling the Terrain layer in the Layers panel:

Terrain imports as a Mesh, but can be converted to a solid for cut operations as you modify your site. Learn more about terrain.

FormIt + Dynamo: Multiple BakeToFormIt Node Support

FormIt now supports multiple BakeToFormIt nodes in Dynamo graphs, and each BakeToFormIt node now corresponds to an individual sub-Group in FormIt, unlocking powerful new workflows. (FormIt for Windows only)

To illustrate, here's a graph that uses simple roof planes in FormIt to drive the shape of an entire enclosed building. Individual BakeToFormIt nodes are used for each of the distinct building components:

Using sub-Groups as BakeToFormIt geometry containers unlocks a critical workflow: painting the individual results of Dynamo graphs with materials that persist between graph runs.

In this example, we're cycling between different FormIt roof plane geometry options (changing the entire building shape), and between each Dynamo run, the sub-Groups maintain their materials while the geometry inside is refreshed:

Underpinning these changes is a brand-new BakeToFormIt node, so you'll need to replace the old BakeToFormIt node in your existing graphs with the new one to take advantage of these improvements. 

A small bonus of rebuilding the node is that, as requested by customers, it now outputs a list of the geometry it's sending to FormIt, instead of null:

You might notice some new visuals - like the "Renamed" badge - in Dynamo. That's because we updated to Dynamo 2.8 with this release as well. FormIt previously used Dynamo 2.5, so you'll get improvements from 2.6 and 2.7, too.


FormIt + Dynamo: Nested Graphs

Thanks to the improvements outlined above, we took FormIt + Dynamo workflows even further, by allowing the geometric output of one graph to be used as the selection input for another graph. (FormIt for Windows only)

For a simple demonstration (which you can download to try it yourself), here's the built-in Storefront/Curtainwall sample using the glazing sub-Group from the building as the input, to generate mullions building-wide. Bonus: This sample's ability to work on multiple glass planes at once is also new in this update.

Of course, this could be anything: a programming study on the generated floor plate, or new geometry that follows a generated edge from the building. The possibilities are endless!

Using Groups for the SelectFromFormIt node is a great way to ensure that selection-based graphs always get the latest available geometry. In this case, if the building shape changes, you can update the mullions to match the new glass shape by simply selecting the mullion Group and clicking Run in the Properties panel.

Combined with FormIt's vast existing (and new!) capabilities, you can use Dynamo to create and flex an entirely parametric design - complete with materials and nested logic - in the rich context of a powerful conceptual modeler:

Amazing! Try it out, and supercharge your design workflows with FormIt + Dynamo.


BIM 360 Docs Permissions Support

If you're working in collaborative projects in BIM 360 Docs, we've got good news: FormIt now properly supports the full suite of BIM 360 permissions levels, so you'll see more consistent messaging and behavior when accessing projects and folders where you're not an admin (FormIt for Web and Windows only):


New Tools and Tool Options

We've added some new tools as requested by our fans, and also added the ability to configure tools on-the-fly for maximum 3D sketching efficiency. (FormIt for Windows only)

Offset Line Tool

Whether you're tracing walls on a floor plan, or sketching a building shape or interior program, you'll love the new Offset Line tool. Built on the existing Line tool, Offset Line adds an automatic offset (left, center, or right) and creates a surface as you draw, which gets automatically cleaned up when self-intersecting so you can easily extrude it later:

To configure the tool, hit the Tab key while drawing, and you'll see another new feature: Tool Options.

Tool Options is available for select tools, which we'll cover next. For Offset Line in particular, Tool Options allows you to adjust the offset direction and width, and these options can be changed in realtime at any point while the tool is active.

Polygon Tool

You can now draw a polygon with as many sides as you desire, with the new Polygon tool. Here, Tool Options allows you to choose the side count and see the result in realtime:

Adjustable Primitives

The venerable primitive shapes have also been slightly updated this release, thanks to Tool Options. Now, you can choose the dimensions for the various primitives, and adjust them in realtime before you place them:

Save Material Maps

Ever wanted to save and modify the texture, bump map, or cutout map from a material? Now you can! The Material Editor dialog in FormIt for Windows now offers a Save icon for each map slot, so you can save the material map to the local machine for editing. (FormIt for Windows only)


Existing Tool Improvements

Based on customer feedback, we improved a couple of existing tools with new or improved functionality.

Adjust Material Placement On Curved Surfaces

When moving, scaling, mirroring, or rotating a material on curved surfaces, we eliminated the seams that would show up between smoothed edges. It's useful and even fun to watch:

Arc Tool Chord Length

We also added the ability to specify the chord length when drawing 3-point arcs.


Meshes: Levels Support

We've added the ability to apply Levels to Meshes, so you can now calculate building areas for imported geometry, and anything generated by Dynamo.

