This Client Server article is republished in its entirety from 2002 for reference purposes.
Original Author: Bentley Technical Support Group
Bentley maintains two plotting solutions. Which solution you should use depends on various technical and corporate factors, which vary from firm to firm.
Bentley maintains two plotting solutions, MicroStation printing and InterPlot. More and more, users are asking which plotting solution is best for their company. The plotting requirements for each customer vary. MicroStation printing is ideal for the individual contributor, while the InterPlot solution is designed for the enterprise environment.
Most Bentley users are familiar with the benefits and advantages of printing directly within MicroStation. This article will cover some of the features and benefits of InterPlot. For more than 20 years, InterPlot has provided engineering companies with a network plotting solution. The InterPlot products are made up of InterPlot Client, InterPlot Server, and InterPlot Drivers. Digital InterPlot is a server product that has been introduced to give users the ability to create engineering drawings, maps, and other wide-format documents in an electronic format and publish them via the World Wide Web.
Many organizations purchase InterPlot for the integrated Raster Image Processing (RIP). The integrated RIP allows high-powered output of complex hybrid images. All vectors and rasters, if present, are turned into a single large raster image, plotter-ready. The RIP provides numerous advantages. They include plot-server-based processing, faster plot output as a direct result of driving wide format plotters, such as the Xerox 8830, at full speed even when plotting complex vector or hybrid plot jobs, and increased reliability by ensuring the plotter does not run out of memory when plotting complex data sets. These results have made InterPlot the best answer for plotting from raster applications, such as MicroStation I/RAS B and MicroStation Descartes.
InterPlot Client is the client component of the InterPlot network production plotting system. It is designed to submit plots and plot sets to a plot server running InterPlot Server or Digital InterPlot for printing and/or archiving. The InterPlot Client product is designed to plot AutoCAD drawing files, MicroStation design files, many types of raster files and Digital InterPlot (DPR) files. There are six plotting interfaces available:
InterPlot Organizer InterPlot Organizer Command Line The APLOT Dialog Box (for plotting inside AutoCAD) The APLOT Command Line The IPLOT Dialog Box (for plotting inside MicroStation) The IPLOT Command Line
These interfaces allow plotting both inside and outside of the CAD environment. The dialog interfaces allow plotting from within the CAD environment while the command line and Organizer interfaces operate outside the CAD environment. A licensed copy of MicroStation is required on the plot client or plot server to process the MicroStation data.
InterPlot Organizer (see Figure 1) is a Windows application for plotting MicroStation design files, AutoCAD drawing files, raster files and Digital InterPlot files. This interface allows a group of plots to be maintained as a single plot set. Organizer offers full control over plot sets and the plots they contain. You can add, delete and rearrange plots; view and modify the properties of individual or multiple plots; and preview and print all or some of the plots. The InterPlot Organizer command line interface runs from the command prompt and can be used to create, modify, preview, print and archive plots from plot sets.
Figure 1: The InterPlot Organizer interface.
The dialog (Figure 2) is invoked inside the CAD environment. It contains all the most common choices for plotting, a graphical representation of the plot area, a status area and a menu bar that provides access to less frequently used commands.
Figure 2: The InterPlot dialog interface.
The command line interface (Figure 3) is invoked from the command prompt outside the CAD environment. Plotting MicroStation data is a three-step process:
1. Create the IPARM (InterPlot parameter file)
2. Generate the metafile (device-independent data)
3. Submit the plot
Plotting with the command line is often faster than plotting with the Windows dialog because you do not have to wait for MicroStation to load a design file before you plot. You can create customized plotting utilities by writing shell scripts or batch files that run from the command line.
Figure 3: An example of submitting a plot using the InterPlot command line.
InterPlot supports MicroStation, AutoCAD, raster data and Digital InterPlot data, in one product at no extra cost. In addition to the choice of interfaces, InterPlot allows flexibility by integrating with the Windows printing system. InterPlot prints like any other Windows application and to any plot device on the network. Optional InterPlot printer drivers are available to optimize the use of your printers including advanced document properties, such as quality control, media selection and finishing options, making full use of the most productive devices from Xerox and Ocè. Many InterPlot drivers can be configured such that plotting is not dependent on the plotter's memory. Plots of any complexity can be easily produced with only the plotter's standard memory configuration.
The InterPlot Raster Offline Driver Pack supports the offline printing of a variety of monochrome and color raster formats, including TIFF, Cals Group 4, JPEG, BMP and various Intergraph formats. The InterPlot Batch Port makes offline plotting possible in batch mode. The user has control over the destination of the offline files on a printer-by-printer basis and the names of offline files on a job-by-job basis.
InterPlot Organizer is a multi-format batch plotting system. A familiar Windows interface allows the user to perform a simple "File...Print" action to plot an entire plot set. You can have a complete set of rules and settings to produce your plot set any time you want it and you can do it without opening design files.
Key features of InterPlot Organizer include:
Figure 4: The Properties dialog for multiple design files selected in InterPlot Organizer.
