A Handy Holiday Tip

Not about AutoCAD.

This handy tip is about Christmas Cookies.

Oh, yeah. Christmas Cookies are SO good fresh from the oven. But, now they've been sitting around for a couple of days and might be starting to get hard. Yes, don't drum up more business for your dentist (chances are he's still on vacation anyway), and don't throw away all of those delicious snacks!

Take an airtight container (with a lid or press and seal saran wrap), put your cookies in it along with a piece of bread. Yep, any old piece of bread will do.

Leave it there for awhile and when you come back, you'll find a dry crusty piece of bread... but, nice soft cookies.

I don't know how or why this works, but, it does.
I credit this tip to my Mom.

Happy, Healthy, Prosperous and Safe New Year to you all.


Cool Command: LAYMRG

Alright... this command IS cool anyway.

In AutoCAD 2005, you could merge multiple layers together into one via the Express Tools menu.

Express > Layers > Layer Merge
(LAYMRG from the command line, of course).

You then have the option of selecting objects from the layers you want to merge, then Right-click and hit Enter and select an object on the layer you want to merge into (whoops! don't select that final layer in the initial selection, you'll have to cancel out and start over without that one selected)... or you could 'Type It' (good luck on remembering the precise details if you try that route, though!).

I had always wished that we could do the merging within the layer dialog box itself, but, alas, it was not to be.

BUT! NOW! In AutoCAD 2007 (with the layer express tools having been moved into core AutoCAD) we do have something new.

A DIALOG BOX!!! You can now navigate through your layer list here, selecting multiple layers to merge into one! If you do a lot of cleanup of other drawings from many contractors (ie... NO CONSISTENCY even from a single company, believe me), this could save you a ton of time in simplifying drawings.

You still have the option of manually selecting layers if that is simpler...
but, that won't work if they're embedded in blocks or something.

Do keep in mind, as with the Command Line version, you cannot select the destination layer when you're picking, that one is chosen last and separately.

Very Valuable Variable: TDINDWG

From AutoCAD Help:

Type: Real
Saved in: Drawing
Initial value: Varies

Stores the total editing time, which is the total elapsed time between saves of the current drawing.
The format is:

To compute the number of seconds, multiply the decimal fraction in TDINDWG by 86400 seconds.

I sort of stumbled upon this one when browsing through help and found it interesting. I called it up on a drawing I'm working on and it returned a result of
TDINDWG = 0.50413351 (read only)
and when I follow the direction to convert the decimal fraction of a day, I see that it is 43,557 seconds, 726 minutes or just over 12 hours. Interesting.

Don't forget the EDITTIME Express Tool for tracking the amount of active editing time. Unlike the variable mentioned above, you have to manually turn this on, and you can reset it and turn it off.


What Version of AutoCAD Did You Start On?

Yep, I'm still alive, just trying to get some work done (yes, I've actually found a side gig THAT PAYS, see? I'm not a *total* sucker).

On another note, remember, the AUGI Annual Salary Survey is coming out in the New Year. I have seen the prelim spread, and that graphics guy at AUGIWorld sure can work some magic from the pathetic sketches I gave him! It looks cool. So, wait by your mailbox in a few weeks and let me know what you think about the new layout and info provided.

ANYWAY... I was just catching up with a couple of blogs before I log off and hit the hay, and I saw a poll on Scott Durkee's Blog, so, cast your vote on
Which AutoCAD Version You Started With.

Personally, I started on release 10 back in high school... then used 12, 13, 2000, 2002,04,05,06 and recently began using 07.


How I Ended Up Working in CAD

Grrr. Stupid crashing firefox 2.0... just lost a great deal of work here. Grr.

When I was at AU2006 I had the pleasure of attending a mixer for Facilities Management professionals by the Autodesk FMDesktop team. It was between the last Wednesday class and the Industry Mixer (we were in with the BSD on the Industry Mixer), but, they managed to squeeze it in there just for us, so that was truly appreciated.

It was really fabulous for me to be able to hang around and speak with others who have so much experience and knowledge in CAD, Asset, Space and Facility Systems Management. FM was never so much as mentioned back in college, so I have had to primarily learn on the job and appreciate being able to glean anything I can from people who are experts in our field.

While munching on some fabulous appetizers, I was chatting with Victoria Shipley, A.I.A and Denise Cahill (I think Bob and Dave might have been at the table then as well). I was soaking up as much as I could while trying desperately not to sound too stupid, and found myself relating some story of how I ended up in this field. They encouraged me to share that story with you, faithful reader, so I hope they were right in that some others might want to hear it, so here goes:

I never liked school.

