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Tag Archives: Tips

Autodesk Inventor: Copy Items Between Sheets Easily

It is easy to create another standard view in Inventor drawings, but what about when the view has been detailed or you have a customized Parts List? You can easily copy Views and Parts Lists from sheet to sheet, complete with all the annotations associated.

Copy / Paste

  • Select the items to copy: Select from the Graphics Window or from the Browser.
  • Pick the Sheet header in the browser
  • Paste through the context menu: After picking the header, right-click -> and select Paste.

Autodesk Inventor Copy Paste View

Drag / Drop Between Sheets

Alternately, you can drag to copy the items.

  • Select the items to be copied: The same procedure applies from above
  • Pick / drag the selected items towards the browser
  • Drop into the view tree: This is the odd part. You need to drop the items down into the tree organization. Just pull you cursor down below where the Views are organized; you should notice the darkened line marker alerting you to where the items will be copied. When satisfied, release the mouse button.

Autodesk Inventor Drag Views to copy them between sheets

Autodesk Inventor Pasted views

In the example above notice the Parts List and views that were copied. All annotations were copied over with the views. In this example I’ve edited the parts list and balloons according the the sheet purpose after the copy was complete.

@%#&! Autodesk Vault just overwrote my file

Recover Overwritten Vault CAD FilesIf you’ve used Autodesk Vault at any time, then its highly likely you have downloaded a file you already have checked out and overwrote a chunk of your work. Unfortunately that’s just one of several scenarios, which can result in you losing your work. The real trick to preventing this of course, is to check your work into Vault every couple of hours (similar to continually saving within your CAD application). Nevertheless, there could be a number of reasons why checking in your work continuously isn’t feasible. I often hear the comment “I wish Vault had a recycle bin”, I’ve even murmured those words myself and you know what it’s a reasonable request. Why can’t Vault create an old version of the files it’s overwriting? Although its likely possible, it could get mighty confusing.

Just over a year ago, one of my staff downloaded a skeletal / master model from Vault while trying to work around a problem he had, the problem was he already had it checked out, but worse he hadn’t checked in the file for a couple of days. He had created components, built a main assembly and even produced a drawing. Needless to say overwriting his skeletal model with what was essentially a template file, was highly undesirable. Don’t judge him though, he’s new to this Autodesk Inventor / Vault game, all while dealing with a temperamental VPN connection & a new replicated Vault, so he’s been doing a grand job. All of my staff and myself have all made this mistake once or twice.

Autodesk Vault Inventor Project File Old Versions Setting

In the past the Inventor Old Versions folder has been our first port of call, depending on how your Inventor Project File is setup, these folders can be a gold mine during these arse puckering moments. The project file setting I am referring to is shown in the image above, I like to set Old Versions To Keep On Save to equal 5 on all Vault project files. Of course, this tactic is of no use to AutoCAD users, but it does have some of it’s own backup treasures which may or may not be useful within any given situation.

This time however, I’m glad he made the mistake, because it prompted me to ponder if some of the new Windows Explorer features in Windows 7 on wards would help out here. The particular feature which inspired me to Google for a solution, was the undo tool. In Windows 7 or 8 if you delete a file in a folder, then press Ctrl + Z, it will undo the delete command and restore the file. In this case the file had been overwritten by an application and not as a result of the user interacting directly with the folder. So I took a punt and searched for:

“Recovering an overwritten file”

The first search return took me to this site. Method 3 of 4 was a particular surprise, I couldn’t believe it, I’d seen this tab in the Windows 7 Property menu before but I’d never realized it’s impact. The command worked perfectly, the 2 days of lost work was returned thanks to this hidden gem. You can even open or copy the previous version to a different location if you aren’t confident it’s the right way to go. Be warned though, this isn’t a fail safe, but this is always worth a check in this situation. The best part though? This is handy for all Windows users, not just Vault users.

Windows 7 Restore Previous Version Tab

Then I went and took a look at Windows 8 to make sure this behaviour still existed, it turns out it doesn’t and this article explains why. Thankfully Microsoft just improved it out right, the only catch is you have to enable it and point it to a non system drive. Take a look at this well written article explaining how to do that. Another bit of good news is Windows 10 has maintained the same system as Windows 8, so we are looking good into the future. If you are the owner of your Autodesk software, then you could re-purpose your Autodesk USB installation media, to leverage this native Windows benefit.

These tools for Windows 7 & 8 are cracking little gems, lurking in the background, rarely used but invaluable all the same just waiting for the opportunity to shine and save your butt. The best part is they can be used on any file stored on your hard drive and not just those your use for CAD. Check them out and if you need to, enable it. With respect to the title of this post, I haven’t really shown you how to prevent it happening in the first place, I will do this in an upcoming post covering dialog and prompt suppression within Vault and it’s application add-ins.

