August 21, 2014

AutoCAD & AutoCAD LT Webinars

Autodesk is starting up a series of webinars for users of their products; the first few will be of interest to AutoCAD® and AutoCAD LT® users.

August 21, 2014, 2:00 pm US EDT (today!) Autodesk® AutoCAD® and AutoCAD LT® Webinar: ‘Taking blocks to the next level: Dynamic blocks!’

August 28, 2014, 2:00 pm US EDT Autodesk® AutoCAD® and AutoCAD LT® Webinar: ‘Smarter AutoCAD Drawings Using Attributes!’

September 4, 2104, 2:00 pm US EDT Autodesk® AutoCAD® and AutoCAD LT® Webinar: ‘Adventures in Annotative Scaling’

August 13, 2014

ACA 2015: Tool Palettes Reverting to AutoCAD Palettes

If you have experienced the loss of the out-of-the-box tool palettes in AutoCAD® Architecture 2015, finding them replaced with the AutoCAD out-of-the-box palettes and you use the Drawing Management system (Project Navigator, etc.) and you leave the Project Navigator palette open when you close out of AutoCAD Architecture, you will want to read this post in the Autodesk Discussion Groups, by Bill Glennie (along with the entire thread, for context).

Others have reported a repair installation will fix the problem (back up your customizations first); Bill suggests that by closing the Project Navigator prior to closing the program, you can avoid a recurrence of the issue while waiting for Autodesk to come up with a solution.

July 26, 2014

Revit - Empty 3D View

While there can be many ways in which a 3D View can be "empty" - devoid of any visible elements - here is one that I had not thought about until coming across the issue in the Autodesk Discussion Groups. If you have done the usual checks for object visibility settings, filters, worksets, etc., and come up "empty," you may want to check the properties of the 3D View, to see if the Section Box is enabled. If it is, enable the visibility of the Section Box (category and instance) if necessary, and examine it. It should appear as a rectangular prism, with twelve sides and six faces. If all you see is a rectangle, then the Section Box was edited such that two opposite faces are co-planar, and the reason you do not see any model elements is that there is no volume inside the Section Box in which model elements, if present, could display.

You can use the Control grip on the Section Box to separate the co-incidental faces or, if you want to completely reset the Section Box, you can disable it for that 3D View and then re-enable it, if desired. The Screencast embedded below illustrates this issue and its resolution.


The "full" Screencast, with Commands, Dialog Boxes and Settings tracks, can be viewed on the Screencast website, here.

July 17, 2014

Microsoft Update Causes Crashes in ACA/AMEP

In case you have not seen this yet, a recent (July 2014) Microsoft Update, KB2962872, causes instability/crashes when using Internet Explorer-based features in AutoCAD® Architecture and AutoCAD® MEP, such as the Detail Component Manager, the Structural Member Catalog and the Project Browser. Read more at the following links:

Up and Ready Blog
Autodesk Knowledge Network
Autodesk AutoCAD Architecture General Discussion Group: STRUCTURAL CATALOG
Windows Security Patch Breaks Project Navigator

July 12, 2014

Controlling Did You Know Balloon Notifications Revisited

Here is a quick update on this post from three years back. The InfoCenter area and Balloon Notifications button remain on the System tab of the Options dialog, but in the 2014 and 2015 releases, have moved up to the middle of the right column. I made a brief Screencast to show users at my firm how to avoid having to manually close the "Did You Know" messages in the 2014 release, and have decided to share that here, also:

July 06, 2014

ACA: AEC Modify Tools, Part 2, AEC Trim

The AutoCAD® Architecture AEC Modify Tools provide some handy extensions to the modification tools provided in the base AutoCAD® product. Since I have previously written about the AEC Extend tool (AecLineworkExtend command), this article will be "Part 2" and it will focus on the AEC Trim tool (actual command name, AecLineworkTrim).

