AECbytes Product Review (April
Graphisoft Change Manager
Change Manager is a new application that
automates the process of checking for drawing
revisions across two or more complete construction
of its kind; relatively inexpensive; simple
to implement and learn; can work quickly with
drawing sets comprising thousands of files;
works with the industry-leading DWG format;
provides three different types of viewing modes
to view changes; incorporates workflow capability
allowing it to be used by an entire project
team to review the changes and assign different
revisions to different team members.
Does not work with file formats other than DWG;
works only with drawings rather than models,
making its long-term viability in a future BIM
Of all the BIM solution providers, Graphisoft
has been leading in the development of BIM solutions
for construction. In December 2004, it launched
its Virtual Construction suite comprising two
products: Graphisoft Constructor and Graphisoft
Estimator (see AECbytes
Newsletter #15). The Constructor application
includes the ArchiCAD modeling system for creating
3D construction models, a 4D sequencer for automatically
linking the construction model to the project
schedule and enabling different schedule alternatives
to be analyzed, and a connector to the Estimator
application that comes bundled with the product.
The stand-alone Estimator application includes
a model-based estimating system that extracts
quantity information from the construction model
for producing estimates quickly and accurately,
a traditional estimating system for easing the
transition from manual takeoff-based estimating
to model-based estimating, a module for dividing
the resources created by the estimating application
in production zones and for generating procurement
requirements, and a 5D reporting system that uses
the construction model as the link between cost
and time and produces cost-loaded schedules for
A couple of months ago, Graphisoft further extended
its repertoire of construction solutions with
the launch of a brand new product, Change Manager.
This is a drawing-based rather than model-based
solution, more focused on professional practice
as it is currently conducted rather than the future
BIM-oriented scenario in the AEC industry. Graphisoft
Change Manager automates the process of checking
for drawing revisions across complete construction
drawing sets, and works with all DWG files created
by AutoCAD Release 14 and above. Targeted towards
the needs of construction companies, subcontractors
and engineers, it is designed to enable members
of a project team to easily identify, communicate
and manage changes in construction document sets
that have an impact on time, cost and schedule.
Change Manager actually started out an internal
tool developed by Graphisoft for its consulting
services to the construction sector that followed
from the launch of its Virtual Construction solutions.
It had to find changes and update drawings in
documentation sets ranging from 100 to over 1000
files, and did not find any commercially available
solutions that addressed this problem. Most existing
products only compared two drawings at a time.
So Graphisoft went about developing such a tool
for its own consulting services, and subsequently
found that its usefulness warranted a version
for commercial use as well. And that is how Change
Manager was born.
Let's see how it works.
Comparing Two Document Sets
Change Manager is a relatively simply application,
and can be easily learnt by going through each
of the 13 short training videos listed in the
Startup window when the application is launched
(see Figure 1). No other training is necessary.
It basically comprises six steps: defining the
document sets to be compared; specifying how they
should be compared; viewing the comparison results;
assigning tasks to the different team members;
reviewing the status of individual assignments;
and reviewing the entire project history. The
commands for executing these six steps are located
in a Project Explorer window at the left of the
Change Manager interface. An additional utility
is provided for the administration of the underlying
database used by the application.
The Startup dialog of Change Manager, providing
links to all the training videos needed to learn
The starting point in Change Manager is to create
a project comprising the two (or more) sets of
drawing files that are to be compared, which would
be stored in separate folders on the computer
or server. A folder containing a drawing set is
referred to as a "version." Thus, every
project will need to have at least two versions.
When you create a version, you can specify its
file path to a specific folder, as well as give
it a name and a description.
The second step is to create a comparison specification
that designates which is the older and newer version,
and also defines how the comparison of the drawing
sets should take place. Figure 2 shows this specification
being created for a project with two versions
of a document set: a 95% complete version contained
in the folder CM1, and a 100% complete version
contained in the folder CM2. Once the two versions
are selected for comparison, the application quickly
scans the files in both folders and presents a
synchronized list, showing the pairs of files
that match each other by name in the same row,
and the files from the two sets that do not match
in separate rows. You can now specify exactly
what you want to compare. As shown in the lower
part of the dialog in Figure 2, three comparisons
have been specified: the entire versions at the
folder level (which will compare the matching
files in both folders); and two individual drawings
that have different names in the two sets. This
basic comparison specification can be further
fine-tuned in a Comparison Settings dialog box,
which contains various options related to model
and layout space, entity colors, text and line
styles, dimension style and dimension scale, layers,
and so on.
Figure 2 .
a comparison specification for two versions of
a document set: a 95% complete version versus
a 100% complete version.
Once the comparison specification has been created
and fine-tuned, the next step is to actually run
the comparison. The time it takes for this process
depends upon the number and complexity of the
files, and runs anywhere from seconds to minutes.