There, lets get that right out in the open. I never enjoyed it, I never did well in it, it just wasn't for me. That's not to say that I didn't (or don't) enjoy learning, quite the opposite, but, lectures... ~snoooore~ I much prefer learning where I can get hands-on or just read by myself.

I didn't have a whole lot of goals during school... I had dreams of growing up to be a Marine Biologist... but, golly, that would require too much math, so my love of boats and sea creatures would have to be experienced via books and the discovery channel. It was sort of assumed and joked within the family that I'd end up waiting tables somewhere (poor assumption given how surly I can be at times).

Unknown to me until fairly recently, my Dad had been an Electrical Engineer in his 20's. I have had my Great-Grandfather's drafting tools since he passed away in my early childhood... he was a Civil Engineer. My Grandfather worked out at McDonnell Douglas (now Boeing), and when he got his first home computer in the late 80's, I saw AutoCAD for the first time. I remember a lot of those thin black disks being involved. My other Grandfather, living so near Hollywood, did electronics and appliance repairs for the rich and famous. (And somehow... some silly people thought *I* would end up in a service industry instead of a technical field. They all realize now that I never had a chance to be anything but what I am now.)

So, I took my required classes and wasn't sure what to do for my electives. I took accounting, because my Grandmother did accounting work and I watched her and even worked as a fill in during the summer when half the office was on vacation. I still didn't like math.

There was this boy...

Alright, alright.

Anyway, back in high school, there was this boy I liked, but, we weren't at the same level in any of our classes, so when he told me he was taking Drafting in the fall, I signed up for the course, too.
Then he moved during the summer and here I was in this class by myself. :-/ Yup.

I liked to draw. But, blech, look at the math involved!

I remember my first drafting teacher, Scott Touchette, was a nice, quiet guy... left-handed (always nice to meet someone else in their right mind), who really encouraged the bits of work that I did well. I was like, hey, this isn't so bad after all. I was happy with my little t-square and ruler, drawing screw after screw (erm, Mr. Touchette... this is 12 years later and I still haven't ever had to draw a screw, what was the point of all that? ;-p)

Then... we used AutoCAD. It was release 10. I was smitten. The nice black screen with the straight white lines, way better than the crud I came out with in my sketchbook. ~eraser smudge, wipe wipe~

So, the following year I decided to take another class. There was a new instructor, Pete Tucker. Sometimes loud, sometimes a bit dramatic... sometimes acted a bit sexist. I bristled. He sort of implied that women didn't really belong in this field (yeah, so I was gotten by reverse psychology, so what!?!?), so I took every class in tech design he offered.

We moved up to Release 12, then R13 (I liked 13, OK, I thought it was better than 12!). Then, in the design course, while the other kids were doing basic html, another girl and I got to use 3d Studio Viz. That program just gave me a headache, honestly. I did take a 3d Studio Max class in college and while I made it through the classes, it just wasn't as natural for me because it wasn't as predictable to me. But, I'm getting ahead of myself.

I took the CAD classes, did a bit of paper drawing, picked out a lot from a local real estate office and drew a house for it, built a kite, measured the tech ed wing and redrew it in CAD, got to see blueprints from the design of the TWA/Edward Jones Dome and the new Triad High School. SWEET stuff.

Meanwhile, I also took all of the accounting courses that I could. For my class grades and aptitude tests had shown that I was good with numbers, so the guidance counselor said I would be well suited to a career in... accounting.

Now, why it was accounting and not engineering? I don't know, I can only assume it was a gender thing.

I applied to McKendree College, and with the help of a couple of grants and an inexplicably good interview which got me an additional scholarship despite my less than stellar grades during the first three years of high school (the last year was primarily all accounting, design, drafting and English courses, the stuff I WANTED to learn about, so, surprise, I did well and made it on the Honor Roll for the first time ever), I was in!

Well, I also had this thing... where I had to eat and buy gas and clothing. So, I worked about three jobs and ended up sleeping through most of my classes. I decided I'd never make it through four years of lectures (especially with Ben Stein's evil twin as my first hour College Algebra teacher), and my Pell grant was only good for the first year...

So. What to do?

Well, Spring break of my first year of college, I had three days off of all of my jobs and school and need a break BADLY, so my best friend, Brandi, and I had the bright idea to head out of town because there was some bad weather forecast.

