The Ribbon, Quick Access Toolbar, Keyboard Shortcuts and Snaps
Michael Anonuevo posted on December 14, 2015 |
Efficiency with Revit requires you know the interface. Or change it. Or skip it altogether with keyb...

Now that you’re familiar with the Revit Family Editor interface, let’s take a look at some more elements and tools that will make you work efficiently in Revit. They are:

  1. The ribbon
  2. The Quick Access toolbar
  3. Keyboard shortcuts
  4. Snaps

1. The Ribbon

The ribbon in the Family Editor is much simpler than the ribbon in the project environment. Depending on the family template being used, it is composed of at least six to seven tabs. Each tab is divided by panels. A panel contains buttons (tools) with functions that are related to what the panel name suggests (see Figure 1).

Figure 1. The ribbon.
Figure 1. The ribbon.

For example, any button that lets you load or import an image can be found in the Insert tab. The Insert tab is divided into panels that group the buttons by function (e.g. a DWG file can be imported into a family by clicking the Import CAD button from the Import panel as shown in Figure 2).

Figure 2. Insert > Import > Import CAD.
Figure 2. Insert > Import > Import CAD.

Ribbon Settings

There are three ways to maximize screen space when working with a small screen or a laptop. On the far right of the default ribbon configuration are two small arrows (see Figure 3).

Figure 3. Minimize ribbon arrows.
Figure 3. Minimize ribbon arrows.

These are the Minimize ribbon arrows. Clicking the small downward-facing arrow at the far right opens a drop-down list containing three different ribbon configurations, namely:

  • Minimize to Tabs
  • Minimize to Panel Titles
  • Minimize to Panel Buttons

The upward-facing arrow on the left is a toggle button that switches between the default ribbon configuration and what is chosen from the list in the downward-facing arrow.

Contextual Tab

When a component is selected, the tab switches to a contextual tab that displays options pertaining to the selected tool or component (see Figure 4).

Figure 4. Contextual tab.
Figure 4. Contextual tab.

The Options bar and the Properties palette also contain user-editable settings related to the selected component.

2. The Quick Access Toolbar

The Quick Access Toolbar, located on top of the ribbon tabs by default, is a bar where users can add button shortcuts to their most frequently used tools (see Figure 5).

Figure 5. The Quick Access Toolbar.
Figure 5. The Quick Access Toolbar.

Properly arranging them reduces mouse clicks for a faster workflow. The user’s concentration is focused on the design and creation process and not on constantly figuring out where the most frequently used tools are located.

Customizing the Quick Access Toolbar

The first thing to keep in mind is that the Quick Access Toolbar is common to the project environment and the Family Editor. They share the same content. The default tools contained in the Quick Access Toolbar are basic tools. Commonly used tools can be added and rearranged in any order. Adding a tool is accomplished by right-clicking a tool and clicking the Add to Quick Access Toolbar from the contextual menu that pops up (see Figure 6).

Figure 6. Right-clicking on top of a tool to add it to the Quick Access Toolbar.
Figure 6. Right-clicking on top of a tool to add it to the Quick Access Toolbar.

The tool is then added to the far right of the Quick Access Toolbar (see Figure 7).

Figure 7. Tools are added to the Quick Access Toolbar on the far right by default.
Figure 7. Tools are added to the Quick Access Toolbar on the far right by default.

At the far end of the Quick Access Toolbar is a drop-down arrow called the Customize Quick Access Toolbar (see Figure 8). Clicking it opens a drop-down menu containing the names of the tools currently in the Quick Access Toolbar. The check mark in front of a tool name toggles the visibility of that particular tool in the Quick Access Toolbar. Towards the bottom is the Customize Quick Access Toolbar option.

Figure 8. The Customize Quick Access Toolbar drop-down arrow.
Figure 8. The Customize Quick Access Toolbar drop-down arrow.

Clicking it opens the Customize Quick Access Toolbar dialog box where the tools can be organized or rearranged (see Figure 9).

Figure 9. The Customize Quick Access Toolbar dialog box.
Figure 9. The Customize Quick Access Toolbar dialog box.

3. Keyboard Shortcuts

Keyboard shortcuts offer a faster way of accessing tools. Here are a few things to consider:

  • Memorize the default keyboard shortcuts: Some of the tools in the Family Editor contain default keyboard shortcuts assigned by Autodesk. It will be time well spent because they don’t change when new releases of Revit come out. The following is a list of the default keyboard shortcuts.



