Four problems users have with MicroStation

And four solutions!

Have you ever had difficulty importing text from Microsoft Word or tables from Excel into MicroStation with the correct text justification, tabs and spacing intact?

Have you ever opened a design file and discovered that one or more reference files are not attached due to messed up reference file attachment paths?

Have you ever needed to make changes to some text in hundreds of design files, requiring someone to open each file, one at a time, just to change a few lines?

Have you ever had a design file added to a project requiring you to now renumber a large portion of the files in the project?

All of these situations can be frustrating and time-consuming.

Is it frustrating not being able to import spreadsheet and word processing data with the correct formatting?
What do MicroStation users do when they need to import text or spreadsheets (large or small) into their design files with perfect formatting?

Just highlight and copy your Excel data (or word-processing text) to make it ready for Microsoft Office Importer to paste into MicroStation. The above is a simple example. In actual fact, Microsoft Office Importer can handle massive spreadsheets and documents (including those with very complex formatting).

Using MicroStation’s native Paste and Paste Special functions, users often find that their spreadsheets and Word documents become nothing like they used to be. Also, what if you need to paste a bill of materials (or a schedule) into a design file and keep a link to the original spreadsheet? The handling is as simple as this:

Microsoft Office Importer is easy to use. Just click the “Paste” icon to paste the contents of the clipboard into your design file.

  1. Open your Excel spreadsheet or Word document and copy to the clipboard whatever you want placed into MicroStation.
  2. Load MicroStation and open the design file you want to import data into.
  3. Microsoft Office Importer will auto-load and be ready for you to just press the <Paste Clipboard Contents> button. (Or if you don’t yet have Microsoft Office Importer, just give Axiom a call.)
  4. Now data-click anywhere on the design plane to make your paste.

When you paste data using <i>Microsoft Office Importer</i>, all the data comes in with perfect formatting (even on spreadsheets a hundred times the size of the above). Plus Microsoft Office Importer does it all in one paste.

That’s it. Problem solved.

Messed up reference file attachments paths?
A customer from a large engineering firm once called me and said that over the weekend, the IT department had changed a server drive letter from “H:” to “I:”, which was no big deal to the people in the IT department. However, it was a big deal to my friend on the other end of the line, as this “minor change” broke every single reference attachment in all their projects — totaling over ten thousand design files. Also, for some reason beyond his control, it was not going to be possible to change the drive letter back. This story ended happily, however. I told him how to perform the steps below with RefManager™ and it solved his whole problem. Now I’ll share this solution with you.

To make a simple example, we’ll say that all your design files were moved from the “H:” drive to the “I:” drive, without any changes to the folder structure. Here’s how to fix that problem:

  1. Open MicroStation and choose RefManager for V8 from your Axiom menu.
  2. Choose “Modify Reference File Attachments” from RefManager’s “Action:” option button. The “Modify Reference File Attachments” box will open and the “Attachment Names” category will be selected by default.
  3. In the “From:” field, enter the old drive letter, “H:” (without the quote marks).
  4. In the “To:” field, enter the new drive letter, “I:” (without the quote marks).
  5. In the “Apply to:” field, choose “Only Vector Reference Files”.
  6. In the example above, the user has told RefManager to change the drive letter stored in his reference attachments from “H:” to “I:”. The user can run this modification on multiple master design files, easily changing all his reference attachments in one easy job.

  7. Press <Close> to close the “Modify Reference File Attachments” box.
  8. In the main RefManager dialog box, press the <Select> button next to the “Master Files:” field. Then select the master files whose reference attachments you want to process. When done, press <OK> to return to the main RefManager dialog box.
  9. Press <Start>. RefManager will replace “H:” drive with “I:” drive in any vector reference attachments in which a path containing “H:” drive is stored. Case (such as an upper-case “H” or a lower-case “h”) is unimportant as this command performs case-insensitive text substitution by default.

It’s as easy as that. When RefManager is done, press the <Display Report> button to get a detailed report of what RefManager did.

Now all your vector reference attachments that had a saved path containing “H:” drive (or “h:” drive) have been changed to point to “I:” drive. If it was any easier, it’d be magic.

Keep in mind the example above is a simple one. RefManager can handle all manner of complex modifications, regardless of why things got all messed up in the first place.