Well... the forecast was wrong, the bad weather missed home, but, hit us on our way to Kentucky. We never even made it across the border out of Illinois when the roads slicked over and we wrecked my car. Luckily it was near a hotel and we got in out of the weather. We met some guys there and hung out chatting for quite awhile. One of the guys was an Engineer. His buddy made some train jokes, and then the guy showed me a picture of a bridge. He was very proud, it was the first bridge he'd ever built.

That impressed me.

Being able to design and build something that thousands of people would use, and would likely outlast your own lifetime. Wow, to be able to make a mark like that on the world!

That fall I enrolled in the Associates program in Drafting at the Community College. Partway through I also started an Associates in Engineering, but, fell half a dozen classes short of completion when I moved to Missouri and started a family. (it's OK, I've realized that I don't want to be an Engineer anyway... I want to complete a Bachelor's one day, but, am still undecided on a major)

So, I started taking the classes, I still remember that the Director of the Technology Department wouldn't let me test out of Basic CAD because I hadn't used R14 (they were using 2000 by that time). Well, you know what, Mr. Jacobs... it's 7 years later and I STILL haven't used Release 14. Yeah, I'm a little bitter, I paid for my classes out of pocket and that was a waste of my time and money. Since I'd done some drafting competitions at the college while I was still in high school, he did allow me to test out of intro to drafting.

So, the classes were a lot better for me to handle than lecture courses. I did have one total sexist pig who treated the girls in the class like dirt when he even bothered to acknowledge them at all, but, for the most part, the instructors were great. They worked in the field during the day, and taught at night and could tell which of us were there for an education and which were there to warm a seat.

Two semesters in, there was a job posting for a few people for the DOT, but, unfortunately, I am dyslexic. I thought the app was due on the 31st, so was disappointed to discover on the 20th, that it was actually due the 13th. A few guys from my class were hired by them, and I continued bussing tables and stocking shelves.

Not long after that, my friend's Dad asked me if I knew CAD. Yep. He said he had someone he wanted me to talk to. His boss. I said, don't you work in a hospital? What would they need a CAD person for?
(oh, if I had only known... I might have had the wisdom to run away screaming)

So, on my 20th birthday, two semesters into my drafting degree, I went to the Hospital to be interviewed by the Engineering Manager. He said there was a backlog, so he wanted to hire me for three months to do basic catch up. Cool, that would pay for college fall and spring, so I agreed, even though I was petrified and didn't know what to expect.

I still remember the first time I was shown the archive room (AFTER I was hired, sneaky guys). I asked who would be able to explain the filing system (dating back to 1912) to me?
Well... after the laughter died down... I sort of got the hint that there wasn't one.

I stayed there the three months, then, when a contractor tried to hire me, I was added full time.

So, I learned about the history of the campus, learned how to read MEPFP and Structural blueprints, learned Microsoft Access to start a document database, learned how to repair our copy machine and plotter, learned how to deal with a crummy PC and Microsoft windows...
The next thing I know, it's my one year anniversary! Turns out, that was the first annual review ever done on someone in my position, because they never stayed longer than 6 months.

I can't blame them. The place was a mess, there was no filing for CAD documents either, they were just dumped on the server. There were no CAD standards in place for all of the contractors who did work for the campus. 15-20% of that campus is under renovation at any one time.

So, here I am, nearly 7 years later, at what I thought was going to be a summer gig. I finished my Associates in Applied Science of Drafting Technology. I have a certificate in 2D Drafting, 3D Drafting and Surveying. I have specialty training in MS Access, MS Excel, AutoCAD, MAP and now, a little bit of training for FM Desktop.

I am thankful for my friend's Dad (well, my friend joined the military and I rarely speak to him, but, his Dad has become one of my closest friends) for referring me, and for my boss who took the chance to hire someone with no experience and very little knowledge on the chance that that would buy some loyalty, and it did.

Every time I hear one of my contractors say, 'Wow, that was fast and exactly the information we needed, I wish such and such client were as organized as you', I feel like their confidence in me was justified.

In this time I have also reviewed every CAFM program I could find and dream of the day that we'll finally enter this century. I have become very passionate about CAD and FM and BIM. This is a GREAT time to be working in any field related to design, with so many exciting changes happening all around us. FM Desktop is my most recent thing to be excited about. Being able to link to spaces and rooms in ADT and Revit speaks to me of the future of being able to link the building systems as well. Intelligent design! I can see it on the horizon!

I wonder in what ways my life would have been different had I become an accountant (and no, the AUGI Salary Survey doesn't count as accounting... why? because I don't get paid for it, so it isn't a part of my career)?
I wouldn't have seen Vegas and Orlando and San Rafael. I wouldn't have met all of the great, brilliant and quirky friends I have now. And I wouldn't have met my husband. Networking to the Nth degree. Yay AUGI and Autodesk University. It was good to be back in Vegas, in the town where Mike and I first met in person at AU2004 at the MGM Grand.

