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Introducing FormIt 2021

by Josh Goldstein 1 year ago

Hello FormIt fans!

We hope everyone is safe, healthy, and at home. Our teams are all working remotely, but that doesn't mean we've slowed down! In fact, we're honored and excited to announce the arrival of FormIt 2021: the best FormIt yet. 

Get the update now for WindowsWeb, and iPadOS.

Here's a giant list of what's new:

Dynamo: Select from FormIt, Always Connected, Multiple Instances, and Graph Swapping

We've vastly improved the way FormIt and Dynamo work together, which has unlocked brand-new capabilities we know you'll love:
(FormIt for Windows only)

New SelectFromFormIt node:

You can now select FormIt geometry as input data for Dynamo graphs! This is a huge step forward for FormIt and Dynamo, and brings a completely new level of computational design to FormIt. Learn about the SelectFromFormIt node.


Launching Dynamo is now always-connected:

Launching the Dynamo graph editor is now always-connected to the FormIt session, which means you'll always see live-updating geometry when starting a new instance of Dynamo or when editing a Source Graph. Learn more.


Launch multiple Dynamo instances:

It's now possible to launch multiple Dynamo graph editor instances at the same time, or have the graph editor running while also executing runs from the FormIt Properties panel.


Graph swapping:

Have you ever wanted to replace an existing Dynamo graph in FormIt for another one? We've added support for just that, by properly handling File -> Open (and also File -> Save As) when editing an embedded graph in Dynamo.


New workflows powered by Dynamo

We've added new offerings to the Dynamo Samples directory, including powerful tools that use the new SelectFromFormIt node:

Array Along Path

Select FormIt objects to array, and a path in FormIt to follow, and go!

Quickly configure and customize the resulting array in-place, without re-selection. Learn more.

Railing Along Path

Select a contiguous series of FormIt edges, then generate a configurable railing along its entire length. Learn more.

3D Text

Generate 3D Text, then update it in-place for easy iteration. Learn more.


More on Dynamo

There's even more new in the world of FormIt + Dynamo that we haven't mentioned here. Read about everything else in the release notes.


Orthographic Camera

By popular request, we've added an Orthographic Camera mode to complement our Perspective Camera. You can toggle between them using the navigation menu on all platforms:


We've added new customer-requested functionality to the Materials panel (FormIt for Windows only):

Linking directories of Material content:

We've added the ability to link the FormIt Materials panel to local folders, to reveal .JPG, .PNG, and .AXM (FormIt) files directly in the panel. You read that right: FormIt files. The Materials panel can now "peek into" FormIt files to reveal their Materials, so you can quickly access Materials across files. Learn more.


Built-in samples:

The "Import from Material Library" dialog has been replaced with a new built-in Material Samples directory in the FormIt Materials panel, to give you faster, easier access to sample Materials.

These samples are hosted in the cloud, so we can update the offerings more easily. Learn more.


Materials: Updated Library/Sample Offerings

We've scrubbed the Material Library to streamline and improve our offerings, including cleaning up dark and low-quality materials, reorganizing folders, and renaming items. These are available in the Material Library dialog on Web and iPadOS (FormIt PRO only), and from the Material Samples directory on Windows. We'll also be adding more Materials for your enjoyment in the near future.

More on Materials

That's not all: we've made other enhancements to FormIt Materials, including better UV mapping when painting on a surface with smooth edges (all platforms), and an improved Material Editor experience in FormIt for Windows. See the full release notes.


BIM 360 Docs: Content Library and General Improvements

We've restored support for cloud-hosted Content Libraries, now powered by BIM 360 Docs. Place content from any of your BIM 360 projects using the BIM 360 Docs section of the Content Library (FormIt for Web and Windows only; iPadOS coming soon). 

In addition, we've made improvements to the various BIM 360 Docs dialogs and interfaces, squashing bugs with formatting and text entry, and enhancing messaging. See the full release notes.


Performance: Material Texture Sharing in Groups

We've heard from customers that their FormIt models could grow unexpectedly large in file size, especially when using high-res textures for Materials across many Groups.

Previously, each Group using a particular Material would store the Material's texture data independently, causing significant file size bloat when many Groups were using the same texture. Not anymore! With this change, Material textures are stored just once, and shared between Groups. You can expect massive decreases in file sizes after saving in FormIt 2021, and a slight improvement in general performance as a result of this change. 

