Monday, December 31, 2007

Unreal in Design Viz

I found an interesting article the other day about a design firm using the game engine Unreal to visualize a new football stadium. Click the link to read on...

Link me to BusinessWeek already!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Tool Palettes in AutoCAD Architecture 2008 Webcast

Have you tried setting up tool palettes only to find they are a complete headache? Ever try to wrap your head around managing tool palettes and the content used for them? Come join us for a webcast on December 18th and learn more about one of the most valuable tools in ACA 2008.

Main points considered will be:

* Management of Tool Palettes
* Types of tools for placement on Tool Palettes
* Working with tools on Tool Palettes
* Use of Tool Palettes in a network environment

System Requirements
PC-based attendees
Required: Windows® 2000, XP Home, XP Pro, 2003 Server, Vista

Macintosh®-based attendees
Required: Mac OS® X 10.3.9 (Panther®) or newer

Tuesday, December 18, 2007
10:00 AM - 11:00 AM PST

Register Link

Friday, November 30, 2007


Home sweet home. Now to get the smoke smell out of my clothes! Yuck. Well, another AU has come and gone - till next year, lets see what we get into between then and now...

Thursday, November 29, 2007

ACA/AMEP Community meet and Flying during lunch

So our meeting with some of the members from the ACA/AMEP Community on AUGI went well. There were about 6 of us all together which I thought was a good start. After lunch I took off for the exhibit floor and talked with the folks from Boxx systems which was nice. I got a shirt from them in my last class of the day yesterday and that gave a good opening to talk with them. Let's see if we can organize a better planned lunch next year! I also spoke with Shaan Hurley for a bit which was great too. He had some good insight into where to find some info on Newport...

After that I stopped by the flight deck. If you watched the general session video I posted it showed what looked like Google Earth and the guy flying into it and around a city. Well guess what. That was an Autodesk piece of software built using Autodesk apps. The controls were a joystick that works with any flight simulator and showed your speed from 0 to Mach 1. This model was much more detailed than Google earth which simply drapes satellite imagery over terrain. This was an actual model built of Washington D.C. and this thing ran smooth as butter. What a trip that was to use the same thing they were running in that demo! Stay tuned to Autodesk labs for more developing info on this promising tool!

Spline modeling in VIZ/MAX

Got some great tips and mystery's explained in this class. The single biggest thing I can share right now is that spline modelling gives you far greater control over future mods you might make to geometry and allows you to control that in a much more predictable way. So, I guess I will be doing more spline modelling from now on!

Animation Beyond Keyframes

Another class by the legend Ted Boardman. Probably the BEST tip I got out of this class is a workaround to the issue of scaling/mirroring objects in MAX. If you've ever heard anyone that knows what they are doing in MAX will always tell you not to scale/mirror things since it will cause modifiers and animations of those objects to go haywire or just not work. The work around if you have to scale something is to make the scale and then apply an Xform modifier to the object (found on the helper command panel. This applies to objects that are scaled or mirrored in AutoCAD and imported into MAX as well.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Bone

So I ate at the Delmonico Steakhouse last night - owned by Emeril. What a great dinner that was! From atmosphere to wine to appetizers, it was fantastic. Then came the steak - a bone in Rib eye. Mmmm Mm! I was already filling up from the appetizers and salad and stuff so I wasn't quite able to finish the whole thing and found myself staring regretfully at the remaining meat still on the bone. It was calling to me to finish it and my stomach was yelling at me to stop. Then came the waitress asking if I was done and I really couldn't make up my mind so she said she would come back in a little and see how I was doing. 5 minutes later and I was day dreaming fantasy's of doing things with that bone that just aren't acceptable to do in a fine dinning restaurant. The waitress comes back by and takes one look and asks are you done now? I was like, yeah, I'm DONE. Then they go and ask if we would like to see the dessert menu. I'm a sucker for dessert and everyone else wanted to see the menu too. I looked it over and asked if she recommended anything and she said yeah, the pecan pie is really good - something which I was eyeing anyways. That pie had the best crust I've ever had - I never eat the crust either. After that pie and trying a little of the banana cream pie another had and some of the double chocolate fudge pie, I had a slight problem with me belly... but boy oh boy that was super good stuff. That meal rendered me useless the rest of the evening so I retired early for once - an unusual thing for me to do at AU. :-)

Global Illumination for All

Man this guy was good! Great tips and some excellent explanations and insights into how mental ray works. I'll have to disseminate some of the things I picked up later.


I have seen so many people I know - its incredible! I can't seem to go 10' without having someone stop me and say, hey I know you or something like that. Some shout outs go to - in no particular order, Ben, Craig, Rebecca, Mike, Melanie, Blads, CAD Mama, CAD Kitty, Cosmo, Mark, Chris, Phil, Shane, Bob, David, Scott, Scott, Steve, Mark (I sure do know a lot of people with the same name), Sylvi, JF, Louis, Eddie, Joe, etc., etc...

Sorry if I missed your name but my memory hasn't been the same during AU - I've been drinking the forgetful juice... :-)

Exterior Lighting in VIZ

Pretty much stuff I already knew, but since it was a lab I got to play around with some of the settings for cameras such as depth of field, fish eye lens effect, etc.

A Closer look at the Camera in 3ds MAX

Another stellar class on MAX and looking closer at cameras. Got some great tips again. For example, depth of field can be done in post if you render your Z-Depth channel at the same time as the base image and then can combine in post using Combustion or Photoshop. Another was creating a spline and then a helper object and adding a path constraint to the helper object for the spline. The helper will follow the spline and then you can link a camera to the helper and adjust the movement of the camera in addition to the path of the spline. Add to camera an additional position controler of noise (as secondary) and it gives you that handy cam feeling instead of a boom crane cam setup.

Exhibit hall craziness

Some people have the ability to drink too much bud light ~shrugs~

The second half of the video showcases a scion concept car which is really just a heavily modified Scion xA.


Oh yeah! I finally got to use one of these! Here's a link to my video I uploaded to YouTube.

Simulating Reality

Wow - extremely detailed class which included lots of the math going on behind the scenes when you are running lighting simulations in VIZ or MAX. The problem is that its difficult to make a subject such as this interesting. I did get some very interesting insights into the world of light simulation though. Time for lunch now!

Get published!

The first class this morning entailed things to keep in mind if you want to get published for writing articles. Some great info and great places to start were shared. Blogs and forums were 2 places to start so it looks like I'm already on my way!

Major Geek Moment

I got to use a Multi-Touch system last night at the AUGI Beer bust in the exhibit hall!!! Not to mention I got to meet the creator Jeff Han!!! Here is a quick video link about it I found but will post my own video later.

