April 14, 2014

ACA 2015 - Command Preview

As part of the Command Preview feature added to AutoCAD® 2015, AutoCAD® Architecture 2015 includes an in-command, dynamic preview of the results of grip edits, moves, fillets, chamfers, extends and trims on Walls. For example, in the 2014 release, grip editing a Wall gives you a "ghost" of effect of the grip edit on the Wall, but nothing else.
In 2015, you get a preview of the effect of the grip edit on other Walls with which the stretched Wall cleans up as well as on AEC objects anchored to that Wall (such as Doors and Windows).
You will find, however, that if you open a drawing that was created with a previous release, the Command Preview will work on the Wall and Walls with which it cleans up, but not on the anchored objects.
This can be rectified by typing AecConvertToAssocAnchor at the Command: prompt and pressing ENTER. That will convert the anchors of objects added in previous releases to associative anchors and allow them to show when Command Preview is active.

Command Preview can be turned on or off by using the COMMANDPREVIEW System Variable (0 is off, 1 is on), or, in the Options dialog, on the Selection Tab, in the Preview area in the lower right, by checking (on) or unchecking (off) the Command preview toggle.

If you want to leave Command Preview on, but not have anchored objects as part of the preview, you can use the AECENABLEASSOCANCHOR System Variable to turn this effect ON or OFF. Both AECENABLEASSOCANCHOR and COMMANDPREVIEW are saved to the registry, so a changed setting will affect all drawings.

As previously noted, the Command Preview also works with Walls and the MOVE command,
the FILLET command,
the CHAMFER command,
the EXTEND command,
and the TRIM command.
For operations where the result is the deletion of part of an existing object, the display of the deleted part will be dimmed. For the TRIM command, the cursor will also display the Erase/Delete badge (another new feature in the 2015 release).

In addition to object anchors, the preview of anchored objects also applies to leader anchors, node anchors, cell anchors and volume anchors. In AutoCAD® MEP 2015, Command Preview applies to plumbing and schematic lines. Command Preview also applies to AutoCAD objects to which the commands noted above apply.

April 10, 2014

ACA 2015 - Visual Comparison

A means to quickly get a visual comparison of geometry changes between two different versions of a drawing is now available whether or not you are working in the project management environment (Project Browser/Project Navigator), and without requiring a parallel folder structure. The comparison is only for visual changes; changing the Door Style of a Door will not be flagged if the on-screen graphics remain the same.

Outside of the drawing management environment, you can use the AECVCOMPARE command to compare an open drawing to any other file that you select using the standard file navigation dialog. (At the Command prompt, type VCOMPARE if you have AutoComplete turned on; if you include the "AEC" prefix, you will only be offered the related system variables noted below.)

If one of the drawings you are using is an earlier version and the other a later version, the command works best if you have the more recent version of the file open, and compare it to a previous version, as it will treat items in the open drawing that differ from those in the selected drawing as "new" and differing items in the selected drawing as "old".

The image below shows a sample "original" file, with Walls, Doors, Spaces, Schedule Tags and some AutoCAD®objects.

The next image shows a copy of that file, with some edits made. The vertical interior Wall has been moved to the right, increasing the size of Office 101, decreasing the size of the other two Spaces and moving Doors 02 and 04. The text and linework at the bottom of the plan has been deleted, and some new text and linework has been added above the plan, at the left side.
After running VCOMPARE with the revised version of the file as the current file, and selecting the original file as the comparison file, the screen display is changed to show you the changes, as shown in the following image.

As you can see on the Command line prompt, "old" items that no longer exist in the same location are shown in red, "new" items that did not exist in the same location are shown in green, and items that are the same in both files are shown in grey, using the out-of-the-box settings. Changes to the text are properly classified, but are shown using the txt.shx font, so the new and unchanged text will not completely overwrite the text in the current file if it uses a different font, as can be seen in the image, where the text uses the Arial font.