Working in Facilities is tough and frustrating day in and day out, fighting the same fires you've been fighting for years. Working in a Technology field is sometimes tough being young and female, but, we got used to that back in college with the other students and some of the teachers. We love what we do, and so we do it. We believe in the greater good of what we do, and so we do it. We see the promise of breakthroughs in the future, and so we do it.

I'm glad I'm a CAD Geek. I'm in my element, it has even lead me to my first and only love... writing. Somewhere in my heart, I always wanted to write, and never thought I'd get paid for it. Okay, so, 99% of what I've written and edited hasn't earned me a paycheck, but, it is what I love to do (evident in the length of this post), and so I do it.

I am still working on my interview series 'Women in Design', if you would like to participate, or know someone who would, please drop me a line, I'll be posting the interviews early in the new year, after I've cleaned a few large jobs off of my plate.

Why My Firm is Switching to Revit

In recently sitting on an Industry Advisory Board session at a local technical college, the head of the department brought up a decision to look into an architecturally specific CAD package to add to their curriculum. They'd recently added Inventor to their mechanical courses and it was a big success.

There was only one person sitting on the board who actually worked in Architecture. He's good at what he does, but he's busy. (sound like anyone you know? ok... put down the mirror now) He advised them to add Architectural Desktop (ADT)... he admitted his primary reason was that he, the CAD Manager, didn't have the time or training resources (ie... $$) to learn an entirely different program like Revit.

Now, I am not an Architect, I've never been an architectural designer or drafter. I do remember my reaction the first time that I saw Revit, though. AU2003. I remember it well... I was broke and needed to eat that night and there was a mixer. :-) You heard it, I was at the Revit Mixer, not to mix, but, to eat their appetizers and drink their beverages. BUT! once I was there, I was totally blown away.

I said, I really think you should look into Revit, I really believe it's the future.


Well... uuuuum...

And, as usual when I'm away from a keyboard, coherent words deserted me. It has been awhile since that product usage survey on AUGI, so I could pretty much discount the results of that to prove my point that Revit usage is growing quickly.

I did know that there was a very popular Revit PowerTrack at AU this year, so I sent an email off to my friend, Bill Condon, an IT Manager in Orlando Florida, who was at AU this year because his firm is making the switch to Revit right now.

Once I read his response, I thought I should share it with you, and he has kindly granted me permission. This is just a regular joe, not a salesperson, not an 'early adopter reviteer'. Just a vanilla AutoCAD user trying out something totally different, and here's why:

What makes the adoption of this product into our office necessary is a market competition issue. Other firms have this capability in-house already and are using it to win projects we are also competing for.
This product has the ability to reduce the amount of staff we need to assign to projects. Properly designed workflow would dictate 3 people where we might have 5 assigned now.

Many people think that Building Information Modeling did not exist prior to Revit, but that really isn’t true… it was possible with products like Microstation and ArchiCad and can also be done in ADT. The Building Information Model can provide more and different kinds of information because the building is smart, not just a compilation of lines in a 2 D drawing set. Energy calcs, interference checking, true renderings, etc. Facilities managers will be able to take the model and use it to maintain an updated building plan.

A random Cad Manager is likely looking at what it would take to support 2 different ways of thinking and all of the legacy stuff he has in Autocad and it is way simpler and easier for him to just say NO and move on. Or, he may not see it as a good fit in your institution, and he could be right. There are certain sized companies that work a certain way that would not be able to move to a product like Revit easily, it would change their entire working dynamic (who does what).

Autodesk Pres. Carl Bass stated at AU that Revit is their flagship BIM product. They see ADT as a feature rich, industry specific drafting product and did not market ADT as a BIM product in anything I have seen or heard lately.

I think if a school really wanted to provide a tangible service to
their students, they would provide Revit Training. There is a boom right now of people looking at it much harder than they have in the past, many more seats being sold… that would create demand for trained Revit techs and would likely result in a higher employment rate and salary rate for those students.

The industry is defining a new tool, they will need operators. I believe Revit still has issues to resolve to be truly great, but I sure don’t see it going anywhere, I see it taking more and more market share. My 2 cents… FWIW

Also interesting might be some very good commentary on this year's Autodesk University by
AECbytes' Lachmi Khemlani...

snip The dramatic upward trend of attendance in a user conference like AU is an unmistakable sign of the increasing importance of software technology in all the different industries Autodesk caters to, including AEC, manufacturing, and infrastructure. The ongoing move from 2D to 3D in these fields accounts for most of this increased criticality of technology.