As you might expect from the name, the AEC Trim command's function is similar to the TRIM command, but the order in which you do things is different. Rather than selecting cutting edges, and then items to be cut, as in the TRIM command, when using AEC Trim command, you select the items to be trimmed first, then define a cutting edge by selecting two points on the screen or by pressing ENTER and then selecting an on-screen line segment that is then used to define an "infinite" line that is used as the cutting edge. Linework to be trimmed does not have to intersect the selected line segment. In addition to lines and polyline segments, you can use lines from ACA objects, such as Wall Component Boundary lines or AEC Polygon lines. While it will allow you to select an arc, circle or polyline arc segment, in my experience it has deleted the entire item to be trimmed when a curved segment is chosen.

There are a few other differences. One major difference is you can trim block references. No change is made to the original block definition and any untrimmed block references remain unchanged. Instead, the trimmed block references are replaced with new "anonymous" block definitions where the defining linework has been trimmed at the cut line, where possible, as shown in the following images.

Two block references, on left side, selected for trimming.

Line in drawing selected as boundary edge for trim.

Side to trim selected.

Result of block reference trimming.

Note that the linework on the side to be trimmed highlights in red (ACA 2015 only), to help you visualize the trim results. Note also that in the fourth image, the layer of the trim line has been frozen, and that there is a line along the trim line location in each of the trimmed blocks. This is because the blocks contained two closed objects: a circle (magenta) and a pentagonal polyline (blue). Unlike the TRIM command, when trimmable closed objects are trimmed using the AEC Trim tool, the result remains a closed object.

AecLineworkTrim on Closed Polyline, Circle and AEC Polygon.

AecLineworkTrim Results on Closed Polyline, Circle and AEC Polygon.

Trimming the closed polygon (top pentagon) results in a closed polygon, although the closing line does not pick up the segment width of the original segments, if any. The TRIM command would have left an open polyline. Trimming the circle results in a closed polyline, rather than the arc that the TRIM command would have left. Trimming the AEC Polygon results in an AEC Polygon, rather than the open polyline that the TRIM command produces.

NOTE: There appears to be a bug in the 2015 version that results in the wrong side of AEC Polygons being kept after the trim, as can be seen in the image above. The command works properly in the 2014 release (but you will not get the red in-canvas preview of the linework that should be deleted in 2014).

Elipses and elipse arcs cannot be trimmed using the AEC Trim tool, and will not be included in the selection set. Walls, Doors, Windows, Door/Window Assemblies and Multi-View Blocks also will not be trimmed, even though they can be selected and, if the trim line crosses them, will show the red highlighting implying that they will be trimmed. There are likely other non-trimmable items; I have not tried to test every single object type with the command. I believe the intent of these tools was to work with the items generated by the Detail Components feature, so other objects will not necessarily play nicely.

If an untrimmable object is nested within a block definition, it will not be trimmed if you trim an instance of that block. Any trimmable items will, however, be trimmed.

You can also access the command from the right-click context menu, which can be handy if you want to select multiple objects first, before choosing the command.

June 04, 2014

ACA: ACA.dll File Location

Somewhat related to this previous post, is the location of the ACA.dll file. While this has not necessarily moved its location, if you were to copy the ACA.cuix and rename the copy in order to customize the copy while retaining the out-of-the-box version, you will also want to copy the ACA.dll file and rename the copy to match the name of your copied CUIX file, in order that your copied version will maintain the tool icons that are defined in that DLL file, such as ribbon tool icons for the AutoCAD-Architecture®-specific tools.

For the Autodesk Bulding Design Suite Premium 2014 package, the default installation location for the ACA.dll file is the
C:\Program Files\Autodesk\AutoCAD 2014\ACA
folder. For older releases or non-suite versions, you may need to look in the folder in which ACAD.exe is installed. Depending upon how your file permissions are set up, you may need administrative rights to copy/rename files in this folder.

I ran into this today because I wanted to have a separate profile to which I can add my own customizations (additional search paths, additional trusted locations, additional tool palette file locations and partial CUIX files) without messing with the office-standard, along with an associated workspace. Since the workspaces are defined and saved in the CUIX file, I decided to make a copy of the office standard CUIX file under a different name. That will require that I keep my copy of the CUIX coordinated with any changes to the office standard, but it will prevent me from having to strip out my customizations should the need to modify the office-standard CUIX arise in the future.

