PDF markup does not have to cost a bomb. Bluebeam’s new cut down version of Revu is a great way to redline CAD docs wherever you go.
In just a few years, the iPad has become one of the most influential technologies in the AEC market. iTunes has become a hotbed for apps that enable viewing, editing and collaborating with CAD data.
Autodesk and Bentley are leading the pack, but there are also several smaller firms getting in on the action. There is not an ‘app for everything’ AEC quite yet, but the iPad looks certain to play an increasingly important role in the AEC sector in the coming years. The portability of the device is perfect for on-site work and most of the apps are free or very low cost.
Drawing markup is the latest AEC process to get the iPad treatment. Bluebeam has developed a cut down version of its AEC-focussed Windows PDF markup and collaboration tool, Bluebeam Revu.
The Revu iPad interface
At first glance the interface of Revu iPad is a little bewildering — a collection of icons, with the markup tools hidden away on the righthand side of the display. Once you become familiar though it is actually quite intuitive. The icons are a little on the small side, but this helps maximise the viewable area for drawings on the iPad’s modest 9.7-inch screen. An iPad stylus can help those whose fingers are less than elegant.
There is a whole suite of redlining tools, from clouds and callouts, to text notes and lines. All of these tools are fully customisable by colour, fill, opacity, line type and font. Meta-data can also be added for more detailed comments. Editing a markup is easy. Simply ‘tap and hold’ to bring up its context menu, then change any of the attributes. Redlines can also be copy/pasted and custom styles saved in a tool chest.
Libraries of custom markups can be shared with other users, by exporting and importing a ‘BTX’ file. This makes it easy to push out corporate standards to multiple users. There is full compatibility here between the Windows and iPad versions.
Marking up with a finger is quite a natural process, though at times, our first generation iPad was quite sluggish. We recommend using a second or third-gen iPad for best results.
In addition to standard markups, it is possible to drop images into the PDF. These can be selected from the iPad’s photo library or taken directly with the built-in camera. This is great way of communicating site issues, such as a clash. It does not even have to be a physical object — a quick hand drawn sketch is sometimes the easiest way to communicate a proposed amendment.
Working with PDF files
In developing Revu iPad, Bluebeam has acknowledged that users do not always have access to 3G or WiFi, so files can be retrieved online or offline.
There are a number of ways to get PDFs into the app — via email, dropbox, box, WebDAV or iTunes. From the iPad’s email client, simply tap and hold, then ‘open with’ Revu iPad. Dropbox or box accounts can be registered with the app so files that are stored in the cloud can be accessed directly through the Revu iPad interface.
Like most iPad apps, Revu iPad can only open one file at a time, but handy tabs at the top of the drawing window make it easy to switch between recently opened documents.
Files can also be assigned to custom categories, such as by project, so it is easy to bring order to the long list of locally cached files displayed in the ‘file access’ tab.
Revu iPad can also integrate with Bluebeam Studio so multiple users can collaborate in real time on the same PDF via the cloud. Each client caches the file locally and as redlines are added, they automatically update on all devices in real time. There is a chat facility to aid communication between all parties and the system stores a log of each collaborative session.
Collaborative sessions can be invoked from both the Windows and iPad apps. Simply upload the file to Bluebeam Studio and invite participants by email.
Every time a markup is made, it records the author, date, time, status and any comments. All of this information can be accessed in the ‘markup list’, which pulls up from the bottom of the screen. Markups can be ordered and filtered by category. Tap a markup in the list and it jumps to its location in the drawing. Tap a markup in the document and it highlights it in the list.
Bluebeam Revu iPad is a great little tool for redlining PDFs. Running on the iPad it is highly portable, so great for site work, and at £6.99 it is an absolute steal.
The app does have its limitations — there are no measurement tools, digital signatures or support for 3D PDFs. There is also no way to insert, delete or reorder multi-page PDFs.
But the beauty of Revu iPad goes beyond its core viewing and redlining capabilities. It is just one part of a whole ecosystem of PDF creation, markup and editing tools. When used in conjunction with Bluebeam Studio it becomes a powerful real time collaboration tool.