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AutoCAD Layers Deep Dive Series: Layer Filters

Layers are a very important component of working with AutoCAD. They control the colour, linetype, and lineweight of your objects. They control the visibility of objects and they control what is plotted and what isn’t plotted. Layers organize your drawings, by providing “buckets” to group objects with the same properties.

Even with the layer automation of many of the vertical “flavours” of AutoCAD, like AutoCAD Mechanical or AutoCAD Electrical, it is still important to understand layers and use all the layers tools within AutoCAD to your advantage. In this series of posts I’m going to dive deep looking at all aspects of layers, from creation to deletion. In Part 1 lets look at an underutilized feature of layers…. Layer Filters. Introduced in AutoCAD 2000 Layer Filters do exactly as named, provide a quick method to filter your layers. They reduce the list of layers into a usable “chunk” and provide tools to work with the filter as a group.

Accessing Layer Filters

Layer Filters are built into the Layer Palette but may be minimized and not visible. Using the >> and << buttons on the left side of the palette you can minimize and maximize the Layer Filter portion.

Expanding the AutoCAD Layer PaletteWhen the Layer Filter panel is minimized you can still access the Filters with a Peek-a-boo style popup at the bottom of the palette

AutoCAD Layer Palette Peek-a-boo Layer FiltersTo create a new Layer Filter use either the buttons along the top left of the palette or right-click on the All at the top of the layer tree.

Layer Filter Types

There are two types of Layer Filters that can be created: Property and Group

Group is a collection of layers, ones that you specify belong together. For example, when you are annotating your drawing you frequently switch between your Hidden, Center, Dimension, Text, and Symbol layers. With a Group filter these would be the only layers you would see in both the Layer palette and the Layer dropdown in the ribbon, making it easier to toggle between and manage just these layers

AutoCAD Layer Group Filter ExampleProperty type filters are used to filter the layers based on their properties. Want to only see layers with a color of red? no problem. Want to see just the red layers that are not frozen? no problem. The filter dialog even allows for AND and OR type filtering. For example, show me the layers that are Red OR Green… or show me the layers that are Red AND Frozen.

AutoCAD Layer Property Filter ExampleCreating Property Filters

Property Filters are created and managed via the Layer Filter Properties dialog. The top portion of the dialog are the inputs to build the definition. The bottom half of the dialog is a preview of the layers that will appear once your layers are filtered.

All property inputs entered in a single line work as an AND. Meaning that if I enter a colour and linetype the layer will need to meet the requirements of the the colour AND the linetype. If the inputs are on separate lines then it works as an OR. So, the layer would have to meet the colour OR the linetype

Once you’ve defined the properties and provided a name for your filter click OK to create the new filter. Property filters are “live” meaning as you change the properties of your layers the filter will update to match

Creating Group Filters

When you create a new Group Filter you are immediately prompted for the name of the filter in the filter tree. Once the filter is created you add layers to the filter by dragging-and-dropping from the main panel of the palette or by using the right-click option to add layers by selecting in the drawing

Working with Filters

To apply your filter to not just the Layer Palette but also the layer drop-down in the ribbon / toolbar you can enable the option “Apply layer filter to layer toolbar” in the options. With this enabled you will only see the layers included in the filter AND the active layer.

AutoCAD Apply layer filter to Layer ToolbarBy right-clicking on the filter you will see options for freezing / thawing, turning on/off, and locking/unlocking all layers in the filtered list. This can be significantly faster than trying to locate and select each layer in a long list.

AutoCAD Layer Filters Right-Click MenuAn additional right-click option provides the ability to isolate the filtered layers so that they are the only objects that appear in the drawing, all other layers are frozen.

At the bottom of the Layer Filter Panel is the Invert filter option, which does as it says. If takes the list of layers found by your filter and inverts the selection so that these layers are not included in the listing

As you can see Layer Filters can make your life much easier, especially when your drawings have a larger amount of layers. Why fight through a long list when AutoCAD can simplify the process for you?

This is part 1 of my deep dive into AutoCAD Layers. Part 2 will be on Layer Filters distant cousin Layer States. If there is some part of Layers you’d like me to focus on please let me know via the comments.


