Cells, why not Annotation Cells?

A cell is an element composed of group of child elements. Cells can be composed and placed from a cell library. Cell libraries are especially useful for repetitive placement. MicroStation provides various types of cells that can be used based on the requirements. Some of them are Graphic Cell, Point Cell, Shared Cell, Annotation Cell, etc.


In this blog, I will explain the usability of the Annotation Cells. Annotation cell is an element containing a group of child elements that can collectively behave as a single annotation, i.e. follow annotation scale rules. Like other annotations (text, dimension) it will be scaled according to the model annotation scale.


Why Annotation Cells


Instead of placing normal cells, if the cells are placed as an annotation cells, it gives flexibility to scale those cells anytime. Placing a cell as an annotation cell reduces our effort to scale multiple cells in the model at once, instead of selecting them one at a time and scaling it by Scale tool. Also there will be a consistent scale factor (only annotation scale) for all scalable elements (all types of annotations).

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Annotation Cell is a very handy tool which offers flexibility to CAD Administrators to customize their own annotations (symbols). These symbols are needed to annotate the drawing. Some of the examples of those symbols are room labels, door labels etc. Below image shows how various symbols (annotation cell) can be customized.



Creating Annotation Cell



You can define a model in the cell library to be placed as an annotation cell. You can do this in “Cell Properties” section of the Create Model or Model Properties dialog where “Can be placed as a cell” toggle turns the model to be placed as a cell and “Can be placed as an annotation cell” toggle turns the model to be placed as an “Annotation Cell”.


            When the cell library is attached, annotation cells are distinguished by Annotation icon in Annotation column in the Cell library Dialog. Annotation scale  will be applied to only those cells when placed.


Placing Annotation Cell


Once defined as an annotation cell in the cell library, you can place the cell with annotation scale lock “ON” so as to be scaled by model annotation scale.


Points to remember

  •  Though you defined the cell to be annotation cell, you can opt to place the cell as non annotation cell by placing it with annotation scale lock OFF.
  • If the cell is not defined as an annotation cell, though placed with annotation scale lock ON, it will not be scaled by the model annotation scale.
  • Recommended that other annotations (like text) inside annotation cell should be created with annotation scale lock ON.



While placing the cell there are some parameters that can control the cell size.


Annotation Scale– It is a special scale that applies only to annotations (like annotation cell)

Annotation Scale Lock – It controls whether to scale the cell with annotation scale or not.

Active Scale – It is the scale that is applied to every cell while cell placement.

Scale Annotation Toggle – If ON, annotations are scaled by active scale also. But recommended that annotation cell should be scaled only by annotation scale & not by active scale.


                  In upcoming blog, I will explain how existing normal cells (non annotation cells) from the old data can be converted to annotation cells & vice versa. Will also explain various methods of cell replace & effects of various parameters while replacing the cells. So be there.


  • Hi Dominic,

    We agree with your suggestions in principle and will look into incorporating them in a future release. You may also file a Change Request (CR) for the same.



  • The trouble with annotation cells is that they will almost always not be usable when scaled.

    There is no intelligence to control the scaling point (origin of the cell). This is needed to ensure that the scaled cells do not clash with either the graphic elements or other cells.

    The only case I can think of that would work if is the cell is used as part of a pattern. Is this on the horizon?

    One idea is to place the annotation cells using a leader dimension. The cell would be scaled about the leader arrow point (which can also be associatively linked to a graphic element) in order to help preserve the offset from the graphic element.

    Even this would not be fool proof, and some elements will still need to be moved manually. Maybe Mstn needs to allow the cell to be copied and hidden like with CVE items. Mstn would scale the cells as it loads the model, then compare the transforms of both versions of the cell, copy+transform the cell as a CVE item, matching the previous transform, delete the old cell, and hide the cell in the reference.

  • Thanks but It seems that it  only works for "Replace cells" tool using "Replace" method and not for "Update" method,


  • Hi Oto,

    Sorry, the blog wasn't posted. You can follow these steps to convert non annotation cells into Annotation cells:

    1. Open the cell library.

    2. Open Model Properties dialog for that cell.

    3. Turn ON “Can be placed as a cell” & “Can be placed as an annotation cell” check boxes.

    4. Now go to your dgn file where cells are already placed.

    5. Replace the cells in the dgn files using Replace Cells tool by the updated cell library.

    Cells in the dgn file will be converted to Annotation Cells and will start following annotation scale.



  • In upcoming blog, I will explain how existing normal cells (non annotation cells) from the old data can be converted to annotation cells & vice versa.

    Is there a Blog article for this?