Five System Variables support the VCOMPARE command, and allow you to control the generated comparison graphics.
  • AECVCOMPARENEWCOLOR - This variable determines the color in which "new" geometry (added items or items not in the same location in the file selected for comparison) is highlighted.
  • AECVCOMPAREOLDCOLOR - This variable determines the color in which "old" geometry (items in the file selected for comparison which are either not present or not in the same location in the current file) is highlighted.
  • AECVCOMPAREUNCHANGEDCOLOR - This variable determines the color in which geometry that is the same in both files is highlighted.
  • AECVCOMPAREIGNOREHATCH - This variable determines whether differences in hatching are included in the comparison results. This includes the hatching in AEC objects, such as the Spaces in the image above, where this variable was set to OFF.
  • AECVCOMPAREIGNORETEXT - This variable determines whether differences in text are included in the comparison results. This includes the attributes in Schedule Tags, but does not include other linework in the tags. In the image above, this variable was set to OFF.
The values of the color variables are strings in the format rrr,ggg,bbb, where rrr, ggg and bbb are integers in the range of 0 to 255, inclusive, and represent the red, green and blue values of the desired color, respectively, in RGB format. The values of the "ignore" variables are either ON or OFF. When set to ON, the corresponding hatch or text is ignored in the comparison; when set to OFF, it is included in the comparison graphics. 1 for ON or 0 for OFF are also acceptable values.

While a comparison is active, you can use the options noted on the Command line to alter the comparison graphics. The "Old" option will show just the items in the file to compare that are either missing from or changed in the current file, along with unchanged objects in gray (turning off the green, new items). This can be helpful as the "New" graphics will cover the "Old" graphics when viewing both simultaneously.

The "New" option will show just the items in the current file that are either newly added or changed from what they were in the file to compare, along with unchanged objects in gray (turning off the red, old items).
The "Unchanged" option turns off both the "Old" and "New" highlights, leaving just the grey highlighting on unchanged items, along with the balance of the current drawing shown in the "normal," pre-VPCOMPARE colors.

You can use the "All" option at any time to return to the original display showing all of the comparison colors. When you are done comparing the files, you can press the ENTER key to exit the command. Pressing ENTER twice immediately after exiting the command (before executing another command) will repeat the command with the same comparison file.

If you are working in the drawing management environment, the process of initiating the comparison is somewhat streamlined, but the end results are the same. You can compare a previous version to the current version or you can compare two previous versions on the Check-In History pane. In both cases, the BAK file of the previous version(s) has/have to be available (not deleted due to exceeding the maximum number of backups). To compare a previous version to the current version, right click on the previous version and choose Visual Compare from the context menu. The current version will open, and a visual comparison to the old version will be generated. To compare two previous versions, select one, hold down the CTRL key and select the other, then right click and choose Visual Compare from the context menu. The more recent version will be opened, and a visual comparison to the older version generated. This can provide a quick way to identify what was changed between versions and may aid in making a decision on whether or not a file should be rolled back to a previous version.

April 05, 2014

ACA 2015 - Version Management in Project Navigator

Version Management has been added to the Drawing Management feature (Project Browser/Project Navigator) in the 2015 release of AutoCAD® Architecture. The newly added Check In/Check Out feature, available when right-clicking on a file in the Project Navigator, drives the Version Management process. A new version will be created every time that you check a file back in.

Before using the feature on a project, be certain to check the Project Properties, under the ADVANCED Category, File Check In Options, to verify that they are set as desired. The Maximum Backups property controls the maximum number of previous versions that will be saved. Once exceeded, the oldest previous backup will be deleted. You will have to determine the appropriate number of backups taking into consideration the likelihood of needing to revert to a previous version and the amount of network storage space you have available. The Comments property determines whether you will be able to add a comment when checking the file back in ("Yes") or not ("No"). You can set the User Profile Type to either "Local Profile" or "User Name Only". Typically, this would be set to Local Profile, unless you are working on a computer that is in a different network domain from the domain in which the project files are stored, in which case you will want to select User Name Only.

