Revolt of the Revit Ribbon Renegades

Revolt of the Revit Ribbon Renegades

I hesitate to cover this subject because my understanding of Revit is very close to nil. I’m going to cover it anyway, because it relates to the Does Autodesk Listen? theme that I’ve discussed here in the past.

Revit 2010 has appeared with a Ribbon interface, and many users don’t like it. Some well-known Revit users, including bloggers, former Autodesk employees and Revit founders, have railed against the new release. Autodesk has been accused of ignoring long-standing wishlists and pre-release feedback. Autodesk has (it is said) wasted precious development resources by introducing a badly-designed and poorly-performing pretty new face at the expense of solving long-standing and much-requested improvements to the core product. The main complaint appears to be that Autodesk didn’t do much with this release, other than introducing an interface that doesn’t work as well as the one it replaced.

All this will sound very familiar to AutoCAD users, but there are some significant differences between the AutoCAD 2009 situation and the Revit 2010 one. First, I think it’s fair to say (even based on my limited knowledge) that the old Revit interface was in some need of attention. It was basically an old NT-style interface that had been left neglected for some years. Revit users may have been mostly happy with the way the interface worked, but the way it looked must have been a bit embarrasing, especially for Autodesk. Second, AutoCAD 2009 left the old interface in place for those people who wanted or needed to use it; with Revit 2010 it’s Ribbon or nothing. There is no transition strategy.

I’m not qualified to make a judgement on whether the complaints about the usability of the new interface are justified. I should also mention that not every Revit user hates everything about Revit 2010, and there are positive comments from some about the new interface. However, I can say that the anti-Ribbon arguments have been expressed not only passionately, but also intelligently and persuasively. It’s not so much a matter of “change is bad”, but more “this change is bad, and here’s why”. Here are some examples:

One More Thing…
One More One More Thing…
A Well-Intentioned Road Paving
Don’t Confuse Change with Progress
Autodesk Bob
Humpty Dumpty Sat On a A Wall…
Dear Autodesk
Revit 2011 – the most significant release EVER

Some of the threads from the AUGI Revit – Out There forum (requires free AUGI membership sign-up to view):

Revit 2010 – New Ribbon UI
1st impression from Revit 2010…
What is your official opinion of 2010?
Who do we complain to?
2009 vs. 2010
Revit evangelist fatigue

Finally, here’s a Dilbert cartoon that was somebody else thought was a relevant comment on this situation.

In a future post, I’ll discuss how Autodesk’s Revit people have reacted to this criticism. Is Autodesk listening? Is it issuing corporate feelgood drivel? Is it circling the wagons and shooting the messengers as they ride by? Or is it doing all of the above?


  1. David Kozina

    I will be the first to admit that I am a Revit novice.
    There are some things I really like about Revit from the little I’ve used it, but there is a lot I’m dissapointed in, mostly the difficulty in getting the hardcopy output I’m looking for – (seems to be very mediocre quality ‘drafting’ to my eyes) – but perhaps this has something to do with my first statement above.
    At any rate, there are two things I’m especially not keen on – and they are related, IMO:
    1- Revit has no ability to save back to older versions. You can bring a project forward to a newer version, but not the means to save back. So if your client is using Revit 2009, you had better also be using 2009, in order to be able to collaborate. If you try to use a 2010 product, you will likely be starting over.
    I find this to be rather bothersome, personally, but what do I know about the difficulties of creating the means for ‘legacy’ data translation? Just because Autodesk can do it for AutoCAD means nothing, I suppose; apparently Revit is one tough cookie for Autodesk to figure out. But this leads to issue #2:
    2- If you have to work on projects of differing versions, you also **need to become proficient with the differing GUIs of Revit**. So that just when one finally gets somewhat accustomed to Revit 2009 (klunky interface though it may have), along comes 2010 with a completely different look and feel. To me, this is very callous behavior directed towards the user, and makes it all the more difficult to become proficient in using the software, let alone cost effective for any company or individual who may be trying to adopt it into their workflow. And this says nothing of creating custom detail libraries or ‘families’, for those, one had better create them in the earlier version, or they will have to be redone if needed for an older version. And, looking ahead a bit – if you happen to hire someone that *is* proficient with 2010, or 2011, and they have to work on a project using version 2009, that individual may very well be floundering about the (klunky) interface looking for tools that may not even exist in the older version, adding to *their* frustration. This also does not seem very cost effective for the offices who are trying to adopt the software.
    Just some thoughts. YMMV.

  2. David, thank you for your perspective. Point 1 applies to AutoCAD-based verticals, too. Try working on a Civil 3D 2009 file in Civil 3D 2008 and you’ll be out of luck, even though they both nominally use the 2007 DWG format. This is one of many things I’ve intended to cover here but haven’t yet found the time for.

  3. Revit user since version 8

    by now it’s obvious that revit will need
    both the classic UI and the ribbon supported..
    but the last thing revit needs is to be
    backward compatible. whether it’s a client
    or an architect using revit- everyone needs
    to be on the same page- that’s what BIM is
    all about..

  4. Dave

    I was annoyed at the ribbon when 2010 was installed… but now that I have been using it for a year IMHO i find it faster and easier to navigate. The “Where the …. is that button” moment i’m sure every 2010 user has have all but gone for me.

    I found the ribbon daunting at first, but now its very intuitive. eg.
    Every thing i need to model the building is all under Home. When i need to detail Annotate has it all.

    If you stick with it and learn to live with it its not so bad.
    else have a cup of concrete and harden up. 😛


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