Set the standard

30 Apr, 2002 By: Bill Fane

These drawing files are driving me nuts! The layer colors and linetypes are all wrong, the text styles don't match our standards, and the dimension styles are messed up. Whatever shall I do? Plotting probably causes more grief than any other area of AutoCAD, but at the end of the day, the real problem is usually lack of compliance with standards. In addition, a drawing that is created according to established standards is much easier to edit.

The "Learning Curve" columns of October 1998 and November 1998 showed you how to help ensure compliance with standards by customizing AutoCAD.

Even so, discrepancies can creep in, as can outside drawings from vendors and consultants. Fortunately, help is on the way.

AutoCAD 2002 gains a standard tool
AutoCAD 2002 adds some new CAD standards functionality. It won't do everything, but it's a good start. I hope Autodesk continues to develop this area of AutoCAD.

At present, the CAD standards tools check for consistency between a drawing and a desired standard in the following four areas:

  • Layer specifications (color, linetype, lineweight, and so forth)
  • Text style specifications (font, size, and so forth)
  • Dimension style definitions (the full list of 70 or so dimensioning variables)
  • Linetype definitions

Pick a standard, any standard
Your first step is to establish standards. This is a simple process. Create a new drawing or just open an existing drawing that has everything set exactly the way you want it. Now select File | Save As and expand the Files of Type list. Select AutoCAD 2000 Standard (DWS) as the type and save the file.

Actually, creating a standards file can be even easier. Just take any existing DWG file and rename it with a DWS extension.

The next step is to open the file you want to check, then start the Standards command. From AutoCAD's menus, select Tools | CAD Standards | Configure. You can also click the Configure Standards button on the CAD Standards toolbar or type Standards at the Command prompt.

Figure 1. The Standards dialog box, with the Standards tab active, is where you establish standards.

The dialog box in figure 1 appears, with the Standards tab active. Normally, the two windows are empty, but I have already associated a standards file with the current drawing.

Note the four buttons located between the two windows. To add a standards file, select the + (plus) button and then go browsing for your standards file. Select the + (plus) button again to associate more than one standards file with a given drawing. The X button deletes the association with a standards file. We'll leave the up arrow and down arrow buttons for later.

Just checking
Now that your standards files are associated with your drawing, it's time to run the standards checker. To do this, select the Check Standards button in the Configure Standards dialog box or pick Tools | CAD Standards | Check from the menu. You can also click on the Check Standards button in the CAD Standards toolbar or type in the command CheckStandards.

Figure 2. The Check Standards dialog box shows a problem that has been found.

In any case, the dialog box in figure 2 appears. The top window shows that the Check Standards command found a mismatch in the properties of the Standard dimension style.

The middle window shows the names of all the dimension styles and the names of the standards files in which the checker found them.

Clicking on a standard in the middle window makes the lower window show the differences between the bad style and the selected standard.

Your final step is to decide on an action. If you click on the checkmark button, AutoCAD fixes the problem. We once had a cat named Problem that we got fixed.

In other cases, a drawing that is checked may include a style, layer, or linetype name that does not exist in any of the associated standards files. You can click on an item in the Replace With window, and then click on the checkmark button. All objects that have the bad style or layer name are transferred to the selected style or layer, and the bad style or layer is purged.

Once a problem is fixed, the standards checker looks for the next problem.

Clicking the large blue right arrow button makes the checker skip over the current problem and look for the next one. You can also mark the problems you ignore for future reference.

Now that we've reviewed the basic principles, let's look at some of the specific details, starting with the Configure Standards dialog box.

First, the Standards Checker saves the list of associated standards files in the current drawing so you can easily come back later to check the drawing again.

Next, click on the Plug-Ins tab. This brings up a list and explanation for each of the four items that are checked. Note that they are plug-ins, which implies other additions in the future. In fact, Autodesk specifically hopes that third-party developers will generate additional standardschecking functions.

Finally, let's go back and look at the up arrow and down arrow buttons in the Configure Standards dialog box. When checking for compliance, the standards checker searches the standards files in sequence from top to bottom. It stops checking for compliance at the first match it finds. For example, one standards file might have a WALLS layer with color red, and a second file has the same WALLS layer with color green. The checker will make sure the WALLS layer in the current drawing matches the standard that is higher up the list, ignoring the lower one.

Similarly, all drawings have a Standard dimension style, which may have different specifications in different standards files. Use the arrow buttons to move a selected standard file up or down the list so the desired one rules.

Now for the Check Standards dialog box.

Observe the Settings button. When you select it, the dialog box in figure 3 appears. When the top button is checked, the checker automatically runs through the complete standards check and repairs all problems that it is able to, without stopping to prompt you.

The middle button lets you decide whether to show problems that you previously flagged to ignore. In the lower scroll list, you select the attached standards file that will be the preferred one for driving automatic changes.

The bad news is that AutoCAD does not save these settings with the drawing. You must reset them each time.

Gnarly bits
As indicated earlier, the standards checker only checks that the text, dimension, layer, and linetype definitions match. It can't yet ensure that objects such as text and dimensions are on the correct layers or that object color and linetypes have not been overriden to be other than Bylayer.

The good news is that existing AutoCAD filter functions, along with a new layer translate function, make it easy to overcome these situations. How easy? Come back next time to find out. We'll also set up the CAD Standards checker to automatically process a large quantity of drawings in batch mode.

You should also note that dimensions to which individual overrides have been applied will not delete the overrides when the style definition is corrected. To delete them, you need to pick Dimension, then Update. When prompted to select dimensions, you can pick specific ones, or just enter the word All to repair the entire drawing.

And now for something completely different
Rule number one for dealing with children or grandchildren is very simple: "The amount of liquid you give a child must never exceed the capacity of available wiping cloths."

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