Mississippi Department of Transportation CAD Manager’s three favorite design tools: FileFixer, RefWriter and Microsoft Office Importer.

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Jackson, Mississippi, USA — This month the MicroStation Today user spotlight shines on John Ward from the Mississippi Department of Transportation (DOT). John gave us an overview of how he uses FileFixer, RefWriter and Microsoft Office Importer to keep Mississippi DOT’s CAD standards up to par.

John Ward of the Mississippi Department of Transportation

MicroStation Today: Please give a brief description of your CAD history.
John: I graduated with special honors from a local community college in 1982 with an Associate’s Degree in Drafting and Design. Straight out of school, I started working with the Highway Department’s Roadway Design Division.

In the late 1980s, our state legislators passed a transportation bill that provided the funding to upgrade highways across the state. I was fortunate enough to be selected as one of the design team leaders to provide support as CAD was implemented throughout all of our departments.

So, here I am today as CAD Applications Manager for the Mississippi Department of Transportation (DOT) Roadway Design Division. Our division is responsible for the design and drafting of all the state highway construction plans.

With the help of those around me, I created our CAD standards and used them to implement all the MicroStation-related menus and program add-ons we now use to design in MicroStation. The changes that I have been through over the years have all been exciting, challenging and sometimes frightening, but I have been able to move forward with enhancements and maintenance of our in-house standards and design tools.

Looking back, I feel honored to have been able to work with the people at Mississippi DOT and companies such as Intergraph, Bentley and Axiom to help me take part in building what I think is a successful use of CAD throughout the years. If I’m lucky, maybe I’ll have a few more left ahead.

MST: What are some of the problems you encounter and how do Axiom products help solve those problems?
John: I have used Axiom products for a long time. FileFixer has been extremely helpful for helping me repair MicroStation V7 design files. I could stumble my way through the EdG utility, but in many cases FileFixer was the only way I could have repaired some of the design files.

Another Axiom product that we have used over the years is RefWriter. Our users have to use a lot of reference files in their workflow and RefWriter significantly reduces time spent switching between multiple files. Users just click on an element in the reference file and it becomes the active design file where changes can be made.

We also have to do a lot of quantity calculations. Spreadsheets really improve the speed and quality of doing calculations. Microsoft Office Importer does a superb job of bringing that data into MicroStation design files and automatically updating the design file when the spreadsheet changes.

MST: What would you like to be doing in 10 years?
John: I hope I can retire from regular work around that time. My oldest son should be out of the house by then. My youngest daughter is nine, so hopefully in ten years she’ll be getting close to moving out also! Then I can find something relaxing to pass the time such as drawing, painting and photography so I don’t drive my wife crazy.

MST: What’s a book you wish you’d written?
John: It’s ironic, I write technical manuals all the time, but I don’t like to write. It definitely wouldn’t be anything computer-related. I love good action and adventure stories, so it would have to be something along the lines of Star Wars, Indiana Jones or James Bond.

MST: Any predictions for the future of CAD?
John: I’m not very good at predictions. I’m almost always wrong! However, if I had a wish, I would like to see a better way to communicate with computers. I think the keyboard and mouse have to be replaced with something better. Perhaps voice controlled computers, but that would have to be improved with better “AI” [artificial intelligence]. If someone could solve this, it could definitely be the next big thing in everything we do with computers.

MST: Thank you, John.
John: Thank you.

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