A Walk Through the Fields

14 Feb, 2005 By: Todd Shackelford Cadalyst

Update your old title block and you’ll reduce redundant data

You may have put it off, but it's time to update your old title block to take advantage of all the shared information in your AutoCAD 2005 sheet set. This means understanding fields, the Sheet Set Manager and their unique relationship. This article will demonstrate how to convert your old attributed title block into one that uses fields to automatically enter the same data you used to enter manually.

What is a field?
Think of a field as a hyperlink that displays the specific piece of data attached to it. A field will verify and update that data on an Open, Save, Plot, Etransmit or Regen command in a drawing. Fields can be linked to all kinds of data including data pulled from objects, drawings or the sheet set itself.

Stamp it Out
Even if you choose not to take advantage of the Sheet Set Manager to share information between sheets, you can use fields to autopopulate information that exists in a single drawing. A good example of this is a plot stamp. There are plenty of ways to include a plot stamp on a drawing, but I like fields because they are simple to add and use, always visible and provide consistent, reliable results.

For this plot stamp, I want to capture when the drawing was last plotted and by whom. First I'm going to zoom to the corner of the title block where I want my stamp. I'll pick Field from the Insert pull-down menu. In the Field dialog box, change the Field category to Date & Time (figure 1). You have four choices for Field names here: CreateDate, Date, PlotDate and SaveDate. Select the PlotDate option to insert a field that will always report the last time the sheet was plotted.

Figure 1. Selecting the plot date.

Next select a format for the plot date. There are some helpful hints on the right side of the dialog box. I used the Hints section to make a format that wasn't predefined. I typed MMM d, yyyy h:mm tt in the format box to combine a three-letter month with time in hours and minutes. Now select OK to close the dialog box and place your field on the title block.

Because fields update before a plot, the stamp on the plotted sheet will reflect the time it was plotted, not the previous plot time. Fields that call current sheet data (not data pulled from the Sheet Set Manager) will report from inside blocks or Xreferences, so this single field will report different information for every file it is referenced or blocked into.

This process is repeated to add a field that reports who has the drawing open. This time in the Field category select Other. For Field names select System Variable, then select Loginname as your system variable. Pick a format you like, then select OK to place the field.

Why do I need the Sheet Set Manager?
The Sheet Set Manager acts as the main interface for all the information shared in a set. If your drawings are not created using the Sheet Set Manager, the information in them cannot be shared with the set and vice versa. This is because the Sheet Set Manager creates an XML file for every drawing it creates. The XML file communicates information to and from the Sheet Set Manager. If you create a sheet manually, the XML is not created, leaving no link to the sheet set.

Fielding the Common Questions
The title block information I want to share in this sheet set is:

  • Project Name
  • Project City
  • Project Number
  • Current Issue Date
  • Sheet Number
  • Sheet Title
I will input this information to the Sheet Set Manager, where it can be shared to the whole set. Go to the Sheet List tab in the Sheet Set Manager and select the current set's name at the top of the list. Right-click and select Properties from the menu.

I'll need to add some custom properties to the sheet set. AutoCAD has some preloaded that may work for you, but if you need to add your own, follow these instructions.

Select the Edit Custom Properties button, and select the Add button. AutoCAD will prompt for a name and a current value. Name this one "Project Name" and set the value to "Big Bob's Taco Factory." Make sure the owner is set to the sheet set and click OK to add it to the sheet set. Repeat this process for Project City, Project Number, and Current Issue Date (figure 2). Then select OK to exit the dialog box.

Figure 2.

When you add a new sheet to the sheet set, AutoCAD prompts you for the sheet number and title; they will be added on a sheet-by-sheet basis.

Insert the Fields
These fields can be inserted on the title block as before, but if text or an attribute is already in place, an easier method is to double-click the text/attribute, highlight it, and select Insert Field from the right-click menu.

Use the following table to specify the settings for each of these fields in the Field dialog box.

 Field Category:Field names:Format:Custom Property Name
Project Name Sheet Set CurrentSheetSetCustom Uppercase Project Name
Project City Sheet Set CurrentSheetSetCustom Uppercase Project City
Project Number Sheet Set CurrentSheetSetCustom Uppercase Project Number
Current Issue Date Sheet Set CurrentSheetSetCustom Uppercase Current Issue Date
Sheet Number Sheet Set CurrentSheetTitle Uppercase --
Sheet Title Sheet Set CurrentSheetNumber Uppercase --

Now you are ready to insert this title block into any sheet set drawing. Explode it on insert to release fields to the Sheet Set Manager. Then do nothing; the fields have filled themselves out.

Most of the CAD world has been Xreferencing a single title block into every drawing in a job and then inserting a separate block into each for sheet specific information. By using fields and the Sheet Set Manager, you may find that you can simplify Xreferencing by dropping the title block Xref out of every drawing and speed design with only a single insert and one-stop data management in the Sheet Set Manager.

Everybody's title block is different, so finding the field parameters you need can sometimes be a challenge. I encourage you to experiment with fields to see what you get. It might just be something you need.

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