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!


The Journey Continues – Crisis Resolution | Autodesk Vault Professional 2015 – Microsoft SharePoint 2013

SharePoint Crisis Resolution - The National GuardDuring The First Steps into Darkness, I discussed a workaround for missing External Content Types. Once those are set up where they belong, the next section of the setup goes pretty smoothly. You set permissions for each of the three main areas of Vault Professional:

  1. Files
  2. Items
  3. Change Orders.

This makes it possible to create lists in SharePoint for each area of Vault.

The next step in the initial setup, is to configure the Vault login. This is a set of login credentials that will give SharePoint access to the Vault database. First things first, a Vault User must be created and given read only access in the Vault to the areas needed. The best advice is to make this a Vault only user, rather than a Domain user. Give the user access to any groups it may need, to access the appropriate Files and Items. At the very least, give them the Vault Change Order Editor (Level 1), Document Consumer and Item Reviewer Roles.

Once that user has been configured in Vault, follow the documentation instructions for configuring the Vault login. This is the login that gives SharePoint the right to access the Vault. The SharePoint Vault Settings screen should look like this:


  1. The Server field is the name of your Vault server, or it’s IP Address.
  2. The Database field is the name of the Vault you want access to.
  3. The User field is the username for the user you just created in Vault.

If you are setting the password for the first time, or changing it, select the Update Password checkbox. The pages section should be filled in already, pulling from the previous steps of the integration. At the bottom of the page are checkboxes for visualizations. All three are selected by default, but to maximize your search results I recommend leaving only the top one checked. This is up to your discretion.

I showed you this and described some of the steps found in the documentation, because it’s right here where I hit a massive brick wall. I even started having visions of myself sitting at home in my sweat pants, drinking coffee, unshaven, unwashed and looking through online job listings.

I entered all of the information just as you see it above, with the addition of the password, clicked the Save button and was greeted with the following message:

EXECUTE permission was denied on the object ‘proc_putobjectTVP’,database ‘SharePoint_Config’, schema ‘dbo’

Um,… what? This one went way over my head so I called in my IT support. After a bit of digging and searching, he was able to find an answer on the internet. The one good thing about error messages, is the chances are pretty good someone else has already seen it or something like it, and posted a fix online. This case was no different.

The object was slightly different, but the fix was the same… which was a good thing because we ran into two more of these after the fix was applied to the first one, like dominoes. This is an excerpt from the web article providing the steps to assign the necessary permissions for these objects. This fix is applied to the SharePoint Config database on your SQL Server.

Detailed Steps

In order to resolve the issue, I provided Execute permission to the database role “WSS Content_Application Pools” into the stored procedure “proc_putObject”. I performed the following steps to do this:

  • In the database server, expand SharePoint Config database and navigate to Programmability/Stored Procedures/db0.proc_putObject using SQL Server Management Studio.
  • Right click on the above stored procedure and select Properties.
  • On the popup screen, select Permissions on the left and click Search button.
  • On the new popup screen, click Search, select (WSS Content Application Pools) database role and click OK.
  • Click OK again.
  • On the first popup screen, select the role, check Execute permission and click OK

Once we fixed the first error, we also had to apply the same steps to the following procedures:

proc_putclass and proc_getnewobjects.

So, everything is all fine now, right? Not so fast. After these errors were overcome, a new one popped up that had everyone stumped, including the Vault development staff I spoke to. No one had seen this one before.

SharePoint 2013: Event ID 6398 An update conflict has occurred, and you must re-try this action

I think we stared at this message for about three days, trying everything we could come up with, before we once again found a blog post that was directly related to this error.

“Issue: (from Microsoft) This issue occurs if the contents of the file system cache on the front-end servers are newer than the contents of the configuration database. After you perform a system recovery, you may have to manually clear the file system cache on the local server.”

