July 13, 2019

AUGI Salary Survey, 2019

Help make the survey results more accurate by taking the survey and adding your information: 2019 AUGI Salary Survey.

July 11, 2019

ACA: Schedule Tag Background Mask

I suppose I must have known about this at some time in the past, but having never made use of it, it slipped my mind. The other day, I needed to make some Schedule Tags to replace some attributed Block References. The Attribute Definitions in the Block References had background masking turned on, so that they could be placed on top of other linework and the mask would assure that the contents of the attribute remained readable.

I made use of the graphics from the Block Reference and ran it through the DefineTag command to create the Schedule Tag Multi-View Block reference. I was hoping that the background mask on the Attribute Definition would be respected in the Schedule Tag, but it was not. An internet search turned up this Autodesk Knowledge Network Article, allowing me to re-learn what I had probably forgotten. You create an AEC Polygon Style to use for the background mask; on the Other tab, check the Use Background Mask toggle.

If you do not want the border of the AEC Polygon to plot, go to the Display Properties tab and create a Style Override for the Model Display Representation. In the override, turn off the visibility of the Exterior Edge component. (Do the same for the Model Screened Display Representation if you use that in views that include the Schedule Tags.)

Place an AEC Polygon instance using the Style you just created as part of the graphics you select for the DefineTag command. Be sure to select the AEC Polygon first, and then the other graphics, so that the other graphics are not masked by the AEC Polygon.

In the image below, the Door Tags have had a masking AEC Polygon placed behind the other graphics, and that AEC Polygon is masking out the color fill of the Space and the swing of the Door that is behind the Tag.

July 03, 2019

ACA: Open Dialog Does Not Show - But FILEDIA Is Set to 1

I had a report that the AutoCAD® Architecture Open dialog was not showing up when the OPEN commmand was being used. First thing I checked was the value of the FILEDIA System Variable, but it was set to 1, and there were no prompts on the Command Line when running the OPEN command.

I found the solution for this case in an Autodesk Knowledge Network article, Dialog windows do not display and the program appears to freeze, which offers several suggestions for resolving the issue. Having already done the first one (FILEDIA), I tried the second one - holding SHIFT+WINDOWS KEY and then pressing the LEFT or RIGHT ARROW KEY. That keystroke combination moves the current window from one screen to the next, and it did bring the Open dialog back onto one of the two active monitors.

The user's computer is a laptop, which was docked and closed, but perhaps the dialog was hiding out on the laptop monitor? Wherever it was, the issue was resolved, and I was glad to not have to resort to the last suggestion, editing the Windows Registry.

June 26, 2019

Revit: Phasing Area Plans

We use Area Plans in Revit to assist in calculating the occupant load on our life safety drawings. A recent project was being done in phases, and separate life safety plans were required for each phase, showing the occupant load (and egress) at the end of each phase. Area Plan Views do have Phase and Phase Filter parameters (to show the modeled elements correctly for a given plan), but Area objects do not have Phase Created and Phase Demolished parameters, so their visibility cannot be controlled by the phase settings on an Area Plan View.

Phased Area Plans can be created - but you need to make a separate Area Scheme for each separate phase to be shown. Here is how to do that:
  1. On the Architecture ribbon tab, on the Room & Area panel, select the panel title to deploy the flyout and then select the Area and Volume Computations tool.
  2. In the Area and Volume Computations dialog, select the Area Schemes tab and then select the New button.
  3. Give the new Area Scheme a name and description, clearly identifying the phase to which it will apply in the name. Create additional Area Schemes, one for each phase needed.
  4. Select the OK button to create the new Area Schemes and dismiss the dialog.
  5. On the Architecture ribbon tab, on the Room & Area panel, select the Area tool. On the flyout, select the Area Plan tool.
  6. In the New Area Plan dialog, set the Type to one of the "phased" Area Schemes you just created, and then select the Level(s) for which you will need plans for that "phase".
  7. Repeat the creation of Area Plans for the other "phased" Area Schemes.
  8. In the Project Browser, select one of the Area Plan Views you just created and, in the Properties palette, set the appropriate values for the Phase and Phase Filter properties, so that the plan view of the model shows correctly for that phase. If you have (a) View Template(s) set up for these Area Plans, apply the appropriate template. (If the template controls the Phase Filter, you can skip setting that in the Properties palette.)
You now have Area Plans for each phase. Add the desired Areas to each. Each Area Scheme is independent of the others, so any Areas that are common to two or more Schemes will have to be created in each.

