Thursday, February 28, 2008

What? You Don't Use Bands?

That was the reaction I received during a presentation at my local user group meeting last week.  That group may not remember anything else I said, but that comment definitely got a reaction from the crowd.   So here's the story behind that statement...

Some engineers and companies are very particular about how certain items are labeled on their profile views.  I was working with one of those engineers on a project last year when I ran into a snag.  I was supposed to show the elevations of the profile in the "band" at the bottom of the profile view but I had to add the text "TC=" in front of the elevation.   The problem was that the "TC=" text appeared even on stations that had no profile. 


Obviously, that wasn't going to work, so I had to find a different way to display this label.  Having recently made some changes to the default profile styles in the company template, I decided to give something a try.  I created a profile label style that looked just like the band style, but it only appears where the profile exists.  That means if the profile only exists from station 1+00 to 12+50, then you'll only get labels from station 1+00 to 12+50 according to the major and minor station labels requested. 


So here's how you create and use this style:

  1. Open or create a drawing in Civil 3D.
  2. Make sure the toolspace is visible (command:  showts)
  3. Select the Settings tab of the Toolspace.
  4. Double click "Profile" from the list of objects.
  5. Double click "Label Styles".
  6. Double click "Station".
  7. Double click "Major Station"
  8. Now you should see a list of the existing Profile Major Station Labels in this drawing.  The list may only contain "Standard".
  9. Right click on "Major Station" and choose "New..."
  10. Select the Information tab and change the Name of the Label Style to "XX-FG-LT". Replace the XX with the initials of your company.
  11. Apply.
  12. Select the General Tab.
    • Change the Layer to the one of your choice.
    • Set the Orientation Reference to either View or World Coordinate System.  Band_Style3 
  13. Select the Layout tab.
    • Left click the Band_Style4 enough times to remove all existing components from the list.
    • Left click the Band_Style5 to insert a new "default" text object.
    • Change the Name value from "Text.1" to "Profile Elevation".
    • Set the Anchor Point to "Anchor Station Extension"
    • Modify the Contents Value:
      • Left click on the "Label Text" box then left click on the Band_Style6 to change the text value for this label
      • Select all the text in the Text box on the right of the Text component Editor - Contents dialog box and replace it with the desired "prefix text" in the same location (TC=)
      • Make sure your cursor is after the last character of the "prefix text"
      • From the Properties drop down list, select Profile Elevation
      • Set the Precision, Rounding, Decimal character, Sign and Output as desired for your project
      • Left click the CreateMacro to create the macro
      • The result should look something like this:  Band_Style6
      • OK
    • Set the Text Height to the desired value
    • Change the Rotation Angle to 90
    • Change the Attachment to Top Left
    • Change another other border and dragged state settings as required.
  14. Apply
  15. OK

Now all that's left to do is add your new style to a Label Set.  The tricky part is that you have to set the Dim anchor opt to "Profile View Bottom" and adjust your Dim anchor val to an appropriate setting.


So, that's all it takes to create a band style that only places labels where the profile exists.

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AutoCAD & Vertical Application Bugtracker

If you haven't already done so, please take a moment to visit the AutoCAD & Vertical Application Bugtracker website. It's managed by a great guy named Ralph Sanchez. He's keeping a list of "known bugs" for AutoCAD products that have been submitted to Autodesk.

The website currently lists bugs for the following products:

AutoCAD Civil 3D
AutoCAD Land Desktop
AutoCAD Map 3D

If you know of any bugs in current AutoCAD or Vertical Applications that have already been submitted to Autodesk, just submit a bug report to the website for all others to see. If you know of a current "work-around" or solution for the problem, be sure to include that information with your bug report. I won't promise any miracles, but Ralph and his trusty band of hooligans may even be able to help you find a "work-around" or solution to the problem.

Ralph will review the submitted bugs to determine that he can duplicate the problem, but Ralph and this website are NOT to be used as your main source of tech support for problems with AutoCAD products. You should always communicate potential bugs directly to Autodesk. Or you can discuss them with your Autodesk reseller, mine is D|C|CADD, if you are current on your Autodesk subscription plan.

While you're browsing the site, review the Downloads Section of the website. This section contains some useful utilities such as "Lock All Viewports" and "Multiple Offset".

The website has an RSS feed so be sure and add this to your favorite RSS reader, such as SharpReader or NewsGator, so that you get updated with the latest reported bug info as it is added to the list.


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Friday, February 15, 2008

Vista, You're Fast Again!

As a follow up to my Vista, Why Are You So Slow? post, I finally just changed my "Windows Color and Appearance" to Vista Basic. That helped on the speed issue a lot, but then my screen captures didn't match all the prior screen captures that I had in the handout I was preparing. So I just switched it back to the default settings for "Windows Color and Appearance". Even though I don't know why, the system is "fast" again. I guess the change worked like a reboot or something.

So if you ever have slowness issues with Vista, try switching to Vista Basic in the "Open classic appearance properties for more color options" section of the "Windows Color and Appearance" panel in Vista, then change back to the Aero color of your choice.

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Who Has Time for All Those Civil 3D Webcasts?