This fix is performed on the SharePoint server. The file system cache will rebuild itself after it has been cleared, with no damage to anything else within the site. So, since this was still in the test environment we just pulled the trigger and cleared the cache as outlined in the blog post. I re-entered the login credentials… again…. and hit the save button. To an audible sigh of relief the message we received was: Your changes have been saved! We were in. Our SharePoint tenant was now talking to our Vault. Now we just had to decide what we wanted it to say!

Searching, Listing and Filters

Image Credits: Powell Fabrication and Manufacturing inc and The National Guard (Flickr)


The First Steps into Darkness | Autodesk Vault Professional 2015 – Microsoft SharePoint 2013

The First Steps Into Darkness - Davidd (Cropped)Now, I was born in the dark, but it wasn’t last night. Before we even looked at installing the Autodesk Vault Professional – Microsoft SharePoint integration, I had my IT department set up a safe sandbox environment which included copies of all the servers I would need to access. We also included a copy of my workstation so I would have a client environment to test things in. All of these were placed on a remote system using Hyper V manager, so I would be completely cut off from the network world. I could cause as much havoc as I wanted without harming anyone else’s data. This was going to be fun!

So, once inside this test environment, I ran the integration install program, downloaded from the subscription site. This basically unpacks all of the files you will need for the integration, as well as the documentation. This documentation, entitled Autodesk Vault Professional 2014 – Integrating with Microsoft SharePoint 2013, is the integration bible. It will take you step by step through the process. In this article, I’m not going to go through each of the steps, as that would be redundant. Instead, I will detail what problems or challenges I ran into along the way, and what I did to overcome them.

The first thing I did was to check the product requirements as listed in the documentation.

Product Requirements

Autodesk Vault Professional 2014

Microsoft SharePoint 2103 Standard or higher

  • Business Data Connectivity Service
  • Search Service Application
  • Microsoft WSE 3 (Web Service Extensions 3 is available at Microsoft’s download site)

As a result, we found that in our SharePoint setup, the Business Data Connectivity Service and WSE 3 were not installed and running. My helpful IT folks were happy to set these up in the test environment for me.

Deployment for us was a matter of running the “deployall.bat” file included in the integration folder. The other batch files; “deployfarm.bat” & “deploysite.bat” offer different options depending on how your SharePoint setup is being used. Details of these options are in the integration bible, so I won’t bore you with those. To run any of these batch files, you must first edit the file and change “localhost” on line 2, to match your SharePoint server name. This tells the script in the batch file where to look for the installation files, and where to put the deployment.

Heads Up: Run the batch file from the Windows Command Prompt, using “Run as Administrator”. Even though you may have admin rights for the server, running the batch file by simply double clicking it, will normally result in “Access Denied” errors. An additional benefit of running the batch file from the Command Prompt, is the ability to watch the process more carefully and verify that each step runs error free.

Run As Administrator Windows 7 - Windows 8.1Windows 8.1 Start Menu & Windows 7 Start Menu

This deployment creates all of the administrative web pages needed within SharePoint to set up your Vault interface, as well as deploying the BCS model which is the communication link with Vault.

Once the deployment is installed, the next step was to establish the access permissions to the Vault. At this point I am going to post some shots from the documentation, showing the first few steps of this process. I ran into a unique problem here, and without some visual context, my fix won’t have much meaning. So from page 3 of the integration documentation, here are the first few steps for setting access permissions.

Set Access Permissions

  1. Start SharePoint Central Administration
  2. Click Manage service applications under Application ManagementSharePoint Central Administration
  1. Click Business Data Connectivity Service

SharePoint Business Data Connectivity Service

  1. In the View section, select External Content Types in the drop-down lists.

SharePoint External Content TypesAt this point in following the steps, you should see three items in the External Content Types:

  1. AdskVaultFile
  2. AdskVaultItem
  3. AdskVaultChangeOrder

When I got to this point, I saw nothing. Apparently something had gone wrong in the deployment of the batch file at the very beginning. So now what? As I usually tend to, I panicked for a moment or two, then went to the AutodeskCommunity for help. Posting in the Vault Forum, I described the problem and from a very reliable source received the following fix.

