May 16, 2008

Space Generation in ACD-A 2009 with AutoCAD® Object Boundaries

Several recent posts in the AutoCAD® Architecture Discussion Group have asked why AutoCAD objects can no longer be used as boundaries when automatically generating Spaces, as they could in previous releases. The good news is that you can still use AutoCAD objects, and now you have more control over which objects are seen as Space boundaries. The "bad" news is that you have to tell ACD-A 2009 which AutoCAD objects are space bounding; this is done by setting the newly added Bound space property of the AutoCAD object, found in the Advanced category on the Design tab of the Properties palette, to "Yes".
If the drawing file in which you are working has no AutoCAD objects set to bound Spaces and has no AEC objects that are capable of forming a Space boundary, you will be presented with this helpful dialog, which allows you to either make all visible objects capable of bounding Spaces, or to select the objects you want to have capable of bounding Spaces.
So you can still quickly add Spaces to any "old" file (or any new file you get from someone using vanilla AutoCAD) - just remember to set the Bound spaces property of the linework you want to use as boundaries to Yes.

May 11, 2008

Review: CADaptation’s AecBatchStylesEditorTM 2008

On April 15, 2008, CADaptation released AecBatchStylesEditorTM 2008, an application that runs inside of either AutoCAD® Architecture 2008 or AutoCAD® MEP 2008. The AecBatchStylesEditor greatly enhances the user’s ability to work with styles and definitions in these host applications, particularly when the same, or very similar, settings are required for multiple styles or definitions.

FULL DISCLOSURE: I “know” the two main people at CADaptation, Corey Layton and Brian Winterscheidt, from our mutual involvement with the Autodesk AutoCAD Architecture Discussion Groups. I served as a beta tester for AecBatchStylesEditor 2008 and received a complementary copy of the application for doing so.

AecBatchStylesEditor 2008 allows the user to perform batch edits on the Property Sets, Materials, Classifications and Display Properties associated with multiple styles or definitions. Very often, these settings are the same, or very similar, across multiple (if not all) styles/definitions of a particular object type. With AecBatchStylesEditor 2008, you will still need to create/attach the first instance of one of the previously listed items in the host program the way you do now, but you can then copy that from the style/definition where you created it to as many other styles/definitions of that object type as you like. This frees you from the drudgery of manually making the same edits over and over to multiple styles (and then checking what you did to make certain you really did the exact same thing multiple times). If you do need some minor variation between styles, AecBatchStylesEditor 2008 can get you 90% done very quickly, leaving only the variations to be manually edited. Many operations also allow you pick and choose settings from what you are copying, so you can copy just the subitems that are the same.

The following example should give you and idea of what this application can do. The CADaptation website offers a free trial version that only works on Mass Elements if you want to see the program in action for yourself.

Suppose you were working with the “new” out-of-the-box Space Styles, with their fancy colored fills in Medium Detail, but needed to have those same fills display when the Low Detail Display Configuration is set current. Unfortunately, while the color and layer set for the Low Detail Display Configuration is the same as that for the Medium Detail, the out-of-the-box settings when the Low Detail Display Configuration is chosen display a series of lines at 45 degrees, rather than the solid fill. And then, when you go to check just how those color fills were assigned, you discover that it is all done as style-level overrides! That means changing the hatch type for the Plan Low Detail Display Representation for every Space Style used in the drawing. AecBatchStylesEditor 2008 can make quick work of this tedious task. This is one of my favorite features in the application, and not just because it is the result of a suggestion I made during the beta process.

AecBatchStylesEditor 2008 provides a number of ways to start the application:
  • Tool Bar Button.

  • Tool Palette Tool.

  • Pulldown Menu

  • Typing AecBatchEdit at the Command: prompt.

In the AecBatchStylesEditor dialog, I have selected the Display Properties tab, as the change I want to make is to the Display Properties of Space Styles. The first step will be to select Space Styles in the Object Type to Edit in the upper left corner. You can also choose an object type and set a source style by using the Pick… button on the left side. If the task at hand is copying the settings from a specific style to one or more other styles, this would be the way to go. Since the sample task involves copying settings from one Display Representation to another Display Representation within each selected style, I will use the tree window to select Space Styles, under the Architectural Objects node (just like Style Manager!). This populates the rest of the tab with data and options, based on the object type selected and the styles of that object type available in the current drawing. In order to quickly select all styles as styles to edit, I entered an “*” in the Enter Selection Filter edit box (without the quotation marks). This conveniently happens to be the initial default when left clicking in the box. Select the Go button to register the filter, and all of the Space Styles within the drawing will be checked in the Styles to Edit list box at the lower left. If you wanted to, you could uncheck any that you did not wish to edit.

In the Source Display Options area in the upper right of the Display Properties tab, I checked the Copy between Display Reps within each Style to Edit. This grays out the Source Style option on the left side, because instead of one style serving as the source, the values of the source Display Representation of each individual style will be copied to the Display Representation(s) to be edited in that same style. I then chose the Plan Display Representation as the Source Display Rep, using the drop down list isn the Source Display Options Area. Doing this automatically checks the Plan Display Representation in the Display Rep(s) to Edit list. The final step is to check the Plan Low Detail Display Representation in that same list, as this is the one to which I want to copy the settings from the Plan Display Representation.

