Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Clearing up the AutoCAD MEP Workspace Confusion

I recently returned from Salt Lake City. It was my first visit there and with the price of airline tickets we drove our PT Cruiser there instead. We have a 5-speed and drive conservatively as well as keep 5lbs. of extra air in the tires, use K & N filters for air and oil, and changed over before the trip to synthetic oil. We always get 35-37 mpg. We got 35 mpg religiously. Gas was mostly $4.09 a gallon almost everywhere except when we stopped to visit my mother in Tulsa it was about $3.89 and it was slightly less than that when we returned to Roanoke. We put almost 5,000 miles on the car for the entire trip.

So, enough of my personal baloney. What about these workspaces?

Tool palettes are one of those can't live without features whether you're using vanilla AutoCAD, AutoCAD Architecture, or AutoCAD MEP. They came out in 2004 and keep improving.

AutoCAD MEP has discipline specific tool palettes for HVAC, Piping, Electrical, Plumbing, Schematic, and access to some basic architectural tools with an Architectural tool palette. There are also related pulldown menus. The pulldown menus are how you get to specific preferences and system definitions.

When you start AutoCAD MEP for the first time your default workspace is HVAC. That will give you the HVAC tool palette and the HVAC pulldown menu.

Most users don't realize what the workspace is or what it does. What happens most of the time is that a user decides to see what is on another tool palette such as piping.

The user right clicks on the Tool Palette and selects the other Tool Palette. Note: If your tool palette is docked (allow docking checked above), it may not have the menu bar on the side as shown above. Depending on the version it will have this menu bar along the top for you to right click or for versions prior to 2009 will have stripped area at the top.

The workspace has settings to save changes. When this is set, any changes you make to your toolbars will stay with the workspace. Normally this is helpful so that when you close the program and reopen it your workspace will be the way you like it. It's no different than having your stapler on the right side of your monitor and your tape dispenser on the left. There's nothing worse than someone borrowing your stapler from your desk and returning it to the wrong place or not returning it at all! But I digress.

If you've changed to your piping palette and your workspace is set to automatically save, then you will have your piping palette saved with your HVAC workspace. In this situation, you would just need to change back to your HVAC palette and be sure that your workspace settings are set to automatically save changes.

You can get to your workspace settings by selecting the tool above that looks like a little gear or by selecting from the drop down list.

All this is done in the background within the CUI.

If you want to have some HVAC and some Piping palettes under one palette or under a workspace called your name, you can do so in the cui or by choosing Customize Palettes when you right click on the tool palette menu bar.

You can drag individual palette names from the left hand side to the appropriate tool palette group on the right hand side. You can also right click on either side to add new groups or new palettes.

I hope this helps to clear up some of the confusion. Let the workspace work for you instead of working against it.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Learning More About Schedules & Property Sets

As mentioned previously, schedules are really a great feature in AutoCAD Architecture and AutoCAD MEP.

Property Sets can be automatic or manual. They contain property information about the object you are trying to schedule.

Automatic property sets might be the duct height from bottom of duct, top of duct, duct size, duct system.

A manual property set can be added to allow you to add in any information that you want to call out about an object.

You can also use formulas to calculate and create a property set based on calculations.

If you understand property sets, you'll understand schedules. Two of the best methods that I have used to understand property sets and schedules are:
  1. Autodesk University previous sessions. Especially Matt Dillon's sessions. Paul Aubin's are good too, but I particularly am partial to Matt's for schedules and property sets.
  2. David Koch's blog, The Architect's Desktop. David is very good about tags, property sets, and schedules.
Don't try to learn everything at once. Just pick one small schedule that you need. Find one that is close from Content Browser. Then use the tools above to learn how to edit that schedule or make a very simple one with only a few property sets.

Friday, July 11, 2008

AutoCAD MEP Schedules

Schedules are one of the great advantages to using AutoCAD Architecture or AutoCAD MEP. Schedules are also often under-utilized because they are not truly understood.

In AutoCAD MEP, there is a Tags and Schedules Tool Palette provided with each type of discipline. The schedules on this palette are simply examples of what is available.

To access other out-of-the-box schedules, you can find many more in the Content Browser.

You can drag a schedule from the Content Browser to your drawing or to your Tool Palette.

***Tip: Be sure to right-click on the menu bar of the Content Browser and select to keep it on top to make it easier to drag from it.

Right-click on the schedule to edit the schedule table style and modify it to better fit your needs or to see what type of data populates the schedule.