  1. Find the C:\Program Files\Autodesk\Vault for SharePoint 2013 folder on the SharePoint server.
  2. In this folder is a file called Autodesk.Vault.BCS Connect.wsp. Rename this file to a .CAB file, which will allow you to view the contents as if it were a .ZIP file.
  3. Copy the file inside called AutodeskVaultModel.bdcm and place it in the Vault for SharePoint 2013 folder
  4. Rename the initial .CAB file back to a .WSP file.

Now, back in SharePoint Central Administration, where I tried to select External Content Types, this time I selected External Systems, as instructed in the forums. Under this tab was a system called AdskVaultLobSystem. The next step in the solution I was given was to delete that system. Then from the toolbar above it (see the images), I ran the Import command and selected the AutodeskVaultModel.bdcm file that I had just copied. This re-installs the External Content Types so they can be set up correctly. If all of this doesn’t get your head swimming, you must be a closet IT person. At this point I was learning more about SharePoint than I ever thought I wanted to know…. but wait, there’s more.

The Journey Continues – Crisis Resolution

Image Credits: Powell Fabrication and Manufacturing inc and Davidd – puuikibeach (Cropped from Flickr)


A Journey Into The Unknown – Autodesk® Vault Professional 2015 – Microsoft® SharePoint® 2013

A journey into the unknown - Alice Popkorn FlickrThe need for good document management and sharing capabilities is essential to the success of any type of business. There is no shortage of software solutions tending to this need, either. It seems there are dozens of solutions to choose from, depending on the unique discipline of your group or company.

In the company I work for, we have been using Autodesk Vault products since before they were Autodesk products. With the exception of a few years where we toyed with Pro Engineer® as our primary engineering drawing solution, we have been an Autodesk house since the late 1980′s. Even during those few years, we maintained our Vault for the many Autocad® and Inventor® drawings we had.

Outside of engineering we have several systems for document management in various departments. An ERP system for managing our inventory, purchasing, shipping etc. Accounting systems for financial reporting. A CRM system for maintaining account information on all of our customers and suppliers, as well as any projects, quotes or opportunities linked to them. And within, or surrounding all of these systems… documents. Thousands of documents. Drawings, purchase orders, quotes, emails, manuals etc. Keeping track of all of these documents floating around in a massive file server system, and ensure that everyone had access to them, was becoming a bit of a nightmare.

Enter Microsoft SharePoint®. Our IT department researched solutions for this growing document crisis, and settled on SharePoint as the solution that best fit our needs. So what is SharePoint you may ask?

From Wikipedia:

Microsoft SharePoint is a web application framework and platform developed by Microsoft. First launched in 2001, SharePoint integrates intranetcontent management and document management, but recent versions have broader capabilities.
SharePoint comprises a multipurpose set of Web technologies backed by a common technical infrastructure. By default, SharePoint has a 
Microsoft Office-like interface, and it is closely integrated with the Office suite. The web tools are intended for non-technical users. SharePoint can provide intranet portalsdocument & file managementcollaborationsocial networksextranetswebsitesenterprise search, and business intelligence. It also has system integration, process integration, and workflow automation capabilities.

Within SharePoint our primary focus has been to gather all documents surrounding the accounts in our CRM into a single location. These documents can be accessed by going directly into our SharePoint intranet page, or through links in the CRM system itself. My challenge as CAD Manager was to figure out a way to make any drawings associated with a particular account or project, also available from that same SharePoint site. Fortunately Autodesk and Microsoft teamed up to create an integration package for just such a purpose. This strategic partnership is detailed on the Autodeskwebsite.

The Autodesk Vault 2014 for SharePoint 2013 integration is available for download from the Subscription website. Yup, you need to be on subscription to benefit from this integration.

This integration also works for Vault 2015. I downloaded this integration package, and the adventure began. Before I tell the story of my epic journey, let me show you one of the finished products. Within our Intranet, IT established a page just for the CAD department. I have since personalized this page and included several lists of documents, including Vault links, which people regularly access. Other lists will be created on project specific pages, which have yet to be created. This page serves as the prototype of what can be done with this integration.

Now… let’s take a look at what it took to get here for someone with no IT experience, flying by the seat of his pants. [ed. The only way to fly!]

