How I created a project index design file while eating a chicken taco (using Microsoft Office Importer and Title Block Manager).

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By Chris Borales, Axiom Product Manager
Recently, I had an opportunity to lend a hand to our technical support team. They received an e-mail from a customer asking for a solution to a problem. The problem went something like this: “I have a project that consists of about 150 design files. Each design file has a title block. What I have to do is find a way to take information out of these title blocks and automatically create an updateable index sheet (a design file containing summary information about each design file within the project) with this information. What should I do?”

The question sent my mind reeling. I could have easily responded with, “No, unfortunately, we do not offer such a utility,” but I wanted to try and find a solution for him. While pondering the problem, as I stared at the soft chicken taco in front of me, a light went on inside my head.

“Taco Bell is constantly finding new and creative ways to utilize the same ingredients! Whether it’s a Gordita, Chalupa or Mexican Pizza it’s always a tortilla, meat, cheese, lettuce and tomato!”

The thing made this customer’s situation unique was that the solution required the use of, not one, but two tried-and-true Axiom utilities.

Synergize and conquer

Axiom has two utilities that use Microsoft’s Excel program, Microsoft Office Importer and Title Block Manager. Title Block Manager automatically extracts data from title blocks and puts that data into an editable Excel spreadsheet. This Excel spreadsheet can then be used to update title block information in multiple design files. Microsoft Office Importer takes data from an Excel spreadsheet and imports it into a design file while also maintaining a link to the spreadsheet. This means that any modification to the spreadsheet will automatically be updated in the design file where that data is pasted.

I had the answer!

Here is the overview of the procedure:

  1. Set up Title Block Manager to automatically extract the data needed from his title blocks into an Excel spreadsheet. This spreadsheet will contain any and all information present in the title blocks: sheet numbers, titles, project numbers and designer names can all be extracted and placed into the spreadsheet.
  2. Use Microsoft Office Importer to import the information, from that spreadsheet, into the index sheet (a design file).

The result of this is that any modification to the spreadsheet will automatically update the index sheet because of the link established using Microsoft Office Importer. At the same time, any modifications to the spreadsheet can be used to update the data within his title blocks.

Here are the details of this maniacal scheme:

  1. It begins with the title block. Title Block Manager has to be taught how to read the project’s title blocks. This is done using Title Block Manager’s <Edit Rules> function. Rules are the building blocks for Title Block Manager’s ability to understand the customer’s files.
  2. Use Title Block Manager’s “Upgrade existing text to TBMgr text” action to attach linkages to the text elements that reside within each title block.
  3. Once the linkages have been attached, click the <Action> button and select the “Update database from selected design files” action in order to build the spreadsheet.
  4. Once the spreadsheet has been built, open the spreadsheet by clicking the <Edit Database> button.
  5. Next, highlight and copy the desired cells to the clipboard.
  6. Open the index sheet in MicroStation.
  7. Now, click Microsoft Office Importer’s <Paste> button in order to import the values from the spreadsheet into the index sheet.
  8. Once the information is imported from the spreadsheet into the design, any modification that is made to the Excel spreadsheet will automatically update the design file.

Problem solved!

Values in the index sheet, as well as in the title blocks, can be modified using the Excel spreadsheet. Needless to say, the customer was happy, and I finished my meal. Thank you, Taco Bell!

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