December 16, 2011

ArcGIS Data Creation: Freezed-Dried Features

Let’s go MATRIX: DUCKY-roll; look dish!

Establishing a vocabulary of shortcut commands and workflows is essential to any effective production environment. Nowhere is it more true than when establishing audible calls coaching basketball where opportunities come and go quickly. Each word, phrase and number is packed full of meaning.

If I have an assembly of multiple GIS features that I want to add to a drawing all at once in ArcGIS for AutoCAD, for example when adding a fire hydrant assembly to a water system that is composed of separate Hydrant, Valve and Service Line features, I can create one version of that combination that I am using over and over again as a block. I can fill in many of the attributes for each feature and then freeze them into an AutoCAD block. Likewise I may have explicit variations of that combination of features that could warrant their own separate block collection made of the same features, but with a different geometric configuration or set of attributes. I can then insert those standard AutoCAD blocks containing my assembly of ArcGIS attributed features. Once exploded using the AutoCAD EXPLODE command each assembly then falls onto the appropriate layers with the right attributes and graphic properties effectively creating the appropriate features.

Once I create my block assembly I can drag an instance of that block onto one of my custom AutoCAD tool palettes. From then on I can quickly place lots of ArcGIS data all at one time that is readily accessible, tidy and organized.

AutoCAD Tip: I could set the properties of the tool on the tool palette to EXPLODE the block automatically. I can also have it prompt me to rotate the assembly. However, using the Explode option on the tool palette also scrubs the entities of their ArcGIS attribute data creating brand new, rather than pre-populated attributes. If instead I use the AutoCAD command EXPLODE to explode the block after inserting it then the ArcGIS feature attributes are retained. I mention this because if you want to pre-populate the features with data, you want to be mindful that the explode option on the tool palette, although convenient is removing any pre-populated ArcGIS attributes. By using the standard AutoCAD EXPLODE command after placing the block, my pre-populated attributes are retained.

…We’re RED on the make, back BLUE to WALMART!

December 08, 2011

ArcGIS Data in AutoCAD with Tool Palettes

Thanksgiving has come and gone this year and I got the chance to use my favorite tool. Anyone who ever builds any tool or product should study this device and you will realize that until you can achieve the level of simplicity, function and delight delivered by your own tool you still have work to do on your design.

Ever since Esri defined the standard method of storing ArcGIS data directly inside standard AutoCAD .DWG files I’ve been easily creating ArcGIS data using ArcGIS for AutoCAD. Once I define a feature class (usually based on a specific AutoCAD layer) I use plain AutoCAD to create ArcGIS data inside AutoCAD. I can also add GIS attributes to any of the entities I create.

For different types of maps I generally have a different set of features I am creating. A great way to create short cuts for the types of features I create and always being sure I get those entities on the right layer with the right color etc. is to utilize standard AutoCAD tool pallets. Inside any AutoCAD session I can create an AutoCAD tool palette that has different types of features I might want to create.

The way standard tool pallets work in AutoCAD is perfect for this type of thing. Once I create a tool palette I just copy a representative object from my map and paste it onto the tool pallet. I then rename the object to keep track of what it is I am going to be placing. The cut-n-paste operation keeps track of how the representative object was normally placed and its graphic properties. Therefore, if I use the tool palette to place a new feature it will automatically call the necessary AutoCAD tool, and place the entity on the right layer with the right color etc. into my drawing.

I created my own ArcGIS for AutoCAD a tool palette group and I have different tool palettes for different maps that I edit. Depending on the type of project I am working on I’ll simply switch between the different palettes to place the right type of object according to my GIS and CAD standards.

AutoCAD Tool palettes are fun and productive for generating ArcGIS data in AutoCAD.

I will say that I was only able to process one apple using the device since everyone else in the kitchen was fighting over it. We ended up making one more pie than we needed because everyone wanted their turn!
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