How to update the project number in 1,000 sheets

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  • By Keith Dunn and Brian Treacy of Parsons Brinckerhoff, Norfolk, Virginia
    What happens when a number used in all the design files in a large project changes when the project is almost finished? After your heartbeat returns to normal, you get creative. First, let us explain to you a little about the job and what happened. The project name was “Route 33 Bridge Replacement, Final Design.” We were replacing two movable bridges and three miles of roadway through the town of West Point, Virginia. Our client was the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) and we were almost finished. The sheet count at this point was totaling over 1,000 sheets.

    Brian Treacy and Keith Dunn of Parsons Brinckerhoff, Norfolk, Virginia

    Brian Treacy and Keith Dunn of Parsons Brinckerhoff, Norfolk, Virginia

    Now, a PPMS number is a five-digit VDOT contract number, which corresponds to a specific portion of work on a job. As per VDOT’s CAD standards, every directory and design file must include the PPMS number in the actual directory or file name. Route 33 started out with one PPMS number, but one day our boss came and told us that the contract has been split up into five (thus needing five different PPMS numbers) and wanted to know how long it would take us to implement the changes.
    We told him, truthfully, a few weeks, because the project configuration file, directory names, file names and reference file names would all need to be changed. That would also mean that we would need to reattach all of the reference files after we made the changes! Fortunately, we were able to figure out how to accomplish this daunting task in a day! The following is what we did using Windows Explorer, DOS, Notepad, RefManager and Global File Changer.

    Step 1: Fixing the Directory Structure
    Using Windows Explorer, we fixed the directory structure by renaming the folders and creating new ones to reflect the new PPMS numbers. Then we moved the appropriate files into the appropriate directories.

    Step 2: Editing the Project Configuration File
    Using Notepad, we opened up the project configuration file and changed all of the MS_RFDIR paths to reflect the changes to the directory names. The MS_RFDIR variable contains the path for locating the directories containing reference files.

    Step 3: Renaming the Files
    Using the DOS command prompt, we navigated through the directories and changed the files names using the DOS Rename command. Using this command we were able to replace a portion of the old file name (the old PPMS number) with the new one for all of the files in the current directory at the same time. Here is an example: (Note: The real project PPMS numbers are not being used.)

    What the names used to be

    What the names need to be

    We used the Rename command as follows:

    The asterisk is a wildcard. In this example, it is taking the place of the sheet number and the file extension and keeping them safe from being changed.

    After the directories, workspace and file names were all updated, it was time to move on to the contents of each file. All of the reference files were now lost because their names had to be changed and there was text in each sheet that associated it with the old PPMS number. We needed to switch out the old reference filenames for the new filenames and we needed to do a global text replacement to update the PPMS numbers in each file.

    Step 4: Fixing the Reference Files
    From the Axiom menu we selected RefManager. Instead of fixing the files individually, we used it to fix the reference file names and paths in a batch process. First, we set the mode to “Modify Reference File Attachments” and the “Modify” dialog box appeared.

    RefManager dialog box

    RefManager’s “Modify” dialog box

    From this dialog box you have access to modify almost all aspects of an attached reference file, from detaching files, to turning levels on or off, to changing level symbology, to scaling and rotating a reference file, to replacing one file with another; even the update sequence can be modified. The only change we needed to make at this time, however, was to update the old filenames and directories, so from here we selected “File Name” and the “Modify Reference File Attachment File Name” dialog box appears.

    “Modify Reference File Attachment File Name” dialog box

    From here we selected “Case Insensitive Substitution” from the “Editing Method” drop-down. We then set “Apply to:” to “Only Vector Reference Files” since we weren’t using any raster files. Then we turned on “Save Full Path” to catch any files that were not attached that way. After these selections, it was time to define what would actually be changed, which was every occurrence of the old PPMS number in each file’s directory, name and logical name. The command that does this looks for two pieces of information: the old and new text — both separated by a vertical bar with no spaces between them.

    The last part of this step consisted of determining which MicroStation files needed the reference to be fixed. Easy, all of them! This was done by pressing <Edit List> from the RefManager dialog box, which gave access to the “Edit File List” dialog box, upon which we simply added all of the files that needed to be modified.

    Axiom’s “Edit File List” dialog box

    Step 5: Global Text Replacement
    Finally it was time to change the PPMS numbers located within each drawing. Each sheet contained the number twice; once at the top and once at the bottom. In order to change the numbers in all of our drawings, we decided to use Global File Changer from the Axiom pull-down menu. The reason for using Global File Changer was because of its ability to modify all of the drawings in a batch process.

    Top and bottom screenshots of drawings

    From the Global File Changer dialog box, we selected <Edit List>. This is where you select all the drawings that contain the old PPMS numbers that you want to modify. It is the exact same dialog box as the “Edit File List” shown in step 4. Once the files were selected, we needed to be able to select all of the old PPMS numbers in each file and change them to the correct number. We selected “Modify text” from the Custom pull-down menu.

    Select “Modify text” from Global File Changer’s “Custom” drop-down menu.

    From the Modify Text dialog box we had the opportunity to change every aspect of the text, such as scale, rotation and symbology. But we didn’t need to change any of these attributes, only the contents of the text itself. So, we selected “Text replacement parameters” from the “Parameters” pull-down menu. This opens the “Replacement Strings” dialog box.

    To do the search and replace, we typed the old number in the “Search string” field and the new number in the “Replacement string” field. We left “String Format” drop-down set to “Wildcard” and pressed <Add> to generate the replacement list.

    Finally, after the search and replacement strings were defined and stored in a list, it was time to run Global File Changer by selecting <OK> from the Replacement Strings dialog box and then pressing the <Start> button from the Global File Changer dialog box.

    Select “Set text replacement parameters” from the “Parameters” drop-down menu in the “Modify Text” dialog box.

    “Replacement Strings” dialog box

    After everything was complete, to say the least we were a bit amazed. We had just renamed our entire directory structure, all of our drawing filenames and reference filenames, fixed all of the text in the drawings and fixed all of the reference file attachments (which should have been the most time-consuming task). Without Global File Changer and RefManager these reference file tasks would have taken hundreds of monotonous man-hours. With them, it took less than a day!

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