Item Types - Using Item Types and Text Fields in Title Blocks - Part 1

The following example shows how these two features can be used to provide some degree of automation without resorting to programming.

  • Text Fields have been a feature of MicroStation for many years, they can dynamically display a wide variety of data.
  • Item Types replace V8i Tag Sets with a more flexible and extensible system.

The objective of this example is to show how tile block content can be populated either automatically or from pre-set lists.

The first step is to create an Item Type that will contain appropriate property definitions to populate a Title Block.

This should be done in a DGNLIB that will be included as an active DGNLIB by configuration at Organization, WorkSpace or WorkSet level, in this case including at the Organization level will promote consistency of organizational standards.

Create an Item Types Library 'Title Block Content', then add an Item Type 'Title Block Fields':

From the Utilities menu select 'Edit Pick Lists':

Add a new Pick List:

Add the new Pick Lists, adding values as appropriate in the right-hand panel, press TAB to move to the next field:

Entering long series of values is obviously tedious so let Excel be your friend, Export the incomplete Pick Lists:

then finish off in Excel. The format is simple. The first column is used for all lists, use Excel Series Fill to create as many entries as are needed for the longest Pick List. The other columns simply have the Pick List name at the top followed by the list entries, just add a new column to create a new list using appropriate Excel tools and pasting in from other formats to compile lists. The lists are text only so do not include formulas (although formulas can be used in a separate file when required to create some sequences; Excel cannot list the alphabet without using a formula!)

Also see Item Types - Pick Lists and Lookups for more detail on working with Pick Lists.

Once the Excel lists are complete import to the Pick List Manager with the adjoining button:

Return to the Item Types dialog to add an New Property Definition for each Pick List, choosing the corresponding Pick List from the drop down list as shown below:

The values of these properties can be displayed in a title block by using text fields. To be exposed for use in a DGN file the Title Block Fields Item Type must be attached to an element in the active file. New fields can then be created (via the Place Text tool) that use these properties to display the selected list or other value.

In this example the element is the highlighted block enclosing the title block area:

Open the Text Editor, right-click on the text area and pick Insert Field, select Field Type > Element Properties > OK:

Then select the block (shown above), scroll down the properties list to Title Block Fields (note that this picks up from the Item Type name) and select the appropriate property. Text properties simply show the text value and no formatting options. The Date property offers a range of date/time formats that can be chosen:

Place the text field in the tile block like any other text element. Here is the finished arrangement.
The Client is from a pick list, this can ensure that client names are always consistent across drawings. Note that the Drawing Title is just plain text, this may more convenient than a pick list in many situations.
Items 1 to 3 use other Text Field properties.

  • 1 uses a custom WorkSet Property, labelled Division to insert the clients organisational division. Custom properties can be added to a WorkSet to store and make available additional text strings that may ne useful to a project.
  • 2 uses the WorkSet description rather than relying upon an Item type.

    Note that the WorkSet name does not contain a space (spaces are best avoided) but the WorkSet description does and can contain more user friendly text.
  • 3 uses the filename, an ISO 19650 compliant names in this case, this field is automatically populated when placed.

The fields that show a string of hash symbols do not have a value assigned yet. To assign or change the values select the enclosing block element and open the properties dialog, each property will be shown with the available pick lists as pop-down menus:

This example is not intended to be a complete solution to title block management, but hopefully offers some insight into how Item Types and Text Fields can be used to harvest data from your projects and files to offer consistency and eliminate some repetitive and error prone manual input.

  • Hi Mark, I recently played around a bit with title blocks and Text Fields / Items. I learned most of the things you described from another instructor, though I did just learn a few new things!

    However, I'm not sure I did find the most efficient way yet.

    Right now I am referencing some properties of the sheet "Model" (like 'Description' and 'Sheet Size'), something from the "File" properties (the 'Title' in it's 'Extended' properties) and then some Item Type properties that I linked to the Model (and not to the geometry on the sheet). The reason to structure it in this way is to use as much as possible the pre-excisting properties. And to be able to re-use things like file properties in multiple sheets.

    The drawback however is that in this way I have 2 or even 3 different places where to change/fill information. Certainly for the first sheet I make in a DGN file I have to change the File's property. Then there is the properties of the sheet model and the item data that is attached to it. I can't imagine how to explain to other users - with more limited knowledge of the software - how to do this.

    Is there any way to make it more user-friendly, and keep repetitive work to a minimum? For example in AutoCAD the user can double click on a block containing those "attributes" and a window will pop up with all the attributes (which could be similar for Item Types I would think?). 

    2nd question, is there a way to make a list/table/schedule of all sheets in a file (or even multiple files) that would display those properties - and preferably let me change them, either in OBD or externally in Excel?

  • We develop code for this 'one dialog to edit them all' approach. The item type information is still stored in those various places (or in a single "sheet info" cell, or even as old school tags), but can be edited through a single dialog. Because the code is able to read & write at will, multiple dgn/sheets can be updated in one go. All the info from the sheets can be listed and edited in Excel before for being pushed back to the dgns.

    This kind of automation does make updating the the revision numbers on 500 sheets a little less daunting...

  • Robert when you say "we develop code" do you mean you have some VBA running to get the single dialog box?
    We are trying to implement the item types in our drawing title block across multiple sheets and want to understand the workflow to edit multiple sheets at once.

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