One other note, if you need to create Schedules for the Areas, be aware that you have to specify the Area Scheme to which the Schedule applies at the time of Schedule creation, and you cannot change that later. What that means is if you have multiple Area Schemes, and need the same Schedule for each Scheme, you will not be able to create one, duplicate it and then change the Scheme to which it applies. You will need to create a Schedule for each Area Scheme from scratch. (If you need multiple Schedules of the same type within one Area Scheme - for example, if you have separate Schedules for the occupant loading of each level - you can duplicate the first schedule created for that Area Scheme, and then change the filtering to show different items (such as from another level).

May 08, 2019

ACA: ExportToAutoCAD - Room Tag Attributes Not Shown

I came across something curious today. Someone wanted to link an AutoCAD® Architecture drawing in Revit, but the Room Tags were not showing. That is because Revit cannot read AEC Objects (not the curious thing). I suggested using one of the EXPORTTOAUTOCAD commands to create a copy of the file, with all of the AEC Objects exploded to AutoCAD linework. That was done, but in the resulting file, the blocks that were the result of exploding the Room Tags were not showing any of the attributes that should have been displaying the room name and number.

Here is the curious part: Grips for the "missing" attributes displayed, and, in the Properties palette, values for the room name and number attributes were shown.

I tried REGENerating the drawing, I checked layers 0 and Defpoints to verify they were on and thawed and even tried an OBJRELUPDATE (even though the object was now an AutoCAD block, and not an AutoCAD Architecture Multi-View Block). I inserted a new instance of the block, and values entered into the room name and room number attributes displayed as expected. Fortunately, lunch intervened, allowing my frustration to subside. With a semi-fresh brain, I returned to the issue after lunch, and it occurred to me to try running ATTSYNC on the block. And that turned out to be the solution, as the values displayed after doing so.

I was not able to reproduce this in a sample file, created with the same content, but at least I have a solution should I come across this again in the future.

April 11, 2019

Dynamo: Python Node to Test For Presence of a Parameter on an Object

We have a Dynamo graph that allows the user to search for a user-specified string in the names of Views and, if found, replace it with a second user-specified string. This comes in handy when someone decides that all of the instances of "LEVEL" in the view names should be changed to "FLOOR". The graph worked, but would result in an error condition, because there are, apparently, Views that do not have a "View Name" parameter attached to them. Attempting to retrieve the View Name parameter value from all elements of the Views category using an Element.GetParameterValueByName node resulted in this error:

While this did not appear to interrupt the processing of all Views, I would prefer to not have an error reporting (in both Dynamo and Dynamo Player), so that I do not have to explain to others who might use the graph that having that error is "Ok". I thought it would be simple to construct a BoolMask to filter out the Views without a View Name parameter, and proceeded to try to do so. Perhaps there is an easy way to create that BoolMask with core nodes or with something from a package, but my initial attempts were unsuccessful. The best I could do was get a list with true for the Views with the parameter but null for the Views without it, while throwing additional errors; that result also did not work as a mask in the List.FilterByBoolMask node. I quickly ran out of patience and decided to generate the mask list using a Python node, which turned out to be fairly easy.

Each Element in the Revit Model has a ParametersMap attribute, which is a map that contains all of the parameters the Element contains, accessible via the parameter Name, using the Contains(key) method for the ParameterMap object, where the key is the name of the parameter of interest. The potential for an error condition for Views without a View Name parameter can be handled by using try: and except: statements to build the mask list, as shown in the image below.

The Python node has two inputs, the first, IN[0], a list of Elements to be tested for the presence of a particular parameter, and the second, IN[1], a string representing the name of the parameter. The Contains method will return True if the Element's ParametersMap contains a parameter whose name matches the string passed to the Python node in IN[1]. If there is not a matching parameter name, it should return False; in testing, some of the Views were throwing an error, in which case the except: statement adds False to the output list.