Since I want to copy all settings between the corresponding Display Representations and I want to maintain them as style-level overrides, I am done with making settings. If I wanted to be more selective, I could use the other areas on the right side of the dialog to narrow down the settings to be copied or to set up a custom mapping of settings. Selecting OK tells the application to make the selected changes, and after processing all of the Space Styles in my test drawing file, the AecBatchStylesEditor Log dialog appears, as I have the logging option enabled, on the Preferences tab. This dialog displays a listing of the changes that were made, and I can save it to a text file if I wish, for later examination. Closing the log dialog returns me to my drawing file, with an offer to save the drawing, since I also have that option enabled on the Preferences tab. More importantly, my Low Detail Display now shows solid hatches, just like the Medium Detail Display, and all 38 of the Space Styles that were in this drawing have had the Low Detail Display Representation Style-level Display Override edited to match the Medium Detail Display Representation in just a few minutes.

If the out-of-the-box Display Settings are not exactly to your firm’s liking, but you have been putting off making changes because of all of the repetitive editing that might need to be done, or if you have wanted to create new Display Configurations with new Display Representation Sets and new Display Representations, but were overwhelmed by the enormous task of making all of the settings (particularly if they are the same as the settings for an existing Display Representation for all but a few object types), then you will definitely want to take a look at what this application can do. If you make use of style-level display overrides (whether out-of-the-box or custom), you can also use this application to push any drawing-default level changes you make to components that were not the reason for the override, without having to edit each override manually. Unless you are extremely underpaid, one or two uses on what would have been complicated or repetitious tasks will save you enough time to recoup the cost of the application, and every use after that is gravy.

Another Step Closer to Eliminating Printed Documentation

The last several releases of AutoCAD® Architecture/Autodesk® Architectural Desktop have not been accompanied by printed manuals, but you could, if you so desired, order one manual per license, which would be shipped to you at no charge.

In previous years, the options were to choose between the AutoCAD manual, the Imperial Tutorial for AutoCAD Architecture/Autodesk Architectural Desktop or the Metric Tutorial. I was disappointed that a printed manual for AutoCAD Architecture/Autodesk Architectural Desktop was not a choice, but was glad to have access to a printed version of the AutoCAD manual.

For the 2009 release, there are still three choices, but the AutoCAD manual is not one of them. Instead, in addition to the usual Imperial/Metric tutorial options, the other choice is to get a copy of the ACA Getting Started manual. At first, I was thrilled to see that an ACA manual was available, but something about the name seemed familiar. A quick check of the box in which the disks for AutoCAD Architecture 2009 were shipped revealed the source of that familiarity: the booklet included with the disks is called "Getting Started" and the part number on the back, 185A1-050000-PM01A matches that on the website ordering page. (Click on any image to see a larger version; use the Back button to return here.) So unless you want additional copies of the sixty-nine page Getting Started booklet that comes with the disks, you may want to consider one of the other choices.

Given the major change to the user interface, the AutoCAD manual would have been useful. While I love being able to search the electronic Help, I am sufficiently old-school (and sufficiently old) to still value a printed manual, that I can use without having to sacrifice screen space with the application running (does everyone but me have dual screens now?) and can also peruse when I am away from the computer.

I wonder if vanilla AutoCAD users still have the option to get the full manual, or just a "getting started" booklet.

May 01, 2008

Property Set Tools

While this feature was added way back in the 2006 release, I suspect that many are not aware of its existence. As you may recall, that release added Schedule Tag tools, providing an easier way to create and use Schedule Tags. Mastery of the AEC Content Wizard was no longer required!

One of the abilities of Schedule Tag tools is that you can specify additional Property Sets to be attached when tagging, even if those sets are not referenced by the Schedule Tag itself. Not only that, but you can also have the tool only add Property Sets, and dispense with the Schedule Tag altogether. An external source file can be specified to serve as the source of the Property Set(s), if the set(s) is(are) not already defined in the target file.

If you have ever wanted a tool that would attach Property Sets without adding a tag, simply make a copy of an existing Schedule Tag tool and edit the tool's properties. For example, in the 2008 release, I copied the out-of-the-box non-project-based Door Tag tool and pasted it on an editable tool palette.Right clicking on the tool and choosing Properties... from the context menu...
...opens the Tool Properties dialog, as shown below. This tool is a "Tag" type tool that currently does not add any Property Sets other than those referenced in the Schedule Tag, since the Property data property is empty.
If you left click on the Type property, you will get a pulldown menu with two choices: Tag and Property set data, as seen below. Change this from Tag to Property set data...
to have the tool attach Property Sets without adding a tag.
The tool you copied may point to a source file other than the one where your properties are kept. If so, simply left click on the Property def location property, and choose Browse... from the pulldown list.
This will open a standard file selection dialog that will allow you to navigate to the folder holding your source file and select that source file. With the proper source file chosen, left click on the Property data property, and choose the property or properties you wish to have the tool add from the Add Property Sets worksheet that displays. You can choose from both object-based and style-based Property Sets, keeping in mind that if you add a style-based set to an object, all objects of the same style will also have that Property Set added.
Select OK to register your choice(s), and then OK again to save the changes you made to your tool. Its as simple as 1, 3, 2 - and your tool is good to go. For a truly professional look, you may want to create a custom image file for your Property Set tool and add that to the tool (right click on the image in the Tool Properties dialog and choose Specify Image... from the context menu to specify the image file you created). Unlike tools that reference visible drawing objects, there is no "automatic" image for a Property Set only tool; the tool will retain the original image from the tag you copied unless you manually replace it with another image.

One feature I would like to see added is the ability to drag and drop a Property Set from Style Manager onto an editable tool palette to create a Property Set tool. Unfortunately, that is not possible in the 2008 release. Sounds like a good addition to the Wish List.