The Explorer – Part Five: The Sheet Index tab

So far in our blog series on the Explorer, found within the MicroStation CONNECT Edition, we have done an overview of the Explorer.  We have talked about the capabilities of the File tab, which allows you to display the content of the file such as models, saved views, references, etc.  We also talked about the Items tab, which lists business items contained in a DGN file.  We then talked about the Resources tab which displays common resources being used by a DGN file.  Here, in Part Five of the Explorer blog series, we will take a closer look at the Explorer dialog’s Sheet Index tab.

Now, to utilize and take advantage of the capabilities of the Sheet Index tab, there is a prerequisite.  As you may know, in MicroStation, there are three model types -- Design, Drawing, and Sheet. So, if your company or organization currently uses sheet models, or plans to in the future, then the Sheet Indexing feature will be a great benefit to you.

The Sheet Index tab allows you to manage sheet indexing.  Sheet Indexing enables the use of a central location to index sheets and control the number, order, properties of sheets and make publishing deliverables easier.  A sheet index is a centralized and structured collection of sheets in your project.  A sheet index can be useful in creating a construction document set (also called as sheet set or construction set) that contains all the sheets of your project.

When you access the Sheet Index tab, you will notice that the sheet index has the same name as the WorkSet.  In this case, Building 302.   When you create a WorkSet, a sheet index is automatically created in the DGN WorkSet file (.dgnws) for that WorkSet.  The .dgnws stores the WorkSet Sheet Index, WorkSet Properties, custom WorkSet Properties, and the WorkSet Link Set.

Along the icon bank of the Sheet Index tab, the first icon from the left is the Refresh.  This refreshes the content of the sheet index. Though the sheet index automatically refreshes when you make any changes, in some cases, you may need to refresh it manually by clicking this icon.

Moving to the right, the second icon is a toggle between Open Sheet Index for Edit and Make Sheet Index Read Only.  By default, the sheet index is read only.  When you click the Open Sheet Index for Edit icon, this allows you to make changes to the sheet index. All changes are written to the .dgnws file.  While the sheet index is being edited, other users cannot make changes to the sheet index.  While the sheet index is in edit mode, you will notice that there are several more icons available.

Clicking the Make Sheet Index Read Only icon turns off editing options on the sheet index. When you click this icon, the changes made to the sheet index are saved and other users can make changes to the sheet index.  The image below shows both icons.

Sheet Index: read-only mode                                              Sheet Index: edit mode                 

In this blog, we’ll be using an architectural project as an example.  At this stage of the project, the majority of the sheets have been completed with one more sheet needed to finish the set.  We are going to create a sheet index from scratch.  That is, the folder structure and the sheet numbering rules that accompany them.  Then we’ll add the sheets to these folders.

With the sheet index in edit mode, the third icon from the left is the Manage Sheet Index.

This opens the Manage Sheet Index dialog in which you can manage the sheet index and its properties.

Here you will find three tabs:

  • The Index tab displays the properties of the sheet index.  This will be for any sheets not contained in a folder.  Here you can set controls like the number of digits for the sheet number, the suffix or prefix that you want to be added to the sheet numbers, the increment value for sheet numbering, and the start number from which the sheet numbering will start, just to name a few.
  • The Folder tab displays the properties of the folders in a sheet index. The default properties are the same as that of the Index tab and they are applied to the sheets within folders.

For this example, we are going to add a custom Sheet Number Prefix “A-“ to both the Sheet and Folder tabs.

And there is one more tab:

  • The Sheet tab displays the custom properties added to the sheets. Some examples of custom properties are Project number, Address, Owner, Project lead, and so on.

Moving to the right of the Sheet Index icon bank, we’ll find the Create Folder.

By creating folders and subfolders, you can organize the sheets hierarchically in folders, according to your organizational needs within the sheet index.  Remember, folders have the ability to control properties such as numbering for the sheets, number of digits, sheet number prefix and suffix, start number, increment, and so on for sheets in each folder. For our architectural project, we’ll need six folders.

Please note that it is important to have the appropriate item pre-selected within the listing before creating a folder.  In this case, we had to select the WorkSet Name, Building 302, each time when creating folders.  Clicking Create Folder with a folder selected, creates a subfolder under that selected folder.