Meshes: Automatic Flattening When Converted to Objects

FormIt now automatically flattens nearly-planar faces when converting between Meshes and Objects. This is incredibly useful in the FormIt context, but also prevents unexpected faceting/triangulation when exporting Meshes to a different file format, or sending the geometric data to another feature like Dynamo or Solar Analysis.


Inferencing and Snapping Improvements

We've made some changes to improve inferencing and snapping in the FormIt canvas. You'll likely notice these changes immediately, so here's what the new graphics mean:

Hover Snaps

You'll notice new hover snaps (red dots) as you hover across geometry, which are designed to quickly reveal important points for snapping:

  • Hovering over an edge, you'll see the endpoints and the midpoint:

  • Hovering over arcsand circles, you'll see the endpoints and the centerpoint:

  • Hovering over a face, you'll see the face centroid:


Hover Inferences

In drawing tools, when you place points or hover over a vertex or edge for a couple of seconds, you'll see new graphics that reveal the location of important axes and datums, so you can more easily inference and snap to them:

  • Hovering over a vertex, you'll see the local axes system axes at that point:

  • Hovering over an edge, you'll see an axis that extends along the edge direction:

  • Combined, you can generate many inference lines and find intersections between them:

Clear All Inferences

In the event that you generate too many inference lines, or there are inference lines on the screen that aren't useful anymore, you can now clear all inferences with Shift + Space (FormIt for Web and Windows only), or via the Settings menu (FormIt for Windows only):


Cursor Improvements

Cursors may seem like a small detail, but in FormIt for Web and Windows, cursor icons are critical to communicate what tool you're in, or what operation is about to happen to the selected geometry. With this update, we've improved the reliability of the cursor state, so the correct cursor is displayed at the correct time.


Other Enhancements

As always, we strive to tackle a series of smaller customer-requested features and improvements with each release:

All Platforms

  • When importing images, including Satellite Imagery, a new Layer is automatically created and named based on the image name.

FormIt for Windows

  • Startup time is significantly improved, and FormIt no longer display a black command window to check graphics card compatibility when launching.

  • Scenes panel

    • The active Scene Properties no longer disappears when double-clicking a Scene to activate it.

    • "Visual Styles" and "Visual Environment" have been combined into one option to match other FormIt platforms.

  • Export dialog

    • FormIt now remembers the "All" vs. "Visible" vs. "Selected" option for the duration of the session.

    • You can now specify "Use World Coordinate System" when using Export Selected, to fix issues with coordinate systems between FormIt and other apps like Revit.

  • For plugin developers, we added the ability to write plugins in ES6 when using an async/await code structure. See an example.

FormIt for Web

  • Tool interfaces and grips are easier to click and modify.

  • For plugin developers, we added the ability to write plugins in ES6 when using an async/await code structure. See an example.

Service Updates

We also made some changes and improvements to the services that power some FormIt features:

  • Licensing

    • We've updated to the Autodesk-standard licensing system on all FormIt platforms.

      • If you're running a trial, your current trial will end, but you can start a new one. Enjoy the extra time on us!
  • Collaboration

    • We fixed an issue where the Collaboration service could provide an invalid URL when sharing a Collaboration session with others.


Bugs happen, and we include important bug fixes with each FormIt release. We've highlighted a few of the big ones here, but you can read the entire list in the release notes for WindowsWeb, and iPadOS.

  • We fixed a crash in FormIt for Windows that could occur after startup depending on certain BIM 360 Docs account configurations. 

  • We fixed a hang in FormIt for Web when opening certain files.

  • We fixed an issue where signing into/out of FormIt for Windows would unexpectedly impact the sign-in state of other Autodesk apps.

  • We fixed an issue that prevented the SelectFromFormIt node from working properly on some machines with certain software installed.

  • We fixed issues where painting a standalone face or a Mesh with a transparent material would result in the geometry losing its edges unexpectedly.

    • Note that FormIt for Web and iPad only received a partial fix for this due to OpenGL API limitations. Take a look at the release notes for more information.
  • We fixed issues where painting curved surfaces would result in seams or unexpected mirroring of the texture.

  • We fixed an issue in FormIt for Windows where .png textures would appear with unexpected artifacts in the 2D preview when the .png was saved with transparency.

  • We fixed several issues with Drag Face (extrude) on multiple faces resulting in unexpected or invalid geometry.

  • We fixed issues where the Scale and Offset Face tools could result in invalid or unexpected geometry.

  • We fixed issues where exporting .sat would result in an invalid file, or would produce geometry that was inside-out when it contained mirrored FormIt Groups (which could impact Dynamo workflows, too). 


Up Next

We hope you love the updates in FormIt 2021.3. Let us know what you think by posting on the FormIt forums with questions or comments, or on the IdeaStation for feature requests.

This winter, our focus will be building exciting new features for Global Launch in the spring of 2021. Get excited for new and powerful workflows between FormIt and Revit, as well as continued improvements between FormIt and Dynamo, and much more. 

Stay tuned for more updates! Until then, be well.

The FormIt Team