New Tekla BIM viewer is good, but not what AEC desperately needs

BIM has enough proprietary viewers but too few interoperability options. And where are the AEC iPad viewers?

Structural engineering software vendor Tekla has introduced a free BIM viewer for windows that views building models in the IFC format and the leading proprietary formats from Autodesk and Bentley.

Tekla BIMsight is an entry into a nearly empty market category. There are only a small handful of free viewers available directly from the vendors for AEC’s proprietary formats, and only one other (Solibri Model Viewer) offers viewing in the open IFC format. 3D PDF is available, but has not caught on the way Adobe hoped when it introduced the format. All of them run on Windows or (occasionally) Macintosh, limiting their use in the field.

Tekla BIMsight runs on Windows Vista or Seven. It requires the Microsoft.NET Framework.

Tekla is the Finnish maker of 3D structural engineering software that likes to brag it was into BIM before the name existed. Tekla says BIMsight is for all stakeholders in the construction process from architects to owners, to view BIM models during all design and construction phases.

Features include:

  • Import DWG, DGN, and IFC
  • Export PDF or IFC.
  • Clash management
  • Measure
  • Markup
  • Adjust viewpoints
  • Add clip planes
  • Show/hide objects
  • Notes
  • Save As Project

By design BIMsight is simple to use. “We’re not demonstrating Tekla BIMSight. Just download it and use it,” Tekla USA’s Andy Dickey told ENR Magazine. “There are no training classes. If we have to do that, we haven’t done it right.”

Two video introductions and a download link are available at

What we think

Our initial tests confirm it is a typical, two-thumbs-up file viewer. It is simple to use, and fast enough to handle large models—and BIM models get huge fast. To use it in the field will require a Windows-based tablet with plenty of horsepower. The Windows tablet market hasn’t exactly been setting records these last few years, so we don’t expect BIMsight to get out of the office much.

A search through both Google and the iPhone/iPad App Store reveal zero general-purpose BIM viewing products, free or paid. Autodesk, Rhino and various small vendors have apps that cover a single proprietary format. Only one we found, goBIM, works on iPad. It converts Revit or Rhino models into its own proprietary format before viewing commences. But the web site is so amateurish it makes us wonder about the quality of the product.

AEC is desperate for a BIM viewer that does what BIMsight does—covering all the proprietary and open formats in a clean and simple fashion—except do it on an iPad. Until then, useful BIM model viewing in the field is still a dream.