Aligned Dimension




Cascade Windows




Create Group


Edit Witness Lines


Graphic Display Options


Keyboard Shortcuts


Match Type Properties


Mirror - Draw Axis


Mirror - Pick Axis


Model Line








Place a Component


Project Units




Reference Plane






Snap Centers


Snap Endpoints


Snap Intersections


Snap Midpoints


Snap Nearest


Snap Off


Snap Perpendicular


Snap Tangents


Split Element


Split Face




Thin Lines


Tile Windows


Trim/Extend to Corner


Visibility: Hide Element


Visibility: Isolate Element




Visibility: Reset Temp. Hide/Isolate


Visual Style: Hidden Line


Visual Style: Shaded with Edges


Visual Style: Wireframe


Zoom in Region


Zoom: All to Fit


Zoom: Previous


Note: The letters can be typed in lowercase or uppercase.

  • Know where the tools in the ribbon are located: Study the function of each tool and memorize which tab they belong to. Tools are grouped by functionality and logical order. This way, in case a keyboard shortcut for a tool is forgotten, the tool can be easily found on the ribbon. Try out all the tools and commands to see how they work. Make a list of the most frequently used tools before customizing the keyboard shortcuts.
  • The Keyboard Shortcuts Dialog Box (see Figure 10) has its own keyboard shortcut: KS.
Figure 10. The Keyboard Shortcuts dialog box.
Figure 10. The Keyboard Shortcuts dialog box.

It can also be accessed from the View tab (Windows panel > User Interface). The dialog box contains:

  1. A Search field for finding a particular command (see A, Figure 10 above)
  2. A filter drop-down menu to narrow down a search (see B, Figure 10 above)
  3. An Export button (see 3, Figure 10 above) that lets you save the keyboard shortcuts as an XML file that can be opened with a spreadsheet program and printed

Rules for assigning keyboard shortcuts:

  • Up to five unique alphanumeric keys can be assigned
  • Keyboard modifier keys (Shift, Ctrl and Alt) can be combined with one alphanumeric key
  • The Alt key must be combined with Shift and/or Ctrl
  • Reserved keys cannot be altered
  • Multiple keyboard shortcuts can be assigned for each tool, and the same shortcuts can be assigned to multiple tools

4. Snaps

Snaps are specific geometrically defined points where the cursor is pulled to when elements and components are created, modified or dimensioned. When snap points are detected, they display in magenta. The shapes give a clue as to the type of snap available at that point. When the tooltip assistance is enabled from the Options* dialog box, the type of snap is displayed along with a snap indicator as shown in the examples in Figure 11.

*(Application > Options > User Interface > Configure > Tooltip assistance)

To summarize, here are a few suggestions and important things to remember in this part of the series:

  1. To work faster in the Family Editor, understand how the tabs, panels and tools are organized.
  2. Take advantage of the Quick Access Toolbar. Add your frequently used tools here, such as the Materials button.
  3. Using keyboard shortcuts, as opposed to clicking the ribbon tools, is a matter of personal preference. However, instead of constantly maneuvering the mouse to open a tab or access a tool, consider typing in the one- or two-letter combinations. In most cases, this is faster than using the mouse. Memorize the default Revit keyboard shortcuts (e.g. TR for trim).
  4. Snaps are an integral part of any 2D or 3D program. Knowing how to use them allows you to work accurately. Revit implementation of snaps is simple and powerful yet does not interfere in modeling tasks. Experiment on how they work.

This is Part 3 in a 10-part series on Creating Loadable Revit Families. For more information, see:

  • Part 1: Classification of Revit Families
  • Part 2: The Revit Family Editor User Interface
  • Part 3: The Ribbon, Quick Access Toolbar, Keyboard Shortcuts and Snaps
  • Part 4: How to Use Work Planes in Revit
  • Part 5: How to Dimension with Revit
  • Part 6: Using Revit Draw and Modify Tools
  • Part 7.1: Modeling Basics: The Family Editor Modeling Tools
  • Part 7.2: Modeling Basics: How to Create Simple Parameters in Revit
  • Part 8: Applying Materials in Revit
  • Part 9: Introduction to Revit Conceptual Massing
  • Part 10: How to Practice Revit Family Modeling

About the Author

Michael Anonuevo currently works for YWS Design & Architecture located in Las Vegas, Nevada. He is a technical writer, BIM modeler and musician who owns and runs Founded in 2009, his website specializes in unique and highly detailed Revit families created in native Autodesk Revit Architecture geometry. Anonuevo is an Autodesk Revit Architecture Certified Professional. He is also an Autodesk beta tester for Revit Architecture. At, he regularly writes articles pertaining to Revit families. He also writes product reviews and is a contributing author at AUGIWorld, AECbytes, CAD Digest, and He is a member of AUGI, Club Revit, the UK Revit Register, the Los Angeles Revit Users Group and the Southern California Revit Users Group.

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