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Thursday, March 23, 2017

Product Review – AVAIL Content Management System (Version 3.1)

Concept

AVAIL is the content agnostic content management solution from ArchVision that features deep Revit integration.

Installation

I downloaded AVAIL from https://www.getavail.com/Download. The download began immediately with no need to register. The installer download was 52.9 MB in size.

After agreeing to the license terms and conditions, the installation began. Installation took about five minutes.

The AVAIL "Content Browser" that provides in-app support for Revit is a separate download of 5.6 MB. Installation took just a few minutes.

AVAIL installs as a desktop application, and has its own menu item on the Windows Start menu.


Setup

Upon first launch, the application opens to a "Welcome to AVAIL" screen that features a number of shortcuts designed to help one get started. 


There's also a well-designed implementation of the application's tag-based navigation at the bottom of the Welcome screen (more on tags to follow).


Content in AVAIL is organized in "Channels". Clicking on the add channel item for the first time opens the Create Account dialog, which conveniently outlines the benefits of creating an account.


One may also create an account here: https://www.getavail.com/register

The Create Account process features a series of four screens in a Web browser.





The final step in the registration process is confirming one's email address by clicking through an automatically generated email.



After completing registration, I also received an automated email from a point of contact at AVAIL. Conveniently, the email featured a helpful link to a playlist on YouTube for getting started.



Once registered, one can create a new channel by giving it a name and description.


To add content to AVAIL, simply drag and drop folders from Windows Explorer into the application window.


When adding a folder, there are a few screens to step through. The most useful allows one to select file types to add to the library. For example, one probably doesn't want to add the TXT files from the content library, just the RFA files.




The free version of AVAIL is limited to two channels and 1,500 items per channel. There are more than 1,500 items in the delivered Revit content library, so I only added the Detail Items, Doors, Furniture, Furniture Systems, and Windows folders. Each folder took about one minute to add and synchronize.

Note: When adding content to AVAIL, it is not moved or modified. It is simply indexed into AVAIL.

In the paid versions, channels may be shared.

By default, AVAIL adds the file and subfolder names to each item as keyword tags.


These tags can be used to quickly filter content. For example, if one wanted to browse residential doors, one need only select the tags Doors and Residential. Click, click, done!


Of course, one may also manually add keyword tags, or delete them. More on that later.

One may also use the search field by typing in search terms, such as "door single".


Usage

In Revit, the AVAIL Content Browser appears as a docked panel.


When a family is selected in the AVAIL desktop app, it appears in the Content Browser.


One can then use the AVAIL Content Browser to edit the family or to load it into the project, down to the family type or types. One can then place a family type in the model by selecting the appropriate placement tool.

Alternatively, and more efficiently, one can simply drag and drop a family type from the AVAIL Content Browser into one's Revit view and the appropriate placement tool will be activated with the family type activated for placement.


One may collapse the Channels pane to free up screen space.



AVAIL isn't only for Revit RFA family files, it may also be used with RVT project files and RTE template files.


Once RVT files are added, the file extension tag may be used to quickly filter them.



Once an RVT file is selected in the AVAIL desktop application, in the AVAIL Content Browser in Revit, one can browse the content of the file, including families, system families, views (including drafting and legend views), sheets, schedules, and groups.


For example, if one wanted to insert a drafting view, one may find it in the Content Browser, right-click on it, and select Show View.


A zoom-able window is opened so one may see what the contents of the view are prior to inserting it into the active project.


To insert the view, one need only select Insert Views.



Not only is this functionality useful for copying items from other working projects, with a little planning and forethought, it would make for an excellent solution for managing standards, such as standard detail libraries. ArchVision has even productized an implementation of this with their Detail Warehouse product, which is an implementation of AVAIL with over 27,500 native Revit drafting views and AutoCAD details. And the tag and search functionality work with these items too!


AVAIL comes with a Tag and Filter Editor. It can be used to add or modify tags and filters, and to resort the tags at the bottom of the application window. In the following example, I'm changing the "Doors" item from a keyword to a Revit Category.


AVAIL is content agnostic, meaning that it may be used to manage any type of content. For example, AutoCAD DWG files.


Other examples include image files, SketchUp models, Rhino models, and Dynamo nodes. Once added to AVAIL, one can simply drag and drop these files into their native applications for usage.

Pricing

Pricing is as follows:

Basic
Free
  • Create up to 2 Channels
  • Up to 1,500 items per Channel
  • Share Channel Previews with users within your organization
  • Browse shared Channels
  • Automatic backup of tags
  • Revit Plugin support (Local Channels only)

REGISTER

Professional
User License: $100/YR
  • Create up to 100 Channels
  • Up to 50,000 items per Channel
  • Share Channels with users within your organization
  • Browse & consume shared Channels
  • Automatic backup of tags
  • Revit Plugin support (Local & Shared Channels)

BUY PROFESSIONAL VERSION

Enterprise
Call or Email for Details
sales@getavail.com
+1 859.963.1616

CONTACT US

Conclusions

Concept

The central conceit of AVAIL is to demystify the Windows file structure by replacing the folder-based system with a tag-based one. It succeeds at this remarkably well, due in no small part to the application creating tags from the folder structure automatically (if desired).

The fact that AVAIL was also conceived to work with any file format, as opposed to limiting itself to Revit families or files, cannot be overstated either. Rather than limiting itself out of the gate, AVAIL empowers creatives to employ it as they see fit with the myriad applications they use.

Grade: A+

Installation

Installation was easy. I appreciated that I didn't have to register until I actually wanted to start working with my own content. I would have liked to have had a single installer though, that would have detected that I had Revit installed and asked me if I wanted to install the Content Browser add-in as well as the desktop app.

Grade: B+

Discoverability

There were two places to discover the getting started videos, the "Welcome to AVAIL" screen and the auto-generated greeting email that I received after registering. The videos were clear, pleasant and useful.

Grade: A+

Usability

AVAIL is a professional and polished application. Clearly, a lot of careful thought went into its design and development.

Setup was easy; it doesn't get much better than drag-and-drop.

The application is speedy and responsive. Adding content was faster than other family browser / management add-ins I've tested.

The way the tags allow you to drill down quickly to the content your looking for is superlative.

Having two interfaces that work together with a hand-off, the desktop app and the Revit add-in, is... unique. Though it makes sense considering that the AVAIL desktop app is meant to be content agnostic, and Revit has very specific, yet varied, functionality.

The Content Browser panel takes up a fair amount of screen real estate in Revit, though, again, this is understandable – and a fair trade-off for the functionality.

I wasn't able to use the free version to place content in applications other than Revit.


Grade: A-

Value

I liked that the free version isn't just a limited time trial version, but can actually be used practically before committing oneself to a purchase, though admittedly on an individual basis rather than a corporate one.

As for the Professional version, priced at 100.00 USD per user per year, it's a great value.

Grade A+




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