Configure Vault for a Single Project and Save Time, Frustration

14 Jan, 2005 By: Kevin Schneider Cadalyst

Using this built-in Inventor feature makes it easier to locate the proper files, whether old or new

It's just one project, but invariably you end up with many design iterations and a pretty fuzzy idea of which drawings are up-to-date and where they are.

Autodesk Vault is built into Autodesk Inventor, and it's very useful for managing design data. Set up Autodesk Vault properly for a single project and you'll see how simple and reliable an alternative it is to using multiple Autodesk Inventor project files. With a single-project file configuration, you can simplify your work and spend time more productively on designing instead of hunting for files. Here's how to set up Autodesk Inventor for a single project.

Step 1: Set Up Your Environment
Autodesk Inventor software requires you to create a new Inventor Project File (*.IPJ) that is unique for each project. However, to set up Autodesk Vault for a single project, you will create a new folder for each design. Setup entails creating an archive or vault and matching folders on your desktop, to be mapped to each other in step 2.

   1. Open Autodesk Vault Manager. On the left side of the window, right-click on Vaults. Create a vault called Test (figure 1).

Figure 1. Create a vault called Test.

   2. Open Microsoft Windows Explorer. Create a folder within C:\ called Work, where you will do all work on Autodesk Inventor parts. In addition, create two new folders within Work called Content Center Files and Designs (figure 2). These folders will store all your design data.

Figure 2. Create folders where you will store design data.

   3. Launch Autodesk Inventor and the Project Editor. Click the New button at the bottom and follow the setup wizard to create a new Vault project named Designs, located at C:\Work\Designs (figure 3). Click Finish to complete the process.

Figure 3. Set up a new Vault project.

   4. Double-click on DESIGNS.IPJ to activate it and make it the default project (figure 4).

Figure 4. Make Designs the default project within the new Vault project.

   5. Open Vault Explorer. Log into the vault named Test. Note that the vault is empty and the working folder has not been set. Right-click on the $ folder and then select Set Working Folder. Browse to C:\Work (figure 5).

Figure 5. In your Test vault, set the location for the files you'll archive.

   6. Then right-click the $ folder and select New Folder. Enter Designs and make sure what you type exactly matches the folder name in Microsoft Windows Explorer. Create a library folder called Content Center Files, entering the name to exactly match the folder name you created earlier (figure 6).

Figure 6. Correlate vault folders to the content folders you created on your desktop.

You've just finished creating matching repositories on your desktop and in Autodesk Vault. In other words, the $/Designs folder in Autodesk Vault equates to the C:\Work\Designs folder in Microsoft Windows Explorer. Now you have a structure in which to add files and easily search what you store there.

Step 2: Add Data to Your Vault
Now you are ready to add Autodesk Inventor files to the vault.

   1. In Microsoft Windows Explorer, copy the entire group of folders under C:\Program Files\Autodesk\Inventor 9\Samples\Models\Assemblies to C:\Work\Designs (figure 7). This step will use content from the new project file we created earlier, instead of bringing the original project file to the new location.

Figure 7. Copy Autodesk Inventor files to be transferred to your vault.

   2. Now launch Autodesk Inventor and open the Project Editor. Right-click on Frequently Used Subfolders and select Add Paths from Directory. Browse to C:\Work\Designs and click OK (figure 8). This step will help you navigate more quickly to each of your new project folders.

Figure 8. Create a path to your project folder so it's easier to find.

   3. In Frequently Used Subfolders, go to the Arbor Press shortcut and open the Arbor Press drawing. This drawing will serve as the top-level file and can be used to add the entire assembly to your vault.

   4. Save your assembly. This step is very important, because the files were moved. Moving files potentially can change the way Autodesk Inventor updates related files. By saving these changes now, you'll ensure other users will have no problems accessing this data and opening files from your vault.

   5. Next, specify where these files will be stored in your vault by mapping folders from your desktop. From the File menu, select Vault / Map Folders, map your $/Designs folder to the Project Root folder, and your $/Content Center Files folder to the corresponding folder (figure 9). This is the only time you'll need to take this step to ensure everyone else who works with your vault uses this same information. Click OK to save your changes.

Figure 9. Map the local and vault folders to each other.

   6. Now in Autodesk Inventor, switch to the Autodesk Vault browser so you can add your files to your vault. You will see question mark icons that indicate the files are not yet in your vault (figure 10). Right-click anywhere in the Vault browser and select Add Files. You will see that your vault is displaying the proper folder structure, including the Arbor Press folder. Now you can add any comments as necessary, such as "Initial Add to Vault," and click OK to copy your files to your vault.

Figure 10. Copy local files to your vault.

   7. When you open or switch to Vault Explorer and click the $ folder, then click Refresh, you will see the newly added files and folders. The Arbor Press drawing and all its children have been added to your vault. More importantly, the structure has been preserved (figure 11).

Figure 11. Your vault shows all the folders you have added.

   8. Repeat this process with each design or project as needed.

Step 3: Share Data with Other Users
The final step is to give your team access to the vault you created. Follow these steps for each user you'd like to add.

   1. On each team member's computer, create a working folder. It's easiest to use the same folder on every computer.

   2. Launch Vault Explorer and follow the steps in "Set Up Your Environment" to make this newly created folder the working folder within your vault's $ folder.

   3. Choose the Get Latest Version command on the DESIGNS.IPJ file from your vault. The proper directory structure (C:\Work\Designs) is created automatically.

   4. Open Autodesk Inventor and set the DESIGNS.IPJ file to be the currently active project file in Autodesk Inventor.

   5. Each team member should use the Open from Vault command in Autodesk Inventor to begin work on their designs.

As you continue to use the vault you've created for your project, you'll find your work habits changing a bit. You'll find it's easy to think of the working folder (C:\Work) as a temporary repository for storing files. When you finish working on a design and you have added the files and folders to your vault, you can delete them from C:\Work.

You'll also find that when you work with files outside the Autodesk Inventor application, you'll use Vault Explorer much more frequently than Windows Explorer to find and modify those drawings. And most important of all, you'll find it's easier to find and reuse successful drawings!

About the Author: Kevin Schneider