Note that this change has an important impact on the forward-compatibility of FormIt files: once a FormIt model is saved in FormIt 2021, it will stop displaying Materials correctly if opened in older versions of FormIt, or in unsupported Revit Add-In versions.


Other Enhancements

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

FormIt for Windows

  • Real-time color editing: Changing a Material color in the color picker dialog will now update the canvas in real-time, so you can more quickly and accurately iterate on Material colors.

  • DWG delight: You can now export to DWG format.

  • Dynamo as Meshes: Dynamo objects will now import as FormIt Meshes, for improved performance when generating complex objects.

FormIt for Web

  • Plugin parity: FormIt plugins are now supported on FormIt Web. You'll see the Plugin Manager icon on the right side, and can install plugins just like in FormIt for Windows. 

  • Skip the Tab key: you can now enter dimensions directly, without hitting Tab.

  • Content Library consistency: We've simplified the Content Library interface and experience to align better with FormIt for Windows.

All Platforms

  • What's in a name: We've adjusted the FormIt version naming to align better with other products in the Autodesk collection, so we're calling this big release FormIt 2021. We are keeping the old numeric system internally, so you'll see both names appear in the About box, and may notice it in other places. For example, in FormIt for Windows, the upgrade prompt will call this update "v19", which is the internal number for this release. We'll clean up some references to the old version in future updates.

  • Oh snap, to Mesh vertices: You can now snap to Mesh vertices, for improved accuracy when working with Meshes.

  • Section Plane on Export: FormIt Section planes are now ignored on Export, so they won't get in the way of downstream workflows.

  • Work Plane wonder: You can now disable the Group Work Plane, and in Web and Windows, you can adjust its color too.

Revit Add-In

We're actively working on improving the larger integration of FormIt + Revit, but in the interim, we've made some small enhancements to the Revit Add-In:

  • Currently supported: Revit 2020 and 2021

    • RFA files now convert into FormIt Meshes.

    • We reorganized the buttons to surface the most commonly-used tools.

    • We decreased the install size significantly.

  • No longer supported: Revit 2019 and earlier

    • Because of the Materials performance change mentioned above, opening FormIt 2021 and newer files in Revit 2019 or earlier will result in loss of Materials in Revit. 

    • We highly recommend upgrading to Revit 2020 or later.

Service Updates

Across the board, we've improved the reliability and security of all services that power FormIt. Some services were specifically improved:

  • Energy Analysis

    • We added a pre-check step that checks the model for validity before sending it to Insight.

    • We fixed a wide array of failure cases, significantly improving overall reliability.

  • Collaboration

    • We fixed issues with re-syncing after opening or importing files, as well as when executing Undo/Redo.

    • We fixed other failure cases, improving overall reliability.


We also addressed a variety of issues in FormIt 2021 on all platforms. 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 on Save Image in FormIt for iPadOS.

  • We fixed an issue where mm, cm, and inch units were not respected on import and export of some file types, including Dynamo objects.

  • We fixed an issue where the camera could get "stuck" when cutting through geometry in some cases, making zoom and pan stop responding.

  • We fixed issues with several tools, including a failure in placing Section Planes in some cases, dimensional input and widget behavior in Tilt Face, and unexpected face flipping in Flatten Face.

  • The Merge tool now uses the same tolerance as converting to and from Meshes, for consistency with which edges to delete or hide.

  • We fixed an issue where Material cutout maps were ignored in the creation of 2D Material preview thumbnails. 

  • We fixed a few issues with geometry highlighting. We have more to fix in future releases!

  • We fixed an issue where disabling or enabling Pre-Selection Highlight would not take effect until the camera was updated.

  • We fixed several interface issues in BIM 360 Docs dialogs on Web and Windows.

  • We fixed an issue where the Fillet tool and Fillet 2D plugin failed to respect the Curve and Surface faceting quality settings, in FormIt for Windows.

  • We fixed issues with material placement and scaling on FBX import and export, in FormIt for Windows.

  • We fixed an issue where HTML markup would be unexpectedly visible in some iPadOS messages.


Looking Ahead

We made some sweeping changes in FormIt 2021, and you may run into rough edges as a result. We're preparing a smaller release to polish, and address some of the known issues (as listed in the release notes for WindowsWeb, and iPadOS).

In the mean time, feel free to drop us a line on the FormIt forum. We're always looking to improve FormIt by listening to our customers. 

Looking ahead, we have big plans for FormIt, especially around performance and interoperability with Revit. Stay tuned, and stay safe!


The FormIt Team