And they’re off! – The (Great?) Inventor Constraint Race

Ok so this one is a bit silly,  but it has practical implications.

In Inventor these days, there are so many ways of sticking one bit to another bit. Constraints, Joints, the “Assemble” command, iMates, or even no constraints at all in certain skeletal modelling workflows. So which is the most efficient!? Like anything, there is no cut and dried answer to that question, that would apply to all cases. It’s a matter of horses for courses.

Horses RacingCredit: Paul Kehrer“Full Stretch”

Just for fun, I thought I’d put a few of these methods to the test in a somewhat controlled environment. I decided to eliminate some variables by keeping the test to one type of connection, a simple pin in a hole, multiplied a few times.

The “horses” are:

  • #1 – “New-fangled Assemble”   Place and “assemble” one by one. Thanks to Scott Moyse for entering this horse in the race.
  • #2 – “Drag-Connect”   Place all then drag-connect.
  • #3 – “Trusty Old Constraint”  Place all then manually constrain.
  • #4 – “G’day iMate”   Named iMates for automatic connection on placement. Thanks to Peter Crawley for entering this horse in the race.
  • #5 = “All the iMates”   Right-click and select “Place at all Matching iMates.”  Another entry courtesy of Peter Crawley, but it was disqualified from the race for alleged doping after finishing in only 2 seconds.

I thought I’d introduce them first, one by one…


And now…. without further ado, place your bets, and let’s go racing!

Did you make any money?

Feature image credit: A Day At The RacesGary J. Wood

Back to Basics – 4 Autodesk Inventor Techniques You Should Know

With so much focus given to new features / technologies by CAD bloggers / vendors, it’s easy to forget the little things. I thought I’d start a series of posts that deal with simple, time-saving workflows and tricks that you may have missed along the way while learning to use Inventor.

This first part will demonstrate 4 simple tips / techniques, in a video below:

  1. Two-click Center Workplane
  2. ‘Derive’ Workflow
  3. Convert projected geometry to ‘Construction’
  4. Workplane normal to path for sweep

Two-click Center Workplane

Very often you want to place a workplane exactly halfway between two faces or other planes. By selecting the workplane tool and simply clicking the two faces, you can do just that. In the 2015 release of the product, this workflow was expanded to use any two faces! They no longer have to be parallel, or similar in any way.

‘Derive’ Workflow

I consider this to be one of the most powerful and useful workflows in Inventor. Not only can you use it to maintain adaptive geometry with a source part or assembly, but you can also bring through parameters and work-features, or even use it to mirror or scale a component! Very handy, like these paper towels.

Convert projected geometry to ‘Construction’

I’m sure you’ve all come across that annoying warning: “Cannot constrain or dimension reference or fixed geometry.” This often happens when you think you are clicking on an unconstrained sketch feature, but there’s actually some projected geometry underneath. I find that it helps to project in the geometry you need (within a part only, please don’t use cross-part projection in assemblies!!! Use derive instead) and then turn all of that geometry to construction, before creating your own sketch geometry using the construction features as reference. This will help you to build much more reliable sketches.

Workplane normal to path for sweep

I use this one EVERY time I do a sweep. Often the start of your sweep path is at a point in space with no other reference geometry nearby. This allows you to quickly create a plane on the endpoint that is normal to the path.

Hopefully some of you may find at least one of these tips useful. If you have tips of your own that you’d like to share, please share away in the comments below!

Feature image credit: “Ideal Insurance, Moor Green Lane – 123” by Elliot Brown

Inventor | View Representations – You just clicked “Ok,” didn’t you?

Even for the seasoned Autodesk Inventor users out there, a frustrating little problem in Inventor assemblies occasionally pops up that seems to defy all logic.

Change the visibility of a component or workplane etc. and suddenly EVERYTHING becomes visible or invisible in your assembly? You’ve probably unintentionally broken the associativity of a view rep somewhere, by just clicking “Ok” to a dialog box that you either didn’t read or didn’t understand. #AmIRight

This video aims to provide some clarity as to what that dialog really means, and how to re-associate the view reps.

Design View Representation Associativity in Autodesk Inventor

Searching, Listing and Filters | Autodesk Vault Professional 2015 – Microsoft SharePoint 2013

SharePoint Searching Listing FilteringSearching

Once we had SharePoint and the Vault database actually on speaking terms, the next step in the process was to configure the Vault Search feature. SharePoint already has the ability to search within its own database for keywords or filenames, etc. What we want now, is a separate search inside SharePoint that looks at Vault results only. This is where we ran into another snag that had me confused for a while.