In our example here, we created 6 folders.  The sheet numbering controls were inherited from the previous step where we adjusted the settings in the Manage Sheet Index dialog.  Now, we can adjust these folders so that they have rules that are unique on a folder to folder basis.  In this case, we’ll adjust the “Start Number” for each respective folder.  To do that, we can simply right-click on a folder and select “Properties” from the content menu.  This opens the Properties dialog displaying the properties of the folder.

So now that we built our drawing sheet index folder structure, let’s now add the project’s sheets to their respective folders.  To do this, you should select the desired folder first.  In this case, we’ll start with the, General folder.  Then, we’ll click the Add Sheet icon from the icon bank of the Sheet Index tab.

The Add Sheet dialog opens.  You may link any sheet model from any design file of your project into a sheet index.  In the Add Sheet dialog, select the DGN file that contains the sheet model and we’ll click OK.  The next Add Sheet dialog opens which lists the sheet models available for being added to the sheet index.  Here, since we have the General folder selected, we’ll select the Cover Sheet, in this case.

The Cover Sheet is added to the General folder.  By doing so, the rules set to the General folder have been applied.  Take notice to the prefix, A-.

Now, this procedure explains adding sheet models from another file into the sheet index. To add a sheet model from the active file, open the sheet index in editing mode and you can just simply drag the sheet model from the Models dialog into the Explorer dialog Sheet Index tab.

So, now we will go ahead and add the rest of the sheets already generated to the index.

In the image above, it shows the completed task of adding the sheets.  Take note to the numbers within the Sheet Index. The number next to the WorkSet name indicates the total number of sheets for the set. Beside each folder name, the number shown represents the total number of sheets within that respective folder. And within each folder, there are two numbers in brackets next to each sheet. The first number represents the sheet sequence within that folder and the second number indicates the overall sequence relative to the sheet set.

The Sheet Index can be used now to navigate the sheet set.  For example, if we want to open the Plan Sheet, simply just double-click the sheet model and it will open it.

At this point, continuing with this architectural project as an example, we have added into our Sheet Index all of the existing sheets.  It’s important to note that you do not have to wait till the end of your project, when all of your sheets are generated, to then start to use the Sheet Index feature in MicroStation.

Matter of fact, it is probably best to start using it from the very start of your project.  So, setting up your folder structure at the beginning would be the way to go.  Furthermore, it is possible to set up a Sheet Index folder structure in your WorkSet Template file.  Meaning, when you create a new WorkSet (equivalent to V8i Projects), along with it will be the Sheet Index as it was created in the template.  That will save you time by not having to recreate the Sheet Index again and again.

So far in this blog, we have covered two ways of adding sheets to the index.  Those are by the Add Sheets icon and just mentioned, by dragging and dropping a sheet model from the Models dialog into the Explorer dialog Sheet Index tab.  There are a couple more ways of adding sheets to the Sheet Index.

Another way to add sheets to the Sheet Index is through the Models dialog.  To demonstrate this, for our project, we need to add an Enlarged Details Plan.

From the Models dialog, we click the, “Create a new model” icon.  We’ll then set the properties within the Create Model dialog for a Sheet model.  From here, in the Sheet Properties section, we’ll enable “Add To Sheet Index” and then click the “Select a folder from Sheet Index” icon to the right.  This then opens the Sheet Index Folder Picker dialog from which you can select the folder in which the sheet model should be added.  In this case, the 400 – Enlarged Detail Plans folder.

Another way to add sheets to the Sheet Index is through the Create Drawing dialog.  This is the dialog that is part of the Dynamic Views workflow.  It proceeds the use of Named Boundary tool, or any of the callout tools such as the Section Callout, Detail Callout, Elevation Callout and Plan Callout tools.  To demonstrate this, we begin by using the Named Boundary tool to create a detail of a staircase in our proposed building.

As you can see in the image below, in the Create Drawing dialog, within the Sheet model section, the current settings selection is creating a new sheet within the BSI300-Sheets.dgn file.  And since this is a new sheet, the Add To Sheet Index is available.

However, since we created the Enlarged Details Plan sheet model in the previous demonstration, we are not going to create a new sheet.  Rather, we are going to place Staircase A into Enlarged Details Plan, which is already part of our Sheet Index.

So, we’ll click OK to the Create Drawing dialog, adding Staircase A to the Enlarged Details Plan.  Upon doing so, the Enlarged Details Plan sheet model opens with Staircase A referenced to it.

Here in the sheet, if we were to zoom into the drawing title, you will notice the sheet number.

