Tapping Knowledge Vault's Engineer's Notebook

31 Mar, 2003 By: Jeff Wymer

The Knowledge Vault contains a set of intelligent technologies for capturing, storing, and reusing design knowledge embedded within Autodesk Inventor models. iFeatures, iMates, iParts, and the Engineer's Notebook make up the basis of the Knowledge Vault. And here we'll focus on the Engineer's Notebook.

Engineer's Notebook

Inventor's Engineer's Notebook enables designers to quickly capture design intent, decisions, and history. These digital snapshots are stored inside the model, allowing quick-and-easy access to those who have Inventor installed on their PCs. Capturing design intent, tracking decisions, and keeping a model history all contribute to saving time and money on future design projects.

The Engineer's Notebook environment can be broken up into three different areas: the notebook panel bar, the notebook browser, and the notebook page, as shown in Figure 1. The panel bar, located in the upper left-hand corner, provides the tools required to document your comments and display your models within the notebook. To organize and track the notes for the active document, Autodesk Inventor uses the browser. By navigating through the notebook tree within the browser, you can quickly find the critical design information you need. Finally, comments and snapshots that capture the intent of the design, can be found on the notebook page.

Figure 1. The tool pallette (A) is for quick access to the notebook commands. The note browser (B) allows you to track and organize all of your notes. The notebook area (C) contains all of your annotations.

Creating Notes

Let's now discuss how easy capturing design intent is within Inventor's Engineering Notes. You can create notes by right-clicking on any number of objects found within a part or assembly file and selecting Create Note. Assemblies, parts, work geometry, features, edges, and model sketches are all valid objects for attaching notes to. Once a note has been created, Inventor will open the notebook environment mentioned earlier. By default, each note will automatically generate a comment and a view. If required, additional comments and views can be added manually. Finally, specific areas of concern within the snapshot of the design can be called out with an arrow.

Formatting the Engineer's Comments

As I mentioned earlier, a comment is automatically generated for each note you create. Each comment has a text header added to the top that captures the author's name, the weekday, and the current date. The text header cannot be modified; however, the name field for the author can be changed. This is found within the application options, on the General tab.

While the comment header is locked, the body of the comment can be formatted. A toolbar can be found across the top of the application with a few formatting tools similar to a word processor's. Once you've finished adding your comments, the comment box itself can be moved and resized by simply dragging the edge with your cursor.

Worth a 1,000 Words

To ensure your engineering note clearly conveys your ideas or concerns properly, the Engineer's Notebook provides a snapshot of the design through a View. Views have the same viewing controls that are found throughout Autodesk Inventor's modeling environments. By right-clicking on a view or using the toolbar icons, you can pan, zoom, and orbit the current view of the design. Keep in mind that a View is a living snapshot of the design. As your design continues to take shape, the View will update. You can freeze the snapshot in time by right-clicking over the view and selecting the freeze option. By utilizing this option, you can capture every design change and have an archive within the design.

Organizing Your Notes

You can store Notes in folders to organize your ideas and design changes.

Folders can be created by right-clicking in the note browser and selecting Insert Folder. Once a folder has been created, you can then rename it. Existing notes can be dragged and dropped into any folder. You can also indicate which folder will capture newly created notes with a simple right-click. Finally, you can right-click within the browser to arrange the notes by name, author.

Attaching External Files

The power of engineering notes can be further extended by embedding or linking other documents within them, as shown in Figure 2. Let's say an engineer has taken some digital pictures of components that have failed in the field. These images could be placed within the engineering notebook for that component, along with a change order document and some analysis results. The process to add these files is simple. In any comment field you right-click and choose Insert New Object. Next, the standard windows OLE (Object Linking and Embedding) dialog appears. Here you can browse to find files you want to include.

Figure 2. Inside the model environment notes can be easily accessed via the browser or by double-clicking on the sticky note.

Note Options

Autodesk Inventor allows you to control a number of settings related to engineering notes. By entering the applications options and selecting the tab labeled Notebook, you will find the following settings:

Display in Model

  • Note Icons. With this checked, sticky note icons appear on a model, as shown in Figure 3.

  • Note Text. With the Note Icons option checked on, this setting will determine if you see a text tool tip when your cursor is placed over a note icon attached to a model.

  • Figure 3. The power of engineering notes can be further extended by embedding or linking other engineering-related documents within them.


    • Keep notes on deleted objects. This option makes the note available within the model, even after the original object it was attached to, such as a feature, has been deleted.


    • Text Background. This controls the comment's box background color.

  • Arrow. This option can modify the color of the callout arrow.
  • Note Highlight. This option controls the color of the highlighted objects within a note, which is only noticed when a comment box has been picked for resizing or moving.
  • Reviewing Existing Notes

    Now let's discuss how you access this recorded knowledge. After opening a model containing engineering notes, you will see an icon within the graphics window that looks similar to a sticky note. By placing your cursor over the note icon, the comment window will appear in the graphics window, giving you an idea about what the note is documenting. To read the complete engineers note, double-click or right-click on the icon. This will open up the engineer's notebook, complete with comments and views. Notes are also tracked in the model browser under the corresponding Inventor element.

    Be aware that you may open a design that has an engineer's note, yet no notes are visible. If this happens, then the visibility setting has been turned off.


    While working on any engineering project, it is nearly impossible to track every idea or thought related to your design. Trying to remember all the design changes that have taken place can be a troublesome task. By using Autodesk Inventor's Engineering Notebook you can easily record design intent, document and track design reviews, and store information concerning design iterations.