NCS v3.1 Available in Digital Format

17 May, 2006 By: Michael Dakan

Also, how one firm cut document-related costs by 85% using Adobe Acrobat

Retrieve Media has released an online version of NCS v3.1, the U.S National CAD Standard.  Called a vBook, the title joins other CAD-related publications in the Retrieve Media vBook library, including several instructional guides for Autodesk applications, such as AutoCAD, Land Desktop, Revit and so forth. Check out the complete line-up on the Retrieve Media Web site.

Most Retrieve Media vBooks are tutorial in nature, but instead of the typical step-by-step written instructions and general information and illustrations to tell you how to perform an operation, vBooks use screen-capture audio and video clips to show you. This approach can offer some advantages when learning an application, depending on an individual's preferred learning style, and the digital format is fully searchable. However, potential purchasers will have to consider whether they will use the vBooks as an ongoing reference as well, and if the video format will support that purpose. For a fee, you can create your own custom vBook. Contact the company for details.

On the other hand, the National CAD Standard v3.1 vBook is almost exclusively a reference work, and contains fewer videos than most other vBooks. Most chapters begin with a short video about the contents of the chapter, which might be useful at first if you are not familiar with the NCS and what it covers. The rest of the volume consists of static pages of the NCS content.

The content is strictly online, and although it is advertised as being available 24/7 from anywhere in the world, this depends of course on Web site access and the vagaries of your Internet connection. The license agreement grants access to the online content for one year or 1,000 views, whichever occurs first. A view consists of a complete or partial viewing of a video, or a single page of the static content.

Rick Blaisdell of Retrieve Media informed me that the company recently changed the license term to 18 months, but details on the company Web site still indicate that the term is one year. I suspect the calendar term limit may not make much difference, though, and I would think the 1,000-views limit would probably be met by a typical user before the time limit expires. This is not a work that you'd want to do much browsing in or you'd quickly hit the view limit. You'd likely want to use the Search and Index functions to get directly to the information you need so you don't waste any views.

The price for the National CAD Standard v3.1 vBook is the same as for purchasing the hard copy version directly from NCS: $350, or $250 for members of NCS sponsoring organizations. (Volume discounts available; contact the company for details.) A subscription renewal or upgrade price is not offered, and you would need to purchase another "copy" if you want to use the reference material beyond the license term.

Architects Use Acrobat to Cut Document Reproduction Costs by 85%

Good Fulton & Ferrell, a Dallas, Texas-based architectural and interiors design firm, is using Adobe Acrobat extensively throughout the design and documentation phases of its projects, and reports that collaboration, coordination and communication has improved significantly as a result -- and the firm is saving money to boot. Using digital delivery and storage of project information exclusively, the firm reports that collaboration among project team members has improved significantly. Reproduction and distribution costs have been reduced by approximately 85%, from around $45,000 to $5,000 per project.

"Costs for design and construction are growing at about 10% annually," says John Moebes, associate principal at Good Fulton & Farrell. "For AEC firms, it is essential to find technologies that act as 'force multipliers,' enabling one person to do a job that might previously require two or three people."

"Platform- and application-independent Adobe PDF (portable document format) files overcome the problem of sharing native CAD drawings and other project information with people who might not have the software to open files," says Moebes. " PDF is excellent for sharing designs, spreadsheets, site plans and other materials because staff and outside partners can reliably open and view materials using free Adobe Reader software."

By using Adobe document security and restrictions, the firm also reports it has greatly improved control over processes. Documents can be distributed to users who need them while restricting or preventing access by other parties. The same holds true for design modifications -- the firm can specify which users can make changes.

Good Fulton & Farrell also has streamlined the archiving process, decreasing the cost of creating and maintaining project archives. Previously, like most firms today, it stored large rolls of drawings in an archives room, which was costly to maintain and difficult to access. With searchable digital Adobe PDFs, staff members can quickly locate past project information and view or print out exactly what they need.

Good Fulton & Farrell also uses Adobe Photoshop extensively to enhance CAD drawings. "For us, creating innovative designs is only part of the challenge," says Moebes. "We also have to successfully communicate and manage our ideas across large project teams, making Acrobat Professional and Photoshop CS2 integral to our work."

Click here to read the full case study about Good Fulton & Farrell and its use of Adobe Acrobat.

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