The efficiencies and benefits to be gained by implementing intelligent, 3D, discipline-specific technologies like BIM in AEC are so significant that more and more firms are being forced to pay more attention to their technology implementations and re-think their business processes and practices. And to its credit, Autodesk has started encouraging this trend by talking less and less about its traditional cash cow, AutoCAD, at AU each year to the point where I barely heard it mentioned in this year's AU at all, at least in the general session and Building Industry sessions.

The next two examples were from the building industry and were intended to highlight the use of BIM for creating sustainable design, which is emerging as one of the key focus areas for Autodesk in AEC. snip LivingHomes has the distinction of developing the first and only residential project in the country that has achieved platinum LEED certification.

The company has developed an integrated system based on Revit Building for its modular designs, and also uses Revit Systems for the MEP engineering. For energy analysis, which is such a critical element of the design, LivingHomes relies on the integration between Revit Systems and IES, an advanced building performance assessment solution. This lets LivingHomes easily perform a room by room energy analysis, determine the heating and cooling loads, and design the MEP system accordingly.
Revit platform is rapidly gaining momentum with a 94% year/year growth in seat revenue; and Revit's installed base is now 125,000 seats, of which 18,000 were shipped in the last quarter. It was not disclosed if the installed base of ADT is growing like Revit's or if it is in decline.
While the BSD executives continued to emphasize the importance of both types of solutions and pledged to continue supporting and enhancing ADT and ABS, it is clear that Revit forms the centerpiece of Autodesk's BIM vision.

The company has focused on building Revit as a complete platform for architectural, structural, and MEP design and now that all the corresponding discipline-specific applications—Revit Building, Revit Structure, and Revit Systems applications respectively—have been released, it is working on integrating them with analysis tools. No similar effort to integrate analysis tools is underway for ADT or ABS. Once the building industry moves to embrace BIM more fully and make analysis mandatory rather than optional, it is difficult to see how applications like ADT or ABS can continue to be useful and relevant.

We were shown how Revit Structure can link bi-directionally to leading structural analysis tools such as RISA Floor for gravity analysis, ETABS for lateral analysis, and ROBOT Millennium for isolated analysis of a part of a structure such as a truss (see my recent review of Revit Structure 4 for more details on how it works).
Autodesk is not developing any specific Revit-based construction solution at the moment (such as Graphisoft's Virtual Construction solutions developed for contractors, that were described in AECbytes Newsletter #15). Autodesk's take on this so far has been that a separate application for construction is not needed as Revit Building is being used by contractors for phasing and 4D scheduling right off the box. It will continue to make Revit Building more suitable for contractors with features such as the Material Take-off in Revit Building 9 and by supporting third-party efforts such as Innovaya's Visual Estimating.
Autodesk does have a dedicated facilities management tool, FMDesktop, which it acquired from Applied Spatial Technologies earlier this year, which can now read DWFs published from Revit and automatically interpret space and room data.
For Microsoft, this included showing some features of Windows Vista, integration of Revit with the upcoming version of Microsoft Project, Microsoft's Virtual Earth technology that competes with Google Earth

Check out the rest of her article, there is some great stuff in there, as always.

I'm not saying that I believe everyone should go out and learn Revit or one of it's verticals right this minute, but, I am saying that I believe this type of program is the future of design, and many firms will get there, with us or without us folks who learned on dos-based AutoCAD before a fraction of the population even knew what GUI meant.
We can only benefit from keeping an eye on the trends and keeping ourselves as educated as we possibly can.


AU 2006: My Photo Diary

Well, I pared my library down from 758 photos to just 190. Whew. Hopefully I've touched on only the best. These photos go from our trip to the Hoover Dam and Grand Canyon to AU and related activities for Autodesk University and AUGI. I am making notes to talk about the AUGI Local Chapter Leaders Seminar, the Industry receptions, keynote, AUGI annual meeting and AUGI day celebrants. Lots of good stuff that I'm unable to cram all into a single post by the end of the evening. To those I met there, it was GREAT to see you, I wish we could have had more time together; to those I didn't, I'm sincerely sorry I missed you. (~waving to Robin~ thanks for the pen!) AU2006 Photo Album Let me see if I've got this YouTube thing figured out... I posted a video there from the AUGI Annual Meeting with the Country Chapter Leaders from around the world introducing themselves and saying 'Join AUGI' in their native language.