March 03, 2007

Adding a New Scale to a Scale-Dependent Block

This post may become irrelevant once everyone has migrated to AutoCAD Architecture 2008 or later, but I suspect that may be some time from now, given the pace at which some firms (even those on subscription) deploy new releases. Here is the situation – you are using a scale dependent tag that is set up the way that the out-of-the-box tags are set up, with three possible scales supported by view blocks assigned to the Plan Low Detail, Plan and Plan High Detail Display Representations in the Multi-View Block tag. The out-of-the-box content is set up for these to work at 1/16" = 1'-0" or 1:200, 1/8" = 1'-0" or 1:100 and 1/4" = 1'-0" or 1:50. But suppose you have a project where you need to show those very same tags at a different scale? If I were working in Project Navigator, I would create a single-scale tag, set up a new View file and retag the space with the single-scale tag, scaled for the scale I needed. Tagging across external reference files outside of Project Navigator is not quite so simple, unless you never expect to make changes to the data displayed by the tag, and particularly if you are using an older version of Autodesk Architectural Desktop. One way around that would be to add "another scale" to the scale dependent tag. Here is what you would need to do; you can decide if it is worth the effort.

My apologies to the rest of the world working in metric units, but being more familiar with imperial units, the example here will use those. The same principles and techniques will apply to metric units, just adjust the sizes and scale references to the appropriate metric values.

This tutorial will show the changes needed to add a 1/32" = 1'-0" view block to a scale-dependent room tag. The tag is a modified version of the Autodesk Architectural Desktop 2004 out-of-the-box tag found in the Room Tag – Project Based – Scale Dependent AEC Content file. The modifications consist of changing the room number attributes to reference the RoomObjects:Number property instead of the project-based RoomObjects:NumberProjectBased property, then giving the view blocks and the Multi-View Block different names so that there will be no conflict with the out-of-the-box tag's view blocks and Multi-View Block. In order to add a new tag scale and be able to display just that scale, we will need to create a new Display Representation for Multi-View Blocks to which we can attach a newly created view block, scaled for 1/32" = 1'-0". That Display Representation, in turn, will need to be turned on in a new Display Representation Set (and the existing three scale-dependent Display Representations turned off). A new Display Configuration that shows the new Display Representation Set when the Top view direction is current completes the changes to the Display System. The final step will be to create the new view block and assign it to the Top and Bottom view directions of the tag's Multi-View Block Definition. Note that this provides scale-dependent support just like the out-of-the-box setup. If you have added scale-dependent support for other types of drawing, such as reflected ceilings or for non-plan views, then you would need to repeat the procedure to support the new Display Representation in those other drawing types, as well. One final note: the images here are from Autodesk Architectural Desktop 2004, run on the Windows 2000 operating system. If you are running a later version or using a different operating system, your dialogs, menus and operating methods may be slightly different.

  1. Start a drawing with an appropriate template file and open the Display Manager. One way to do this is to select Format > Display Manager… from the pulldown menus. Expand the Representations by Object folder in the left pane, then select Multi-View Block Reference. You should get something that looks like the image below. You can see a larger version of reduced-size images by clicking on them.

  2. Right click on the Plan Low Detail Display Representation in the right pane, and choose Duplicate from the context menu.

  3. Select the duplicated Display Representation, right click and choose Rename from the context menu. Give the Display Representation a meaningful name. The out-of-the-box names were specifically designed to avoid association with a specific scale. You may want to continue with that and name your new Display Representation "Plan Very Low Detail". If you only expect to add one or two additional scales or need to support both imperial and metric units, that may work for you. Since the Display Representation I am creating is associated with a specific scale and I want to allow for adding many additional scales, I chose to make the name in this example scale-specific, and called the new Display Representation "Plan Detail 0384". (1/32" = 1'-0" is 1:384.) Do not check any of the boxes to the right of the new name, as we will need to create a new Display Representation Set for our new Display Represenation. Click on the Apply button in the lower right corner of the Display Manager dialog to register the change you just made to the drawing file. That will prevent a mis-timed hitting of the Esc key from wiping out your new Display Represenation. If you are really paranoid (or prudent), click OK in the Display Manager and save the file, then reopen the Display Manager.

