Sunday, August 07, 2005

ADT Project Navigator - Defined

One of the most useful items within Architectural Desktop is the Project Navigator. Unfortunately this is also one of the more difficult item to understand and one that I get the most questions from new users/companies moving to using this. Whether this stems from having a traditional cad background, program terminology or other reasons the bottom line is that with a little understanding you can successfully start using this for you next project.

This post will attempt to explain the workflow and terminology for use with the project navigator to help get you started.

In traditional cad we have always worked with multiple files that related in some way to our project. What Project Navigator attempts to do is to manage that "flow" of information. This "flow" is what I like to call the "Information Life Cycle".

Information Life Cycle - The 4 Step Program

Step 1 - Creation
Step 2 - Organization/Management
Step 3 - Publication
Step 4 - Changes

More on the Information Life Cycle later...

To better understand the Project Navigator we need to examine the typical project workflow. This is typically where most companies/users have instituted some type of external reference structure (how xrefs should go together). The use of the PN can be summed up as a three tier external reference system.

For us this begins with our first tier or base drawing. This is typically where geometry is drawn such as Walls, Doors, Windows, etc... It is quite common that this base drawing is what is shared with other members of the design team (consultant) as a background reference.

Once we have the base geometry defined we move into the second tier or annotation. This is typically where annotation is generated such as: text, leaders, dimensions, symbols, schedules, etc... When working in the annotation drawings this is usually when you start to consider the particular view/region that will be showing when plotted and of course the intended output drawing scale of the "view" becomes important in this tier.

Moving to the third and final tier or plotting. This is typically where you will find the base drawing and annotation brought together to load onto the sheet for plotting.

Project Workflow Summary

First Tier - Base Drawing
Second Tier - Annotation
Third Tier - Plotting

Project Navigator

The Project Navigator Palette is divided into 4 tabs; Project, Constructs, Views & Sheets. Each of these tabs has a specific role to play in your project. Let's define some terminology starting with the Project tab.

Project Tab - This is where non-graphical project data is entered.
Within here we have two areas that need some clarification; Levels and Divisions.
A "Level" separates the building in a horizontal plane with a physical separation. Typical uses include Grade Levels, Footings, Floors (partial & full), Roofs, etc…

A "Division" separates the building in a vertical plane and can be either a physical/virtual separation. More on what the physical/virtual is shortly. Typical uses include Building Wings/Extensions, Project Phasing (Phase I, Phase II), Construction Options (Demo, Existing, New, Temporary, Future), Design Options of differing configurations, Disciplines (Arch, Struc, PME,) etc… Essentially this gives you a controlled way to break up the building model.

Constructs Tab - This is where the base drawings begin.
A "Construct" is a unique portion of the building on a particular level in a particular division. Typical uses include Floor Plans & Roof Plans.
An "Element" while similar to the Construct in that your base geometry is drawn has a fundamentally different definition as it is a portion of the building WITHOUT a specific location, level or division within the building model. This is most often a repeatable type of element such as a bathroom layout, Unit Based Design, Titleblocks, etc…

Views Tab - This is where the annotation drawings begin.
A "View" is a report of the building model. By using the project navigator the needed base drawings (Constructs and/or Elements) are brought together to create the required view. Typical items within the views include Text, Dimensions, Leaders, Symbols for floor plans, elevations, sections, details, schedules, composite building models, etc…

Sheets Tab - This is just for plotting
A "Sheet" is a "Ready to Plot" report of the building model. Typically this involves the created view defined in the Views tab loaded onto the sheet for printing. Typical items you find in the sheets are the titleblock (can be an element) with fields referencing your project information.

Workflow Summary

We mentioned the Information Life Cycle Four Step Program above, so how does this apply to using the Project Navigator? Great question lets look at this one step at the time:

Step 1 - Creation. The creation of your project begins with the project browser. Once the project is started the creation of all new files associated can be done within the project navigator. Within the Constructs, Views, or Sheets tab you can right click to create a new working file. Depending on which one is chosen you will be presented with a dialogue box indicating which files will be referenced together to document your building model as required.
Step 2 - Organization/Management. With all the working files in one location anyone working on the project can see the files that make up the building model. From those working in/out of drawings on an hourly/daily basis or those less frequently you can find and work on the needed drawings at any time in one easy to manage location without going outside of your ADT session.
Step 3 - Publication. The sharing of this information whether digital (2d/3d) or hardcopy prints is a necessary part of the documentation. From sharing with Consultants to print shops to building owners; with all the design submittals along the way the most time consuming part (besides design time) is plotting. The project navigator alleviates this by giving you a simple right click on single or multiple drawings (without opening, printing and closing each manually) and deliver in any of several methods (e-transmit, printing to file, printing to plotter, etc…).
Step 4 - Changes. During the design process changes happen constantly. By having your project drawings in one easy to access interface (once you learn the basics) you can get in/out of your working drawings and make changes as needed. For those using ADT 2006 and higher the introduction of "Project Standards" allow you to make style/display changes and have these updated to the multiple files that make up your building model either manually, semi-automatically or automatically.

The ILC and PN concept is a repeating cycle as you create design data, organize and manage this data, publish/share and then continue to refine your designs through numerous changes all managed in one central location for your entire project.
There are plenty of additional items that the Project Browser and Project Navigator offer including migrating legacy projects (pre-PN days) that we have not covered. I would encourage you to explore this further once you begin your journey into using the Project Navigator. Now that you have the concepts understood the actual implementation of putting this into action should go much easier!

Happy BIM'ing…


Anonymous said...

Nice post Beau. I think this can help me explain the process to new comers much better.

Anonymous said...