With the Project Properties set to your liking, you are ready to make use of the Version Management feature. You can right-click on any file in the Project Navigator and use the context menu to Check Out a file.
When you check out a file, you are the only person who can edit the file. Other users will continue to have read-only access to the last-saved version of the file prior to check out. This allows you to edit the file and save your changes without everyone else working on a file that externally references your file getting a balloon notification that the file has been updated. On a larger project with multiple team members, that can save a lot of distraction. It also allows you to work through a revision, which may involve temporary changes or refinements of the change through several iterations without other users seeing the current, not-yet-final results at each save. Files that you have checked out are identified by a green check mark on the Project Navigator file icon; files that others have checked out will have a red check mark on the icon.

When the revisions are complete and you want to make them available to the rest of the project team, you do so by saving the file and then right clicking on the file in Project Navigator and selecting Check In. This automatically creates a new version of the file. If the revisions were "experimental" in nature and the experiment "failed," you also have the option to Undo Check Out, in which case the previous version of the file remains current and the checked-out copy of the file will be deleted.
If you have enabled comments, when you check in a file the File Check In Comment dialog will appear, allowing you to type a comment to be associated with this check in.
After check in, you can select the file in the Project Navigator and use the Check-In History option for the lower pane to review the history of the file. The Detail and Preview options for the lower pane from previous releases remain available as well; the tools at the right side of the lower pane title bar control which option is displayed.
Once you reach the maximum number of backup versions for a given file (as specified in the Project Properties), checking that file out and back in again will create a new version, and the oldest back up will be deleted. If you find that you need to go back to a previous version, you can do so, provided that the desired version has not been deleted. Right click on the version to restore, and select Rollback to this version.
You will receive a warning dialog, noting the effects of your choice and asking you to confirm.
If you say yes, then the current version of the drawing file gets overwritten with the selected prior version, and that prior version also becomes a new backup version. Note that the previous version as well as any other intermediate versions created after the restored version will remain in the Check-In History, and, to the extent that the maximum number of backups is not exceeded, will remain available for restoration and will continue to count against the number of backups.
The comment for the roll back is automatically generated and lists both the version number and the date/time of that file.

Here is a look at what is happening in your project folders. At the time the screen capture below was made, 00 Interior.dwg was checked out.
When you check out a file, Project Navigator will not allow anyone else to open the file and the current version of the file gets marked as read only, so others cannot open it for editing outside of Project Navigator.
  1. A copy of the current file is created, with ".co" appended to the file name (00 Interior.co.dwg in this example), and is made hidden, to reduce the odds that anyone else would find and open it outside of Project Navigator. When you open a file through Project Navigator that you have checked out, the ".co" version is what is being opened.
  2. If you make changes and save the checked out file, a ".co.bak" is created (not shown in the image).
  3. When you check files back in, the previously current file is renamed, with a date-time added to the file name, and the extension is changed to ".bak". There are five of these in the image above, including 00 Interior.2014-04-02-00-48-04.bak.
  4. The XML file of the same name as the drawing file, which Project Navigator has always generated as a means of storing the project information for that drawing file, now has an additional section called CheckInRecords, where the Check-In History data is stored.
    Even after the maximum number of backups is reached and the BAK files for the older versions are deleted, the Check-In History data remains in the XML file and can be viewed in the Project Navigator. The rollback option for previous versions that exceed the maximum number of backups will be grayed out, since the BAK file is no longer available. (While not an intended or supported workflow, if you make archival copies of the BAK files before they get deleted, you can manually copy the archival file to the project folder and, because the Check-In History data remains in the XML file, restore that version. You may want to bump up the allowable number of backup files temporarily while doing this, to avoid losing any of the current backup files. Use this knowledge at your own risk.)
  5. Finally, the system generates a file with the drawing name and a ~co extension. I do not know exactly what the function of this file is, but suspect it aids in identifying which files have been checked out; do not delete these files.
If you often edit external references in place when working in Project Navigator and want to do so on a checked out file, the recommended procedure is to first check out both the drawing with the external reference and the externally referenced file. Next, open the file with the external refernce, and then reload the external reference, before initiating the edit-in-place. It may just be easier to check out the externally referenced file and open in directly from the Project Navigator, but if you want to make changes to the file that references the other file that are dependent on changes to be made to the external reference file, and you do not want to check in the external reference file, following the stated procedure should allow you to see the changes to the externally referenced file.

