Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Automating Project Startup in Architectural Desktop 2005

When you create a new project from scratch in Architectural Desktop, several things happen to cause your initial project structure to be defined. Most of these are based on files that are already in place on your system. The project, when created, will be instructed to use some of these files directly; others will be copied into the project folders. The key to automating the creation of a new project and ensuring that it gets started according to your company standards without any extensive modifications on the users' parts is not well documented. However, if you know which files are being used, and where the data is coming from it's not too difficult to set up.

1) The first thing you want to do is to get your basic drawing templates established. Make sure that the drawing templates that you want to use for constructs, elements, the three types of views ("General", "Section/Elevation" and "Detail") and your sheets are set up the way you want. In the sheet drawing template, create a layout AND saved page setups for each of the ways you typically plot. Creating saved page setups in that template should not be overlooked. Even though page setups are not absolutely required to plot successfully in ADT 2005, they give you more flexibility for overriding things later on.

2) Next, you need to set up some basic Project Defaults. Using the OPTIONS command, navigate to the "AEC Project Defaults" tab of the OPTIONS screen. There are four categories of file paths and file settings here, but the one you're interested in to get things standardized is "Default Project Template Files". Expand this out and note that this is the place where you specify the default drawing templates for constructs, elements and views. Make sure that these items indicate the files that you set up in step 1. Remain in this screen for the next step.

3) Still in the "AEC Project Defaults" tab of the OPTIONS dialog, note that you can also specify the default Sheet Set Template file (.dst file) and the default Project Details Template File (.apj file). The sheet set template file is what stores the information regarding the sets and subsets you have, as well as what sheet template file you use and which specific layout/page setup you will use for plotting (these are set as a default for the entire sheet set, but each subset can override them - all of this information is stored in the .dst sheet set file). The project details .apj file stores all of the information that you see when you access the Project Properties from either the Project Browser or Project Navigator. The Project Details information is completely customizable. (Note - what is NOT stored in the .apj file for propogation to new projects is level and division information, or folder structure for constructs, elements and views. We'll address that later). Taking note of the files being specified currently for the sheet set template and the project details template (and their locations), make no changes yet, and select "OK" to save your previous changes to the template files and exit the OPTIONS dialog.

4) Create a new .apj file. If you don't have an XML editor, there are several available for download on the internet - I use Microsoft XML Notepad, which can be downloaded for free at http://www.snapfiles.com/get/xmlnotepad.html. Execute your editor and open the default .apj file that was noted in step 3 (you may need to change the file type listing to "all files", as the editor may be looking for files with an XML extension). Once you have the file loaded you can edit any of the "Details" entries to standardize non-graphical information about the project (for example, information that you might want linked to your title block via fields). Once the .apj file has been created, return to the OPTIONS command and specify it as your default project details template in the AEC Project Defaults tab.

5) Take a moment to note the other types of files you can specify here - specifically the image file that appears in the upper left corner of Project Browser and the Project Bulletin board (typically an HTML file) that appears in the large window on the right side of Project Browser.

6) Finally, it's time to set up the sheet sets the way you want. Again, find the sheet set template file who's name and location you noted in step 3. Copy the file and create a new one. Double-click on the new sheet set file that you just created and you should be placed in AutoCAD 2005's Sheet Set Manager. Right-click on the very top entry in the "Sheet List" tab, and select "Properties". In this dialog box is where you can add sheet set and sheet custom fields, etc. But the most important entries are in the "Sheet Creation" section. Here you specify which template to use for sheets, and which specific layout in that template to use. Under "Sheet Set" you can specify the Page Setup overrides file, which should be the same file as your sheet template - this is the file in which all of the page setups are stored that you might want to use as overrides later on. Do NOT change the setting for "Sheet storage location", "Label block for views", "Callout blocks" and "Resource drawing location(s)". The sheet storage location will automatically get changed when you actually apply this sheet set template to a new project. The other three settings are irrelevant in an ADT project scenario. Select "OK" to save your changes to the DST file and exit the dialog. Now create/delete/rearrange sets and subsets as desired, then close Sheet Set Manager.

7) Go back to OPTIONS and in the "AEC Project Defaults" tab set your new DST file as the default sheet set templet. Select "OK" to save the changes and exit the dialog.

8) Test your settings. Create a new project. Go to the "Sheets" tab and you should see the subsets arranged the way you left them in step 6. Create a new sheet and you should be using the template and layout specified in step 6. Go to the Project Details and you should be looking at the fields and values specified in your new .apj file.

To copy levels, divisions and folder structures for a project, the only option in ADT 2005 is to copy a project structure. You can use your new default settings to establish a "seed" project, in which you establish your basic folder structure, levels and divisons. Using the "Copy Project Structure" feature of Project Browser, you can use this empty project to create new projects with pre-established settings.


Blogger David Koch said...

Thanks, Matt. Someday this may come in handy for me, and I am certain that many others who are already using the Drawing Management features will find this something they come back to time and time again.

3:08 PM  

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