General Session video

As promised (later than I wanted) here is a link to view the general session video that was the best in my opinion.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

AUGI Annual Meeting 2007

So I’m sitting here being a bad boy and typing during the AUGI Annual Meeting, but real quite like… The last 4 posts I’ve made were typed during this meeting in addition to converting my recording of the general session made earlier this morning. It’s all ready for posting to YouTube which I will link to later tonight. AUGI has a new president, has almost 130k members, country chapters everywhere and many people at the meeting are here in person representing those countries. Brings new meaning to the I in AUGI. Up next is the AUGI Beer Bust – OH YEAH!!! Free beer – yum. Anyways, enough blabbing for now. More to come tomorrow.

Knowledge Base Interview

I was really excited to be invited with an interview with Rebecca Drummond who heads up the Knowledge Base & Web Content Editor Product Support team. If you have ever gone to the knowledge base search site and tried to find something you probably had a 50% chance of finding what you wanted. Currently there is a beta preview of what this site holds in the future. Currently I can search all blogs, forums, knowledge base articles and other related documents for a specific piece of software all on one page. Previously I would have needed to hit about 5 different sites to look for an answer but now I can find it all on one page. I have found an answer every time I’ve used the site now. To say I’m ecstatic would be an understatement. I made sure Rebecca understood how important this tool would be for everyone looking for answers – a one stop spot for all your answers. Phenomenal!

Mapping in 3ds MAX

Another class by the legend Ted Boardman. This class focused on a number of things to watch for when building materials and maps in MAX – which really are far too complex to go into in detail here. Look for future postings on this in the future here on my blog.

Landscaping in a 3D World

Wow – simply great tips in this class for using 3ds MAX and doing landscaping. Some highlights that were discussed are when it comes to dealing with large scenes with vegetation that fades into the distance and randomizing placement of vegetation within the scene.

When it comes to dealing with grass, recommendations included using the hair and fur modifier in extremely close up shots involving grass. Then for medium range shots try using displacement maps to generate geometry at the time of render without adding additional polys to your scene.

For dealing with placing vegetation in the scene try using a P-Flow system for randomizing the placement of objects in the scene over a plane object – esp. if you can convert it to an editable poly and activate the face sub-object mode to use the paint deformation tool to shape your landscape and make it feel more lifelike.

Also check out these pictures taken during the session – one about Advanced Painter which can be found on a place called script spot and the other listing some references for great resources for landscaping with MAX.

Start using AutoCAD Architecture now!

Well, I thought it went well. I was a lab assistant in Beth Powell's class Start using AutoCAD Architecture now! Lots of good questions were asked by the those that attended the class and it was a pleasure to help answer some of them. Thanks for asking me to be there Beth!


Holy crap - Autodesk is screwing with my brain BIG time now. I sat through the general session this morning at Autodesk University. It focused on where they see design technology heading and potential uses for it. One thing they showed cased was prototyping a new hybrid sports car. Everything was done completely digital - from design to engineering to production - all without the cost of building a single physical prototype. The next one showcased design firm that is designing the next telescope that is to be the world's largest at 30 meters! They are building the entire design in Autodesk Inventor which will allow them to coordinate how many materials they will need for building the project to showing the astronomers how their equipment will interface with the structure holding the mirror and lens.

However, the creme de la creme happened last. They highlighted how an Architect might utilize Autodesk applications in designing a new library for a civic center in a metropolitan setting. They started using Maya to design a funky looking sculpture which invoked a sense of fabric flowing in the breeze. They took that and other designs into Revit and built a model of the building. Then they shared the building model with the structural engineer that designed the structure of the building and analyzed the structural members of it using Robot Millennium to check for the capacity of the members being used to support based on the stresses generated. They also shared the model with the MEP consultants for them to design the support systems for the building. hey also coordinated with the Civil engineering team to see their design in the context in which it would be built. Then they proceeded to dump all this data into Navisworks to run collision detection to ensure that the Architecture, Structural and MEP data did not hit any road blocks and helped coordinate a list of everything that needed to be addressed. They also used Navisworks to help the construction team see the different phases of the project and how the building would come together.

To put the icing on the cake, they followed it with a design visualization of the building in context using a new program called Newport. This is the first I've heard of it and I will have to add that they closed the general session saying that some technology is not ready for public release - meaning Newport is either in Alpha or Beta testing right now - hmmm.... Anyways, they were able to coordinate the Revit model much better in a 3D Realistic rendering than can currently be done - and much smoother. Autodesk said they have really been stressing having all their products work seamlessly together.

For the cherry on top, they put all this data into something that looked like Google Earth and did a realtime fly by simulation from outer space down to the project site with the building and all its related data in place. They showed different pieces of the data live on the set - something which is much better demonstrated live as opposed to writing it out. I recorded the demo and will post live to youtube later tonight somehow and link to my blog. You're gonna love this!

*edit* Here is the link to the video I took and posted to you tube.
Click me!

Autodesk University

Alright, following will be a ton of posts about AU 2007 and my little adventure. It’s a week long extravaganza of food, training, food, training, food/drinks and party every day. Rinse, lather, repeat all week long!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Drawing Cleanup

Get it while its hot! From what I can tell, this utility will only be available for a limited time - November 30th. Think of it like a visual way to move linework from one layer to another. It should make taking those drawings from consultants that are non-conformant to the standard layers you use a snap (sorry - couldn't resist).

Drawing Cleanup


Autodesk has made a sizable donation for those affected by the fires here in SoCal.

Link to the Labs Blog

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Conquering Walls in AutoCAD Architecture 2008

I have a new webcast coming up where you will learn:

* Common mistakes to avoid while drawing walls.
* Understanding walls – Building and modifying wall styles.
* Wall/opening endcaps and wall cleanup group definitions – what they are and why you need them.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007
2:00 PM - 3:00 PM PDT

System Requirements
PC-based attendees
Required: Windows® 2000, XP Home, XP Pro, 2003 Server, Vista

Macintosh®-based attendees
Required: Mac OS® X 10.3.9 (Panther®) or newer

Space is limited.
Reserve your Webinar seat now (link)

Wednesday, October 03, 2007


No, not as in dogs - like R&D labs. Maybe I'm behind the 8-ball here, but I just came across the Autodesk labs. I was recommended to check out a cool video using the multi-touch screen by Jeff Han with Autodesk design software. You Tube link

That link showed the web address for - once there I immediately found a tool I am going to give a try: CommandComplete

There is some other pretty cool stuff I see at first glance but will have to get into it another night.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

SP 1 for ACA 2008

The service pack has finally been released for ACA 2008. This is also my lame attempt at adding a new post to my blog. Sorry for the lack of activity lately - it's amazing how things can get away from you if you're not watching closely!