  4. Expand the Sets folder in the left side of the Display Manager and select the Plan Low Detail Display Representation Set. The right pane will show three tabs: the General tab allows you to edit the name and description; the Display Representation Control tab shows a matrix of objects and the Display Representations, with boxes indicating which Display Representations are available for each Object type and checked boxes indicating which of those are turned on or active for the selected Display Representation Set; and the Display Options tab allows you to set up Classification filters and set Live Section parameters. The Display Representation Control tab will eventually be of interest, so if that tab is not currently displayed, click on it so that it is. Right click on the Plan Low Detail Display Representation Set in the left pane and choose New from the context menu. Give the new set a meaningful name; I chose to use "Plan Detail 0384" again. If you were paying close attention, you will notice that the new set has the exact same boxes checked as the selected set. Plan Low Detail was chosen for this example because it is closest to what I want to show in the new Display Representation Set. If the new scale to be added were 1/2" = 1'-0", I would have started with the Plan High Detail Display Representation Set. When adding a new scale for your own work, choose the most appropriate existing set before making your new one. You can create a new set with no Display Represenations selected by right clicking on the Sets folder and choosing New – but unless your new set will be totally unlike any of the existing sets, it is generally easier to start with one that is close and edit to suit.

  5. With the Plan Detail 0384 set selected in the left pane, select the General tab and change the description to "1/32" = 1'-0" display detail". Now select the Display Represenation Control tab and find the Multi-View Block Reference line in the right pane. You may need to scroll down, depending upon your monitor size and resolution and the size of your Display Manager dialog. Leave the General Display Representation checked – that will allow non-scale dependent Multi-View Blocks, such as furniture, equipment or fixtures, to display when the new set is active. Uncheck any scale-dependent Display Representations, in this case, Plan Low Detail, and add a check in for our newly added Plan Detail 0384 Display Representation. You may need to scroll to the right to see these. Hitting the Apply button now may be a good idea. If you want, you can select Multi-View Block Reference under the Representations by Objects folder and note that the Plan Detail 0384 Display Representation now has a check mark for the Plan Detail 0384 set.

  6. Expand the Configurations folder and select the Low Detail Display Configuration. Right click and choose New from the context menu and give the Display Configuration a meaningful name; I used "Detail 0384". Similar to what happened when we created the Display Representation set, our new Display Representation is a copy of the selected one; choose the one closest to your desired final settings or right click on the Configurations folder to create a new Display Configuration with the default settings of Plan for the Top view and Model as the Default view. With Detail 0384 selected in the left pane, choose the Configuration tab and change the Display Representation Set assigned to the Top view direction from Plan Low Detail to Plan Detail 0384 by clicking on Plan Low Detail in the right pane and choosing Plan Detail 0384 from the dropdown list. As before, the General tab can be used to edit the Display Configuration's name and description – I changed the description to 1/32" = 1'-0" Scale Plans. The Cut Plane tab allows you to set the cut plane and specify above and below ranges for the display. I chose to leave these values as they were set for the Low Detail Display Configuration.

