February 24, 2008

AutoCAD Architecture 2009 - Part 2

First Article in the Series: AutoCAD Architecture 2009 - Part 1

Here is a quick look at the improved edit-in-place feature for wall endcaps. I must confess that my attempts at using edit-in-place for creating endcaps in previous versions were somewhat half-hearted, as I had become reasonably proficient at creating them by drawing polylines, and the "calculate automatically" feature made creating endcaps from polylines almost painless, for wall styles without stacked components. Perhaps if I had applied myself to the task more diligently, I could have mastered edit-in-place in previous versions, but my few forays generally met with disaster, and I never had time to work out what I was doing incorrectly.

So I approached this feature with low expectations in the 2009 beta, and ended up being very pleased. As previously, I dove in without first trying to read up on the process in the Help - the only "training" was a very short video that was posted, showing the feature in action. I think most people will find the improved feature much more intuitive.

The out-of-the-box CMU-8 Rigid-1.5 Air-2 Brick-4 Furring comes with an endcap style that turns the brick component back into the wall, butting into the rigid insulation, as shown below.

I created a new wall style, based on the CMU-8 Rigid-1.5 Air-2 Brick-4 Furring style, called CMU-12 Rigid-1.5 Air-2 Brick-4 Furring. As you might guess, the only difference is that the CMU component is 1'-0" wide, rather than 8" wide. This will cause the CMU-8 Rigid-1.5 Air-2 Brick-4 Furring (End 1) endcap to do strange things, as it scales things to suit the increased width of the CMU. I could have tried to edit that endcap in place, but chose instead to change the endcap to "Standard" to show just how easy it is to build a similar endcap for the CMU-12 Rigid-1.5 Air-2 Brick-4 Furring wall style "from scratch."

Selecting the wall and right clicking brings up the context menu for walls. Choosing Endcaps > Edit in Place starts the WallEndcapEdit command, and results in a prompt to select a point near the endcap.

After selecting a point near the top end of my wall instance, the GWB component's endcap was hightlighted, so I chose to start with that component. Vertices are represented by round, magenta grips; edges by rectangular ("hyphen-shaped") grips. Hovering over the edge grip at the top of the GWB component yields a tooltip that indicates the options available for that grip. For our endcap, the default Offset option will do what we need.Selecting the grip and offsetting it vertically by four inches gives us the endcap profile we need for this component.This same technique was applied to the Stud, CMU and rigid insulation components. Simply select a component to activate its endcap grips.

The Air Space component does not require an offset, as the Brick component will wrap across the top of it. The creation of the Brick component is a two-step process. The first step involves offsetting the component the same four inches vertically the same way as the other offset components were done.The second step involves using the edge grip on the right side of the now extended Brick Component, and offsetting that edge by two inches, to bring it to the face of the rigid insulation. Note that you can use object snaps when offsetting components - the edge grips will only offset perpendicular to the face, so you can snap to the endpoint of another component, even if it does not line up with the edge grip in the perpendicular direction.

At this point, having performed a total of six edge grip edits, our endcap is built. Select the save all changes button on the In-Place Edit toolbar to save the changes.The Wall Endcap Style dialog will appear, prompting you for a name for your new endcap, and offering the option of making this new endcap the wall style default, or an override for this one location. Since I was building a new endcap for this modified wall style, I chose to make this the default endcap for the wall style.

The CMU-12 Rigid-1.5 Air-2 Brick-4 Furring wall instance now sports the new wall endcap style, and the brick returns to the rigid insulation, just like its out-of-the-box cousin.

In addition to the grip edit features shown here, the right click context menu available during endcap edit-in-place allows you to add and remove vertices, hide and show edges (hide is the equivalent of drawing a polyline segment with a width, that edge will not be visible in the endcap), replace or remove the endcap, save all changes, save as a new endcap style or discard all changes. The AEC Modify tools are also available to aid in creating more complex profiles. Whether you create a lot of custom endcaps or have met with such frustration with endcaps in the past that you avoid them entirely, the improved edit-in-place of wall endcaps in the 2009 release is a feature you will want to investigate, learn and make use of in the future.

Next Article in the Series: AutoCAD Architecture 2009 - Part 3

February 16, 2008

AutoCAD Architecture 2009 - Part 1

The NDA has been lifted (as if you were not already aware of it), and Betaprogram participants can talk about the features in the soon-to-be-released 2009 versions of Autodesk products. See Shaan Hurley's Between the Lines blog for several articles filled with links to all sorts of 2009-related articles.

There seemed to be more than the usual grumbling in the AutoCAD® Architecture Discussion Groups in the last few days regarding the lack of compelling new or improved content in AutoCAD Architecture 2009. Or maybe the nasty head cold/fever that persists in ignoring my requests for it to go away has simply made me more sensitive to it this year. The few things I have seen written about 2009 so far (I have not had time to visit all of Shaan's links) have been brief descriptions, which may not be doing the new things justice. I know I will not be able to convince those who start out certain that the new release is not worth the effort to install it, but perhaps the following will be able to convince those with a more open mind that there are some exciting new and improved features that will make the new version worth a more detailed look, in person. If I had more time, this would be better organized, but if I wait until I get it organized to post it, those on subscription will have the DVD in hand first. So please bear with the stream-of-consciousness approach.