The output from this Python node worked to remove the Views without a View Name parameter from the list of all elements of the Views category, allowing the rest of the graph to do the renaming of the Views without any error messages.

April 05, 2019

ACA: Import Layer Standard

If you have a custom Layer Key Style that is built on a custom Layer Standard, best practice is to establish a source file for Layer Standards and Layer Key Styles, such as the out-of-the-box AecLayerStd.dwg, that includes your customizations. Then, using the AECDWGSETUP command to open the Drawing Setup dialog, on the Layering tab you can specify that file as the source file for auto-importing your Layer Standard and Layer Key Style and also specify your Layer Key Style in the Default Layer Standard area.

If you save that as your default, it should get your Layer Key Style and Layer Standard into a drawing file. But if you have multiple Layer Standards, or have not set that up, it is important to note that while you can use the Style Manager to copy a Layer Key Style from one drawing to another, doing so does not bring the Layer Standard on which that Layer Key Style is based along for the ride. Without the Layer Standard, Layer Key Overrides will not work (assuming that your Layer Standard is set up with multiple descriptive fields supporting overrides). Here is how to copy a Layer Standard from an external file to the current drawing file.
  1. In the Layer Properties Manager, select the Layer Standard tool, located at the far right side of the tool bar at the top of the palette. The Layer Standards dialog will open.
  2. In the Layer Standards dialog, select the Import/Export button. The Import/Export Layer Standards dialog will appear. On the left side of the dialog, the Current Drawing's Layer Standard(s) will be listed. On the right side, the Layer Standards of an External Drawing will be shown, if one had previously been selected. If not, it will be blank, as in the image below.
  3. If you have an External Drawing selected, and it contains the Layer Standard you want to import, you can skip to Step #4. Otherwise, use the Open button to open a file dialog in which you can navigate to a drawing file that has the Layer Standard you wish to import. Select that drawing file and select the Open button in the file dialog to return to the Import/Export Layer Standards dialog with the desired External Drawing file in place. Or, if the Recent Files drop-down list has any drawings listed, and if one of those has the desired Layer Standard, you can select it from the drop-down list, rather than using the Open button.
  4. In the External Drawing list box on the right side of the dialog, select the Layer Standard(s) you want to import. Then select the <<< Import button to import it/them from the External File to the Current Drawing. The name(s) of the Layer Standard(s) selected should appear in the Current Drawing list box.
  5. Select the OK button in the Import/Export Layer Standards dialog to accept the change. The imported Layer Standard name(s) will be shown in the Layer Standards dialog. Select the OK button to confirm the change, dismiss the Layer Standard dialog and return to the drawing.

March 14, 2019

ACA: Suppress Multiple Objects Contextual Ribbon Tab

Someone in my office today asked if the Multiple Objects contextual ribbon tab could be suppressed. That is the tab that displays when you select items of different object types.
The individual did not want to have to go back to the tab that was previously active where the tool to be used resided. I recalled that some years back, there were controls that would allow you to not have the ribbon focus shift to the contextual ribbon tab (it would activate, but not become the current tab), to have it show on a single-click or to have it show on a double-click. Those choices are no longer available.

What remains is the ability to set the maximum number of objects for which a contextual ribbon will display (RIBBONCONTEXTSELLIM System Variable). The allowable range is 0 to 32767, with an initial default value of 2500. The purpose of this is to limit performance issues when trying to act on a large number of objects. When the number of objects selected exceeds the current value of RIBBONCONTEXTSELLIM, then a contextual ribbon tab will not display, and any ribbon property controls will be disabled (grayed out). Setting the value to 0 allows an unlimited number of objects to be selected and still get a contextual ribbon tab, so this cannot be used to turn off contextual ribbon tabs. But setting it to 1 will allow contextual ribbon tabs to display when just one object is selected (which most would find desirable, particularly for AutoCAD® Architecture and AutoCAD® MEP objects), but disable it when more than one object is selected. This effectively suppresses the display of the Multiple Objects contextual ribbon tab, but does also suppress all other contextual ribbon tabs when multiple objects are selected. For example, if you select two or more Walls, the Wall contextual ribbon tab will not display.