May 04, 2014

Revit - Residential Door Tag

There is a convention for residential projects in some areas using Imperial Units for showing the width and height of a Door at the plan representation of the Door, in the format "3070", where the "30" represents a width of 3'-0" and the "70" represents a height of 7'-0". Likewise, a 2'-10" wide by 6'-8" high door would be tagged as "21068". Sometimes the inches numbers are shown in a slight superscript, to make the values more legible.

Long-time readers may recall that Door Tags supporting this convention had been developed in AutoCAD® Architecture. The same can be done in Autodesk® Revit®, by adding some additional parameters to your Door families, and using some relatively simple formulas. The instructions below and screen captures are based on the 2014 release, but you should be able to follow them in other versions as well (tool locations and naming may vary). In order for these parameters to appear in a Door Tag, they will need to be created as shared parameters. This example assumes that your Door families have parameters called Width and Height that hold the (nominal) door opening width and height. If your Door families use differently named parameters for these values, then substitute your names for Width and Height. It also assumes that your nominal door sizes do not involve fractional inches.

We need to take the values from the Door's Width and Height parameters and extract the whole foot value and the whole inch value for both the width and the height, so that we can then create a Door Tag that combines these values. To do this, we will need to create six parameters.
  1. Edit one of your Door Families, and on the Create ribbon tab, on the Properties panel, select the Family Types tool to open the Family Types dialog.
  2. In the Family Types dialog, in the Parameters area at the middle of the right side, select the Add button.
  3. In the Parameter Properties dialog, in the Parameter Type area at the top, choose the Shared parameter radio button and then select the Select button.
  4. If the Shared Parameters dialog appears, select the Edit button. If a dialog appears indicating that you have not yet specified a shared parameters file, select OK.
  5. In the Edit Shared Parameters dialog, you will need to indicate a shared parameters file to use, if one has not previously been selected, or verify that the one that is selected is appropriate. Use the Browse button to open an existing file or the Create button to make a new one. CAUTION: If you work with others, and you are not the BIM Manager for your firm, please consult with the BIM Manager before creating a new shared parameters file or editing an existing one, to assure that you are using the correct file, not duplicating parameters that already exist, putting the parameters in the proper group and use the appropriate naming convention. For the purposes of this example, I created a new shared parameters file, just for these parameters. While you can have multiple shared parameters files, it is easier to manage shared parameters at a firm if they are all in a single file. Work all this out with your firm's management and/or your co-workers in advance, so that work will not need to be redone.
  6. With the proper shared parameters file selected, set (or create) the desired Parameter group. I used "Door" for this example; you may already have a similarly named group that should be used instead. (See discussion on coordinating with your BIM Manager above.)
  7. You can now use the New button in the Parameters area at the right side to create the six new shared parameters (unless you have existing ones that already perform the needed function). In the Parameter Properties dialog, enter WidthReal for the Name, set the Discipline to Common and set the Type of Parameter to Number. We will use this to convert the door's width from feet and inches to a real number (decimal feet).
  8. Select OK to return to the Edit Shared Parameters dialog.
  9. Using the New parameter button, create five additional shared parameters: HeightReal, WidthFeet, HeightFeet, WidthInches and HeightInches. All five should be set to the Common discipline. Height Real should also have a type of Number; the other four should have a type of Integer.
  10. With all six shared parameters created, select OK in the Edit Shared Parameters dialog.
  11. In the Shared Parameters dialog, set the appropriate Parameter group, if necessary, and then choose the WidthReal parameter and select OK.
  12. In the Parameter Properties dialog, set the Group under which you want to place this parameter. In the example, I used the General group, but you may feel that another group is more appropriate.
  13. Verify that the Type radio button is selected and select OK.
  14. Add the other five shared parameters by using the Add button and following the steps above, with the exception that you will not need to create the shared parameters, since all six were created at once.