User Interface
Let's get the most obvious thing out of the way first. Yes, the interface has been redone, again. This seems to annoy quite a few people, who think the effort should go into the program. I am not certain I can or want to argue with that philosophy, except to note that after I uninstalled the previous Beta in anticipation of installing the final one, I opened each of the other versions of AutoCAD Architecture/Autodesk® Architectural Desktop that I have installed, to make sure nothing got broken in the uninstall, and was reminded of just how painful the old 3.3 interface (so cool when it was new) now seems. And while the default look, colors and icons have changed a bit, it is not the radical change that the introduction of "palettes" in 2004 brought.

The Design Workspace (click on image for a larger view)

If you are going to use this "as AutoCAD," then the Ribbon thing may take some getting used to - but only the Visualization Workspace for AutoCAD Architecture is ribbonized. The other workspaces still have the old, familiar drop down menus, etc. Ribbonization of those workspaces was deferred to a future release, to avoid releasing a less-than-fully stable product prematurely. I do almost no visualization myself, so I have another year to make that transition. And you can always create your own workspaces, with just the features you want.

The Visualization Workspace

One other nice feature in the new interface is the enhanced tool tips that are available when hovering over a button, tool, or object. For example, hovering over the Layer Manager button on the Layer Properties toolbar initially displays the tooltip shown in the image below.Continuing to hover over the button expands the tooltip, with the following, more detailed information.Not earth shattering, but it does give you the name of the command and a brief description. For experienced users, those tooltips will come in handy until you adjust to the new icons; for the newer user, they can provide easy access to help without having to navigate through the Help. And they are not restricted to commands - you can now quickly find the layer, style name and style description of AEC objects, simply by hovering over them.Detail component information will also be included, for Detail Components and the keynote will be included, for Keynotes.

64-bit Support
Those of you with 64-bit machines will no longer have to jump through hoops to use a 32-bit version of ACD-A; 2009 will be available in both 32- and 64-bit versions.

Wall Cleanup Improvements - Say Goodbye to the Red Circle of Death
Wall defects have not been solved 100% (and there are some things, like coincindental walls, that are more a user defect than a program one). But 2009 will clean up many more conditions than earlier versions would have, including the often wished for cleanup between walls with baselines at different elevations. In the image below, the wall running from lower left to upper right was drawn with its baseline at Z = 0; the other wall's baseline is at Z = 2'-0".In previous versions, these walls would never have cleaned up, but switching to a top view......shows that these two walls do cleanup. So long as the baseline of one of the walls falls within the height of the other (and the projection of the graphlines onto a horizontal plane cross or touch - OR - the cleanup radius of one crosses the baseline of the other), cleanup will occur. Notice the dashed lines connecting the outer face of the vertical wall, which happens to be the lower wall, at Z = 0. This is the Below Cut Plane component, which is turned on in the out-of-the-box Plan Display Representation for Walls. I tweaked the settings, adding a linetype to make it easier for me to identify the linework in my description - you would see a continuous line here, as an indication that that wall runs through below the other wall. If you do not want that line, you would need to turn off the display of the Below Cut Plane component.

Modified Linetype and Lt Scale Settings on Below Cut Plane Component

Cleanup between external references has been improved. Walls in copies of the same external reference (attachment or overlay) will cleanup, when moved or rotated. This also applies to nested external references. The only condition not supported in 2009 is mirrored external references.

When defects do occur, the infamous defect marker of old, often affectionately referred to as the "Red Circle of Death" has now been replaced with the kindler, gentler "Orange Triangle of Elucidation". While still providing a visual clue that things are not quite right, if you hover over the marker, a "solution tip" will appear, giving you some help in trying to resolve the issue. In the image below, I intentionally overlapped two walls of the same style to generate a defect marker.Had I been unaware of the reason why the defect occurred, reading the solution tip gives me both the cause and a possible solution. How many times in the past would you have loved to have that? If you draw a wall that is too short to display the assigned endcaps, or place a Door, Window or Door/Window Assembly without leaving enough space for the opening endcap, the solution tip will tell you that is the problem. I expect to see far fewer Discussion Group posts asking for help with that issue in the future. In addition to Walls, solution tips apply to the following objects: Stairs, Slabs, Structural Members, Roofs, and Mass Elements.

Wall Drafting Improvements
How many times have you started drawing a Wall, with the desired justification set, but picked the first point without thinking about whether the Wall would fall on the proper side, and picked what should have been the endpoint, not the starting point? Yes, you could grip edit it after the fact, but now you need only hit the CTRL key after selecting the first point to flip the wall, while maintaining the desired justification. In other words, you can now draw from end to start.