SP1 Link

Sunday, August 26, 2007

SCCS 2007 follow up

I just wanted to give my thanks to all who showed up. It was great to see those of you who I've worked with and meet some new faces too. If you have questions on any of the classes below, feel free to post a comment here or drop me an email.
  • MAX 9 and VIZ 2008 - Get Mental
  • AutoCAD Architecture 2008 - Feature Enhancements for AutoCAD Architecture 2008
  • Revit Architecture 2008 - Revit Architecture – Interoperability from Revit to 3ds MAX
  • CAD Management - How to Deal with 300 Users That All want it Their Way
Here is a link to U.S. CAD's website for handout downloads:

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

That's a wrap!

Thanks for those who attended the webcast. I apologize for any technical difficulties you may have experienced trying to dial in for the audio portion. We are still new at the webcast technical issues and are trying to adapt and getting better with our second run. We are looking into other possibilities in the future to help minimize the problems. We recorded the webcast, but unfortunately the audio did not come through. I will re-record the audio in a few days when I have a moment to do so. When the finished recording is available for download, I will let those interested in it know about the details for download.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Harness the Power of Project Management in AutoCAD Architecture 2008

Learn how to harness the power of Project Navigator in ACA 2008 in the most robust version yet released.

What will be covered:

* Faster and easier management of External References
* Automation of Section and Elevation callouts referencing plot sheets
* Enforcement of office standards within the project environment

Webcast attendees will receive a $5 Starbucks Gift Card* as a token of our appreciation for spending time with us.

* Starbucks Gift Cards will only be sent out to companies and Autodesk software users located in Southern California.


Harness the Power of Project Management in AutoCAD Architecture 2008


Wednesday, July 25, 2007


10:00 AM - 11:00 AM PDT

System Requirements
PC-based attendees
Required: Windows® 2000, XP Home, XP Pro, 2003 Server, Vista

Macintosh®-based attendees
Required: Mac OS® X 10.3.9 (Panther®) or newer

Space is limited.
Reserve your Webinar seat now at:

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Follow up to Webcast for Detail components

One question that was asked after the webcast was, "How do I get all the lines in a sheet keynote table to print?"

To allow all lines of the table style to print, you will need to modify the table style. Please
reference the image below the steps.

Go to the menu Format and choose Table Styles…
  • For step 1, select the Sheet Keynote Legend table style.
  • For step 2, click the modify button.
  • For step 3, select the appropriate component of the table in the drop down list.
  • For step 4, click the borders tab and click the button to give all cell edges border lines.
Note: you may need to do this to more than just the data portion of the table style – headers and other parts might need it too.

The follow up question to the solution above was: "Is there a way to change the style permanently so I won’t have to go through this every time?"

Right click the Sheet Keynote Legend tool on your tool palette that you are using and choose properties. Refer to the highlighted path in the image below. Browse to your file and setup the table style in that file to use the settings you want. Please keep in mind that just like any other AutoCAD drawing, once a style is defined in a drawing, it will need to be re-defined to use the new settings. I would recommend using Design Center to update the table styles being used in existing drawings.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

You can do it!!!

Take the plunge into the latest Autodesk® technology!
Southern California CAD Summit 2007
August 23 @ the Anaheim Convention Center
SCCS 2007 is here and once again it’s making waves as the largest annual CAD training event in Southern California. We’re creating a splash with a full day of training, offering 40 industry-specific classes covering the latest technology for Architecture, MEP, Structural Engineering, Civil, Geospatial, Design Visualization, Mechanical and Electrical. We’ve also invited the industry’s best talent join us as our featured guest speakers, as well as select vendors that offer top technology to compliment your Autodesk solutions. Now is the time to swim (not sink) on the latest technology. Expand your pool of knowledge and register today at When filling out your registration form, be sure to include my name to let them know how you found out about the event.

I will be presenting several classes this year. The SCCS website will list specific descriptions for each class. Here are the classes I will be running.
  • MAX 9 and VIZ 2008 - Get Mental
  • AutoCAD Architecture 2008 - Feature Enhancements for AutoCAD Architecture 2008
  • Revit Architecture 2008 - Revit Architecture – Interoperability from Revit to 3ds MAX
  • CAD Management - How to Deal with 300 Users That All want it Their Way
The last class listed should sound familiar to readers of my blog. It will be an expanded forum on the series I posted previously to my blog. Since it is part of the CAD Management track, those looking to know more about managing the software we use will want to make that a part of their day. In addition to what you've seen on the blog, I plan on showing you the process in action and how easy it can be to setup your own customization.

That's a wrap!

Thanks for attending the webcast! I really appreciate the feedback I've received from those who've taken the time to say something. You can expect another webcast in July, the details of which will be released soon and posted to my blog, as well as L.A. CAD's website.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Utilizing the Detail Engine in AutoCAD Architecture

I will be conducting a 1-hour webcast, covering the following topics:
  • The detail engine in ACA and what they offer over traditional detailing methods
  • What kind of details can be created
  • How to create one architectural and one structural detail
  • Annotate details via keynoting system based on CSI Master Format
  • Other possible uses for keynotes
June 20, 2007

Registration is free! Each attendee will receive a $5 Starbucks gift card as our token
of our appreciation for your time. That's worth at least one drink!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Graphics Drivers - OpenGL or DirectX?

Take your pick - OpenGL or DirectX? How do you decide which is the best?

It really depends on where you would rank the type of graphics card you purchased. Since I have not had to spec a graphics card for some time, all I can say is what is on a manufacturers website stating whether it falls under the ultra-high performance, medium or entry level category. It has been my experience with previous versions of MAX and VIZ that Direct X (or DX3 as some tag it) displays better and handles on screen graphics better than open GL on a poor or mediocre graphics card, sometimes you even needed to resort to software driven. However, with the newer cards that are out there today it has become much less of an issue. What does this have to do with AutoCAD based applications?

To give a little history, Open GL started back when the film industry and other high end graphic applications were on the rise and using Silicon Graphics workstations. They needed an open source to write code to display all the 3D objects that applications were running. DX3 came as a solution for game developers who needed a consistent platform on which to build their game engines. Microsoft has always been the developer for DX3 and has not turned it into an open source code - meaning they are the only developers for DX3. During that time, it was a big deal to choose the correct driver. Typically Oxygen cards (now bought out) were the best of the best and only ran Open GL and there were others that focused on DX3 only. I was never fortunate enough to run a system running an Oxygen card, but that is a moot point now as they are defunct and out of date. Now most cards support both drivers and run very well using either one. An application can only use one driver at a time and usually needs to be closed and re-opened before switching to the a different driver.

