Sloth, the online BCF viewer

I am a vocal proponent of the BIM Collaboration Format. I think issue tracking is what is missing in the building industry, and the BCF provide a standard to do just that. In the meantime, more and more tools are supporting BCF, with the notable exception of Autodesk products, even if add-ons can fill this gap for Revit and Navisworks.

Yet, convincing people to leave their spreadsheet-based ways of working to go on BCF-based workflows still need some form of paper-based reports extracted from these BCF issues. Most of the BCF-based tools lacks this sort of reporting. In this regard, BIM Collab is the best one, and provide the ability to create PDF and Excel reports. But even BIM Collab won’t support Word documents, or the ability to use a custom template.

A while ago, I built a small utility to create Word reports from BCF files. However, this tool doesn’t support BCF 2.0, and lack the ability to create Excel reports. It was more than time to upgrade it. Instead of improving upon it, I decide to rebuild it, this time as a web-based tool, to make it more accessible.

So, I introduce you my very first “web-app”, Sloth, an online BCF reports generator.

Sloth BCF

You can upload a BCF file and see the resulting report in your browser, showing the main information in your issue: Tittle, author and creation date, along with the first screenshot in your issue.

Uploading a BCF file

Once your issues are loaded in your browser, you can export them in a report in a Word or Excel format, writing down all information found in this BCF file. Sloth use basic styles in Microsoft Word to highlight titles and dates.

Export a Word report

You can also upload a Microsoft Word template (.dotx) before exporting the Word report. Your template will be used to create this report.

Add a Word template

To read these BCF files, I am using the XbimBCF .Net library developed by the openbim.org team.  Xbim is following to the letter the BCF specification, adding every necessary check to ensure that all mandatory values are here, between the assigned limits. A few solutions don’t support these specifications, you will end up with the following error message if you try to upload a BCF file from them:

Error in the BCF file

I have tested Sloth with BCF files created in bimsync, Tekla BIMSight, BIMcollab and Solibri. I assume that BIMCollab’s Revit and Navisworks plugins will work as well, please let me know if it is not the case.

As usual, the application is open-source, licensed under the MIT Licence. You can find the source on GitHub. Please don’t hesitate to report any issues you might find, and happy reporting!

Building a Forge Web Viewer

Web-based “BIM” solutions are the last big trend, and Autodesk is among the most advanced player in this area with their API offering called Forge.

Autodesk Forge is a product from Autodesk that don’t come with a user interface. Instead, it is designed to be used through other software, and especially web-based solutions. Autodesk Forge is also the technology behind most of the web-based product of Autodesk, like BIM 360 Team, Docs or the A360 Online File Viewer.

The community around these products is growing, and new resources and samples are published on an almost daily basis.

Among them, Augusto Gonzales recently wrote a comprehensive tutorial to build a small web viewer using Autodesk Forge and ASP.NET. Being more of a .NET programmer, I took on this opportunity to learn more about this new product and build my own web-based Forge viewer.

I start by creating an ASP.NET Core MVC Web Application with this tutorial. ASP.NET Core being a web framework developed by Microsoft, you can use your C# skills to “easily” build web application.

I follow the detailed explanations from Augusto Gonzales to send my model to the Autodesk server for conversion, get an GUID back and use it to display my model in the Forge viewer. The explication on the blog are straightforward, and I won’t delve into it. I just had to made some few changes since I am using a different version of the ASP.NET Core framework.

Using technologies from Microsoft, it is easy to publish my application on Azure, the Microsoft cloud hosting solution.

I called the end-result Termite, and it is available here.

The Termite Web Viewer

By default, you see a model of my neighborhood from my last post, but you can also upload your own files. A word of caution, uploading and translating a large model can take quite some time, do not close the windows until your model is displayed on the screen.

I also add some features to the viewer. You can lock the rotation of the view by clicking on the lock icon. I also put in place a very basic section tool. To use the section, click on “Add a section” and select a face in the model to create your section.

Viewer Extensions

These features are built as extension of the Autodesk Forge Viewer, are written in JavaScript and run in the browser of the end user.

The source code is available on GitHub. Seasoned web developer will probably find a lot to correct in my application, but I hope to improve with practice

I still have a lot to learn in this area, so you might expect some other web app in the next few weeks.