General Software

First Look Review: Watson5.8

27 Aug, 2006 By: Patrick Davis

Quickly locate AutoCAD detail drawings and avoid those manual searches

Pros: Unique; fast; quick support response.
Cons: No Help system or tutorial; limited documentation; initial setup can be confusing; expensive for what it does.
Price: $50


If your firm is like most, you have hundreds of AutoCAD detail drawings printed for reference. If you're lucky, these details are organized in some fashion, making the search process much easier. Watson5.8 by WatsonLISP is an artificial intelligence program that helps users find specific detail drawings by searching text and attribute values in AutoCAD files, rather than manually searching through paper drawings.

Watson5.8 works by mapping the location of text and attribute information from drawing files for future query. You begin the process by using the Lookdb command to teach Watson5.8 about a selection of drawings that forms a search library. As it processes each drawing, Watson5.8 creates a WDD file, which contains the location of the mapped text and attribute information, for each drawing file. After forming a library, you can view files using the WL command, and queries are enabled at the Command prompt. Depending on the number of drawings, content and size of those files, the process of mapping can vary greatly.

Once you have mapped the files and created a search library, you can ask Watson5.8 questions with the Wat command. For example, if you're looking for details relating to elevator pits, you type "elevator pit?" and Watson5.8 searches the mapped drawings for text and attribute data that matches elevator pit. To step through images, drawings and word references, type G, and to step through graphic file references, type in FG. Once you find the correct graphic file, type in IG to insert it into the current drawing.

Use WT to toggle responses and customize the search for text, drawing, images, media and Internet files. Adjusting these toggles helps to narrow the search and response types.

Before you install the program, be sure to read the README.TXT file. Currently, you must manually extract the files to C:\Wat to use the directory. In addition, you must set up PGPSETUP.LSP to configure response programs. You can set menus so that they optionally load, and you can use AUTOLOAD.LSP to automatically load WAT.LSP boxes.

While Watson5.8 provides a unique capability, it does have some drawbacks. In order to function, Watson5.8 must be installed in the C:\Wat folder. The documentation for Watson5.8 is very limited and there is no Help system or tutorial included. Though Watson5.8 does incorporate some dialog boxes, the program relies heavily on the Command line.

Once I got Watson5.8 running, I was impressed at how well it worked. To make Watson5.8 work more efficiently for me, I created multiple libraries for concrete, steel, masonry and the like to match the organizational system used in our binders. I then compared the old system -- searching through the binders to locate specific typical details I needed -- with Watson5.8. Each time, I was able to locate and insert the detail into the drawing using Watson5.8 before I had located the detail in one of our binders.

A new version of Watson is currently in development and should include an improved installation process and better documentation. A 30-day demo is available.

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