With that out of the way, I would have to say that it would be up to the individual to give preference to one driver over another at this point. Yes, AutoCAD based apps are different than MAX or VIZ, but the same principle of the state of your graphics card will apply. I would say that if you have bought a graphics card in the last year that was either medium to high end, it will be a wash and difficult for the average user to tell a difference in performance between the two. Since both drivers are for displaying 3D objects live on screen, AutoCAD will not use either until you break into a 3D view. MAX and VIZ on the other hand use it all the time so it becomes more apparent. I would give both a shot for one whole day each and if you feel a better performance between one or the other, go with the one that seems to run the fastest.

For an even greater in depth read on the differences between the two drivers, have a look on Wikipedia.

A detour

Well, in a previous post I discussed the possibility of me getting more in depth with Design Visualization involving VIZ and MAX, but also the interoperability between those and other Autodesk applications such as AutoCAD, AutoCAD Architecture, Revit, and civil and manufacturing solutions. Before I get more in depth I will be getting into the nitty gritty of Revit Architecture 2008. So right now my focus is more on Revit in depth. After this I will be going more in depth.

I'm also planning on a CAD Management class and a MAX class for our upcoming SCCS in August. Check back here for some tidbits on what those will involve and why you will want to be there.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Large Coordinate Systems

I made a previous post on my blog about keeping geometry near 0,0,0. Well, I came across another situation the other day that took this to another level and in my searches help me find even more info on why you want to keep things close to 0,0,0. What I'm about to describe cover 4 or possibly more different industries - general CAD, Surveying, 3D Modeling, possibly manufacturing, CSI and as built models/renovations - all rolled into one task.

Here's the deal. Using a 3D laser scanning device such as
Faro or Leica a user builds what's called a point cloud that has millions of data points that represent actual coordinates of all desired geometry. These points need to be tied in with some sort of geographic location such as NAD or somewhere in the GPS grid. When that is done and the geometry imported into CAD, the point cloud is typically millions of units away from 0,0 due to each region of the NAD having one common point. Millions of units generally translates into hundreds of miles which is a LONG ways away from 0,0. The point clouds can be used to build all sorts of data - terrain, buildings, tunnels, crash scenes from auto accidents (including the wrecked vehicals).

When geometry is located that far from 0,0 - things start to happen - strange things I might add. Commands stop working properly on obects, things display wrong in 3D - even vertical apps built on top of AutoCAD such as ADT start displaying things incorrectly. To start with, Shaan has made a few posts on his blog that discuss this.
Post 1, post 2, post 3. Reading these posts are essential to understanding what the problem is when you have geometry far away from 0,0.

Shaan's article uses the drawing of the solar system that many of you may remember from the older days of AutoCAD. You can draw the solar system to scale, but you run into problems when you try to draw a lander on pluto to scale due to the limit of digits that the computer can use. Currently that is 16 digits total and that does not mean 16 on each side of a decimal point. 16 total means you can have 10000000.00000001 or 1.000000000000001 or 100000000000000.1 as a number. When dealing with coordinates in the millions, you run out of decimal places real quick and that is what cause things to stop working when far away from 0,0.

Also, there is a lovely
article on Cadalyst that discusses this in depth too. This article describes some lovely workarounds for dealing with this situation. Typically, if the user doing the scans knows in advance that the points should be registered to a local 0,0 instead of a state plane - the point clouds come in close to 0,0 which is great. But what if that wasn't done before the point clouds were generated? What if the user cannot move the point clouds near 0,0? Well, those are questions I don't have an answer for right now - nor does anyone else seem to. If I find something more on this, I will post an update.

Friday, April 20, 2007

What a week

My goodness that was a long week. I'm going to have to take some time to digest it all, but I can at the very least give a quick wrap up on some of the big ticket items.
  • Annotative scaling for AutoCAD, AutoCAD Architecture (ACA) and AutoCAD MEP (AMEP).
  • IFC 2x3 compliancy for ACA and AMEP along with the Revit based products is now built into the software package.
  • Display settings are now available on the Properties palette for editing (my personal favorite)
  • VIZ 2008 inherited all the sweet mental ray goodies from MAX 9.
I have a feeling that I will be leaning towards more info on Design Visualization in the future and how AutoCAD, ACA, AMEP, Revit, AutoCAD Civil 3D and Inventor work together with VIZ and MAX. It always been something I've wanted to get into on a deeper level and now I finally am in a position to do so.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Autodesk Techcamp 2007

Well, next week is the Autodesk Techcamp (formerly known as bootcamp and something more appropriate in my opinion). We will be going over the new features of the new products and how to implement them. I think this year has some of the greatest enhancements to the software packages offered in a while. If you are wondering what Techcamp is like, it's similar to AU, but no where near as fun. Being held in Orlando has a little to do with that and the fact that you must attend classes affects the atmosphere too. This will also be my first chance to really get in depth with the new software. I've participated in the betas for AutoCAD and AutoCAD Architecture, but not to the extent I would have liked to. We will see what stuff this year turns up.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

No More VIZ Render

I knew there would be a select few wondering were VIZ Render (VIZR) has gone to when they load ACA2008. This portion of ACA (formerly ADT) has been discontinued. In my opinion, it has always been lacking in features to make it really useful. In addition to that, I found it extremely cumbersome to use after spending so much time using full VIZ and MAX as well. Really, what you should be looking into, is the core 3D functionality that was added to AutoCAD (actually rebuilt) starting with the release in 2007. They incorporated the mental ray engine that has been part of MAX and VIZ for some time now. So now you can achieve the same effects in AutoCAD/ACA as you could have done with VIZR - only without the pain of linking your model, struggling thru the material editor that lacked many features of VIZ and not having to worry what happens when you have an update to the building. Of course you can still link to VIZ or MAX, but that is only if you have them as a whole.

Friday, March 23, 2007

My last post on Architechtural Desktop

Well, it's official! Architectural Desktop is no more. I've heard a number of rumors in the past year with people saying ADT is going away, it's being replaced with Revit, Autodesk is abandoning one of it's largest installed user base for it's products, etc... I hope your happy. Introducing AutoCAD Architecture 2008. Well, alright, I may have over done it slightly.

