By Nigel Davies of Evolve Consultancy
One of the items just outside of the Top Ten on the MicroStation Wish List is to have a Multiple Document Interface. Bentley has pretty much stated that’s something we’re not going to get, so what are the options?
Axiom is one of those companies who are simply full of good ideas. They’ve made a very successful business out of developing tools to run on top of MicroStation, delivering many things you can’t do with the base product. Or at least things you can’t do very easily. No company should be without RefManager. CellManager is worth a look as well. But there’s one hidden gem which is simply fantastic for navigating a number of files rather than having to File | Open… Browse… Select… Open… File | Open… Browse… Select… Open… over an over again: DgnQuickPick.
The idea behind DgnQuickPick is that you can create, save and open sets of design files which you need to work on. You choose as many, or as few, files as you like and DgnQuickPick builds them into its dialogue.
They are presented to you in a dialogue as a series of tabs, rather like Excel Worksheets which you can dock.
DgnQuickPick’s main dialog box
When you start DgnQuickPick, you are prompted to select the files you wish to use.
You can use a complete directory, including filters if you wish. E.g. You only want to use all the architectural files starting with “A”? Easy. Change the directory filter to say “…A*.dgn”. You can choose to load the Active File which kind of defeats the object of using DgnQuickPick, or use a pre-defined File List. DgnQuickPick stores lists as text files making it easy to identify, open and work on the same package of files or drawings whenever you need to. Unlike a traditional Multiple Document Interface (MDI) the files are not open. They’re just a pick list at this point, but you’d never notice the difference.
Files are colour-coded for quick reference.
DgnQuickPick uses a simple colouring system to help you understand how the files are being used. The open (active) file is shown in green with its references in blue. Any file currently being edited by someone else is displayed red with a “locked” icon. A file available for editing is shown in black.
To open another file all you need to do is click on the tab related to that dgn and DgnQuickPick handles the rest. The colours are automatically adjusted to maintain visual feedback of what relates to what.
The dialogue is resizable — you can make it as short or as long as you wish, but you don’t need to worry if you have more dgn files referenced than will fit in the dialogue. As soon as the dialogue is smaller than the number of tabs, Forward & Back buttons appear allowing you to navigate through the list.
Files are easily added to the series of tabs.
If you have more files that you need to add — say someone in your teams creates a new file — you can add it using the Add button at the very left hand-side of the toolbar. This offers you the ability to add a file by selecting an element in a reference, a complete directory or filtered list, exactly the same as when you first started DgnQuickPick, or manually using a typical multiple file selection dialogue.
The third icon on the toolbar is to adjust, save and load settings. If you’re familiar with Axiom products you’ll be aware that most of their tools work in this way to speed up the time it takes to recall exactly how you want the tool to work.
Simply browse for the file and click <Attach File>.
The Settings dialogue provides you with alternatives to using DgnQuickPick to open your files. You can change the “Tab Action” — i.e. what action DgnQuickPick performs when you click on one of the dgn tabs. “Attach” will load the selected file as a reference, “Detach” will unload it. Tab Sorting changes the display order of the tabs into alphabetical or reverse alphabetical listing.
What’s more, you can specify a keyin to run with every action, so as you open a file you could, for example, fit all or turn a certain set of levels on.
Finally, Axiom provide you with a config var, DGNQUICKPICK_FILELIST that, when pointed to a text file, instructs DgnQuickPick to load the files listed in the text file automatically. The one thing that DgnQuickPick and this text file doesn’t support, unfortunately, is Workspaces and configuration variables, so you’ll need to specify each and every file in the full long-winded manner using drive letter, full path and file name. It would be great if you could configure DgnQuickPick to load all files specified in MS_RFDIR, but you can’t have everything. [Editor's note: Axiom reports that they are currently working on this feature.]
DgnQuickPick is very intuitive and easy to pick up. It, to use a cliché, does exactly what it says on the tin, reducing your time spent searching for files. You can quickly build up lists of dgn files to help you navigate your projects. I guess that’s why it’s called DgnQuickPick!
Originally published on www.eatyourcad.com. Reproduced with permission. Thank you to Nigel and EatYourCAD.com for their valuable contributions to the MicroStation Community.