Have you ever spent hours making repetitive changes to some text throughout hundreds of design files?
The need to find and replace various pieces of text throughout a set of design files is something that happens all the time for any number of reasons. Whether it’s making a date change on every sheet in a project or replacing the prefix on every part identification number displayed in thousands of cells throughout a large set of design files, it’s inevitable that changes will be needed. When you have to process lots of files or make lots of different changes, it can be time-consuming, tedious and error-prone.

Say you discover that thousands of text elements scattered throughout an entire set of project files use the words “Street”, “Drive” and “Avenue”. They were all supposed to have been abbreviated but they’ve all been spelled out instead. This “oops” could leave you with a time-consuming, profit-eating ordeal. Fortunately, there’s an easy and quick way to fix this.

Below are the steps:

  1. Open MicroStation and launch Global File Changer from the Axiom pull-down menu.
  2. Open the Modify Text custom dialog box by selecting “Custom|Modify Text…”.
  3. Select the “Replace Text” tab on the “Modify Text” dialog box.
  4. The <String Format> button can be set to either “Wildcard” or “Regex”. “Regex” is short for “Regular Expression” which is an advanced way for matching specific patterns of text strings. For instance, if you wanted to find the text strings “AG22Street” and “AG33Revision” but not “AG44Ramp” you could use a regular expression that would enable you to find just the first two and exclude the last one. This allows for more sophisticated search and replace functions to be performed in a single operation. For this example, we will just use “Wildcard”.
  5. The “Replace Text” tab gives you the ability to set multiple search strings and their replacement values.

  6. Enter the text value you are searching for in the “Search String” field and what you want it replaced with in the “Replacement String” field.
  7. Click the <Add> button to add it to the list of replacement combinations.
  8. Repeat steps 5 and 6 for each search and replace combination you want to make.
  9. After they are all entered, click the <OK> button and you will be prompted to save this list of changes. Save the file with any name and location you want. (This is so you can use it later if you like.)
  10. You will be returned to Global File Changer’s main dialog box, where all you have left to do is choose the files you want to process and click the <Start> button to make the replacements you just defined to every file in the list automatically.

Just click <Start> and Global File Changer will replace every matching text element with the new replacement text in all the selected design files.

Within just a few minutes, the text replacements will be complete in all the targeted design files.

How do you quickly renumber 237 sheets?
Imagine that your project is due out on Monday. Your project team spent the weekend putting the final touches on the job. All the 237 sheets have been plotted for the final check. Everything appears to be in order and the tension is starting to ease. Then all of sudden a blood-curdling scream resonates throughout the office. The sheet numbers are wrong. The sheet total is off by one on every sheet and every sheet number higher than 17 is off by one.

Now raise your hand if you would manually open all 237 sheets to edit text? That is just how it has always been done and it works just fine as long you want to spend the entire afternoon editing text in 237 separate sheet files. If you can modify one sheet in one minute, stay on task, not get any phone calls, and not make any mistakes, then we are talking three hours and 57 minutes just to modify the text.

With Title Block Manager, you don’t have to open up each design file individually to make changes to your title blocks. Title Block Manager allows you to quickly update your design files in bulk from changes made in Excel or Access.

You can break it up and give sections to different people to hurry things along. That could make it go faster, or it could just make things worse and increase the chances for error. Let’s round it up to four man-hours just for editing the design files. I don’t remember the last time that I had four hours uninterrupted.

Fortunately, there is another option. It takes about five minutes:

  1. Open MicroStation and start Title Block Administrator.™
  2. With Title Block Administrator loaded, click on the <Select…> button next the “Database” field. Navigate to and select your Microsoft Excel (or Access) database.
  3. You can quickly and easily renumber all 237 title blocks at one time.

  4. Click on the <Edit Database> button on the Title Block Administrator main dialog box. This will open the database selected in step 2 above.
  5. Increment the values in the “Sheet” column to accommodate the renumbering. Save and close the database.
  6. Press the <Select > button next to the “Design Files:” field in the main Title Block Administrator dialog box. This will load the “Choose Files to Process” dialog box that allows you to select the sheet files for processing.
  7. Set “Action:” to <Update selected files from database>. Click <Start>.
  8. Check your e-mail, get some coffee and a few minutes later the job is complete.

Which scenario sounds better — the one that takes you four hours or the one that takes about five minutes?

Putting it all together
We have found that MicroStation users often come across more than one of the above scenarios. This is one of the reasons why we made sure that all four of the products in this article are included in MicroStation Acceleration Garage, a cost-efficient package of nearly all of Axiom’s time-saving software products and e-learning courses.

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