ADT is really still here - it's just sporting a new name and a new look. I know many have mixed feelings on the name change - as do I. I was introduced to ADT with the release of 2004. I immediately embraced the step up from vanilla AutoCAD and jumped right in with both feet learning the platform in and out. For those that remember the splash screen from ADT 2004 and 2005, it was a picture (tinted blue) of the Tokyo International Glass Forum Building (picuture included at end of post). In 2005, I had the opportunity to give the building a visit while on vacation in Japan. I have to say it's a wonderful building, but then again, I'm also a big fan of all things Japanese - so I'm a little biased. That being said, ADT has been all I've known the product as. Others who go back further recall it as softdesk (prior to Autodesk buyout). So I suppose one more name change isn't that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things, right?

Perhaps. Change is part of our life. Yet for some reason, when it comes to technology, many people don't like change (I'd say 50%-60% - this might change as the years go on, but currently that is my opinion). So for some, this name change is world shattering - life ending. For others, it's just another day at the office. At first, I was more than a little bothered by this name change, however I quickly snapped out of it and realized a couple of things. One is that change is, as I said, part of our world. The other was that I had no ability to change the mind of a multi-billion dollar company and their marketing departments' choice to change a few product names. So I quickly moved on and accepted the fact that ADT was gone and replaced by AutoCAD Architecture or ACA for short. This change affects more than just Autodesk - many other companies will have to adapt to this name change. Blog names will need updating. Websites need updating. Speaking of updating websites, the ADT/ABS Community on AUGI is being updated in anticipation of the new products shipping. I suppose I should get busy editing those web pages!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

CAD Standards Content - Local or Network?

Beth Powell made a good point on her blog about CAD Standards content being kept on a local drive versus a network drive (link). It may be more work, but not by much. The part that's takes the most work is building the script file to begin with. Once it's built, it's done. Everyone still has to update the content files, organize them, etc. - whether that's done on a local or network drive it will still take the same amount of time. Using it for updated versions or new software deployments takes next to no time since you can simply make a copy of the script file and continue on from there. Did I mention I made a deployment image, applied a service pack to it and had the new release of tools ready to go in one day for ADT 2007?

While I agree, this is not for everyone, it will work in many situations. Beth also mentioned she was curious about performance seen from keeping content locally vs in a network location. What the end user will see varies greatly on a number of things. Size of the company, locations of the office or offices, network policies, number of people trying to access the network and so on. I guess what I'm saying is that it would be very hard to put an average number to any perceived performance boost due to varying network conditions. I think it would be safe to say that a small office of 50 people or less would probably not notice a difference between content stored locally or on the network. Medium size offices (50-100) would see some difference and a large office environment (100 and above) would see something much more noticeable. I've have seen companies spread out over a WAN that had some really complex network systems in place to keep everyone connected. Hopefully you are not building the content so it has to pull across the WAN - that would make things painfully slow.

Either way, as Beth mentioned, consistency will help tremendously. I've seen that more now than ever before as I have seen things become much easier in deploying the next version of the software. Whether you go with content locally or on the network, it's your call. If given the choice for myself, content will always be local if feasible.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Tool Palette Order and Grouping

I consistantly see users asking how to make tool palettes display the same way on multiple computers to match a standard layout. This seems to be a recurrent topic in many companies. I made a brief comment on the file in a previous post, last paragraph - however, I don't feel I gave it enough attention as to why you need this file that is buried deep within Documents and Settings. The Tool Palettes are extremely flexible, yet trying to share them with others that follow a standard format can be frustrating. Hopefully this will help demistify it and help you understand better an easy way to share a standard layout of tool palettes.

The contains a number of things about how palettes - specifically tool palettes - are displayed. The aws file extension stands for AutoCAD Work Space and is a fitting name since it remembers changes you make to the environment of AutoCAD. If you were to open the aws file with Microsoft word or Internet Explorer you will find that it is based on XML code. While I do not write or fully understand XML code, the structure of it allows you to start to understand it if you look long enough (kinda Matrix esq, huh?). One thing you can try if you open it with MS Word is to use the find command on the Edit menu to search for a name of a tool palette you know is available in the program. Once it finds the palette name, look at the surrounding text to see what is around it and it should give you an idea of what data is stored in the file.

In vanilla AutoCAD, tool palettes allow you export the tool palette groups to an xtp file which can then be imported to another users computer. While this is dandy, for those using ADT (even if you run a profile to use ADT as AutoCAD), this option is disabled to prevent exporting tools on palettes that only run in ADT to users of AutoCAD. While I find this response from Autodesk somewhat lame, it is what it is. While I would know better than to load ADT palettes onto a system running only vanilla AutoCAD, appearently Autodesk thinks there are some that wouldn't know any better. I suppose they are right but this leaves us advanced users trying to figure out how to make ADT have standard tool palette groupings. One could use Catalogs and have them mimick tool palettes, but I find this to be somewhat of a long winded process that novice users have a difficult time with. This means the advanced user is stuck going around dropping palettes from catalogs onto everyones system and we all know the advanced users time is better spent elsewhere.

Enter the - this file contains all the info of the tool palettes on a system - order of palettes, which palettes belong in which group and the location/size of the palette on the computer screen. This file exists for both vanilla AutoCAD and ADT, so it does not matter which platform you run on. So if you as the advanced user builds and organizes 50 palettes into multiple groups and sub groups with specific ordering to them, this file is the key to duplicating that orginazation to everyone else on your team or in the company. Where can you find it? 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 Export your profile from options and import it to a test system. Close ADT and then copy the aws file and drop it onto the test system in the mirror location for it. Reopen ADT and you should have the palettes grouped in the same order as the source system!

Saturday, March 10, 2007

How to deal with 300 users that all want it their way - Part 5

Well, it looks like I'm not done writing about this subject. I had a colleague write me asking more about what I would do with certain content for AutoCAD and/or ADT. There are several different areas that I look at content covering. There is out of the box (ootb) content, company specific content and support content - I will go more into depth on each of these in a moment. I have my own opinions on where these should be placed, however location of the content depends on several factors.

Here's some questions you can ask to help determine where the content needs to be store.

  • Who will be maintaining the content if it needs revising or additional content added? Advanced, technically savvy users should have no problem placing the content anywhere they choose and maintaining it in addition to that.
  • If no such user exists in the office, who will be doing the revisions? If it will be an outside consultant that has limited time in office, you may defer to their preference.
  • What content needs to be accessed and used with AutoCAD/ADT? Depending on what the content is, you may choose to have a mixed environment where some content is stored locally and other content stored on the server.
  • Who interfaces with the company and how flexible do you need the standards to be? If the company has strict policies on the use of their content outside the workplace and have tight controls on what data enters/leaves the workplace, then storage of all content on a server is unavoidable due to the need to restrict user access. This also means you most likely will never have to worry about project consultants trying to use the same tools as the rest of the internal company staff. However, more firms are beginning to realize the benefits of having their own employees be able to use the same tools at home as they do at work in the event they need to work overtime on the weekend and wish to do so from home. In addition, many firms have outside consultants helping to generate plans as well and they realize if the consultants have access to the same tools then they get more consistent plans that match what they would do in the office.
  • Is the content something that will be re-usable for future releases of software or will it need to be rebuilt? Certain parts of the software are not backwards compatible. For example, tool palettes have been getting little tweaks as the releases of the software move forward. If you use those new features in a more current version, will you need to think about keeping a legacy set of palettes stored in that case? Hopefully not, but something to keep in the back of your mind...