Following the instructions in the Vault-SharePoint Integration documentation, I got stuck at step #12. Perhaps this would be a good spot to share this procedure, as it is written, so I can better describe the workaround. This one gets a bit confusing.

Configure Vault Search

1.   At the home page for the site, click the Settings > Site Settings.

2.   Select Search Result Sources under Site Collection Administration

3.   Click Result Sources in the Search group.

4.   Click New Result Source.

5.   Fill in the following data

  • Name: VaultSearch
  • Protocol: OpenSearch 1.0/1.1
  • Query Transform: {searchTerms}
  • Source Url: http://<server>/_layouts/Autodesk.Vault.BCSConnect/VaultSearch.aspx?s={searchTerms}&i={startIndex} Replace [server] with the value of your SP site.
  • Credentials: Anonymous

6.   Click Save

7.   Return to the home page for the site and click the Settings > Site Contents.

8.   Click new subsite

  • Title: Vault Search
  • Web Site Address: http://<server>/vaultsearch
  • Select Basic Search Center in the Enterprise Template tab
  • Select Yes for Navigation Inheritance
  • Click the Create button

9.   Go to the newly created site

10.   Click the Settings > Site Settings

11.   Select Result Sources

12.   Select the Vault Search resource created in step 8 and select Set as Default from the drop-down menu.

13.   Return to the site page and perform a search.

I followed this procedure step by step and everything was working just fine until I got to step #12. When I got to the Site Settings for this newly created sub site, the Vault Search resource was not there to select. This had me baffled, as I knew I was following the steps as they were written, and I had been assured by Autodesk people online that the procedure was correct. No matter how many times I did it though, there was no Vault Search there to Set as Default. Returning to the home page and looking at Result Sources there, I was able to select Vault Search and set it as the default. However, doing this overrode the default SharePoint search and replaced it with my Vault search. Now, no one was able to search for anything in SharePoint.

Finally, after scratching my head for a bit and panicking again, it occurred to me that it didn’t really make sense that the search Result Source had been created at the top level, before the Vault Search sub site was created. To me, it made more sense that the sub site should be created first, and then the search Result Source be created under that. Since I was still in the sandbox I decided to do a little creative playing with the order of this procedure.

Configure Vault Search

  1. At the home page for the site, click Settings > Site Contents.
  2. Click new subsite
  • Title: Vault Search
  • Web Site Address: http://<server>/vaultsearch
  • Select Basic Search Center in the Enterprise Template tab
  • Select Yes for Navigation Inheritance
  • Click the Create button
  1. Go to the newly created site
  2. Click Settings > Site Settings
  3. Select Result Sources
  4. Click New Result Source.

Fill in the following data

  • Name: VaultSearch
  • Protocol: OpenSearch 1.0/1.1
  • Query Transform: {searchTerms}
  • Source Url: http://<server>/_layouts/Autodesk.Vault.BCSConnect/VaultSearch.aspx?s={searchTerms}&i={startIndex} Replace [server] with the value of your SP site.
  • Credentials: Anonymous
  1. Click Save
  2. Return to the home page for the Vault Search sub site (http://<server>/vaultsearch), click Settings > Site Settings.
  3. Select Search Result Sources under Site Collection Administration
  4. Click Result Sources in the Search group.
  5. Select the Vault Search resource created in step 7 and select Set as Default from the drop-down menu.
  6. Return to the sub site page and perform a search.

This revised procedure creates a sub site for the Vault Search, and then creates a SharePoint Search Result Source on that sub site. This keeps the main SharePoint search feature separated from the Vault search, ensuring correct results from each. You can then easily create a link to this Vault Search on the SharePoint site home page, if you want. Here are some images of the search Screen and a typical search result.

Powell SharePoint Search FieldPowell SharePoint Search ResultsListing

To create a list of Vault data to be displayed on a page within SharePoint, go to http://<server>/_layouts/15/Autodesk.Vault.BCSConnect/addVaultlist.aspx

Type in a name for the list, and select a list type from the drop down menu. You can create a list for Vault Files, Items or Change Orders. When finished, click Create List. Make a note of the URL that will be created when you add the list. The format will be: http://<server>/Lists/<listname>/AdskVaultFileFinder.aspx (note: for Items this will be AdskVaultItemFinder.aspx, and for change orders AdskVaultChangeOrderFinder.aspx)
Once you have created a list, you still need to add a link to it on whichever page within your SharePoint site you want to view the results. To do this, navigate to the page within SharePoint and select Settings, Site Contents. At the top of the contents page you should see “add an app”.