  7. That is all we need to do in the Display Manager. If you want other objects to display differently at the new scale, then you could make additional changes, but that is beyond the scope of this tutorial. Select OK in the Display Manager, save and close your file. The next step will be to add a new view block to the Multi-View Block used by your tag. Where to do this will depend upon what version of Autodesk Architectural Desktop you are using. In 2005 and earlier, you will need to have your tag setup in an AEC Content file. Users of 2006 and later will find the out-of-the-box scale-dependent tags in the same source file as the other tags, but as discussed in a previous article, to get scale-dependent tags to work properly, you really need to have an AEC Content file, too. See that previous article for a way to set that up in 2006 or later. I would suggest making a copy of any existing content file and making your changes there, until you are certain that it is "ready for prime time". I also strongly recommend renaming the Multi-View Block and the view blocks when modifying existing content to avoid conflicts in drawing files that already have the old Multi-View Block or any of the old view blocks already definined within. It does require a little bit of extra work beyond the renaming in that you need to edit the file in the Create AEC Content Wizard to add the new names to the content file and put the correct Multi-View Block name in the custom command string, but in the long run it is worth that one-time effort. I am going to assume that you have a working AEC Content file that is the equivalent of one of the out-of-the-box scale-dependent tags. The following describes how to add the fourth scale, as we set up with the changed made in the Display Manager above.

  8. The first thing we need to do is to get our new display settings into the AEC Content file. If your content file is not already in a folder that is included in the AEC Content folder structure for your current profile, you will want to put it there now. The AEC Content folder structure consists of the folder specified for the Content Path on the AEC Content tab of the Options dialog, all subfolders under that, and any other folders included by Windows shortcuts that are included in those folders. For your tag to work correctly, you will also need to have the source file for the Property Set Definitions referenced by the tag in either the same folder as the tag or the folder above the tag's folder. If you are working on a copied file in a folder referenced by a Windows shortcut, you may need to put a copy of that Property Set Definition source file in your test folder while creating and testing the content. NOTE: If your office has their office-standard AEC Content in a read-only network directory, as mine does, and you do not have write access to those folders, you may have to ask whomever is in charge of the content if they would kindly add a Windows shortcut to a folder present on every user's hard drive so that you can develop new content files locally. My office has done this; a shortcut called "Local AEC Content" points to "C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Application Data\Autodesk\Autodesk Architectural Desktop 2004\R16.0\enu\AEC Content", which happens to be the default location for AEC Content for a stand-alone installation. You do not need to use this location; any folder to which you have write authority will do.

  9. With all that in place and your tag's AEC Content file and the Property Set Definition source file in the same folder or the folder above, open DesignCenter and navigate to the folder holding the tag's AEC Content file. The image below shows this on my computer, which has a lot of other test tags that have accumulated over the years. Select your tag file, right click, and choose Open from the context menu.

  10. Users of 2004 and 2005 should make certain that you saved and closed the file in which you made the new display settings in steps 1 through 7 above – if the file is still open, you will not be able to use the Import/Export Feature. Open the Display Manager, right click on the Configurations folder, and select Import/Export… from the context menu.Users of 2006 and later can either leave the file with the new display settings open in ADT or open it inside Display Manager, then drag the Detail 0384 Display Configuration from that file to the AEC Content file in the left pane to transfer the new display settings. Check to see that the new Display Represenation Set and Display Representation for Multi-View Block References also transferred, then select OK, save your file and skip ahead to Step 12. (Upgrading is good!) Users of 2004 and 2005 will need to continue with Step 11.

  11. Select the Open… button in the Import/Export dialog, and navigate to the file in which you created the new display settings. Choose the new Display Configuration in the External File list box, Detail 0384 in the example here, and select the <<< Import button to bring that Display Configuration into the AEC Content file. This will also bring in the new Display Representation Set and Display Representation; the latter will be needed when adding the new view block to the Multi-View Block Defintion. Select OK to accept the addition and dismiss the Import/Export dialog. Note that in 2004, the Medium Detail Display Configuration also transferred over. I deleted that by expanding the Configurations folder in the left pane, selecting Medium Detail, right clicking and choosing Delete from the context menu. If you like, you can expand the Representations by Object folder and select the Multi-View Block Reference item, to see that the Plan Detail 0384 Display Representation has been added. Select OK to accept the display changes made and save the drawing file.