OOTB Content

For AutoCAD, I would consider things like templates (dwt, dst and dws), fonts, CUI (menu) files, plot styles, profiles, dynamic blocks, tool palettes, etc. that ship with the product to be ootb content. For ADT, I would consider things like AEC styles (architectural, documentation and miscellaneous), ADT tool palettes, Detail Component and Keynote libraries, PN template projects and Content Browser Catalogs that ship with the product to be ootb content. Usually most firms have their own version of these items. Due to that, I will typically let all ootb content be installed to the local machine. The main reason being is that if for some reason a problem happens on a system, I have a fall back to check and see if the same problem occurs under ootb settings. Some might say that now the users have access to non-standard content. Well, if the average is able to somehow find it, then they are no longer an average user since the content's default location is buried in Documents and Settings and most never venture that deep into the system. In addition, the office deployment will most likely replace the majority of the ootb tools with their own version of it. You can also stress to users that it is not their job to customize AutoCAD - that's my job. They should instead focus on getting those drawings out the door. If they want to play with the software, they are in the wrong position.

Company Specific Content

When I refer to company specific content, I'm referring to blocks, AEC styles, things the are actually drawn in the drawing. The amount of this content will depend on a number of things. How much legacy content have you been bringing forward, how much new content will be generated by future releases and how much content will be built as time goes forward and people find new parts of the software they want to take advantage of. For new users of ADT, the content typically will start small and expand overtime as they begin to use more and more of the software. Where will you place this content?

Well, the location of the content is something that you do not want to change, especially if the content is placed on tool palettes. The reason being is that the content on tool palettes are hard pathed to the source files the drive the content on the palettes. For this reason, I try real hard to pick a location that will never change, otherwise you have a lot of tools to fix. Many like to place tool palettes on a network drive. That's great until one of several things happen. What if IT decides the location of the content needs to move to another server drive and the drive letter previously mapped was S and now it is place on a drive mapped with letter T. All tool palettes that referenced the previous drive are broke and need to be fixed. What happens if the network goes down? No content. What happens if you want to use the tools and the palettes outside the office? You get to go thru an extensive process to package up the tool palettes into a catalog and hope the user can set them up on their own at home. These are the main reasons I prefer to place the content and the tool palettes for company specific content on a users local drive and in a location that can be consistent everywhere they go. Hence in my second post why I outline placing everything in a folder on the root of their local C drive. Every computer I've worked with has a C drive.

Other options I've seen used if you must keep content on the network is to burn it to a CD or DVD and remap the optical drive to match the server drive. You could also place the content on a flash drive and remap the flash drive to the server letter. You would want to do that after disconnecting from the network and prior to launching AutoCAD. The advantage to using a flash drive is if your content and project files are stored on the same drive letter you do not need to repath xref'd files when working at home. Simply drop the project files on the flash drive as well and you are set to go. As a side point, you can use a flash drive at home mapped to the server drive letter your project files are stored on to avoid repathing xref files when working from home. Another option is to use something like Robocopy to copy files from the server down to a local folder each time a user logs into the network to ensure they have the latest version of files on their local drive.

Ultimately, this is something you want to think about long and hard for each situation you come across. Believe me, I know from experience, it is not fun to get all your content built and placed on palettes only to find out they should have been mapped to a different location.

Support Content

I consider things like fonts, plot styles, pc3 files, CUI files, lisp files (or any custom apps), templates - basically anything set for use in Options, appload or the CUI - to be support content. Tool Palettes are the one exception to this. Again, where you place these files will reflect the office environment you are in. Most of these items get placed in their own respective folders for the particular team or office. In the situation that I gave at the beginning of this series, there are variants of each of these items. For the standard office content it goes something like this.

  • C:\Company CAD\Custom - This contains any general apps, files or other misc content that is the same for everyone (i.e. - acad.pgp, master lisp file, arx, vba, etc.). Let me stress that if you have a company that is bringing forward legacy custom commands from previous releases (like back to R14) take the time to sit down, document all commands, make sure they work as intended and look for any duplicates. It's not a fun task, but highly worth it in the end especially if they have a lot of them since you will then have a base on which to develop additional commands if needed and not wonder why it is calling up some other command you didn't know existed.
  • C:\Company CAD\AutoCAD - This contains the CUI files used for this variant of the install.
  • C:\Company CAD\ADT - Again, contains CUI files used for this variant of the install. If they using the Acad.cui loaded as a nested CUI inside the adt.cui, then there is a unique acad.cui I place in this folder. Do not reference the one inside the folder C:\Company CAD\AutoCAD - I have found issues trying to do that.
  • C:\Company CAD\Team A - Once again, contains CUI files used for this specific team. Do not reference the CUI files in the other Company CAD folders - I have found issues trying to do that.

If you are wondering what issues I have found, when I first started playing with this situation, I had the bright idea to make my life simpler by having an enterprise CUI loaded with every team CUI loaded as a partial. The problem I quickly ran into was running the menus and toolbars and commands via workspaces and profiles did not work they way I expected them to. This is what led me to the above break down of CUI files. Just trust me on this one if you are using the same approach I am.

For the other support files, here is a little more break down on them.

  • C:\Company CAD\fonts - Everyone in the company uses and has access to the same fonts so they go here.
  • C:\Company CAD\Lisp - An extensive library of custom LISP routines has been collected over time and compiled in this folder. They are loaded with a master lisp routine located in the folder C:\Company CAD\Custom.
  • C:\Company CAD\Plotters - This folder is empty, minus one shortcut folder inside it. The shortcut folder points to a location on the server that holds all office plotter files. This allows the user to add plotter config on the local machine outside the office if needed.
  • S:\Company CAD\PMP Files - This is the one exception where I have a folder pointing to the network. Everyone gets the same PMP files for the office. If the network goes down, you can't print anyway.
  • C:\Company CAD\Plot Styles - This folder follows the same principle as the Plotters folder. Individual users can drop project specific plot styles for projects from subs on the project into this folder to print their drawings if needed.