In addition to typing RIBBONCONTEXTSELLIM at the command prompt, pressing the ENTER key and then typing 1 and pressing the ENTER key, you can also set this value in the Options dialog, on the Selection tab, in the Ribbon options area by selecting the Contextual Tab States button and then editing the value in the Object selection maximum for contextual tab display edit box.

This value is stored in the User Settings (registry) for a given AutoCAD Profile, so setting it once will apply to all drawings you open.

I personally leave the setting at the default 2500, but if you often select multiple objects of different types with the intent to select a tool on the ribbon that is not on the Multiple Objects ribbon tab and want to avoid having to perform an extra click to get back to where you previously were in the ribbon, then setting RIBBONCONTEXTSELLIM to 1 may improve your workflow.

February 28, 2019

ACA: Custom Display Block for Door in Plan View

You may have noticed that even after assigning a custom Profile to a Door to add a glazed panel to the Door, that there is no change to the graphics when viewing the Door in "plan" (Top view direction) in any of the out-of-the-box Display Representation Sets, That is because these use one of the "plan" Display Representations for Doors (Plan, Plan High Detail, Plan Low Detail, Plan Screened, Reflected or Reflected Screened), and the Panel component in these is 2D graphics representing the panel width and depth (overall Door width only, in Plan Low Detail) that is not tied to the 3D representation where the glazing is shown.

In my work, I have never needed to indicate glazing in a Door Panel at the typical scales used for plan views (1/16" = 1'-0" to 1/4" = 1'-0"). But if you do have a need for that, you can use a custom display block to add graphics to represent a glazed panel in plan views.

Before we dive into creating the block and assigning it to the Door Style, you need to understand the limitations of custom display blocks in plan Display Representations. The only component to which you can assign a custom display block in plan is the Frame component. You cannot assign one to the Panel component. That means you cannot scale the block by the thickness of the Panel, nor will the block rotate to match the swing angle of the Panel. If you use multiple swing angles for your Panels, you will need multiple display blocks and multiple Door Styles (one of each for each angle). For a 90-degree Panel swing angle (the one we typically use for new construction Doors), scaling the custom display block by the Width, even with the Frame Component set to Inside, will not scale the block along the width of the Panel, but perpendicular to the width of the panel (because ACA thinks it is a Frame component). All of this means that if the graphics in the file need to be accurately shown, and not just a "symbol", you will need a separate custom block and a separate Door Style for each Door width.

