All About the Vault

Today has been a very informative day. Well, OK, this morning was. We have learned a lot about Autodesk Vault, a Data Management program that ships free with Civil 3D. It’s a very good answer to a problem in past releases regarding multi-user access to Civil 3D “projects.” It not only provides a different way of doing things than the old Civil 3D “project” functionality, but a much-enhanced way. Don’t get me wrong – if you like the old version (2006) of Civil 3D “projects”, you can still do it that way, but a lot of that functionality has been taken out in favor of the Vault solution. Here’s a brief overview:

(I’ll show installation instructions at a later date – this post assumes that you’ve got Civil 3D 2007 w/Vault already installed and set up.)

First, open up a blank drawing using the template of choice. Next, save that drawing. That’s important – it’s got to be saved. Next,go to the Prospector tab on the toolspace window, and switch from Active Drawing View to Master View. The first thing to do is to login to Vault. To do this, right-click on Projects and click on “Login”. This will bring up the following window:

You’ll see here the options available – the user Administrator is created by default, with no password. You can create users and manage their permissions through Vault Manager, but that’s for a different post. You’ll also see that my Server is set to localhost, which is because I’ve got my Vault installed on my laptop (for demonstration purposes, of course). Yours will likely be a networked location. Next, you’ll see the database that we need to open – this is the vault (note the lowercase “v”? Vault creates a vault called Vault. Confused yet?) The last option is to Automatically login next session. This should be set to make the Vault functionality as transparent as possible.

OK, now we’re logged in. We can now start our project work (wow, this one is going to be long…) To get some data into my project (that I’m about to create), I’ve imported a XML file to create some data. I’ve got some alignments and a surface in this drawing to start off with. Now that I’ve got data, I can right click on that drawing name in Prospector and click “Add to Project.” This will save your drawing and add the drawing and data to a project. You get to select a project, where you want the drawing stored, and then what it is that you want to check in. This is a pretty important window –

If you look, you are given the option to select the drawing dependencies that you want to check in, add any version comments, create a DWF preview of the drawing, and if you want to keep the drawing checked out for editing or not. The next window has you selecting exactly what data you want to add. For example, I have multiple alignments in this drawing, and I can add any or all of them to the Vault. Now, I’ve got that data available in my project to add to any new drawings. Let’s do that now – open a new drawing, save it, add it to the project, and now we’re ready to either import or reference data. Now, I’d like to reference my surface, so I’m going to go down to my project tree in Prospector and expand my project and then the surfaces tab. I’m going to right-click on my surface name, and select Create Reference. When I do, the surface creation box comes up where I can give my surface a style and render material. My reference surface is now created and I go up to my open drawing in Prospector and look at it – but there’s something missing. See if you can spot it:

Sorry about it being so small, but I did help you out by circling the issue in red. If you look closely, you can see that our surface name has a small arrow beside it, indicating that it’s a surface reference. If we expand that tree, we’ll see something VERY important missing, the “definitions” selection. This is because we can’t modify the definition of something that’s referenced. If I want to bring that entire surface into the drawing for editing, all I have to do is right-click on the surface name and click “Promote.” Now we can edit all day long. Make sure to check the drawing back in, adding any revision comments that explain the edits that you made.

Lastly, let’s go see what’s in our project – all files, not just drawings and associated data. Vault also integrates with Microsoft Office products, so I can add Excel spreadsheets, Word documents, and PowerPoint presentations to my project. I can also add any other file to my project just by dragging it into the Vault using Vault Explorer. Here’s a glimpse of it:

So that’s the rundown on Vault. It’s much more involved than I have space to write. It’s going to take more training on my part, and more training on your part. At first, it appears to be needlessly difficult, but with proper setup and mindset, it can provide a very useful service to your company. It’s really filled a void that hasn’t been well addressed until now.

Really good news for ALACAD customers – not only am I a Civil 3D Implementation Certified Expert, but we also have a Data Management Certified Implementation Expert – rest assured, any areas that I might not be clear on with Vault can be cleared up by him! Together, we will work to provide a very stable and powerful data management environment for our Civil customers.

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