SharePoint Add Vault ListsSelecting this will open a page with available apps that can be added to your page. Select “Links“, and give the app a name. This is what will appear on your SharePoint page and is what users will see. The app will appear at the bottom of the page, and under the name you will see “new link or edit this list”. This example is from the CAD page on my home site.

Add SharePoint AppEach of the items you see under the links, is a Vault List created using the steps above. When you select “new link” you are prompted for the web address. This will be the web address from the list you created earlier. There is a link to test your web address to make sure it is correct. Click Save once satisfied, and your Vault List will be added as a link on that page.

SharePoint Vault ListsFiltering

Once you have added a list to a page within SharePoint, it will return all results for the List Type you selected during List creation. So, an Item List will return the entire Item Master as the list results. Depending on how large your Vault database is, this will be more results than you probably want or need. Now you need to add some filters, to narrow the results to a specific set of Items or Files. In this way, for example, you can have a List that shows only those drawings associated with a particular project, on the project’s page in SharePoint.

Select a List from the link you just created in the steps above. Depending on the speed of your network and the size of your database, this could take a while. Once it is loaded, look for the toolbar in the upper right of the screen with Browse, Items & List. Select List and then Modify View.

SharePoint Modify ViewA View in SharePoint is simply a filtered version of the list. You can create many different Views from one List, and then specify one to be the default. Selecting Modify View brings up a screen full of options to narrow the results of this list. The first requirement is to give the view a name. In the future users will be able to select from your list of views by selecting Current View, as seen in the above image.

The section for Columns allows you to choose from a list of properties, preloaded from the Business Connectivity Model, for the Vault object type. Adding or removing columns from this list is covered quite well in the integration documentation, and worked very well in my testing, so I will not go over that in this article. The list of properties will be shown in the list results as a chart from left to right, in the order of their position. By selecting or deselecting the Display check-boxes, and manipulating the Position values, you can customize which properties you want to show and in what order.

SharePoint Configure ColumnsThe next section on the page is Sort. This sort allows you to do just that, sort the results by any of the properties in the list of columns. Data Source Filters is a good one for narrowing down the results of a list. You can filter by Category, State, Vault Folder and Limit. For Change Orders, the filter for Category would not be present. Category allows filtering by a Vault Category, State filters by Vault life cycle state, Vault Folder allows for filtering by specifying a folder path in the Vault project explorer. The correct format is $/1st level folder/next level folder. Limit specifies how many objects will be returned for this list from Vault. The default is 100.

SharePoint Data Source FiltersIn the example above I have filtered a list of Files, based only on a specific folder residing inside Vault. For an even deeper level of restriction on list results, you can use the Filter section to narrow the scope based on specific properties.

SharePoint Filter ConfigurationYou can stack up as many of these property filters as needed to narrow the scope of your results, but be careful that you don’t get too carried away. I recommend adding filters a few at a time, and checking the results. With some trial and error, you will eventually get to the results you want for this custom view. Make notes along the way so you can repeat the process on other pages. In my examples above I was able to narrow a list of the entire project explorer down to a much shorter list of only Autocad drawings from one specific folder. This speeds up display time and cuts down on frustration when a user is looking at a list.

There are other settings on this page that will affect the overall appearance of your lists, play around with them as you have time, but these are the main areas for filtering a list to a smaller group of results. Here is an example of a list which has been filtered down.

SharePoint Vault List ResultsSelecting one of these files will bring up a detail page that gives the user information about the file or item as well as any links to the CAD file itself or to the visualization file.

SharePoint Vault File List Result Detail PageConclusion

So… There you have it. Easy as pie, right? Using the installation document that came with the integration package; Autodesk Vault Professional 2014 – Integrating with Microsoft SharePoint 2013, and these helpful (I hope) tips, in no time at all you will have installed the Autodesk Vault Professional 2015 – Microsoft SharePoint 2013 Integration, set up login credentials, created a search function, and then created and filtered lists which can be placed on any page in your SharePoint site. Now anyone in your company, or even from outside if you grant them access, can use SharePoint to take a look into your Vault and download or print your CAD data. Now, if you feel brave enough, it’s time to move this into a production environment. Remember…. backup everything first! Good luck and….. Enjoy!

“Autodesk® screen shots reprinted with the permission of Autodesk, Inc. Autodesk® , AutoCAD® , DWG, the DWG logo, Vault®, Autocad Electrical® and Inventor® are registered trademarks or trademarks of Autodesk, Inc., and/or its subsidiaries and/or affiliates in the USA and other countries.” Programs and programmers’ information used with permission. Thanks guys!

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