The comparison results are displayed in a tabular
form as shown in Figure 3, under different categories
of files such as New, Deleted, Changed, Unchanged,
and Unopenable. If you go to the Changed category
and select a file, different options at the top
get activated, allowing the file to be viewed,
skipped for the time being, ignored, prioritized,
or assigned to a specific team member from the
list displayed on the right.
Viewing the results of the comparison specified
in Figure 2, and assigning different revisions
to different members for review.
Viewing Modes and Workflow Capabilities
An important functionality of Change Manager,
in addition to comparing document sets, is the
workflow capability shown in Figure 3, allowing
it to be used by an entire project team to review
the changes and assign different revisions to
different members. At any point, all the tasks
currently assigned to each team member can be
checked by running the My Assignments command
from the Project Explorer. Here, in addition to
reviewing all their assignments, each team member
can also select a particular assignment and perform
various actions: view it in one of three different
viewing modes (see Figures 4 and 5), ignore it,
skip it for the time being, add notes to it, reassign
it to another team member, or delete it.
Change Manager provides three different kinds
of viewing modes to review the changes made to
a drawing. All three modes involve overlaying
the old version and the new version of the drawing
and showing the changes in different ways. The
default viewing mode is Highlight, in which different
changes are shown in different colors as specified
by the user. This viewing mode for two different
drawings, one plan and one section, is shown in
Figure 4. The
default Highlight viewing mode, shown for two
different revised drawings.
Of the other two drawing modes, the Slider allows
you to drag a horizontal or vertical slider bar
across the image to see each of the two overlaid
drawings, while Reveal offsets the old drawing
and allows you to adjust the offset distance as
well as the transparency so that you can see the
old and the new juxtaposed against each other.
Both these viewing modes for the same section
drawing are shown in Figure 5, at the top and
the bottom respectively. Should comments or questions
arise related to any changes, Change Manager provides
a tool for adding a cloud and associating a comment
with it, as shown in the middle image of Figure
5. This cloud can then be reassigned as a new
task to another team member.
The Slider and Reveal viewing modes for the same
drawing, shown at the top and bottom respectively.
The middle image shows a cloud being added in
the Slider viewing mode, and a note being associated
with the cloud.
In all the viewing modes, basic navigation tools
are available to zoom in and out, scroll, and
return to the original view which fits the entire
drawing on the screen. Also, a Layers option allows
you to turn the visibility of specific layers
on and off in the view. At any point, you can
do a screen capture of a portion of a view to
use in reports, email, and so on.
Rounding off the capabilities of Change Manager
are the Review Assignments and the History commands.
Review Assignments allows all the assignments
of each individual team member to be viewed to
see their current status, as well as other information
such as the date they were assigned, who they
were assigned by, and the priority they were given.
To know what happened to every assignment throughout
the history of the project, you would use the
History command, the last one in the Project Explorer
(see Figure 6). Here, you can also view all the
notes that were associated with individual drawings
and clouds in the project.
Viewing the status of all the assignments of the
project using the History feature.
Analysis and Conclusions
Priced at $895, Change Manager is a relatively
inexpensive application that is easy to implement
and learn. It also solves a definite pain point
in current professional practice, addressing a
problem that has not been tackled before. For
any AEC professional such as a contractor, sub-contractor,
engineer, or architect who often has to compare
large document sets to find out what has been
changed, Change Manager would be an easy choice
of application to make.
The only limitation of the application at this
point is that it is restricted to the DWG file
format, but considering that the majority of the
industry is still using this format, this can
hardly be regarded as a severe handicap. Graphisoft
is working on adding PDF support, so that Change
Manager will eventually be capable of working
with both DWG and PDF files.
Looking ahead, it is pertinent to ask whether
such a tool would still be relevant some years
down the road when more of the AEC industry moves
towards creating 3D models for design and construction,
and the use of drawings would be diminished, if
not eliminated altogether. Will Graphisoft Change
Manager then evolve to support a comparison of
3D models as well, and if so, what file formats
will it support, considering that there is no
leading file format for 3D yet as there is for
2D? Or will the whole process of revisions and
changes be so much more efficient in a BIM world
that there will be no need of a "change manager"
as such? These are interesting questions, especially
as they come when Graphisoft has just announced
a new release of its flagship BIM application,
ArchiCAD 10, which should push the gaining momentum
of BIM even further in the AEC industry.
For now, however, the new Graphisoft Change Manager
is an undoubtedly useful application and should
soon find its niche among the repertoire of tools
used in the AEC industry.
About the Author
Lachmi Khemlani is founder and editor of AECbytes.
She has a Ph.D. in Architecture from UC Berkeley,
specializing in intelligent building modeling,
and writes on AEC technology. She can be reached
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