CAD Standards, Part 4: Create a Library

24 Jul, 2007 By: Robert Green

The end result is well worth the time and effort it takes to put together a comprehensive CAD standards and training library.

In the last installment of CAD Manager’s Newsletter, I continued my series on CAD standards by explaining how you can use audio/video capture to help create better standards and even make your own training videos. If you haven’t had a chance to read the latest installment, I recommend that you do so now.

This time I will talk about using the video and written standards you’ve created and repurposing them into a comprehensive database of multimedia standards and training materials. Here goes.

Get Everything Organized
In order to create a great training and standards library, you’ll need to put all of your electronic files in a protected network location that is readable (but not editable) by all users. Therefore, a little organizational planning is in order and should include the following action steps:

Set up a network repository. Create a network directory that can be viewed by everyone who will need your CAD standards and/or training materials. I recommend breaking this directory into a few subdirectories for written standards, videos, templates, etc.

Secure the network repositories. Set permissions to all folders to include read/execute privileges for all users and administrative privileges for you and your trusted assistants. If this doesn’t make sense to you, or if your IT administrators won’t let you set privileges, you’ll need to get your IT staff involved. Don’t proceed until you’re sure the network privileges are set up correctly!

Map the network repository to a drive letter everyone can use. In fact, you may already have a mapped drive that you can place your CAD standards in and that’ll work just as well. I do recommend using a drive letter as opposed to a complex UNC path because all users understand how to go to the R: drive, but many won’t be able to find the \\DOMAIN1\CAD\Standards_Share location, for example.

Keep it all simple and logical. Don’t make too many folders and keep the names simple, the drive letter consistent, and everything easy for users to find.

Move the Files
Now you’re ready to get all your files collected into the directories you've created. This is simply an organizational step in which you get everything in one place and take stock of all your files -- nothing complicated, just fundamental file management.

It is important to be sure everything is in the correct folder and that you’ve thought the folder arrangement through carefully because we’ll be relating these files together, and the organizational structure of the files must remain consistent.

Building a Smarter Standard
At this point your company will have a collection of standards documents that are typically stored as DOC files along with the audio/video recordings you’ve stored. Now you will combine these two sources of data into a unified multimedia standards document that will allow anyone on your network to view, print, and watch all your standards files! Here’s how the process works:

Amend the DOC file to include a hyperlink. Let’s say that you have all your DOC files in R:\STANDARDS\DOCS and all your videos (in Windows Media Video [WMV] format) in R:\STANDARDS\VIDEOS. Open your standard DOC file, create a hyperlink (via a right-click in Microsoft Word), and make the hyperlink point to the corresponding WMV file.

Test the hyperlink. Inside Microsoft Word use Ctrl+Click to activate the hyperlink and make sure that the video will actually invoke your Windows Media Player and play the video segment.

Create a PDF. When you know that the hyperlink works, save the DOC file into the R:\STANDARDS\VIDEO folder you created on your network drive. After that, use Adobe Acrobat to create a PDF version of the file and save it in the multimedia format. (Note: Yes, this means you have to buy a copy of Adobe Acrobat, but the benefits of deploying your standards in a secure, noneditable PDF file makes the $300 or so investment seem cheap.)

Building the Standards Catalog
After a while you’ll end up with a well-populated collection of PDF files that combine written standards with show-and-tell videos -- a true multimedia approach! You can see how those who simply want the standard can print the PDF file and those who want to use the standard as a tutorial can trigger the video via the hyperlink in the PDF file. Congratulations! You now have a complete multimedia standards and training library that, via network security, provides self-serve access from anywhere on the network.

All you have to do now is create a document or Web page that shows users what standards are available. Here’s a process that makes it easy:

Create a DOC file that lists your standards. Create a new MS Word document and list the names of the standards documents you’ve saved in PDF format with a brief description of each standard.

Add hyperlinks. Select the text for each standard and use right-click to add a hyperlink to the text of each standard. In the hyperlink, simply put the full path and name of each PDF file.

Test the hyperlinks. Use Ctrl+Click to activate the hyperlink and make sure the PDF file opens in Acrobat Reader.

Save the DOC file as PDF or HTML. If you want to distribute a master PDF file of all standards, simply save the DOC file to PDF just as you did when creating each separate standard. Alternately, if you want to deploy your list of standards as an intranet page, you can use Microsoft Word’s Save As command to save to HTML format for integration into your corporate intranet.

Enlist IT’s help when in doubt. I realize all this PDF, HTML, and hyperlinking business may be new to some of you, but that doesn’t mean it’s hard to learn. Your IT department should be able to help you overcome the initial learning curve if you have questions. Trust me, this knowledge is worth acquiring even if it does take some work to do it.

Directory Notes
In my examples above I’ve used a very simple and static directory structure to give you an idea of what’s possible. Depending on how big your network is or if you use Internet/VPN methodologies to share files, you may well need to deviate from my approach.

So make sure you think about who will need to use your multimedia standards, where they’re located, and what connection methodology they’ll need to use to find your standards. Enlist your IT’s help in the matter if you have questions. In fact, you may even want to consider burning your standards and videos to a DVD that you can simply send to remote or traveling users as a way to mitigate the network complexities deployment.

Summing Up
You should now be able to catalog the CAD standards and training materials you’ve created into a comprehensive library of materials that support your CAD standards efforts and help in training new hires. I can’t stress strongly enough that CAD standards and training should be inseparably intertwined in order for you to get the maximum benefit of your time and effort. And when you save time and effort, it means you’ll have more time to perform other valuable tasks like enforcing the CAD standards you’ve now documented.

In the next installment of CAD Manager’s Newsletter, I’ll conclude my series on CAD standards by providing some tips, tricks, and techniques I’ve used to tackle the toughest part of the process: enforcement! Until then.

About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green

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