Keep in mind that you are not required to use the check-out feature; files have not been checked out can still be opened, edited, saved and closed, as in previous releases. But you will not get the benefits of being able to work on the checked out file without generating external reference balloon notifications and you will not get backup versions that can be restored.

The Check-In History and currently available backup files can also be used with the new Visual Comparison feature. More on that in a future article.

April 02, 2014

Revit - Contextual Ribbon Fixes for 2012 & 2013

Those still using Autodesk® Revit® products from the 2012 and 2013 releases but who have installed a 2014 or later release product from Autodesk or have in some other way had .NET 4.5 installed on their computer will find that this creates issues with the contextual ribbons in Revit. Due to the recent overhaul of the Autodesk website and the introduction of the Autodesk Knowledge Network, old links to the required updates (2012 & 2013) and hotfix (2012 only) may no longer work. To save others from the effort to search for the reuqired files, here are the current URL's:

2012 - Make sure you have Update Release 2 for your product installed before applying the hotfix.
Revit Architecture 2012 Update Release 2
Revit MEP Update Release 2
Revit Structure Update Release 2

Hotfix - Autodesk Revit 2012 - Ribbon behaviour due to .Net 4.5 installation

2013 - Install the correct version of Update Release 3 for your product. Note that the "one box" version that ships with the Building Design Suites has a different update file than the Revit Architecture, Revit MEP or Revit Structure versions.
Revit Architecture 2013 Update Release 3
Revit MEP 2013 Update Release 3
Revit Structure 2013 Update Release 3
Revit "One Box" (Building Design Suite) 2013 Update Release 3

March 30, 2014

ACA 2015 - Style Import

A new way to import AutoCAD Architecture® styles into a drawing has been added in the 2015 release. When you start the "Add" command for or select one or more instances of certain style-based AEC Objects (Wall, Door, Window, Door/Window Assembly, Curtain Wall, Structural Member, Slab, Roof Slab, Stair, Railing and Space), a new pane has been added to the Design tab of the Properties palette, under the General category, between the Description and Style properties, that shows a preview of the currently selected style, and which is labeled Search....

If you click on this panel, the Select Style dialog displays, allowing you to select a style from the source files for that object type.
From the Select Style dialog, you can do a number of things:
  • Select a style from the list box, using the scroll bar, if necessary, to examine the entire list of available styles for import.
  • Hover your cursor over one of the styles in the list box, to get a tool tip listing the style name, style description (if any was provided) and the source file.
  • Use the Search edit box and the Go button to limit the list of styles to those matching the search term entered. In the image below, the list of Wall styles has been limited to those with "GWB" in the style name.
    Click on the "X" at the right side of the Search edit box to clear a search.
  • Use the Drawing file drop-down list to limit the list to the styles in a single source file, or, having previously done so, to select different file or return to All files.
  • Use the Browse button to modify the list of source files from which styles are shown in the list box.
    The Add and Remove buttons allow you to control the list of the source files. You can save a default list by checking that toggle and then selecting the OK button. You can restore the last saved list (after making "temporary" changes) by using the Restore button.
  • Select the Settings button (wrench icon, in lower left corner), and use the Preview option to modify the way the items in the list box appear. For None, there is no preview image, just a listing of style names and descriptions. The other options control the size of the preview.
  • Select the Settings button (wrench icon, in lower left corner), and use the Background Color option to choose between Default (which is white) or the Drawing Window background color.
Once you have found the style you want to import, select the style in the list box and then select the OK button, or double-click on the style in the list box. If you change your mind about importing a style, select Cancel. The Select Style dialog will be dismissed and you will be returned to the drawing.

If the "Add" command had been used, it will still be active. If you chose to import a style, that style will be set as the current style (and, if it came from a source file, the style will be copied to the current drawing).