  15. With the new parameters in place, you can add the formulas for them in the Family Types dialog. In the Formula column for the WidthReal parameter, type Width/1'. Dividing the value of the Width parameter by 1' removes the units from the value, leaving a real number (in decimal feet).
  16. In the Formula column for the HeightReal parameter, type Height/1'.
  17. In the Formula column for the WidthFeet parameter, type rounddown(WidthReal). This will round the value of the WidthReal parameter down to the next lowest whole number, which is the whole feet part of the Door width.
  18. In the Formula column for the HeightFeet parameter, type rounddown(HeightReal).
  19. In the Formula column for the WidthInches parameter, type rounddown(12.0*(WidthReal-WidthFeet)). This subtracts the whole foot value from the Door width, leaving fractional feet (if any), and then multiplies the result by 12 to arrive at the inches portion of the width. This value is rounded down to the next lowest whole number, discarding any fractional inches.
  20. In the Formula column for the HeightInches parameter, type rounddown(12.0*(HeightReal-HeightFeet)).
  21. You will see the calculated values for each of the parameters and can verify that the results are correct.
  22. If your Door family has multiple types with different sizes, you can select the different types to verify that the formulas work in each case.
You will need to add these parameters and formulas to each of the Door families on which you want to use a residential-type tag. Having added the parameters to your Door Families, you will need to create a Door Tag that displays them. Create a new Revit family, starting with the Door Tag.rft template.
  1. On the Create ribbon tab, on the Text panel, select the Label tool.
  2. Verify the current Label type is as desired. If not, set and/or create and set the appropriate Label type.
  3. On the Modify|Place Label contextual ribbon tab, on the Format panel, verify the Label justification settings are appropriate. For this example, I am using Align Center (left/right) and Center Middle (top/bottom).
  4. Select the placement point for the Label, keeping in mind that the initial insertion point of the tag will be at the intersection of the two Reference Planes. Do not obsess over picking the point, you can fine tune the placement after the Label is created.
  5. In the Edit Label dialog, select the Add Parameter button in the lower left corner of the dialog.
  6. In the Parameter Properties dialog, select the Select button in the Parameter Type area at the top of the dialog.
  7. In the Shared Parameters dialog, set the Parameter group to the one you used for the parameters you added to your Door Families ("Door" in the example here), and choose the WidthFeet parameter. If you do not see your parameter group or your parameter, use the Edit button and, in the Edit Shared parameters dialog that opens, browse to the shared parameter file that you previously used when creating the shared parameters for your Door Families. Then click OK to return to the Shared Parameters dialog and choose the WidthFeet parameter as directed.
  8. Click OK twice to add the parameter.
  9. Repeat the previous two steps to add the WidthInches, HeightFeet and HeightInches parameters.
  10. In the Edit Label dialog, select WidthFeet from the Category Parameters list on the left side of the dialog, and then select the Add parameter(s) to label button (with green arrow).
  11. In turn, do the same for the WidthInches, HeightFeet and HeightInches parameters. Add representative sample values, rather than the default, which is the name of the parameter. In my example, I set the Spaces between the parameters to 0 and did not add a Prefix or Suffix to any of the parameters. If your needs are different, set these values as you wish.
  12. Select OK to return to the Family Editor.
  13. Fine-tune the location of the label and adjust the label's width so that it is just wide enough to accomodate the widest expected value.
  14. Save the Door Tag family, and then load it into a project in which you have placed Doors that have the residential door parameters and formulas added. Tag the Doors with the new tag and verify that the parameters, formulas and tag are working as desired.
I have attached a ZIP file that has a sample Door Tag family as well as a sample project file in which the Door Tag is applied to a thread in the Autodesk Revit Architecture Discussion Group. The sample Door Tag family has two types: one displays the single label with all four parameters in it, as shown above, and the other uses four labels, one for each parameter, with the inches labels using a slightly smaller height and positioned as a superscript, similar to the AutoCAD Architecture tag developed by Matt Dillon (see link in second paragraph above).
Yes/No parameters control the visibility of the parameters in each type.

