Store and Access Autodesk Inventor Styles and Templates

28 Mar, 2013 By: R. Eric France

IMAGINiT Tricks Tutorial: To vault or to share — that is the question. This tutorial explains the benefits and limitations of both methods.

Editor's Note: This tutorial courtesy of IMAGINiT Technologies.

We all know that in an engineering department, workgroup, or other collaborative situation, it’s extremely beneficial for everyone to be using the same Autodesk Inventor styles, standards, and templates. We also know that Inventor is looking for those files on our local machine by default. However, if we all want to reference the same files, so that changes in those files need only be made once, how do we access them? Where do we store them?

Storage Options

While there may be other alternatives, if Autodesk Vault is being used to manage the department’s Inventor files, there are two predominant methods of sharing standards files. The first method is to check the styles, standards, and templates into Vault and manage them with the Check In Folder, Check Out Folder, and Get Folder commands. The second method is to establish a network share and control access to the files with NTFS permissions. Both of these methods have their pluses and minuses, but typically the environmental conditions of the department determine the best configuration.

Configuration for Vaulting Styles

To manage our Inventor styles, standards, and templates in the Vault, we need to start by copying all the files in the Design Data and Templates folders into our Local Workspace for Vault — preferably to a root folder called Standards, as in the image below.

Next, we use the Check In Folder option in the Vault Client to get all the files into the Vault. Now all other users can use the Get Folder command to get all the common files to their local workspace. We need to make sure we update the location to these files in Application Options on the File tab or in the Vault project in Folder Options.

Benefits and Limitations

There are several benefits to using Vault for our standards. The biggest benefit is that we have protected these files with all the advantages of Vault: security, accountability, and a history of all changes to the files. We also provide a benefit for those users who will not always be connected to the network, because the standards are local.

As you’d expect, there are also several limitations to this method. The biggest limitation is that to check all these files into the Vault, Enforce Unique Filenames must be off. Due to some duplicate names in the Design Accelerator folders, we will not be able to Check In all the support files with Unique Filenames enforced. We also need to temporarily allow the “Check In of Design files” to add and edit the template files. This method also relies on the user to complete a Get Folder any time we update the standards. If they don’t, they could be referencing old data.

Configuration for Sharing Styles

Similar to the Vault method, to manage our Inventor styles, standards, and templates on a network share, we need to start by copying all the files. However, this time we copy the contents of the Design Data and Templates folders onto the designated network share location, again preferably to a root folder called Standards.

Next, we use normal NTFS permissions on the files and the share to control who can view and who can edit the files. Again, we need to make sure we update the location to these files in Application Options on the File tab or in the Vault project in Folder Options.

Benefits and Limitations

There are several benefits to using a network share for our Standards, but they’re all derived from a core benefit: Everyone is accessing the same files from a single location. The resultant benefits are that changes to the files in that location are immediately available for everyone referencing them. Without any additional effort, we know everyone has gotten the changes. No user action is required.

Finally, we get to the limitations of this method. The biggest limitation is the lack of accountability and history of any edits to the files. Unlike with Vault, if we have to give multiple users permissions to edit the files, we don’t know who has made a change. This is especially true with a catastrophic change, like an accidental deletion of key files. This method also requires the user to be connected to the network share to access our standards, though Offline Files does alleviate that somewhat.

Final Thoughts

So, the answer to our original question is … it depends. With both methods having benefits and limitations, it really comes down to the environmental conditions of the department. If a large number of our users work remotely, it’s advantageous to have the files be local and managed by Vault, especially if we’re not Enforcing Unique Filenames. If we want the changes to be immediate and nearly everyone is working in the office, then a network share is most likely the best method. Either way, the method we choose relies on how we need to access our standards and our Inventor files as a whole.

About the Author: R. Eric France

R. Eric France

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