February 12, 2014

ArcGIS for AutoCAD: Paths Less Traveled

One morning each week before the rest of the house wakes up, my youngest and I go out for breakfast and an adventure.  We like to find interesting places close to home that people overlook.  We're often surprised by slivers of wilderness between our commonly traveled streets.
In the spirit of adventure I have compiled a non-exhaustive list of some less traveled paths I walk in ArcGIS for AutoCAD:
  • If my server has been updated with new services and I can't see them in the Services list, I right click on the server connection name and I'll see a context menu that allows me to REFRESH my connection.  
  • It may not be obvious but to remove a local feature class I need to access the context menu local feature class entry from the GIS CONTENTS window.
  • If I am working with feature services and I draw something that is outside what I have defined as the service extents, those features will be saved but upon redrawing after a SYNCHRONIZE I'll find they are "missing" because that is what I've asked for.  To expand my view to see these features, I can hit the SET SERVICE LIMITS FROM CURRENT VIEW button on the feature service part of the ribbon, but I have to be careful what I ask for, if my view is large I may be asking for very many features!
  • ArcGIS for AutoCAD uses standard AutoCAD tool palettes to aide in the placement of feature service features.  Their primary function is to guide me to placing features on the correct layer.   Since they are standard AutoCAD tool palettes I can create my own that do the same thing.  I can use any AutoCAD method I want to place things on the right layer, COPY, ADD SELECTED, set the current layer, change the layer of existing entities, etc…
  • Sometimes I forget I can modify the individual display of layers in a map service from the context menu of the GIS CONTENTS panel by expanding the map service and changing the checkboxes.  My map service may have 30 layers of content and I may be interested in only two!
  • When map services are too slow because of my network or other factors.  I set my map services to ON DEMAND and then only REFRESH when I'm going to be working in area for a while. 
  • The REFRESH ALL MAPS function is not on the main ribbon it is found on the context menu of the GIS CONTENTS panel on the Map Services heading.
  • Each header of the GIS CONTENTS panels has their own context menu options that work on ALL of the items in each category when you right-click:  REFRESH ALL, or REMOVE ALL etc…
  • The way I usually use the LOCATE service on the ribbon is to enter two streets with an 'AND' between them to denote cross streets.  Regardless of whether I enter cross streets, place names or a street address I will evaluate the list of candidates and the right click on the one I like best and ZOOM to that feature.  The AutoCAD zoom-to-entity used sometimes doesn't exactly go where I think it will go so I keep my eye on the highlighted feature to perform a follow up pan or zoom to the location.
  • The SELECT OBJECTS button on the FEATURE panel of the ribbon seems like just a simple select tool, but when I want to select only some of the features of the current feature class using a window within a spaghetti mess of entities, it will ignore all of the entities accept those that belongs to CURRENT FEATURE CLASS that I set above it on the feature panel of the ribbon.
  • Records in the TABLE VIEW have a context menu that allows me to ZOOM to the selected features or copy a record, etc...
  • Although it might not seem like it I can copy records in the IDENTIFY dialog box for Map Services and paste them into other documents when I need to.
  • Most of the ArcGIS for AutoCAD menu items have an AutoCAD command that launches it.  Not exactly a command line equivalent, but it can be used to great advantage for example when I want to build my own ribbon or toolbar or invoke an ArcGIS for AutoCAD user interface from an AutoLISP routine.  In intellisense versions of the AutoCAD command line you can just start typing E S R I…. and all the commands start popping up in the list ,or I can consult the command section of the ArcGIS for AutoCAD help to get a complete list.
  • The ZOOM EXTENTS button on the Navigate panel of the ribbon is different than the standard AutoCAD zoom extents. It considers the extent of map services in the drawing so even if I am currently zoomed in tightly to a view, it will zoom out to the limits of my largest map service.  Again I have to be careful what I ask for.
  • The IMPORT SCHEMA tool is useful for copying an existing set of feature class definitions from one drawing into another drawing.  Tip: If I find myself doing this all the time I will save my drawing as a template file and just delete out the entities to make a template drawing that already has my feature classes defined.
  • If I want to copy feature classes along with the actual feature and their attributes I need perform two steps, in either order.  I can use the AutoCAD INSERT (with the explode option) to get the entities with their attributes, and IMPORT SCHEMA to get the feature class definitions.  The attributes actually live on the entities, but I will not see them until the feature class definitions exist in my drawing.
Who knew that between those two freeway off ramps where you can only see concrete storm channels on either side the river bed opens up into a mini-wetlands where they built a park… cool.
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