As another example, you can insert a field in text you are placing or editing whose content is derived from a property of the sheet index or sheet index folder. A field derived, for example, from the total sheets count would be updated should the total sheet count in the sheet index change.  Please note that the Sheet index and sheet index folder properties can be placed as fields only when the active model is a sheet model listed in the sheet index.

If we were to zoom into the title block area, here too, we will notice the sheet number.  This is a “text field” that is derived upon the property of the sheet model.

As you recall, this was all based on the rules applied to the 400 – Enlarged Detail Plans folder.  If we were to add more sheets to this folder, they too would inherit the same rules.  And to take this one step further, if we were to re-arrange by the drag-and-drop technique, the sheets within this folder, then the sheet numbers in both the title block and the drawing title would change to the new sheet number, accordingly.

Returning back to the Explorer, in the edit mode, the next icon to the right of Add Sheet is the Remove Sheet.  This will simply remove the selected sheet from the list.

The second from last icon (in both read-only and edit) is the Place as Table.

By clicking this, this starts the Place Table tool to place the index sheet.

An index sheet contains properties of all the sheets in the sheet index that is placed as a table.  The image below is a result of placing the Sheet Index table.  As you can see, it is in raw format.

Once placed, you can begin working with the table by selecting it, and thereby utilizing the tools found in the contextual ribbon tab.  These are very similar to working with a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet. However, to get the desired result for our project, it would’ve taken many modifications to it.

Let’s take another approach for creating our sheet index.  Once placed, a report definition of the index sheet is also created in the Reports dialog.  Along the ribbon, from the Analyze tab, you can access the Reports dialog.

Here, you will find the Sheet Index report definition.  We’ll make a copy of this and modify it by removing unwanted columns, adding a Modeling column that was not originally part of the sheet index, and applying formatting and sorting rules.  Below is the resulting modified report definition, “Drawing Sheet Index”.

With the Drawing Sheet Index report definition ready to go, from the icon bank of the Reports dialog, we can click the Place as Table icon.  Notice in the Place Table tool setting window the Retain Association option.  With this enabled at placement time, it establishes a link from the report to the table.  So, whenever changes occur like adding sheets or removing sheets, the table can be made to update to reflect those changes to the Sheet Index.

And as a result, below is the Drawing Sheet Index as placed onto our Cover Sheet.

Once sheets are added to a sheet index, you can print all or a subset of the sheets by clicking the Print Organizer icon in Explorer's Sheet Index tab. The last icon (in both read-only and edit) is the Open Print Organizer.

Explorer seamlessly integrates with Print Organizer in a variety of ways to make it easy for you to print your project data. You can print all the sheets or a sub-set by selecting the appropriate folder.  In this case, we wish to create a PDF of the entire set.  To do this, we select the WorkSet name, Building 302 and click the Open Print Organizer icon.

The sheets are added to Print Organizer as variable print definitions which require a print style. Therefore, you will need to specify a print style when prompted for one. In this case, we will select the print style named PDF. Take note that these print styles would be expected to specify the appropriate printer driver configuration file and Paper size.

Upon selecting the Print Style, the Print Organizer opens. As you can see here, the folder structure was preserved.

When Print Organizer creates the print set, it iterates the sheet index link tree, starting with the selected node, and creates corresponding print set folders (if they exist) and variable print definitions. Each print definition corresponds to a single sheet in the index. Since variable print definitions are used, the print set construction finishes quickly.

The print set is a memory-resident print set and at no time will be written to disk, unless you decide to do that from Print Organizer. The name of the print set will be the name of the sheet index.

So, it is time to create the PDF so in the icon bank of the Print Organizer, we’ll click Print.  We’ll confirm the settings, making sure to enable Open print file after creation. Then we’ll click OK to publish the PDF.

And as a result, the Building 302 PDF opens.

So, the Sheet Index provides a great way to organize and manage all of the sheets in your project, into a centralized and structured collection.  Where you can control the number, order, properties of sheets and make publishing deliverables easier.  So, if your company or organization currently uses sheet models, or plans to in the future, then the Sheet Indexing feature will be a great benefit to you.

Next in Part Six of the Explorer blog series, we will take a look at the Links tab.  The Links tab can be used to see and manage the linked data, which can widely range from links to files, models, references, saved views, and supporting documentation.  So be sure to check out this final installment on the Explorer.