If one or more instances in the drawing had been selected, the imported style, if one was chosen, will be copied to the drawing and applied to the selected instance(s).

NOTE: If a style is selected from a source file other than the current drawing, and the current drawing already has a style of the same name, the current drawing's version of the style will be used. If the source file version is different, and is the version you want in the current drawing, use the Style Manager to copy the style from the source file and overwrite the style in the current drawing.

A default folder for source files can be specified on the AEC Content tab of the Options dialog, in the Architectural Object Style Path edit box.

For those using AutoCAD MEP, this feature can also be used to import systems. Source files for systems can be specified in the same manner as noted for style files above, and you can set a default folder for them on the MEP Catalogs tab of the Options dialog, in the System Definitions item in the Style-Based Content Paths.

March 27, 2014

ACA 2015 - New Look

In the 2014 and prior releases, there were two different themes offered, a Light theme and a Dark theme. The difference between the two was minimal, as seen in the image below.

In 2015, the Dark theme is truly dark, with a dark background to the Ribbon and various palettes. The goal was to provide a lower contrast screen, when used with a traditional dark drawing background, reducing eye strain.
If you prefer, a Light theme is still available.

When you first start AutoCAD®Architecture, you will be presented with the "New Tab," starting on the "Create" page, with options for starting a new file from a template, opening a project or re-opening a recently open document.
You can click on "Learn" to go to the "Learn" page, where you can access videos and other educational resources.
You can control the behavior of the New Tab with a new system variable, NEWTABMODE, which is stored in the Registry.
  • 0 - Closes any open New Tabs and turns off the display of the New Tab on subsequent clicks on the "+" at the right side of the drawing tabs, as well as on future launches of the program.
  • 1 - Displays the New Tab on launch as well as every time you click on the "+" at the right side of the drawing tabs to open a new tab (drawing).
  • 2 - Displays the New Tab when the program is first opened, but for the balance of that session, clicking on the "+" will start a new drawing.
When the New Tab is disabled under values 0 or 2, the default template specified for QNEW (Options dialog > Files tab > Template Settings node > Default Template File Name for QNEW) will be used to create a new drawing. If no template is specified for QNEW, then the Select Template dialog is displayed, so that you can select a template for the new drawing. The initial value for NEWTABMODE is 1; if you typically use one template file for new drawings, you may want to consider setting that template as the default template for QNEW and changing the value of NEWTABMODE to 2 or 0.

There was also an effort to "clean up" the interface, particularly the Application Status bar. All of the items are now right-justified on the bar. A few things have moved, a few are gone, and a lot are now initially off, as you can see in the image below.
The Annotation Visibility, AutoScale and Annotation Scale tools have moved from the Drawing Window Status Bar to the Application Status Bar. The Layout/Model (only shown if model/layout tabs were turned off), Quick View Layouts, Quick View Drawings, Display Locking and Drawing Status Bar tools have been removed. Isometric Drafting, Selection Filtering, Gizmo and Units tools have been added. You can control which tools are present by selecting the tool at the far right (three horizontal lines icon), to display a list of the available tools. Select one without a check mark to add the tool; select one with a check mark to remove it.
The function of the Layout/Model, Quick View Layouts and Quick View Drawings can be replaced by displaying the File Tabs (hover over one to get the equivalent of Quick View Layouts) and the Model/Layout Tabs. If you choose to turn off one or both, the QVLAYOUT and QVDRAWING commands are still available.

If you choose to display the model and layout tabs (Options dialog, Display tab, Layout elements area, Display Layout and Model tabs toggle), in 2015 these will appear below the Drawing Window Status Bar, rather than above it. You also have two options: they can be set to appear above the Application Status Bar (good if you typically have a lot of layout tabs in one drawing file)
or in line with the Application Status Bar (good for gaining a sliver of screen space, especially if you usually only have one or two layout tabs.
A "+" tool has been added at the right side of the model/layout tabs to make it easy to add a new layout; you can also right click on the tabs to access a context menu of layout related items, including the docking location.

