Title Block Manager: The Legend

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  • By Rick Sewell
    Clearwater, Florida, USATitle Block Manager was conceived on the notion that CAD shops need and want the capability to modify their title block information in batch.

    At first, it seemed kind of easy: “We’ll start by making this cool application that allows you to create a specialized title block and assign database connectivity to it. Then all you have to do is press and away it goes, updating that database from the title blocks or visa versa, updating the title block from the database. Unfortunately, it proved to be not quite so simple. Even though Title Block Manager does have that capability, that capability alone was not enough to solve the problems faced by MicroStation users in the real world. You see, that method is great when you’re starting a new project. But what do you do with the thousands of project files that already have title blocks?

    Problem no more
    Title Block Manager’s development team was presented with this problem: “How can Title Block Manager modify information contained in existing title blocks?” We needed to create a method by which Title Block Manager could intelligently read existing drawings. While conceptually simple, it is much more complicated in practice than in theory. The problem becomes: How can the program differentiate between the information contained in the drawing itself, and the information contained in the title block?

    Since title blocks vary so much from design firm to design firm, the designers of Title Block Manager had to come up with a solution that was flexible enough to process each type of title block, without requiring ongoing user interaction and manual input. The solution was to design an intelligent algorithm that utilizes rules described by the user, along with software that can recognize element patterns to play a sophisticated game of “hide and seek”. The result is automated identification of all title blocks, wherever they may be lurking. All the user has to do is provide a few “clues” (rules) by inputting some characteristics of the elements that compose each of the various types of title blocks in the set of design files. The program uses these rules to spot all the instances of each type of title block.

    To state it more simply, Title Block Manager creates rules files (sets of operating commands), from the data input by the user, to identify which elements are title block elements. Rules files are the roadmaps that Title Block Manager follows in order to read existing design files and differentiate between elements that are in the title block and elements that are not. Once the title block elements are identified, Title Block Manager locates all the values within the title block and attaches Title Block Manager-specific links to them. With these links in place, users can take advantage of Title Block Manager’s batch processing capabilities and automate many time-consuming data-management tasks.

    More on the database side
    Title Block Manager takes data extracted from the title block, arranges it in a standard table format by rows and columns, where each data field in the title block becomes a column and each title block (from individual DGN files or models) becomes a row.

    Using Title Block Manager, all the title block information from hundreds or even thousands of design files can be extracted and stored in a single spreadsheet.

    These tables of data can be stored as Excel spreadsheets or Microsoft Access database tables. The CAD manager has easy access to the title block data in all of his design files within a single table or spreadsheet.

    Though Title Block Manager is already a legend, the design team still works tirelessly to improve performance, both in the back-end functions and by streamlining the user interface. With its constant forward progress, we don’t see an end to this legend any time soon.

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