Thursday, February 01, 2007

How to deal with 300 users that all want it their way - Part 2

As I mentioned in my previous post, there are 2 default setups for the office - one for AutoCAD and one for ADT. Both of these setups run the same program that is installed on the users system from the network location. The setup is placed on the users system with an executable that I build to put everything where it needs to go - more on that later. So a basic install goes something like this:
  1. Run the deployment.exe - this is a silent install which gets everything where it needs to be for ADT.
  2. Run the AutoCAD.exe, click through the buttons for the install wizard.
  3. Run the ADT.exe, click through the buttons for the install wizard.
  4. Launch AutoCAD for the first time - be sure to cancel if asked to migrate previous settings.
  5. Select the appropriate workspace in AutoCAD.

That's about all that a user would need to do to get the basic set of custom content and tools onto their system. The work required behind the scenes is a bit more detailed.

To start with, you need to collect all your content into one location. The computer I use onsite with my customer is what I use. I install the release of software I will be working with. Since no desktop icon is created I will use the shortcut placed in the Windows Start menu -> All Programs. Once the program has finished launching, I'll create a new profile in Options and name it something along the lines of ADT 2006 (as you get more customized and more teams onboard this will need a more detailed description but for now this will suffice). In centralizing the content on my local C drive, I will create a general folder and subfolders if needed.

  • C:\Company CAD
  • C:\Company CAD\fonts
  • C:\Company CAD\Lisp
  • C:\Company CAD\Custom
  • C:\Company CAD\AutoCAD
  • C:\Company CAD\ADT
  • C:\Company CAD\Team A
  • C:\Company CAD\Team B

The list would go on depending on how detailed you wanted to get or however many itterations of the customization you need to build. Each of the paths I listed above are pretty self-explanatory for what would go in them. Inside the folder AutoCAD, the items I would place in there are the menus (cui's), desktop shortcut needed, the exported profile from AutoCAD Options (AutoCAD.arg), the file (more on that later) and the readme file for the executable that will install all this on the users system.

Once you have your content localized, you can start customizing your environment in AutoCAD. Start by pointing your paths in Options to point to the folders on your local drive. Then, start configuring your CUI to load any custom content needed such as LISP files, partial CUI's, etc. which should all be located in the folders on the local drive. I usually do not put anything in the startup suite of Appload since all LISP files are loaded with and main, enterprise or partial CUI files provided they are loaded in the CUI.

To help avoid users tampering with the setup of the custom content, I place the AutoCAD CUI as an Enterprise CUI and the office CUI files as partial CUI's inside the AutoCAD CUI. Since the enterprise CUI is read-only, when first configuring your CUI's, you will have to load the AutoCAD CUI in the Main CUI slot inside AutoCAD Options. Once you are done configuring the CUI's drop the AutoCAD CUI file into the Enterprise CUI slot and fill the Main CUI slot in with the custom.cui file that can be found under your username application data folder since all users will have this as a common file on their systems. Then if they want to build custom menus/toolbars or change the way their interface looks they can do so without altering the standard install.

Once everything is setup, go back into options one last time and export your profile to the folder for your customization on your C drive - in this case C:\Company CAD\AutoCAD and name the profile AutoCAD.arg. The other file you need is located in your username application data folder called There will be a in a folder that corresponds to the profile name in AutoCAD. This is the *.aws file you want - the file will do you no good. If you installed AutoCAD (or ADT) via the application defaults for support files then you can find the in a location similar to this: C:\Documents and Settings\USERNAME\Application Data\Autodesk\ADT 2006\enu\Support\Profiles. Once inside the last folder in that list, Profiles, you will see folders for each profile available in AutoCAD. Go into the one for the profile we are working with and you will find the file Copy that file to your folder C:\Company CAD\AutoCAD and you will be ready for the next phase.

Once you get AutoCAD configured and running the way you like, it's time to start configuring the executable. That comes in Part 3.

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