Great post, is there any way we can get you to explain a "spanning construct"?

Beau Turner on 9:01 PM said...

On the spanning construct, I will get a post about this in the next week to help explain it. Thanks for your post and comment!

Anonymous said...

Will you expound on using Divisions as Disciplines?

Anonymous said...

Nice read, unfortunately the flow from Construct to View to Sheet utilizing the Project Navigator is NOT as smooth as Autodesk, or this tutorial, leads one to believe. There is at least one fatal flaw (that is, fatal to the PN every being taken seriously).

Contrary to your tutorial, a "Sheet" is NEVER "a "Ready to Plot" report of the building model." This is due to Autodesk's inability to figure out how to preserve layer changes from the Construct to the View to the Sheet - most importantly from the View to the Sheet.

For example, if certain changes are made in the View - like turning off/freezing certain layers, when the Sheet is opened to print or publish you will notice that none of these layer changes have been updated (or preserved) in the Sheet.

This means that every layer change made in the View has to be redone in the Sheet. As far as I can tell the fastest way to do this is to open every View before publishing, exporting a snapshot of the layers, then opening every Sheet and importing the corresponding layer snapshot. Nothing like doing things twice, eh?

Imagine the chore of publishing a job with 20 Sheets - how about 50 or 100 Sheets? It goes something like this…open the View, open Layer Manager, Snapshot layers, export snapshot, open the Sheet, open Layer Manager, import Snapshot multiplied by however many Sheets the project consists of. Until this "issue" is solved, the PN is almost worthless. In all seriousness, why not just use the Sheet Set Manager?

The tutorial was otherwise very well written and informative. Autodesk needs to get their act together if they plan on convincing users to implement the Project Navigator. The fact that this topic is never brought up, except in a few forums, is good reason to believe the probable fact that hardly anyone uses the Project Navigator. Of course, if you are reading this you probably do. If not, at least you have an idea of what is to come (and it is not fixed for the 2007 release either).

Anonymous said...

If you are using the PN and ADT fully then your reliance upon layers is not so critical. Consider embracing the use of the display control system for the AEC objects and most of these arguments that are presented in your post go away.

Anonymous said...

While the display control system/Display Manager is very useful, it cannot control everything. Even you realize this; otherwise you would not need to qualify what you state about utilizing ADT/PN fully.

For instance you state “If you are using the PN and ADT fully then your reliance upon layers is not so critical.” The key words here I think are “not so critical.” Maybe the need to manage layers and layer states is not SO critical, but it is still CRITICAL. You realize this yourself, I think.

This also assumes that every firm or consultant that collaborates on a project conforms to your office standards. I still have not been able to impose my standards on everyone, yet. (I think I’ll leave that to Autodesk). Of course, this also assumes that everyone uses ADT. Sure there are ways to speed things up/work-arounds etc. when dealing with consultants’ drawings, but managing layers does not just go away with full ADT/PN utilization.

So, even if I fully embrace the use of the display control system for the AEC objects I still need to preserve layer state changes from the Construct to the View to the Sheet and especially from the View to the Sheet.

Contrary to what you claim, it seems that even with this “embrace” of the display control system for the AEC objects NONE of the arguments from my previous post “go away.”

My argument was that the flow using the PN from Construct to View to Sheet is not as smooth as Autodesk claims it is (or others lead people to believe). The main reason being that layer changes are not preserved from the Construct to the View to the Sheet. The most annoying and highly unproductive “lack of flow” being the lack of layer change preservation from the View to the Sheet.

Beau Turner on 2:53 PM said...

I did not realize that anonymous, was that common of a name. :)

On the one post about PN having flaws, I agree that there are certaintly things that can be done to make this tool better. Like most technology there is always room for improvement.

When creating a named view you have the option of saving a layer state with the named view. This is what is used when dragging to the sheet. Unfortunately as you noticed changes made after placing on the sheet are not carried through. If you are just concerned with the layer visibility (on/off) at a global level you could always use the visretain setting. Not always ideal but without knowing your specific needs it is a start.

Obviously PN works best with AEC Objects, but for those items that are drawn as linework there are ways to work with the three tier xref structure that PN presents.

In the reply/response after that about Display Controls, this works well if the customization and display controls are in-place for the templates and project display ahead of time, but not everyone uses all the available tools and in some cases linework helps to fill the gaps. This can cause a bit of frusturation for an AutoCAD user who is experienced in using layers, states, etc...

Back to the last reply about the flow of information. Without knowing more info and seeing some of the production work you are referring to it is hard to recommend the best workflow for your situation, but I can tell you that I have used this in production work (small to large projects, high rise and low rise structures) in addition to implementing this in several locations (in some cases with minor changes to existing workflows) successfully. Individual results may vary. :)

Now if we are airing our gripes here, one of the biggest is using this in a worksharing type of environment. Ex. Two or more groups, in multiple locations, working on the same project at the same time. Even with server replication it is not clean. :(

FYI, If you are truly looking for a solution to the non-synchronized views then I would throw Revit Building into the mix for your consideration.

Anonymous said...

Im new to project manager in ADT. Are you supposed to build your entire 3D model all together first, or do you build it by levels via the use of constructs. If using constructs how do you assemble your model back together?


Chumley Family on 2:04 PM said...

When working with project manager, do you first build your model via constructs or do you build the entire 3D model first? Im confused.


Beau Turner on 2:15 PM said...

The short answer is that it really depends on the project. In general you would "split" up the structure (ex. by floors) with each floor (wing, interior upfit, etc...) being its own construct. Then the PN will "assemble" these back together with the "View".

You will also find this entry to be of some help:

If this is not clear let me know.



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