If all of that did not change your mind about showing a glazed panel in plan views for Doors, here is how to do it.
  1. Identify the Door Style that is to receive the custom display block. For this example, I have a style called Wood Door with Glazing that has a custom Profile assigned as the Shape on the Design Rules tab of the Door Style. That creates a glazed panel in a model view, but has no effect on the plan view graphics, as seen in the image below.
  2. Verify that the target Display Representation for Doors is active in the current Display Configuration. In this example, the custom display block will be attached to the Plan Display Representation for Doors, and that is active in my current Display Configuation.
  3. Place an instance of the Door in the drawing, and set the Width property of the Door to the width intended for the display block. Having an instance in the drawing is helpful for seeing the effects of the editing so far, and, in cases like this where no scaling will be applied to the block, can be used when generating the linework for the block definition.
  4. Determine where the insertion point of the custom display block will be. In this case, the hinge-side corner of the frame (where it meets the corner of the Door Panel) is an appropriate insertion point.
  5. Draw the linework for the custom display block. If you want to be able to control the display of the linework in the display properties of the Door Style, draw the linework on Layer 0, and assign ByBlock to the Color, Linetype, Plot Style (if using named plot styles), Lineweight and Transparency properties of the linework. In this example, the linework consists of two lines perpendicular to the width of the Door Panel, set in 10" from each end of the Door Panel, and a third line connecting the midpoints of the first two lines, to give a symbolic representation of the glass panel in the Door.
  6. Create the block definition from the linework, being careful to specify the desired insertion point. If you choose to retain the linework or convert the linework to a block, move the linework or block to the side, so that it will not obscure the results of adding the custom block to the Door Style.
  7. Select the Door and, on the Door contextual ribbon tab, on the General panel, select the Edit Style tool. (Or, if you prefer, open the Style Manager, navigate to and select the Door Style in the left pane so that you can edit the style in the right pane.)
  8. Choose the Display Properties tab. The currently active Display Representations will be displayed in bold type. In this example, both the Plan and Threshold Plan Display Representations are active. As the Threshold Plan Display Representation does not allow for attaching custom display blocks, the Plan Display Representation will be used.
  9. Select the Display Representation to receive the custom display block. Left click the toggle in the Style Override column for that Display Representation, to add a display override and open the override for editing.
  10. In the Display Properties dialog, select the Other tab. In the Custom Block Display area, select the Add button.
  11. In the Custom Block dialog, select the Select Block button. Choose the block you created in the Select a Block dialog and select the OK button to return to the Custom Block dialog. The block should show in the viewer.
  12. Back in the Custom Block dialog, change the Insertion Point Y: value to Back and set the Frame Component to Inside. When I did this, the block shifted when I changed the Y setting of the Insertion Point, but did not move when I changed the Frame Component to Inside.
  13. I chose to let the Display setting at Always. If you want to limit the situations where the block will display, select one of the other options: When Intersecting Cut Plane, When Above Cut Plane or When Below Cut Plane, and the block will only display when the selected option is true.
  14. Select OK to ratify the changes, close the Custom Block dialog and return to the Door Style Properties dialog.
  15. If you are a bit leery about the fact that the viewer was showing the custom block outside of the Door Panel, you can select the block name that now shows in the list box in the Custom Block Display area and choose the Edit button. That will reopen the Custom Block dialog and the viewer will properly update and show the block inside the Door Panel, where it belongs. If you are not making any changes, you can select the Cancel button to dismiss the Custom Block dialog; otherwise select the OK button after you are finished with any changes.
  16. In the Display Properties dialog, select the Layer/Color/Linetype tab. Notice that the custom display block now appears as a Display Component. You can make any edits here that you desire. I chose to let the default settings (Layer 0, with ByBlock properties), so that the block will inherit its properties from the parent Door object, just like the Panel, Frame and Swing components. You may want something different. Keep in mind these settings will only be apparent if the linework within the custom display block is on Layer 0 with ByBlock properties, as previously noted.
  17. When you are done editing the properties of the custom display block component, select the OK button to return to the Door Style Properties dialog. Notice that there is now a check mark in the Style Override column and that the Display Property Source now shows Door Style Override - [YOUR DOOR STYLE NAME HERE] rather than Drawing Default. Select the OK button to accept all of the changes to the Door Style and return to the drawing.
    NOTE: If you ever need to edit the display settings for this Door Style's Plan Display Representation, select it and choose the Edit Display Properties button in the upper left of the dialog. Do NOT select the Style Override toggle again; that will clear the toggle and remove the override. If you do that unintentionally, select the Cancel button to exit the dilaog without making any changes, or you will have to recreate the override.
The instance of the Door Style in the drawing should now reflect the addition of the custom display block (assuming that you edited an active Display Representation, as directed above). In the image below, the custom display block instance is at the left and selected, and the Door instance, now showning the custom display block, is at the right.

January 22, 2019

ACA: Unable to execute the tool. Unspecified error.


Had a support request today for the error dialog shown above, from someone working on a file in AutoCAD® Architecture 2016, who was trying to use a Wall Tool when the error occurred. That was all I was initially told, and "Unspecified error" is not terribly helpful. I asked the user to verify what AutoCAD profile was current and whether the problem was just with one file, or all files. In the course of responding, the user provided additional information. The problem was with just this one file, which had been working properly earlier. The reason the Wall Tool was being used was to fix Walls that were now "faulty." And when opening the file, this other dialog appears:


Bingo! The file had been opened and saved in AutoCAD Architecture 2018. Most likely, SAVEAS was used to set the file format to the 2013 file format, but that left the AEC objects in the file, including the Walls, in the 2018 file format. Those future objects disabled the AEC Commands, leaving the Wall Tool with no command to run. Add that to the list of reasons for getting an Unable to Execute The Tool error dialog.