April 22, 2017

ACA/AMEP 2018: New Features Part 1 - External Reference Improvements

I usually start out my first "new features" article for a given release by remarking that I have been busy, and apologizing for the delay in preparing the article. While I am indeed busy this year as well, and that has contributed to the tardiness of this article, another contributing factor is my lack of enthusiasm over the lack of new AutoCAD® Architecture and AutoCAD® MEP features in the 2018 release. My understanding is that you all (meaning, all of you end users out there) have been telling Autodesk that you would rather have them fix things that need fixing in the existing features, rather than adding new features. While I like fixing bugs or adjusting the design of a feature to better suit typical industry workflows as much as the next person (maybe more so), in my mind most of that effort should be in the province of a service pack or hotfix, unless it truly is a major change from the original feature design and the original feature design more or less worked as designed. This is particularly upsetting given that the pain of a new file format is being inflicted, without any offsetting new features that required a new file format to implement.

So, a number of items that had been reported as not working as expected have been fixed. Support for 4k monitors has been integrated for AutoCAD Architecture and AutoCAD MEP dialogs, palettes, etc. (I do not have 4k monitors, so I am taking their word on that.) And, all of the wonderful new things added to the core AutoCAD feature set have been integrated into AutoCAD Architecture/MEP. The balance of this article will look at the improvements made to external references.

External Reference Improvements
  • Relative path is the new default when attaching an externally referenced file to a drawing. Use the REFPATHTYPE System Variable to set a different default path type: 0 = No Path, 1 = Relative Path and 2 = Full Path.
  • Use of a relative path for an externally referenced file no longer requires that the host file be named/saved. Instead, the full path will temporarily be shown in the Saved Path column, with a preceding "*" and, in the Details section, the Pending Relative Path property will show as "Yes". Once the file is saved, any pending relative paths will be resolved and show the relative path in lieu of the temporary full path.
  • If you save a file to a new location and that file has relatively pathed external reference files attached, you will be prompted as to whether or not the relative paths should be updated for the new location. If you only plan to save this one file to the new location and you want the relatively pathed external references to be found, you will most likely want to update the relative paths. If you eventually intend to move (or copy) the relatively referenced files such that they will be in the same relative location, then not updating the paths may be the appropriate choice.
  • There are two new right-click contextual menu choices when dealing with an externally referenced file that is "not found".
    • Select New Path: This option provides the opportunity to browse to a new location (path) for the "not found" file. If there are additional "not found" external references, you will be asked if the new path should be applied to those, as well.
    • Find and Replace: This option allows you to select one or more external references and then specify a target path (Find saved path) and specify a replacement path (Replace with). For ONLY the external references that were selected when you right clicked and chose Find and Replace, AutoCAD will look for any that have the target path and will replace that path with the replacement path.

      If all of the selected external references currently have the same path, that path will be offered as the initial default in the Find saved path edit box. If you select external references with different paths, you will have to supply both the Find and the Replace paths. Note that if you use the ellipsis button at the right side of either edit box, you will get the full path of the selected folder, regardless of the path type shown in the Find edit box, or the path type used for the selected external references. You can manually edit that path to be a relative path, if desired. If the external reference uses a relative path, providing the equivalent full path in the Find box will not result in a match. In limited testing, providing the full path as the Replace path for an external reference that is currently set to relative path did result in the relative equivalent to that full path being applied.

      Find and Replace also appears on the right click context menu when selecting "found" external references and can be used to repath multiple references at one time (provided that the current and replacement paths are the same for all selected external references). Note also that the text entered in both edit boxes has to be an actual path. You cannot just enter the text you want to replace in the Find edit box and the text that you want to substitute in the Replace edit box; the complete path must be used in both (whether a full path or a relative path).

  • When right clicking on one or more selected references and using the Change Path Type context menu item, if all of the selected items currently have the same path type, that path type will be disabled in the cascading contextual submenu. If there are multiple path types in the selected references, then all three options will be enabled.
  • The Open option right click context menu option is no longer disabled for unloaded external references.
  • If you rename an unloaded external reference on the External References palette, it will no longer automatically be reloaded. You will need to reload the reference in a separate action if and when you want it reloaded. Note: As in previous versions, using the RENAME command, and the Rename dialog, to rename an unloaded external reference will leave the external reference unloaded. New in 2018, if you use the Rename dialog or the CLASSICXREF command's Xref Manager to rename an external reference, that change will show immediately in the Reference Manager palette, without the need to reload the renamed reference.
  • There has also been a minor change to the dialog that appears when opening a drawing with external references that cannot be found. Instead of referring to these files as "missing", they are now noted as "Not Found". The text on the button that opens the Reference Manager has also been simplified.

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