If that justification was not properly set, no more moving the mouse over to the Properties palette to change it. The SHIFT key will toggle between Left, Center, Right and Baseline justifications, as shown below.
If the standard justifications for walls will not get the wall placed where you would like, you can take advantage of the new on-screen options in the OFfset option of the WALLADD command. In addition to entering a distance (by typing or picking a point on-screen), you can now graphically select any of the following "lines":
  • Face of any component (solid line on screen).
  • Center line of any component (dashed line on screen).
  • Center line of wall (center line on screen).
If all that proves too much new stuff to remember, the Communication Center has "Did You Know" balloons to remind you of new features when particular commands, such as the WALLADD command, are executed. These do close after a short period of time. Once you have absorbed the information, you can choose not to see a particular item again, using the link on the balloon. The down arrow expands the balloon to show a small graphic image.
The final major improvement for Walls is in-place endcap editing. That is a whole article in itself, and there are additional new features for other objects to be discussed. My head cold/fever is starting to get the better of me, so I will conclude Part 1 here.

Next Article in the Series: AutoCAD Architecture 2009 - Part 2

February 06, 2008

ACD-A Display System - Part 2, Big Picture Overview

First Article in the Series: ACD-A Display System - Part 1, AutoCAD® Basics

Just as a typical automobile driver needs to know little about the modern internal combustion engine and how it interfaces with the rest of the automobile in order to be able to drive, the typical AutoCAD® Architecture end user does not need to have a deep understanding of the Display System. When working with a properly set up system, the end user only needs to select the correct Display Configuration and view direction, and everything should display and plot correctly.

On the other hand, if the out-of-the-box settings do not quite meet your firm's requirements and you are the one tasked with doing what needs to be done to ameliorate the situation, unless you have the power to change your firm's requirements to match the out-of-the-box settings, you will need a good understanding of the Display System. This purpose of this series of blog articles is to provide that understanding. The Display System, like most powerful computer features, has a level of complexity that tends to overwhelm people the first time they take a look under the hood. Rather than dive into the details and risk getting lost, this installment will provide a "big picture" overview of the Display System. Future articles will look at the components and their use in more detail; come back here when you need to get your bearings and see how that detail relates to the overall system.

Display System Components
There are three primary parts to the Display System:
  • Display Configurations
  • Display Representation Sets
  • Display Representations
We will look at these in reverse order, starting at the bottom of the Display System hierarchy with Display Representations and building up to Display Configurations. Keep in mind that the Display System only interacts with AEC (AutoCAD Architecture) objects and has no effect on AutoCAD objects.

Display Represenations are the building blocks of the Display System. A Display Representation holds the instructions for how a particular object type is to display, when that Display Representation is active. While there are a few, non-graphical object types that do not have editable settings, such as Anchor Free, most AEC object types have at least one editable Display Representation. Within each Display Representation, there is at least one "component" to which display settings can be assigned. Components behave similarly to nested objects within a block definition.

Example of Display Representation Settings -
Plan Display Representation for Doors
You will need a separate Display Representation for each different way you want a particular object type to appear.

Display Representation Sets are collections of Display Representations, usually for multiple object types, that are intended to be seen (turned on or active) at the same time. At any given time, only one Display Representation Set is active; AutoCAD Architecture uses the settings in the Display Representations that are active in the active Display Representation set to determine how to display and plot AEC objects.

Example of Display Representation Set -
Partial View of Out-of-the-Box Plan Display Representation Set
Check marks in the matrix represent an active Display Representation Set for a particular AEC object.

Display Configurations are what the user chooses and are where the view-dependent nature of the Display System is set. One or more Display Representation Sets are assigned to various view directions in the Display Configuration. While it is possible to assign just one Display Representation Set to a Display Configuration (to the Default view direction, resulting in most objects displaying the same way for all view directions), most Display Configurations have separate Display Representation Sets for the Top (plan), Bottom and the four "elevation" view directions (Front, Back, Left and Right), leaving a three-dimensional or "model" Set assigned to the Default view direction, to cover any non-orthogonal views. This is how AutoCAD Architecture is able to change the way objects display when the view direction changes, even though the Display Configuration remains the same.

Example of Display Configuration -
Out-of-the-Box Medium Detail Display Configuration

Levels of Display Contol
The Display System provides three levels at which Display Representation settings can be made:
  • Drawing Default
  • Style-level Override
  • Object-level Override
Drawing Default settings apply to all objects whose style or definition does not have a Style-level Override and which do not have an Object-level Override. Style-level Override settings apply to all objects of a style or definition that has such an override set, which do not have an Object-level Override, and take precedence over the Drawing Default settings. Object-level Override settings apply to that particular object and take precedence over the Drawing Default and, if set, Style-level Override settings.

When an override is applied, all settings for that Display Representation are overriden, even those that remain unchanged from levels lower in the hierarchy. This means that if you later decide to change a Drawing Default setting, that change will not be reflected in objects controlled by a Style-level or Object-level Override, unless you edit the override(s) and make the change there, also. For this reason, best practice is to minimize the use of Style-level Overrides and to avoid Object-level Overrides whenever possible.

Next Article in the Series: ACD-A Display System - Part 3, Viewing and Editing Display Settings