Built for Speed
A behind-the-scenes look with the software developers that built Revu 2019
It was an otherwise normal day for Bluebeam software engineer Brett Parsekian when a lightbulb went off in his head.
Parsekian and his team were working on a new in-app update feature as part of the Revu 2019 release. The feature allows users to receive updates on new releases and capabilities, like when a new version is ready for download.
While the development team initially built a critical component of the in-app update feature called a downloader in-house, implementing it became a challenge.
“The install file can be very large,” Parsekian said, “which makes the download more susceptible to network interruptions.”
“Being able to convince our team that we should move to a different approach was an ‘ah-ha’ moment for me,” Parsekian added.
To improve the user experience, the team would need to shift gears. “Windows has its own framework for downloading in the background, so integrating with that seemed to be better,” he explained.
What Parsekian and his team did next was remarkable, given the highly structured and scheduled nature of software development.
Facing a deadline, the team pivoted and crammed the next three days to build a prototype using the new Windows downloader. They then spent another two weeks fully implementing the downloader for the in-app update feature.
Parsekian’s “ah-ha” moment and team pivot may not seem initially significant to the typical Revu user. But the episode demonstrates the dedication and effort that Bluebeam’s software engineers often take to implement small features that ultimately make a big difference for users.
Driven by constant dialogue with users and always-evolving software innovation, Bluebeam has made several updates in the 2019 release that are designed to help users be more productive as they build some of the world’s most ambitious construction projects.
Revu 2019 will allow users to get work done faster with a new hardware-accelerated engine that uses the graphics cards in users’ computers. This will allow them to pan and zoom up to six times faster than previous versions through complex linework and markups, photos and layer-heavy documents.
To improve the speed of panning and zooming, the Bluebeam software development team implemented the Google Skia Graphics Engine, an open-source, C++ coding language graphics library.
Vincent Nguyen, one of the Bluebeam engineers involved in the rendering improvements, said using Skia played a big part in the performance enhancements of the rendering engine.
“Skia draws lines better,” Nguyen said. “Like with vector data especially, it draws lines a lot better.”
Other rendering improvements, which will come out in subsequent releases, will focus on maximising how fast Revu users will be able to work within the platform.
Measurement, quantity takeoff enhancements
Vastly enhanced measurements are another big improvement of Revu 2019, especially for users performing quantity takeoffs.
Users can now automatically set a scale with a single click before beginning their takeoff, ensuring that they have full control over the outcome. Revu will also prompt users to set a scale on a page so that step isn’t forgotten.
A big motivation for enhancing the scale of measurements with Revu 2019 was improving the accuracy.
“If all drawings were assuming a default of quarter inch per foot,” said Bluebeam software engineer Neal O’Hara, “and the user didn’t necessarily mean to do that, a lot of the effort here was to really engage the user to define scales for all pages and all viewports. And you can’t place a measurement without specifically defining what scale you want to work in. A large product of this will be much more accurate measurements.”
What’s more, with Revu 2019, setting scales can be done in several places during a workflow. The engineers involved were intentional about ensuring that 2019 allowed for such a nonlinear approach.
“There are a lot of different ways to do things depending on how you like to do it or what your needs are with measurements in Revu 2019,” O’Hara said.
Added Dylan McNamara, another Bluebeam software engineer who worked on measurements: “Having multiple ways of changing the scale makes a lot of sense, because we have a lot of places in Revu where the scale is displayed.”
Having such flexibility available is important, because Revu users don’t all use the application in the same way.
“There is a lot of variety in how people use our software,” McNamara said, “especially since we sell to such different businesses that have their own custom workflows and niche ways of doing things.”
Finally, users may notice a new and improved Measurements panel as part of the 2019 release. In particular, the UI is much cleaner and less extraneous, foregoing information that doesn’t necessarily apply to the selected measurement being made.
“A major part of the rework was also completely moving the Totals section off the panel and including it in the Properties Toolbar,” said Bluebeam software engineer Brian Hartmann.
Users from mid-size and enterprise companies will be especially excited about the new Configuration Editor in Revu 2019.
The tool allows those users to easily manage and standardise deployment of Revu across the entire organisation using a streamlined process.
Not only does the Configuration Editor allow users to deploy Revu with the same features and settings across the organisation, but the new in-app updater allows IT to have the flexibility and control to ensure everyone has access to the latest version.
“The exciting thing about that tool was it was something that was built from the ground up,” Parsekian said.
The custom nature of the Configuration Editor build made the project both challenging and fulfilling for Bluebeam’s software engineers. “It wasn’t a one-dimensional project,” Parsekian said.
With this release, the Bluebeam software development team was intentional about building the Configuration Editor UI so that it looked like the rest of Revu.
“Originally, we had laid out the tool to have a real basic UI,” Parsekian said. “And then we had the idea that we should make it look really nice. We based it off of certain elements that are already in Revu, while customising other parts of it.”
“It’s not the sexiest feature,” Parsekian said of the Configuration Editor, “but I think it will be useful for users.”
While the Bluebeam engineers said they’re proud of the enhancements featured in Revu 2019, they’re already partnering with the Bluebeam Product team to plan the next release.
“You’ll hear several people at release each year say, ‘Best release ever!’ But it can always get better,” said Hartmann, a 14-year Bluebeam veteran.
“The software industry evolves and comes out with new and better ways to do things,” Hartmann said. “It’s just the nature of computer science. You have to evolve with the technology to stay on the cutting edge.”