Connect Project Teams with AutoCAD and ProjectWise

6 Jun, 2012 By: Hector Hernandez

From the Trenches: Does your dispersed team rely on AutoCAD and Bentley ProjectWise? This tutorial explains how to integrate the two.

Today's work environment demands an effective communication solution for sharing CAD data among multiple offices and users. Traditionally, project data is centralized in a project office with its own server. A central data storage location benefits all personnel working in the same project, but this setup poses a problem: Although users within the central office can access the latest information without delays, workers in distant offices will experience a project team disconnection.

Sharing CAD data via a collaboration tool such ProjectSolve, TriForma, or even e-mail may help, but it requires a constant download-and-upload process. In the case of geographically dispersed teams seeking the latest CAD data, some disciplines must wait for others to finish their base designs and post them to the shared location after all updates. In addition, e-mail is an inefficient way to share the latest CAD design information with all teams, and it's all too easy to leave someone off the distribution list.

CAD data can be more efficiently shared with software such as Autodesk Vault or Bentley ProjectWise, which allow users to access the data in real time. This method eliminates the need to e-mail or download CAD data to a secondary server or personal computer, while providing a central data sharing point. Integrating AutoCAD with ProjectWise will improve coordination and efficiency across offices.

Connected project teams can share CAD data in real time, getting all updates as soon as workers update the ProjectWise file version. This system works in multidiscipline scenarios, and enabling users to share resources and meet standards using several CAD design platforms will save thousands of hours over the life of a project. Teams connected in this way are more coordinated and better able to meet schedules; managers can observe progress in sharing CAD data, even when they are out of the office; and all workers always have access to the latest information.

AutoCAD and ProjectWise can help your team successfully share the latest information and work within a central sharing location. Next, I'll explain how to integrate these two platforms.

Bring AutoCAD and ProjectWise Together

Install ProjectWise after all your design software is installed to ensure that it will integrate with AutoCAD and all other compatible software. AutoCAD runs its own ProjectWise sessions, so make sure to open a session per software for other applications such as Bentley MicroStation and Microsoft Office. Log in to ProjectWise Explorer first, then double-click on the files that you intend to open.

Next, you must open AutoCAD by following the steps below:

1. Run AutoCAD as usual, either from the desktop icon or from Program Files > Autodesk > AutoCAD 2011.

2. To verify that AutoCAD has been integrated with ProjectWise, look for the ProjectWise tab in the AutoCAD ribbon.

3. Once the two programs are integrated, choose one of the three options below to open files from ProjectWise. Click the icon in the top menu:


4. Log in to ProjectWise.


5. The Open Document window will open from ProjectWise Explorer; navigate to the folder structure in your project so you can access open DWG files.

File extensions will be recognized as Autodesk files as default.

6. AutoCAD can open multiple drawings, but it is best to open no more than two, and to keep the first drawing minimized when AutoCAD launches (Drawing 1.dwg). A temporary copy of a file from ProjectWise will reside in the local user’s ProjectWise folder. Users should save their files often and update the server copy for other users, using Ctrl+S to save the file in intervals and increasing the Automatic save frequency to a large number. (Automatic save can be set in the AutoCAD interface profile. Set up an AutoCAD interface profile to ensure all users read the correct client resources and manage AutoCAD saving periods.)

7. To open a second DWG file, follow steps 3 through 5, and a new ProjectWise Open Document window will appear.

Bentley MicroStation users that need to open DWG files within ProjectWise Explorer should log in to launch ProjectWise Explorer, select the DWG, right-click on it, select Open With, and choose ProjectWise-integrated AutoCAD.

After you've selected a file, click OK. (Please note that ProjectWise will open an AutoCAD session that is not fully integrated; this option is recommended if you only want to read and print files. For full AutoCAD-ProjectWise integration, you must follow steps 1 through 5.)

All xref files must be associated with files that reside in ProjectWise, since the system will associate them. A folder structure icon will be displayed next to the drawing icon indicating association with other xrefs. In the case that an xrefed file needs to change names, ProjectWise will find the new file name and rename the file, keeping the link and performing file re-path if it needs to be done. Files outside of this mode will need to run the Refscan tool if the file had broken references.

Closing Files

Close files one by one, and make sure to Check In to update the server copy. Please note that if you select Close All from the Command line it will check in files as well, but during the process AutoCAD and ProjectWise will disconnect. Instead, close all files except Drawing1.dwg (the first drawing AutoCAD opens), click Check In to release the file, and update the server copy for other users.

To open a file again, you must open it from the ribbon > ProjectWise menu, or from the Command line (type _DMSOPEN).

About the Author: Hector Hernandez

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