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.

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