Powell IntranetA sneak peak at our company home page on the Intranet

Powell SharePoint CAD PageThen for comparison, the CAD department’s home page

The First Steps into Darkness

The Journey Continues – Crisis Resolution

Searching, Listing and Filters

Image Credits: Powell Fabrication and Manufacturing inc and Alice Popkorn (Flickr)


Autodesk Inventor iAssembly Best Practices

Autodesk Inventor iAssembly Best PracticesHave you ever wondered if there is a correct way to manage your iAssemblies? Do you often suffer with iAssembly members not generating how you would expect them to? Or regenerating the members results in broken links within your designs? Are you happy with the way your iAssembly member folders are named? If you are wondering what the answer is to any of these questions then read on.

iAssembly Creation

  1. Perform all these steps for each iPart you wish to use in the iAssembly.
  2. Once complete, create a new assembly and build your iAssembly with either iParts solely or with a combination of standard parts and iParts.

To learn how to create iAssemblies in detail, you can follow this procedure in the Inventor Help File.

Tip: Make sure you don’t use any special characters in the Member name or Filename columns within your iAssembly Table. It can create undesirable file naming problems, or errors appearing when switching between different iAssembly members.

Autodesk Inventor iAssembly Members Folder NameThen rename the top browser node (highlighted above), type in the name of the folder you would like the iAssembly members to be saved to.

Autodesk Inventor iAssembly Members Folder Name ExampleJust remember the Top Browser Node (Green Rectangle), ISN’T the filename. This is just a workaround to control the name of the folder the iAssembly Members get published/generated/saved to.

Autodesk Inventor iAssembly FilenameThe actual file name can be found in the iProperties dialog if you need it, shown above.

Autodesk Inventor iAssembly Table Filename ColumnThe filename of your iPart members is controlled in the iPart table, by setting the column you want to become the filename. By default this is the Member name column, shown above.

Generating Members

Rule number 1, NEVER delete the iAssembly members from their folder once they are in use within designs. You will break association and potentially cause yourself A LOT of rework.

Rule number 2, DON’T assume all the members are regenerated. I experienced far too many occasions where a number of the members haven’t regenerated, post factory edits, when I was expecting them to. I found a failsafe though, if you change the value of a property in the factory, they regenerate without fail every time.

While this guide focuses on first time creation, it’s important to build in stability for future edits you will almost certainly have to perform. For this reason, its good practice to test applying some changes to your factories and make sure they translate into your members as expected. An even more thorough test would be to have the first version of members constrained in an assembly. That way when you regenerate the members you will be able to see if constraint errors occur, and tend to them immediately rather than after the iAssembly Factory has gone into ‘production’.

Autodesk Inventor iAssembly Regeneration Custom iProperty

  • Create or Modify a custom iProperty called ‘GenAssy’ as shown in the image above. This will force each iAssembly Member in the table to be regenerated.

Autodesk Inventor iAssembly Rebuild All

  • From the manage tab, Update the Mass, then Rebuild All. DON’T forget this, you may regret it later.
  • Save your file.

Autodesk Inventor Generate iAssembly Members Check

  • Highlight ALL the Members in the Inventor Browser, then select Generate Files from the context menu.
  • Switch to Windows Explorer and browse to the OldVersions folder found in the iAssembly Member folder (shown above).
  • You should see the same number of OldVersions files, as there were Members highlighted in the Inventor Browser.
  • You should also check the Date Modified properties of the files, to make sure they were generated within the expected timeframe.

You should now test your iAssembly Factory, by opening a new assembly, and placing the Factory. If everything has worked you will be able to place one of each of the members.

Autodesk Vault Check In

Autodesk Inventor iAssembly Vault Check In

  1. Switch to the Vault browser
  2. Highlight the iAssembly Factory, make sure you expand at least one Member to get to it
  3. Check In from the context menu
  4. Add a comment to describe this version of the files
  5. Click Ok.

Congratulations, you have successfully created, published and Checked In an iAssembly Factory and its Members to Vault.

Thanks for reading! If you have any questions, or require clarification just fire away in the comments below.