No matter how many times I have visited the Civil 3D Live Webcast page, I have never noticed that the sidebar on the left included a link to a section called Demonstration. Well, I actually followed that link today, and they are several real quick demos of each subject listed.

I viewed the "Section" demo and it wasn't bad. The best part is that it only last a few minutes. Sure, these demos are not going to answer as many questions as watching the full webcast will, but it may be enough to get you started.

In case you do have time for training, there are many sites that include webcasts, screencasts, etc. Here's a short list of sites you really should visit for webcast style training:

Civil 3D Webcasts Page
Autodesk University
Autodesk Subscription Center

The subscription center has eLearning lessons for current and previous versions of Civil 3d. Don't be afraid to watch the older ones. I actually learned some things from the old version lessons that I had never noticed in the current versions. Some of the dialog boxes look a bit different in the older versions as well, but you should be able to follow the workflow of the lesson.

The thing I liked about eLearning on the subscription site is that the lesson remembers where you last stopped. That way you can continue the lesson instead of trying to "fast forward" to the correct location like you have to do with a webcast. You also get to "click buttons" on Civil 3D in some lessons. Of course, you can't click anything other than what you're supposed to click, but it is still sort of a "hands-on" experience.

The AUGI Training Program is also available but I haven't used it yet.

Check with your reseller for webcasts as well. A lot of times they offer free webcasts throughout the year and will sometimes record and post them on their website. For example:

The D|C|CADD Company
Avatech Solutions

Let's also not forget our dependable friends at and the Civil Engineering Community, not to mention the numerous bloggers that can be found on the internet.

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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

New AutoDesk Product?

With all the hype on AutoCAD 2009, I thought I would take this opportunity to post about an AutoDesk product that I recently purchased...

Even though the Autodesk we know and love doesn't capitalize their D, I still thought it was an "Autodesk" product when I saw it because of the font style and color scheme (white text on dark background).

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Vista, Why Are You So Slow?

I've been using 32-bit Vista Home Premium for several months now. The speed has been good for the most part but for the last week or two, I had noticed everything running quite sluggish. I didn't know what I had done different. The sluggishness even appeared while I was typing things like emails or web posts. What the heck happened to this laptop?

I began searching for culprits by going through the icons shown on the taskbar. I had installed a trial version of SnagIt several days earlier and it started automatically when booted the machine. I exited SnagIt but that didn't seem to help. The sluggishness was still there.

My laptop is an HP and as a result, it has several HP apps running as well. I had already removed or disabled several other HP apps, but HP Advisor was still running. I closed the HP Advisor, but still noticed no improvement.

Then I saw this icon that belonged to OneNote. What was it doing there? Supposedly it was ready and waiting for me to begin creating notes like for the minutes of a meeting or notes from a class I was attending. I didn't ask it to be there, so I'll just exit that program as well. Unfortunately, no exit option was available. I could hide the icon (like that was going to do a whole lot of good). I had to find where this program originated.

So I went to check what services were being started automatically. It wasn't there either. So where the heck was it? I found that it was a shortcut was called "OneNote 2007 Screen Clipper and Launcher" and it was in this folder:
C:\Users\Internet\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs\Startup

I removed it and rebooted. Although that did improve the speed a bit, the laptop is still not as fast as it was previously.

I continued to search for additional culprits and felt that the indexing service of Vista was probably involved. I found several websites that discussed different Windows Vista tweaks. Here is one that discussed tweaking the indexing options of Vista.

I made this tweak and even while typing this post (I haven't restarted the laptop yet) I've already noticed a difference. There is no longer a lag between when I type something and when the characters actually appear on the screen.

So is there a bad side to not indexing? I don't know yet, but I do know that the index list hardly ever was indexing the folder or file types for which I ran searches. Now at least there is a shorter file list to browse before I can tell it to "search in non-indexed directories".

Now the indexing wasn't changed within the last two weeks, so there was still an issue. Then I remembered. One of the first things I did when I got this laptop was to uninstall Microsoft Works and install Open Office. I was really going to give Open Office a try and see if I could live without Microsoft Office. I already knew I wouldn't use Works because too many Excel commands that I use often are either different or missing. Well, I gave it a try and although the other portions of Open Office would have been sufficient, I had trouble with Excel again. I guess the "power user" in me appeared and just found problem after problem with using the Open Office replacement for Excel. For most people it worked fine, but some things I just couldn't accept.

So I finally conceded and purchased a legal copy of Microsoft Office Home and Student 2007, but I didn't install it quite yet. I figured, what the heck, I'll go ahead and use the trial version of Office on my laptop before I open the newly purchased product. If I didn't like it or if I had similar problems as I did with Microsoft Works, I would just return it unopened. Now that I look back, I see this as the time when the laptop began its descent into the land of the slugs.

In summary, can I live without Microsoft's version of Excel? Yes.
Will I use other spreadsheets in place of Microsoft's version of Excel? No.

I guess I'll just have to live with that performance hit to continue using Excel the way I want.

Maybe Vista SP1 will take care of this. Well, just in case, I'm not going to expect too much.