April 24, 2014

AutoCAD 2015 - Cursor Badges

A minor, but useful change introduced in AutoCAD® 2015, and thereby available to AutoCAD® Architecture and AutoCAD® MEP users as well, is improved cursor graphics. The crosshairs no longer extend into the pickbox, making it easier to see what you are selecting.

A number of contextual cursor "badges" have been added, as a reminder of the task at hand. A badge appears when using the Window, Crossing Window, Window Polygon and Crossing Polygon selection methods, as well as the new Lasso and Crossing Lasso methods.
When selecting individual objects, after selecting the first, when the cursor hovers over additional objects, a "+" badge appears to let you know selecting that object will add it to the selected objects. If you hold the SHIFT key down and hover over a selected item, a "-" badge appears to indicate that selecting the object will remove it from selection. (Both cases assume PICKADD is set to 1 or 2.)

When using an inquiry command, such as LIST, ID, DIST, AREA or MEASUREGEOM, the inspection badge is displayed.

When being prompted for an angle input, a rotation badge will appear; the badge indicates the direction of positive rotation based on the current value of the ANGDIR System Variable (0 = counterclockwise; 1 = clockwise).

A magnifying glass badge appears for the ZOOM command, with variants for the Window and Object command options.
The PAN command "hand" cursor is also augmented, with fingers spread wide when the left mouse button is not pressed down, and fingers clenched when the left mouse button is pressed down.

ERASE and TRIM display a red "X" icon to indicate deletion.

Many other commands display a badge, such as the COPY, SCALE and MOVE.

If you hover over an object that does not apply to the command at hand, you will get a slashed circle icon.

On a day when the interruptions have interruptions, the new cursor badges, which join old favorites such as those for Match Properties, Selection Cycling and Annotative Object, may just help get you back on track by gently reminding you of the command in progress.

April 14, 2014

ACA 2015 - Command Preview

As part of the Command Preview feature added to AutoCAD® 2015, AutoCAD® Architecture 2015 includes an in-command, dynamic preview of the results of grip edits, moves, fillets, chamfers, extends and trims on Walls. For example, in the 2014 release, grip editing a Wall gives you a "ghost" of effect of the grip edit on the Wall, but nothing else.
In 2015, you get a preview of the effect of the grip edit on other Walls with which the stretched Wall cleans up as well as on AEC objects anchored to that Wall (such as Doors and Windows).
You will find, however, that if you open a drawing that was created with a previous release, the Command Preview will work on the Wall and Walls with which it cleans up, but not on the anchored objects.
This can be rectified by typing AecConvertToAssocAnchor at the Command: prompt and pressing ENTER. That will convert the anchors of objects added in previous releases to associative anchors and allow them to show when Command Preview is active.

Command Preview can be turned on or off by using the COMMANDPREVIEW System Variable (0 is off, 1 is on), or, in the Options dialog, on the Selection Tab, in the Preview area in the lower right, by checking (on) or unchecking (off) the Command preview toggle.

If you want to leave Command Preview on, but not have anchored objects as part of the preview, you can use the AECENABLEASSOCANCHOR System Variable to turn this effect ON or OFF. Both AECENABLEASSOCANCHOR and COMMANDPREVIEW are saved to the registry, so a changed setting will affect all drawings.

As previously noted, the Command Preview also works with Walls and the MOVE command,
the FILLET command,
the CHAMFER command,
the EXTEND command,
and the TRIM command.
For operations where the result is the deletion of part of an existing object, the display of the deleted part will be dimmed. For the TRIM command, the cursor will also display the Erase/Delete badge (another new feature in the 2015 release).

In addition to object anchors, the preview of anchored objects also applies to leader anchors, node anchors, cell anchors and volume anchors. In AutoCAD® MEP 2015, Command Preview applies to plumbing and schematic lines. Command Preview also applies to AutoCAD objects to which the commands noted above apply.