What about Autosave, temp and log folders? For ease of users looking for such files in a panic, I place them in a seperate folder under the root of C called C:\AutoCADresourceFiles. Remember to empty these on your local machine prior to compiling the exe for the team content or the compiler will add your autosaves, temp and log files in the exe, thereby adding unnessecary size to the exe file and increasing compilation/installation time.

  • C:\AutoCADresourceFiles\Autosave - Pretty self explanatory.
  • C:\AutoCADresourceFiles\Log Files - Any log files that are generated from things such as exports, etransmits or plotting/publishing.
  • C:\AutoCADresourceFiles\Temp - Any temp files generated by AutoCAD during operations such as refediting xref's, opening host files that contain xrefs, etc.

For AEC content such as Tool Catalogs, Detail Component and Keynote Databases, I leave them pointing to their default locations. For Tool Catalogs, if these are used they typically per team or project and would be placed in the teams folders and then added to each individuals Content Browser. I find that they are rather unnecessary in this particular case since tool palette setup and management are controlled by the exe. In my opinion, Detail Component and Keynote Databases (if used) should be on a project by project basis, copied from a master set on the server and set current via PN. Same goes for project based tool palettes if used. At the end of the project, you should evaluate if any changes or additions made to the project specific content should be added to the teams standard or master set of tools.

I apologize for the length of these posts, but this turned out to be a bigger project than I had originally anticipated. On the flip side, I've finally written down what I've been lugging around in my brain for the last year and a half and it feels like a great weight has been lifted. This has been something I've been wanting to do for some time and I'm glad I finaly did. Hopefully this will help you determine what to do with the variety of content and situations you might run across. If you have something else that you feel I didn't cover in this subject, please drop me a line!

Friday, March 09, 2007

Project Scenarios

I was asked the other day about how I would go about setting up projects in Project Navigator for Phased work or for Modernization work. Phased work and modernization are similar in the aspect that they are both dealing with stepped processes dealing with existing drawings and coordinating your work between them. They are vastly different in what is done for work, both in the office and in the field. Provided you are using Project Navigator (PN), this will help alleviate some of the headache of trying to keep files organized.

For phased work, I personally would start the project with a defined set of classifications to help in separating objects that do not need to be scheduled. Outline the main phases and base your classifications on the phases. As for PN, you could use divisions for each phase, but I find that gets a bit tedious. I would be perfectly comfortable keeping all phases under one division. The exception to this would be if different phases overlapped into parts of the building already built - I.e.: Phase 1 is the exterior shell and phases 2 is the interior finishing - or something like that. Then I might consider using divisions, but even then I would be hesitant. Another approach would simply be to use folders in each part of PN (elements, constructs, views and sheets) to identify the drawings of each phase. Either way you approach it, the drawing file names should all be unique to the phase they are associated with (I.e.: phs1, phs2, etc. should be included in the file names) for archival purposes down the road.

For modernization work, what you do may depend on what needs to be done with the legacy drawings. In the typical scenario where the old drawings must remain un-touched for archival purposes, simply make a copy of the original project. If it was previously done in ADT using PN, see if you can re-use the existing PN project as a base for your files or simply import the old drawings you need into element files. If working with the copy of the old files, you can either edit them directly to reflect the changes, or xref them into new drawings and use them as backgrounds (which you might want to do if you need to show part of the old building as screened that is being untouched by the modernization). Here you will begin to see the similarities between Phased and Modernization work. You can again use classifications to help in separating objects that do not need to be scheduled. Whether you are using old drawings as a background or editing them directly, you need to make a distinction between the old files and the new ones so they do not have the same names (leaving the old files named the same, but appending mod1, mod2, etc to the new file names). Again, use of divisions are optional in my opinion, I would prefer to use folders in each part of PN as it is a bit more visual for me.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Ellipse walls in ADT

Here's a way to create ellipse walls in ADT.
  • Type PELLIPSE and set the value to 1.
  • Draw an ellipse with the values needed.
  • Right click any wall tool on a tool palette and choose Apply tool properties too... -> Linework.
  • Select the ellipse and you will have a wall that is segmented, but in the shape of an ellipse.
The reason this works is it generates the ellipse as an approximation (a rather good one) and generates it as a segmented polyine.

How to deal with 300 users that all want it their way - Part 4

I have a little bonus for you. Here is an example of a script file I use with a few extra little tweaks that took me some time to figure out. I've also included a screen shot of it inside Inno Setup so I can disect it and tell you what I did after i used the Script Wizard to generate the initial script (click the image for a larger version).

Area #1
The majority of the stuff in this area is generated by the first screen in the script wizard. Make sure to save your script files in the event you need to update the office content or are facing a new version of AutoCAD that you are rolling out. Then all you have to do is change the version of the exe and they can run the updated version. If it detects a previous verion on the system it will overwrite it and bring the user up to speed. Keep in mind if you have removed files from the folder containing your content, those files will not be removed unless you use add/remove programs to remove the previous version before installing the new one.

Area #2
This is the line that will place the desktop icon on the desktop to run the company profile for AutoCAD.

Area #3
***Warning!!!*** Registry values are extremely picky. They make programs work the way they should and if the wrong one is deleted the program (or a bunch of programs - maybe even the OS) most likely will stop working. If you've never worked with the registry or don't even know what I'm talking about, proceed at your own risk. Everytime you make a profile in AutoCAD and modify it or move toolbars around in your workspace, that data is written to the windows registry. Each version of Autodesk products have their own location and values in the registry. As I've worked with AutoCAD and ADT over the years I have tried to take some of the mystery out of what exactly happens when you tell options to set Autosave to 10 minutes instead of 30 minutes or tell options to give you a white background in paper space instead of black. Previously if I had someone import a profile for use in AutoCAD, it was in there for good. The only way to force them to update to the changes I made in Options was to delete the profile in AutoCAD and reimport the new one. This gets very tedious if you have 300 users and you forgot to change something in options that everyone needs (i.e.: support paths or the like).

Well, when I discovered that the changes we make in options are stored in the registry (and the specific location), I was jumping up and down like a kid given a pot of coffee. Usually they can be found in HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Autodesk\AutoCAD\R16.2\ACAD-4004:409\Profiles. Inside the Profiles folder there will be a folder for each profile in AutoCAD along with keys for each profile.

***Important!!!*** Ensure all Autodesk applications are closed! When you delete the folder with the profile name, it is removed from options the next time you go into it. Why is this a big deal? Because in area 3 of the script file I have a line that will delete the registry key associated with the profile being used by the cad standards when the exe is run by the user. This ensures that every time a new version of tools is issued to the user, they see the really important changes. No more manual deletion of the old profile.

