Management

How to Configure Sheet Sets 1

1 May, 2004 By: Robert Green

AutoCAD 2005's new sheet set capabilities help enforce your CAD standards.


Now that AutoCAD 2005 has been out for a little while, I bet most CAD managers have either seen or read about the new release. See our Cadalyst Labs review on p. 26 for more details. By far the biggest change in AutoCAD 2005 is the Sheet Set Manager, which lets you group layouts and drawings into cohesive sets that define an overall drawing package (figure 1). The sheet set's ease of use is clear for the normal CAD user-particularly those who aren't comfortable with navigating the operating system to find drawings. What isn't so obvious is how to configure sheet sets to make them behave the way you want them to. If you haven't experimented with sheet sets, view AutoCAD 2005's New Features Workshop demo.

Figure 1. Sheet sets organize the various layouts from multiple drawings into a browsable interface much like Windows Explorer.
Figure 1. Sheet sets organize the various layouts from multiple drawings into a browsable interface much like Windows Explorer.

This month, I'll begin a series on how to configure sheet sets to help you control your projects.

Sheet Set Mechanics

Right-click on the name of the sheet set to view the various properties that you can customize (figure 2). Understanding what each parameter controls is key in planning your sheet set implementation. Here's a description of what each configurable property does and why it matters:

Name. The title of the sheet set you see in the Sheet Set Manager dialog box.

Sheet set data fle. This is the full path and name of the DST file that stores all information about the sheet set. The DST file is new to AutoCAD 2005 and is not backward portable to earlier releases. The name of the DST file actually has no correlation to the Name parameter specified above, which is a bit counterintuitive.

Figure 2. The Sheet set properties dialog box controls all sheet set features.
Figure 2. The Sheet set properties dialog box controls all sheet set features.

Description. An optional field for text note entries. I use this parameter to keep notes about changes I've made to the sheet set data file, but you can use it however you like.

Resource drawing location(s). A set of directories that contain model space drawings you can reference into new sheets in the set. Resource drawings are not mandatory. In fact, most new sheet sets won't have any resource directories set.

Label block for views. Many engineering drawings use a system that references a master layout of a project and then refers to details within the master as a view. These views typically must be numbered. Any change to the view numbering system within a large set of drawings plays havoc with the entire sheet set. In AutoCAD's Sheet Set Manager, this process is automated by using a label block for all view numbering. This setting simply lets you declare which label block you'd like to use by pointing to a template file that contains the block.

Callout blocks. In many engineering drawing environments, callouts link detail drawings back to the parent view and sheet number within the set of drawings. This callout system makes it possible to navigate a large set of drawings so long as the numbering in the callout blocks is correct. AutoCAD's Sheet Set Manager automates this callout functionality by using specially coded blocks, much as it does for views. This setting lets you declare which callout block(s) you'd like to use by pointing to a template file that contains them.

Figure 3. Subset properties provide different storage and template paths and files that you can use for disciplines in a sheet set.
Figure 3. Subset properties provide different storage and template paths and files that you can use for disciplines in a sheet set.

Page setup overrides file. One of the great benefits of working with sheet sets is that you can plot an entire set of files at one time, in correct order. Page setup overrides let you preconfigure page setups to use for the sheet set and place them in a single template file that controls the entire set of drawings as they plot. Because the page setups reside in the master template file, you never have to worry about what page setup is in the individual files in the set. Instead, you plot using the master set of page setups. This feature is outstanding for standardizing your plot setups and really sold me on using sheet sets.

Sheet storage location. This directory specifies where any new drawings you create within a sheet set are filed. No more users placing drawings wherever they want. The Sheet Set Manager handles the filing.

Sheet creation template. The master template file used when new drawings are created within the sheet set.

Prompt for template. When set to No, users must use your master template file as specified above whenever they create a new drawing. When set to Yes, users can override your master template file.

Sheet custom properties. You can create a collection of database fields that have unique values for each drawing in the set. These fields are usually parameters you expect to see in a title block, such as drawn by, checked by, and drawn date.

Sheet set custom properties. A collection of database fields you can create that have a constant value for all drawings in the sheet set. Again, these fields are parameters you expect to see in a title block, such as project number and customer name.

Get Your Templates Ready

One immediate conclusion you can draw about sheet sets is that standardization of blocks and drawing creation is determined by the content of your template drawing (DWT) files. I can't stress enough that the more thought and standardization you put into your template files, the better off you'll be as you move forward with sheet sets. In addition to the view block, callout block, and page setup overrides, your template files should also contain all the layering, dimensioning, unit system, and title block standardization features you want.
TEN-STEP PROCESS TO MAKE SHEETS WORK FOR YOU
by Heidi Hewett
TEN-STEP PROCESS TO MAKE SHEETS WORK FOR YOU by Heidi Hewett

In the case of multiple disciplines, where a single template file won't work for all drawings, the Sheet Set Manager provides for a targeted template file for each discipline, or subset in sheet set terminology (figure 3, p. 38). If you need to use multiple template files for drawing creation, be aware that the page setup overrides and view and callout block integration are still derived from the master template file.

Sheet Management

Sheet sets combine ease of use for the CAD user and enforcement of project standards for the CAD manager in a single easy-to-master interface. Taking advantage of the Sheet Set Manager requires some preparation and thought on your part, but when you consider the benefits you reap, the startup effort is minimal.

To prepare for the next installment of my CAD Manager column, collect all the information you need to create a master and discipline-specific template files so we can complete configurations using another cool AutoCAD 2005 feature: data fields.


About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green

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