All InterPlot Client interfaces have a preview capability (see Figure 5). A single sheet or multiple sheets can be previewed before submitting the plot to the plotter. A right-click inside the preview window will display the context menu that allows panning, zooming in/out and performing a window area. A preview can help identify errors, allowing you to fix them before wasting paper and help you compose plots in terms of origin, centering, plot size, etc. A licensed copy of MicroStation must reside on the plot client to preview MicroStation data from InterPlot Organizer and the InterPlot command line interface.
Figure 5: An example of a plot preview.
A pen table is an ASCII file created by the user or system manager that makes it possible to alter the appearance of a plot without affecting the original data. The term "pen table" goes back to when plotters used separate pens to create plots, color-by-color and thickness-by-thickness. Pen tables are available for use with MicroStation and AutoCAD data. InterPlot's high performance pen tables are based on sophisticated logic and character substitution that provides over 200 different options, including:
Pen tables can be applied without the use of CAD software. Figure 6 shows the before and after use of a complex pen table using area fills and priority.
Figure 6: Before-and-after sample of a design file using a complex pen table.
Configuration files define configuration variables to control the behavior of the product. Each variable controls some aspect of the product's behavior, such as where it creates files, where it looks for files or how it stores filenames.
These configuration files control the system-level behavior of the product. A default version of each of these files is delivered with the product. You can customize the product by adding or modifying variable values in any of the configuration files.
All configuration files have the ability to include extraneous configuration files that may be located on a remote file server, providing maximum control and centralized administration.
A settings file is a binary file (multi-format) or ASCII file (for IPLOT or APLOT) that defines default parameters for the whole system or a particular user. You can use them to define as many or as few plotting parameters as needed. You can also associate settings files with particular printers. Settings files save you time and simplify user interaction. Automatically applied settings file assure a correct plot every time. Helpful macros automate plotting tasks. For example, you can use a particular pen table and define the plot area automatically whenever the user selects a specific printer. Plotting is as simple as 1-2-3:
1. Select IPLOT
2. Select the printer
3. Select Plot.
Accounting is an administrative utility that provides features not found in native Windows printing. Accounting information is maintained for each local printer on a plot server and an accounting record is written for each plot job that is processed.
Accounting information includes data about the plot job, such as:
The Accounting utility displays the accounting data in a spreadsheet-like display (see Figure 7). You can limit the display of the accounting file to particular fields of interest and export the data to a file suitable for importing into applications like Microsoft Excel.
Figure 7: A sample InterPlot Accounting file.
The InterPlot pen table language has been enhanced to enable the automatic extraction of data from MicroStation and AutoCAD files. This data is automatically written to the accounting file.
One of the more difficult parts about composing plots outside MicroStation is specifying the part of the file you want to plot. Using the dialog makes this task much easier-you simply place a fence. InterPlot provides a way to search the design file for a particular element or group of elements and derive a fence automatically. There are two ways to do this:
In Figure 8, the settings file searches on a plot shape on Level 1 with a line style of 5. Using the "create a plot shape for each matching shape" option, a plot is created for every shape that meets the criteria.
Figure 8: Multiple plots are creating from each matching shape.
Another useful feature is the Align qualifiers. These qualifiers provide an alignment command that automatically compensates for the shape's rotation. This feature is essential for calculating rotation angles for right-of-way plots. Align _x calculates the rotation angle that aligns the longest side of the plot area with the printer's X-axis. Align_y calculates the rotation angle that aligns the longest side of the plot area with the printer's Y-axis.
Figure 9 shows the use of Align_x, coupled with the auto-shape area.
Figure 9: Multiple plots are created from each matching shape and plot aligned on the x axis.
The Align commands coupled with the auto area commands are a must when using plot shapes to create multiple plots from one design file when different plot shapes are rotated at different angles.
InterPlot also provides a robust rotation qualifier when rotations of 0 and 90 are not enough. Vector data can be rotated by a specified number of degrees between 0 and 360. When you use this qualifier, InterPlot recomputes the plot size. If the computed plot size exceeds the plotter's limits, InterPlot modifies the size and scale values. In addition, InterPlot supports rotation values of 0, 90, 180, and 270 degrees for raster reference files (type 90) and rotations of 0 and 90 for embedded raster files (type 87/88). The APLOT interface has similar features for plotting AutoCAD data.
The entire InterPlot series of products has been renamed Digital InterPlot. The package is now a complete system for creating, managing and delivering engineering drawings, maps, and other wide-format documents. Technical organizations can use Digital InterPlot to publish images on the World Wide Web. It offers functionality for hard copy plots, as well as digital plot creation and storage. You can extend the reach of Digital InterPlot so that the enterprise can share digital plots with collaborative partners anywhere in the world via the Web. When the project is completed, the released plot set can be moved with all its attributes to a central corporate repository to be managed as a corporate asset and used for bid sets, construction, maintenance and more. Figure 10 shows the Web plot viewing utility of a design file. A user does not need any Digital InterPlot software in order to view the final archive data, only a Web browser.
Figure 10: An example of the Digital InterPlot file as displayed in the Web plot utility.
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