To edit the registry, go to your Windows Start Menu -> Run, type REGEDIT and hit enter. Use the following screen shot as a guide to where you can find the settings. Keep in mind that even if you are running ADT, you will not find an entry for it in the registry - it is listed as AutoCAD.
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Area #4

This is where the compiler looks for all files needed for installation. Important things are the desktop shortcut icon (AutoCAD 2006.lnk in the first line of area #4), Company CAD folder and contents, and the AutocadResourceFiles folders. You'll notice that is listed twice. Normally you should just be able to drop it into the current users directory for that machine, but sometimes it needs to be copied to the administrators folder as well.

Area #5
This tells the exe what to do with the desktop shortcut you packaged up with the program. You'll notice the icon is only placed on the current users desktop. This is because this exe we built needs to be run for each user. If I log onto someone elses computer I need to run the exe to ensure I get the dropped under my username so I see everything the way it needs to be in AutoCAD.

Hopefully I haven't lost you along the way here, but I've basically just documented a process I've been fine tunning for over a year now. Right now I have this working like a charm. I started using this when a company was on ADT 2005, used it for the rollout of ADT 2006 and it worked even smoother since we had ironed out alot of details. This week I built a network deployment, script file and generated the exe for the tools for ADT 2007 in one day. Very powerful stuff! Cheers!

Thursday, February 22, 2007

How to deal with 300 users that all want it their way - Part 3

So far, we've covered identifying the usage of your software, what is used to accomplish your drawings (content, standards, etc.) and what to do with this informaiton. In this post we will look at using a lovely program I've discovered called Inno Setup ( ) which helps turn all your files needed to run your content into a nice little executable.

What exactly can Inno Setup do?

Some of the k
ey features include:

  • Supports creation of a single EXE to install your program for easy online distribution. Disk spanning is also supported.
  • Complete uninstall capabilities.
  • Creation of shortcuts anywhere, including in the Start Menu and on the desktop.
  • Creation of registry and .INI entries and modifications.
  • Silent install and uninstall.

Now how do you use it? I found the help system a little lacking (there is a M-FAQ on their website, but that will only get you so far) so if you are going to get into the more advanced portions of the program, you need to endure the help system and be brave to experiment in your script files. Remember, this is a free peice of software, so you can only expect so much. To create the initial script file that will generate the executable (exe) I start by using the wizard provided to get the script started. This will get things rolling and give you a base to add to if you desire more options to be used in the exe. Here are the basic steps used to create the initial script and an explanation of what some of the sections do.

When you first launch it there will be a welcome window asking you what to do. Start with the script wizard for the first file to get you going.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

The next thing you will do is to set what the App name, version, publisher and website that you want to use. Versioning is important as it allows you to know if someone has the latest version and to issue updated versions as things get updated or progress.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

On the next screen uncheck the box "Allow users to change the application folder" since that will really mess things up for your well conceived CAD Standards.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Now you are at a point that requires some thinking. First order of business is to check the box "This application doesn't have a main executable" since the executable is AutoCAD. That is a different exe than the one you are building. This screen is also where you add all folders and files that will be packaged with the exe.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Next up is a few other items to fine tune per your liking.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

I typically like to show a brief little statement about what just happened on the users computer and what they should do next and this screen is where you do that. Make a txt file and stick it in with your CAD Standards folder and place whatever stuff you want in it. I haven't gotten to the point of needing a license file, hopefully you haven't either.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

The next screen I leave as is.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

After finishing the wizard, you will find yourself staring at the script file that was just generated. Look for the little icon in the top with the gear (compile) - click it and it will build the exe.

***Important!!!*** Keep a backup of your files somewhere else in the event running the exe you just made messes up your beautiful arraingement! When running the exe the first time, I prefer to test it on a different machine than the one I am using to make really sure it works and runs the way I expect it to.

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.

How to deal with 300 users that all want it their way - Part 1

For one of my current clients, I've had to develop an interesting solution for their environment. While we would like to take the approach to develop the same customization for all users, this simply was not acceptable for this environment. There are over 175 seats of ADT in a 3 building campus and 3 sattelite offices with about 10-20 users each in addition to the main 3 building campus - and they are growing. Within this environment, there are teams of about 15-20 people each. 70% of them use ADT as AutoCAD and 30% as ADT. Each main campus employs a network license server for that office location. They also encourage employees to work from home if needed so they keep laptops ready to be checked out for working from home. In addition they also have consultants which like to use the same tools so that means the consultants need to be able to run the same tools from their end also.

This makes for an interesting scenario. Most of us like to keep everything on the server since that is usually backed up on a nightly basis, can be locked down with permissions to prevent tampering with customized CAD content and is conveinent if a change is required in the content that was customized. However, how do you handle those that want to work from home or the consultants? Those working from home could use a VPN, but think of the logistics and paperwork nightmare this would create for the consulants to be allowed into another companies network. Even if VPN was an option, you would now be at the mercy of the speed of your connection to the outside world and in a production environment this is no good.

This meant that all custom CAD content needed to be located on the users local C: drive. What content? Fonts, menus files (cui), Lisp routines, tool palettes, CAD blocks, etc. Many will counter with the arguement that the user now has local access to this content and can modify it at whim. Well, since the process of placing the content is completely automated, and the users job is architecture - not CAD Management, we have found they leave the custom content alone. We encourage them to submit requests for changes in the content or custom menus instead of them doing it themselves which seems to be working for now.

Currently there are 2 default setups for the general populace. One for AutoCAD and one for ADT. The site employs Architectural Desktop (ADT) solely for ease of installation in a mixed environment such as this. One network delpoyment is created of ADT and installed from that to all users systems. In addition, one deployment per campus is created since each deployment must point to the correct network license server. This means that a total of 4 network deployments are created, one for the main campus and 3 additional ones for each of the sattelite offices. When I build the deployment, I set it so that no desktop icon is created on the users desktop when they install from the software image on the server. I also use the application default for locations of all support files. Also be sure to choose to install Express tools and/or 3D DWF Publishing as they are not turned on by default. The beauty of this is that now I can keep the customization of their CAD content completely seperate from their software installation. I'll discuss that in the next post.

Also, keep in mind that as I discuss this, I will interchange the terms AutoCAD and ADT. At the level we are dealing with here, they are one and the same. They both use similar installation methods and both use the same behind the scene methodologies for running the programs. I am also basing this write-up on 2006 and above platforms of AutoCAD/ADT and you will see plenty of references to CUI's and how to handle them. If you are still in a 2004 or 2005 release of the software, this is still fully relevant since the programs were setup the same for those releases as well. Instead of CUI's, you have the good ol' mns files and the joys of text coding your menus and getting appload to run what you want and such.