Original Article Date: June 28, 2001
Acting on a complaint about the amount of time spent issuing drawings; Anthony implemented a semi-automatic process to facilitate the need for producing the required plots when a drawing is issued...and became an instant hero!
Many thanks to Mr. Anthony Cox, of Red Box Design Group, who graciously contributed the information and support materials for this article! Although this article is modeled after the customization that Anthony has implemented at Red Box, it has been sanitized to be slightly more generic and applicable to a default installation of MicroStation J. Additional thanks go to the fine folks at comp.cad.microstation for assisting Anthony in the development and implementation of this customization: Dave, Sean, Chris, Phil C and so many others!~IngaIntroduction:Acting on a complaint about the amount of time spent issuing drawings; Anthony implemented a semi-automatic process to facilitate the need for producing the required plots when a drawing is issued. Dubbed the “Batch Process”, it executes a series of steps by using standard MicroStation keyins and commands from a customized menu bar. These steps allow the users to quickly produce various output scales that are required each time a drawing is sent out. The processes involved require minimum input from the user and are based on an isolated set of annotation drawings that each batch process can access. The processes include: plotfiles, prints, plots and DWG translations.
System Prerequisites:Each CAD workstation has a folder called Issue_Central on the C: drive. For increased productivity, the folder name can be _Issue_Central where the underscore character ensures that the folder appears at the top of a directory list.In order to access the system command prompt for the execution of external programs NTBANG.MA must be installed on each machine. An uncompiled version of this utility can be found in the \Bentley\Program\MicroStation\mdl\examples\ntexmpls\ folder and a compiled version is available for SELECT subscribers at Bentley's Developerware site. A full explanation on the installation and use of NTBANG can be found in the delivered NTBANG.TXT file.To create the required PDF files, it is necessary to have Adobe's PDF Writer installed and set the printing preference defaults to: A1 size, landscape, 600 DPI and Greyscale.The Send To system menu item was modified to include a shortcut to the Issue_Central folder and a PLOT.BAT file which executes the following DOS command:TYPE %1>\\server\printer. It is also helpful to have shortcuts to NOTEPAD and WRITE
Prepare for Plotting:The first section of the menu has two functions: print a checklist and select the files needing processing. The first item, Print Check List, executes a simple DOS batch file which sends a checklist to a laser printer. The resulting checklist describes the minimum requirements that must be met by the user and can act as a record of each drawing issue. An example of the list that Red Box Design uses can be seen here.
When the second menu item is selected, Explorer is started and goes to the directory being pointed to by the keyin. The purpose of this action is to select the drawings ready for issue and to copy them into the Issue_Central folder. This can be accomplished very easily by simply right-clicking the selection of files and navigating to the Send To > Issue_Central menu item.
Creating Plots and Prints:The first item in this section is to verify the location that the resulting plotfiles will be written to. The menu item calls a simple macro which returns the location being pointed to by MS_PLTFILES. This is useful action for shops that utilize a variety of Project and/or User configurations and ensures that the resulting plotfiles are being written to the correct folder.
Once the directory has been verified to be correct, the user can then select from four separate menu items to create prints or plots. In each case they activate a prepared MicroStation BatchPlot job file which specifies the printer, area to plot, layout and display. They user then simply adds the files that were copied into the Issue_Central folder earlier in the workflow and to submit them for plotting. The resulting plotfiles will go into the folder as defined by MS_PLTFILES and verified by the Check Plotfile Directory menu item.
For more information on setting up BatchPlot job files, please refer to the following article: Using the Batch Plot UtilityOutput to DWG:Once the plotfiles have been created, the user can export the files in Issue_Central and export them to DWG. The resulting DWG files will be written to the folder being pointed to by MS_DWGOUT and it’s location can be verified by the Check Directory menu item. This menu item operates in the same fashion as the Check PlotFiles Directory item except that the macro being used is reporting and displaying on MS_DWGOUT.
The remaining three options will start separate MSBATCH routines that have been customized to handle reference files differently. The keyins behind the scenes are simply DOS batch files that contain an MSBATCH command line with specific switches to accommodate the translation of reference files.
For more information on MSBATCH and it’s uses, please refer to the following article: Using MSBATCH for command line processing Preparing Files for Next Issue:The remainder of the Batch Processing menu deals with the archival and cleanup processes. The user starts by creating an archive of the files in their Issue_Central folder. This is accomplished by calling MicroStation’s Archive utility and having the user create and populate the archive file with the necessary files.
The Rename Sheets menu item brings up Explorer which allows the user to select and rename the files before proceeding to the next step which is to protect the plotfiles. The plotfiles that Red Box creates are a permanent unalterable record of the drawings and are protected from accidental deletion by simply changing the read/write status of the files. This is accomplished via a batch file that sets all the files with a PLT extension to Read Only. The final step in the Batch Process workflow is to delete the contents of the Issue_Central folder with a simple DOS command.
The Final Touch:Anthony added a wonderful touch to the customization by creating an HTML based help for their corporate CAD standards. This was added to MicroStation’s menu bar and accesses a little batch file which in turn kicks off Internet Explorer.
Conclusion:Although this article is focused primarily around batch processing, it hopefully illustrates that streamlining common workflows can be easily accomplished by utilizing MicroStation’s customization features. Remember, if you think there is an easier way of doing something in MicroStation - there is!
AskInga Article #75