New to AutoCAD Architecture users, but familiar to those who have seen the "vanilla" AutoCAD interface in recent releases, is the ability to add the Workspace selection drop-down tool to the Quick Access Toolbar (QAT). This is turned off in the initial setup for both AutoCAD and AutoCAD Architecture, but can be turned on in the QAT and off in the Application Status Bar, if you prefer.

A new feature of the Ribbon is the addition of Galleries. These replace certain drop-down lists for AutoCAD blocks and style-based objects, and include a graphic image for each item, instead of just the name. In the AutoCAD Architecture interface, these are available for inserting blocks (Insert tab, Block panel, Insert tool), text (Home tab, Annotation panel, Text Style tool), dimensions (Home tab, Annotation panel, Dimension Style tool), multi-leaders (Home tab, Annotation panel, Mleader Style tool) and tables (Home tab, Annotation panel, Table Style tool). Dimension and Text galleries are also available on the Annotate tab. In the AutoCAD interface, table cell styles also have a Gallery.
Select More Options at the bottom of the Insert gallery to open the Insert dialog. Select Manage xxxx at the bottom for the style-based galleries to open the associated style dialog.

February 12, 2014

ACA: Double Click a Tag to Edit Property Data

I had a request today to be able to double click on a Schedule Tag, such as a Room Tag, and have the Edit Property Set Data dialog open, so that the Property Data attached to the tagged object can be edited, without having to go to the Extended Data tab of the Properties palette. I was able to grant the request; here is what I did.

The out-of-the-box ACA.cuix file already defines a Double Click Action for Multi-View Blocks (which is what Schedule Tags are), but it is set to edit the Multi-View Block definition.

As it turns out, the CUI does not have a command defined that runs the AECPROPERTYDATAEDIT command. But it is easy enough to add one.
  1. Type CUI at the Command: prompt. (Or, on the Manage ribbon tab, on the Customization panel, choose the User Interface tool.)
  2. Verify that the CUI dialog is fully expanded (arrow button in the lower right corner of the dialog points to the left) and that the Customize tab is the current tab (as seen in the image above).
  3. In the Command List panel (lower left side; expand the panel if it is "closed"), select the Create a new command button.
    A new command, named Commandn will be created, where n represents an integer, most likely 1 unless you have done this before and not renamed the added command(s).
  4. In the Properties panel (lower right side, expand the panel if it is "closed"), edit the properties of the new command as shown in the image below. I was not intending to use this command on a ribbon panel or a toolbar, so I did not create a custom button image, but used the out-of-the-box one for Property Set Definition edit. The Element ID will be automatically generated; yours may vary from what is shown here.
  5. In the Customizations in... panel (upper left side, expand the panel if it is "closed"), expand the ACA node (if necessary) and then expand the Double Click Actions node under the ACA node.
  6. Scroll down in the Customizations in... panel, if required,to find the Multi-View Block node under the Double Click Actions node and expand the Multi-View Block node.
  7. In the Command List panel, left click and drag the Property Data Edit command up to the Customizations in... panel and drop it on the Multi-View block node.
  8. The Property Data Edit command replaces Multi-View Block Edit as the Double Click Action for Multi-View Blocks.
  9. Select OK to dismiss the Customize User Interface dialog and to register your changes.
Now when you double click on a Schedule Tag, the Edit Property Set Data dialog will open, for the object to which the Schedule Tag is attached. Note that if you double-click on a non-tag Multi-View Block, you will also get the Edit Property Set Data dialog and will be able to edit Property Data attached to that Multi-View Block, as well as add Property Sets that apply to Multi-View Blocks or remove any of the Property Sets that are attached.

If you want to edit the Multi-View Block Defintion, you can still select an instance and, on the Multi-View Block contextual ribbon tab, on the General panel, select the Edit Style tool, or right click and choose Edit Multi-View Block Definition from the context menu.

Having edited the ACA.cuix file, you will want to back up the modified version so that you can restore it later, should the CUIX file get reset by a reinstallation or lost/corrupted through some catastrophic event. Also, as always, you can click on any of the images to see a full-size version.