  12. The file should have some graphics in model space, which form the basis of the icon that can be automatically generated for the AEC Content file. In 2005 and earlier, this would be the medium detail block in the out-of-the-box content files. For our example, we will need to insert an instance of the low detail view block, which in my case is called "Aec4_Room_Tag_NoProject_LoDtl_P". If you are uncertain which is the low detail block, you can open the Style Manager and edit the Multi-View Block Definition to find block assigned to the Plan Low Detail Display Representation. I am choosing this block as it is closest in size to my new block. Any of the blocks would do – or you could create a new block from scratch, which may be desirable if the graphics for the new scale are to vary from those for the other scales. If you are going to use the medium detail block, insert a new instance or copy the one already there, rather than messing with the existing instance and having to replace it. Either insert the block at a known point or draw a line with one endpoint at the insertion point, for easy reference when defining the new block.

  13. Explode the Plan Low Detail block, and then scale all of the objects from the exploded block by a factor of 2, using the block insertion point as the base point. This will get the graphics at the right size for 1/32" = 1'-0" when starting with graphics meant for 1/16" = 1'-0". In your own work, use the appropriate scale factor based on the scale of the starting graphics and the final intended scale.

  14. Define the new view block, using the rescaled objects and the original insertion point. I called my new block "Aec4_Room_Tag_NoProject_0384Dtl_P".

  15. Save your file, then erase the redefined block and the reference line (if you added one), leaving only the original graphics in model space. I like to ZOOM Extents at this point, both to get the remaining graphics to fill the screen and to be certain I did not leave anything extra in model space. Open the Style Manager (Format > Style Manager… is one way to do so), expand the Multi-Purpose Objects folder and expand the Multi-View Block Definitions item under that. Select the Multi-View Block for your tag (it should be the only one), right click and choose Edit… from the context menu. On the View Blocks tab, you should find that the previously existing blocks are assigned to the Top view direction for the Plan, Plan High Detail, Plan Low Detail and Reflected Display Representations. Select your new Display Representation, Plan Detail 0384 in the example here, in the Display Representations list box on the left.

  16. Select the Add… button and choose the newly created block, "Aec4_Room_Tag_NoProject_0384Dtl_P", from the Select a Block dialog. Uncheck all of the view direction toggles except for the Top view direction. Select OK twice to save the edits to the Multi-View Block and to exit the Style Manager. Save the file.

  17. At this point, I like to run the PURGE command to clear out any excess baggage, so that does not get carried over into every file when using the content file. After doing so, you may want to have a quick look at the items you can not purge, too. If there are extra blocks or layers, you may want to go back into the Display and Style Managers and delete any "extra" Display Representation Sets and Display Representations that may have been imported or any "extra" styles or definitions that may be in this file, then run the PURGE command again to get rid of any items that can now be purged. Save and close the AEC Content file.

  18. Back in DesignCenter, select your AEC Content file and choose Edit… from the context menu to call up the Create AEC Content Wizard. In the Current Drawing list box, select the name of the newly created view block - "Aec4_Room_Tag_NoProject_0384Dtl_P" – and select the Add >>> button to add it to the content file. The Content File list box should contain the names of all of the view blocks and the name of the Multi-View Block for the tag. If you renamed the view blocks and the Multi-View Block as suggested in Step 7 above, but have not yet edited the AEC Content file to include the renamed blocks/Multi-View Block, now would be the time to add them and then edit the Command String to show the Multi-View Block name after "SYMBOL" in the command string.

  19. Select the Next > button and inspect the settings here. Unless you want to change anything – and you do not if the tag is to work like the original one did, select Next > again. You may want to check the Detailed Description and make any changes to distinguish this content file and verify that the Icon is acceptable. Select Finish to save the changes made to the AEC Content file. You now have a scale-dependent tag with four different scales. Test out the tag in the file in which you created the new display settings. When you are satisfied that it works properly, you will want to get the new Display Configuration imported into your template file(s) as well as in any existing files in which you want to use the new tag, so that the added view block can be seen.

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