Circles and Lines: Creating New Sheets Sets in AutoCAD

14 Mar, 2005 By: Lynn Allen

In this second part of our series, we'll look at AutoCAD 2005's Sheet Set Wizard

In last month's column, I brought you a very friendly introduction to AutoCAD's sheet sets. This month we're going to take a deeper look at the intricacies of setting up your own sheet set using the Sheet Set Wizard in AutoCAD 2005.

Let's say you've been working on a project and have completed a good portion of the drawings, and then you upgrade to AutoCAD 2005. It would be quite painful to import each of those drawing layouts into AutoCAD's Sheet Set Manager one at a time. Instead, you'll want to take advantage of the new Sheet Set Wizard. You'll also want to use the Sheet Set Wizard to properly set up any sheet sets from scratch.

Note: Remember that a sheet in a sheet set is simply pointing to a layout from an existing drawing file.

Getting Started
Select New Sheet Set from the Files menu or execute the Newsheetset command. You will be faced with two options for creating your new sheet set: using an example sheet set as the basis, or use an existing drawing (figure 1).

Figure 1. Setting up a new sheet set in AutoCAD.

If you already have a sheet set in place -- with the proper settings, properties, directory structure and so on -- by all means, let's not reinvent the wheel! You can use this existing sheet set as the basis for a new one. The sheet set example you select will provide the organizational structure and default settings for the new sheet set, without copying any of the actual sheets. You will still be able to bring in existing layouts as sheets from your drawing files.

If you specify that you want to use existing drawings for your new sheet set, you are asked to specify one or more folders that contain the project's drawing files. The layouts from these drawings can be imported automatically into your new sheet set. (This is typically the more popular option for projects already in progress.)

If you specify you want to use an example sheet set, AutoCAD will ask you to specify which one. AutoCAD 2005 has a half-dozen built-in sheet sets you can work from if you want: two architectural; two civil; and two manufacturing, with options for metric or imperial units of measure (figure 2). These are great for getting your feet wet in the world of sheet sets, but in most cases I suspect you'll want to select and work from a sheet set you've created.

Figure 2. When you want to base a new sheet set on an existing sheet set, AutoCAD offers six built-in options to choose from, or you can specify one of your own.

The next step for both routes is the Sheet Set Details page (figure 3).

Figure 3. Next, give your new sheet set a name, a description (optional) and a home.

You now get to choose the name of your sheet set, select the directory you'd like the sheet set to be saved to and set up the Sheet Set Properties. Make sure you store the sheet set file (DST) in a directory that all members of the project team will be able to access.

Sheet Set Properties
Also in the Sheet Set Details dialog box is the Sheet Set Properties button. Sheet set properties are an extremely key part of setting up a new sheet set. Here you will specify the environment your sheet set will work with. Let's take a quick tour through the various Properties options (figure 4).

Figure 4. The Sheet Set Properties dialog box.

Name: Sheet set name -- Allen Colonial in our example.

Sheet set data file: Path and name of the DST file.

Description: Optional description you may have assigned to your sheet set.

Resource drawing location: Here you will indicate the directories with drawing files you may choose to use as resource files for your sheet set. This option is nearly a topic unto itself, so I'll tackle it in another column. For now, just realize that you can easily drag and drop model space views from a resource file (or a complete drawing) onto a sheet, which is a very powerful feature.

Label block for views: When you drag and drop a model view into a layout (one of the very powerful new features in AutoCAD 2005), AutoCAD will automatically place a label block (which might contain the view number, scale factor, etc). Using the new Field object, you can make these label blocks incredibly smart. This is the name of the DWG or DWT file that contains your label block.

Callout blocks: You can also make incredibly smart callout blocks using fields in AutoCAD 2005. Automatic page numbering, view number and so forth are all possibilities now. The ultimate value here is: "Change it once, change it everywhere." Setting up your labels and callouts properly can save you tons of time -- also a topic for a future column. You can select as many callout blocks as you want to have available.

Page setup overrides: You may want to have a variety of page setups available for printing. This file (DWT) contains the page setup overrides for the sheet set.

Sheet storage location: The directory where new sheets will land.

Sheet creation template: The template file (DWT) you wish to use for all new sheets.

Prompt for template: If you have multiple template files you need to use for your project, you will need to turn this value to Yes so you can select the appropriate DWT file.

Note: You can change nearly all these settings later as well -- so you aren't married to your selections (for those of you who fear commitment!).

My sheet set has some custom properties available to use as fields. The topic of fields is a very large animal that we don't have time to tackle this go-round, but think of them as attributes on steroids. Attributes are really only smart enough to work within one drawing file, while fields can work across multiple drawing files (or sheets in your sheet set). Properly implemented, fields can save you a great deal of time on a project.

If you choose to create a sheet set from an existing set of drawing files, you will need to indicate the folders that contain the files. The Sheet Set Wizard will display all the drawing files and layouts that are available for import (figure 5). Simply uncheck any you don't wish to include in the new sheet set. Take note of the Import Options button, which contains two very important selections. Do you want the sheets to have a prefix of the drawing name (or just the name of the Layout tab)? Do you want AutoCAD to create subsets in the Sheet Set Manager based on the existing folder structure? Indicate your preferences in the Import Options dialog box.

Figure 5. Creating a sheet set from an existing set of drawing files.

Before you complete the process, AutoCAD will display the final results -- before it's too late! You can always make changes later, but it's definitely easier to do so while you are still within the Sheet Set Wizard. Look over the resulting sheet set preview and structure to ensure you are getting the sheet set you want.

The key to sheet set success is really trial and error. Work with the Sheet Set Wizard, make a few sample sheet sets and try the different options. It will soon become clear exactly what suits the needs of you and your company. Much of the process is so difficult to explain in an article, so I've done my best to get you started and trust you will find the process fairly straightforward.

Until next month, Happy AutoCAD-ing!

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