Productivity Corner: The Place Note Tool, Part 1

15 Aug, 2005 By: Bill Wandersleben,Frank Conforti Cadalyst

Updates to the Place Note tool in MicroStation V8 2004 Edition

One tool that received a significant facelift in MicroStation V8 2004 Edition is the venerable Place Note tool (figure 1). The Place Note tool creates one or more lines of text immediately adjacent to a segmented leader line that terminates in some form of arrow or other terminator (a term familiar to all MicroStation users).

Figure 1. The Place Note tool in action.

It has always been difficult to categorize this tool in terms of where it belongs in the MicroStation tool collection. Is it a text tool because it resides in the Text tool box? Is it a dimension because it uses dimensional components like the leader line and the line terminator? MicroStation V8 2004 Edition places it firmly in the dimensioning category, and Place Note now has its own category of settings in the Dimension Styles settings window (figure 2).

Figure 2. Access the Place Note tool settings in the Dimension Styles settings window.

The most visible change in the Place Note tool itself is the tool settings. You now have better control over its operation with some of the more common settings available at placement time. The real power of this tool is best realized by creating and using a dimension style (figure 3).

Figure 3. The Place Note tool settings still give you some control over the placement of the note in its standard view (top) and more control over the placement method in its extended view (bottom).

When you open the Dimension Styles window and select the Place Note category, you'll see a wider variety of options, some of which overlap the tool settings. However, as with all dimension styles, you can save your settings with a style name and then consistently use this named dimension style to place or modify your note callouts.

One of the most visually distinct aspects of the new Place Note tool is its ability to place either the traditional straight line leader or the more dramatic curved leader (figure 4). Depending on your company's drafting standards, you might want to incorporate the latter as a way to distinguish note callouts from all of the other annotation content (dimensions, section markers, reference markers, etc.).

Figure 4. The curved leader line gives the note a more distinct appearance in the drawing.

If you've worked with the Place Note tool in the past, you know that the terminator associated with the older version of this tool used the same terminator as all the other dimensions in the current style definition. If you modified it for Place Note, it affected the appearance of all dimensions that used that same terminator. Not good. In V8 2004 Edition the Place Note now has its own unique terminator. Try as you might, it will not mess up your dimension terminators. A small change, but it does give you that little extra piece of mind.

Figure 5. The cryptic-looking note formatting control.
You may have noticed that interesting graphic situated in the bottom half of the Place Note Dimension Styles window (figure 5).

Because the Place Note tool now has so many options, when it comes to how the leader line is positioned with respect to the actual text of the note, the user interface designers came up with a way to provide maximum flexibility while avoiding dialog box creep (when the dialog box gets so big it fills the entire screen). Instead of a lot of pull-down menus, radio buttons, etc., all of the constituent formatting information was distilled to its most basic representation. Although this feature doesn't really have a name, it is occasionally referred to as the Place Note format control.

The most fundamental thing to know about this clever interface component is that the text shown (Xxx Yyy, Xxxxx Yyyyyy?) is just static sample text and not actually a setting control. The small grey and black bars control the way the Place Note tool behaves.

Essentially, each bar identifies the connection location where the leader line for the note will originate with respect to the text (figure 6). The reason the bars appear on either side of the text is the recognition that your drafting standards may call for a different origin point for the leader line depending on whether the note is on the left or right side of the leader and terminator.

Figure 6. In this extreme example, the left and right behavior is considerably different (note the exit point of the leader line).

As you can see, the leader origin is very flexible along either edge of the text. It even includes an underlining format (the bottom bar) that draws the horizontal leader line under the entire note. This change was a response to drafting practices where this style of note callout is preferred.

Along the top edge, you'll see three icons whose function should be readily apparent (left, center and right justification). The one to the left of these, the Dynamic Justification, is not so obvious but vitally important. As you place notes with leaders running from either side of the text with this option selected, the text will be justified either left or right to favor the side where the leader line originates. This makes for very clean and consistent notes.

By the way, have you ever wondered how you can control the appearance of the first segment (the in-line leader) in MicroStation? In previous versions you couldn't; it was a fixed ratio to the text size. In 2004 Edition, you now can adjust that ratio with the default set at two times the text height value. The left margin is also used to set the white space between the text and the start of the in-line leader. This pair of settings is a small but valuable enhancement.

You can do so much more with the Place Note tool. Next month, we'll look at many more options.


About the Author: Bill Wandersleben

About the Author: Frank Conforti

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