Nested Annotation Symbols 101

Over the years, I’ve seen some interesting Revit content. One of the doozies though always seems to be the use of nested annotations and for whatever reason, these weird and wonderful annotation solutions always seem to be in electrical families.

The idea of nesting an annotation symbol in a 3D family is so you can present both a “real life” display for coordination purposes and a symbolic representation for your drawings.

There is no need to get creative with visibility controls

At their most basic level, nested annotations should be controlled by the coarse/medium fine visibility settings.

Simply select the nested annotation in the 3D family, click the visibility/graphics ovverides button in the properties dialogue and then choose when you want the symbol to appear. Generally at fine mode the symbol would be switched off, coarse and medium you should follow your company standards. As the detail level of the view changes, the visibility of the symbol follows suit.

I’m not here to stifle creativity, far from it. But if you’re setting up families and you feel like you’re having to come up with creative solutions for simple things like the display of symbols, chances are you’re doing it wrong.

Yes/No check boxes instead of detail level. Just don’t do it.

In the above example, the family has an instance based Yes/No visibility parameter. This is painful for not only the the end user to work with, but could you imagine giving a model configured this way to an architect and then explaining to them if they need to coordinate on ceiling equipment they need to turn off a series of instance parameters to do so? Yeah nah.

Maybe the more frustrating thing about this particular example is that the 3D components of the family are not controlled at various detail levels either. If you have the symbol on, both the 3D and 2D content is visible all the time which in turn results in your graphical display on drawing to get a bit weird.

Take this example below, how will a contractor on site be able to tell what this even is once printed as a hard copy?

Unfortunately there is no way to be nice or beat around the bush about this one. Just use the provided built in detail level controls in your families. It’s not even difficult to use!

That old annotation orientation chestnut

As a hydraulic guy, I’m rather jealous of the maintain annotation orientation option that electrical and comms families have so I’m sure you understand when I get a little upset with some content creator’s solution to symbology display in families that need to be oriented differently depending on the particular scenario.

The brilliance of this option is that regardless of the rotation of your family, the symbol will display correctly. Need a power outlet on a wall, in a floor box or on the ceiling? No need for multiple families or content creation trickery! Just tick the box!

Upside down, back to front, sideways, no matter what you’ve got the annotation will always appear correctly!

Movable annotation symbols

I’ve talked about movable annotation symbols a long long time ago, and let’s face it, they’re pretty great. But they have a time and place; usually for power and data outlets and the like.

Where they should never be used are things where the symbol is normally shown at actual object size, and is in fact a detail item, not an annotation symbol. Objects such as pits, lights, air terminals.. that’s all a big no for movable annotation symbols.

Why though? Well sit down, pour yourself a drink, grab some popcorn and let me tell you about a story of terrible coordination..

Flip it round

The last common problem that I have seen with content is the use of flipped and mirrored family symbol variations. This particular example is my favourite as well, you see the symbol is supposed to flip by turning on/off the alternate symbol.. but it looks like someone forgot to do that.

Forgetfulness aside, there is a method that can be used particularly for these 3D families that have consistent geometry built of a revolve.

Adding a flip in the direction it’s required will flip both the annotation symbol and the geometry, so just be careful when you use it. In the above example of the smoke detector, the flip control is no drama but in the instance of something such as a power outlet on a wall, using the flip will flip the geometry into the wall itself.

I would however ask the question, is the flip actually required on the symbol? What value does the flippable symbol add to your template? Avoid adding unnecessary complexity or configuration wherever possible in content, especially where standardisation is key. If there are options available on symbol display, then it’s not standard.

Up, Down, Up, Down.. and left and right.

I often see this in families that contain text in the symbol. Some variation of instance based yes/no visibility check boxes to show a correctly oriented symbol and text.

The example above actually relies on a combination of the left and front visibility check boxes to in turn display the correct symbol. The other more obvious variation of this solution that I’ve seen is the literal up, down, left, right parameters. Either way, it’s what we in the industry call a shemozzle.

As with most of these other creative solutions, there is actually an out of the box solution to handle the orientation of text within symbols.

The keep text readable option does just that, it keeps the text readable in line with standard drafting practices of the text being readable from the bottom or the right hand side of the page.

As you can see in the example, I have created a simple arrow family to clearly display the direction the family itself has been rotated. The symbol itself is a nested annotation with text and linework for the box.

With the annotation family correctly configured with the keep text readable tag, the text always appears correctly without introducing the possibility of human error.

Do you have any other tips on working with nested annotations in Revit families? If so post them in the comments section below

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