Glossary January 24, 2022

What is Navisworks? Differences Between Revit and Navisworks.

Table of Contents

Introduction to Navisworks

Autodesk has been around for a while now and has established itself as one of the top BIM/CAD software providers on the market. There are plenty of different Autodesk solutions right now, each with its use case and a target audience, but the one we’ll be looking at the most is Navisworks.

After that, the logical question would be, “What is Navisworks?”. As with most solutions on the CAD/BIM market, Navisworks is a software that offers a long list of extremely specific features, but its primary purpose is project review – it can open various types of 3D models made with different software appliances and combine them to make it easier to check for clashes and other potential problems down the line.

While Autodesk currently owns Navisworks, it was originally created by the developer that went with the same name – NavisWorks – and was a subsidiary of Lightwork Design. While it was technically acquisitioned by Autodesk back in 2007, only the 2016 version of Navisworks is considered the first “stable” release version.

Features of Navisworks

Another important factor that needs to be brought up to answer the question “What is Navisworks?” correctly is the nature of the software in question. While Navisworks is a great solution on its own, it is at its best when used in tandem with various 3D design platforms and packages – AutoCAD, Revit, and so on.

This makes Navisworks a vital part of collaboration inside of pretty much any CAD or BIM project since it can not only combine and open various 3D models but also review them, run clash detection, measure various parameters, and so on. Navisworks’ capabilities can also be expanded using a system of plugins, which allows for the addition of even more specific features like time simulation, interference detection, and photorealistic rendering.

Navisworks – packages and file types

Navisworks can provide a lot of features like clash detection, construction simulation, project scheduling, and more – but some of the more specific features would cost you more than the rest. Navisworks is provided in three different versions:

  • Navisworks Freedom – The most basic version of the three, offering the most basic functionality of viewing Navisworks’ own NWD files. The biggest advantage of this one is that it’s completely free.
  • Navisworks Simulate – A version of Navisworks that is considered a middle ground of sorts. It is cheaper than the full version but does not have some of the more complicated (and often necessary) features, such as native clash detection capability.
  • Navisworks Manage – The complete version of Navisworks that offers the entire feature set of the software. It costs the most out of all the versions while also featuring the most extensive feature list.

We’ve also talked about how Navisworks supports many different file types, which is completely true, but it does not mean that Navisworks does not have its own file types. As such, Navisworks has several different file formats that are proprietary (just like pretty much any other Autodesk product), such as:

  • .NWF file format – A standard Navisworks project file, mostly used to store a current project of yours; also contains links to all of the different models that it is connected to and working with.
  • .NWD file format – A type of file that you should use when coordinating with other trades; this is a bit more simple of a file format, and it does not have any of the links to the original models like .NWF does.
  • .NWC file format – A Navisworks cache file, created automatically whenever you’re opening a native Navisworks file; it contains the current project’s snapshot.

Benefits of Navisworks

Navisworks is a handy tool for project review – and here’s a bit more detailed list of all the benefits that Navisworks can provide:

  • Easy navigation inside of a model, with customizable viewpoints, set search feature, and so on.
  • The ability to simulate the construction process allows all participants to be aware of the potential problems on-site.
  • Overall ease of use for Navisworks as a whole, with the ability to view Navisworks’ own .NWD files with absolutely no cost attached whatsoever.
  • Ability to use specific settings and parameters in other projects thanks to Navisworks’ exporting capabilities.
  • Clash detection as a feature saves a lot of time for stakeholders in the construction process. It allows one to see the potential problems as early as the design stage when it is much easier to fix such mistakes than fixing something as the building is being constructed.
  • The overall workflow is also much more manageable with Navisworks since it allows for an even better experience for collaborations. This is possible due to the integration between Navisworks and Autodesk’s own BIM 360 Glue software – it enables users to share all kinds of information through the cloud, including Navisworks project files.

Navisworks and BIM

Since BIM seems to be growing rapidly in recent years, it’s not uncommon for people to ask a relatively simple question: Can Navisworks be used for BIM projects? The short answer is yes. The long answer would require a bit of explanation.

As we’ve mentioned before, the primary purpose of Navisworks is to act as a project review tool. This feature alone makes Navisworks a pretty much perfect fit for any BIM project out there since coordination and collaboration are valued extremely high on the list of priorities when it comes to BIM.

The ability of Navisworks to aggregate multiple different model types into one single project to act as a singular source of truth is more or less the textbook definition of BIM. The addition of easy navigation for your BIM Navisworks models is also a massive advantage from a single standpoint of user-friendliness and simplicity.

However, that’s not the entire argument, either. We’ve mentioned before that Navisworks has more sophisticated features as an exclusive to Navisworks Manage – the “full” version of the software. One such feature is clash detection – an essential feature for BIM since it leverages intelligence about different models to resolve potential problems on the design stage.

Other BIM Navisworks advantages are scheduling, 3D animations, fly-throughs and overviews, compatibility with IFC models (ISO 19650 standard), and more. These factors should make it pretty obvious how beneficial it is to use Navisworks for your BIM projects.

Navisworks vs Revit

Another rather popular question that gets associated with the topic of Navisworks is the matter of comparison to other software in the field. A good example of that is the “Navisworks vs Revit” topic – even though it should not be that big of a topic in the first place.

The truth is that solutions like Navisworks and Revit cannot be compared directly since they have a somewhat different purpose, and only some of their features are relatively similar. In reality, Navisworks and Revit are often used as complementary software for each other – since it’s not uncommon for projects to use multiple different software appliances in the first place.

To sum it up – Revit is a 3D modeling software, and Navisworks is a project review software. The former is used to generate 3D models for various purposes and provide documents. In contrast, the latter takes 3D models from multiple sources and combines them to check for potential issues.

And these two pieces of software are quite good at complimenting each other, too. For example, while Navisworks cannot create models and designs from scratch as Revit does – it is capable of running clash detection, making the compatibility problems for Revit models appear far less than usual. And, of course, both of these software services are used for BIM projects – even if their purposes are different.


Navisworks is a rather helpful software for many different reasons, with the main one being project review. It can work with all kinds of software types, run clash detection and construction simulation, and contribute to a BIM project in several ways. All in all, this article should be a rather convincing answer to why Navisworks is such a great software.

About the author
James Ocean

BIM/VDC Specialist. James Ocean is Head of BIMspiration at Revizto and keeps everything moving onwards and upwards. From supporting and teaching our internal team as well as our clients, James shows us the ins-and-outs and how to best leverage Revizto to maximize workflows, cut costs, and get all types of projects through the finish line.

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What is Navisworks? Navisworks vs. Revit Navisworks is not your regular 3D modelling solution like AutoCAD or Revit – and there’s quite a lot of confusion when it comes to the actual purpose of Navisworks. The truth is that Navisworks is a project review software that is just as useful as Revit or some other 3D modelling software – and in this article, we’ll try and explain how useful it is. 2022-01-24
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