There has been some discussion on the Autodesk DG recently of how to work with Data Shortcuts. What are Data Shortcuts, how do you work with them, and how have they changed over the releases?
Click to read more.
What are Data Shortcuts?
Data shortcuts are external xml files that store link information about a Civil3D object (Surface, Alignment, Profile, Pipe Network, etc.). This xml file is not to be confused with LandXML files. Though they are written using the same file type (xml), they store very different information. It would be like trying to import points from just any ascii text file that you found. It is the same file type but is not storing the information the same way.
How do you work with them?
Data Shortcuts are exactly that – shortcuts to data found in another drawing file. It is similar to creating a shortcut on your desktop to an application or file found somewhere else. That shortcut links you to the information you want.
Since a data shortcut is an XML file, you can edit it using different methods depending on what works for you and what version of Civil3D you are on:
- You can edit using the Edit Data Shortcuts Panorama (in Civil3D 2006-2008).
- The Edit Data Shortcuts Panorama is the main method of working with data shortcuts in Civil3D 2007 and 2008
- This is the best method when working with Civil3D 2007 and 2008.
- You can use Notepad
- An xml file is really hard to read in Notepad because of no formatting.
- You can use a free downloadable program called XMLNotepad from Microsoft.
- NEW in Civil3D 2009! You can use the external program called "Data Shortcuts Editor" provided with Civil3D 2009.
How have Data Shortcuts changed over the releases?
I started playing with Civil3D 2005. It was great right off the bat. As you stumbled through, you could immediately see the power of the software.
One of the biggest benefits to me was the fact that the data was stored in the drawing not in separate files that you had to keep track of. However, this was also one of the biggest setbacks with the software. How many work with all the data in one file? Worse yet, how in the world can you work with such a monstrous file?
So when Civil3D 2006 rolled out, Data Management was all the buzz. Civil3D had finally added Data Management. There was a Projects section added to the prospector. From there you could add a Project (sounds familiar – LDT anyone?).
The project data management system relied heavily on data shortcuts which were simply links to the drawing storing the actual Civil3D object. To use data shortcuts effectively in C3D 2006, the drawings have to be attached to a Civil3D project folder.
It wouldn’t be long before you changed file names, saved and changed folders or something that would break the drawing attachment. It was a pain to reattach a drawing, let alone data shortcut management.
The cool thing was that you could edit the data shortcut files and make those file changes, handle changes, rename the object link and so forth. As long as you could keep the Project>Drawing link it sufficiently worked! But there had to be something better out there.
Autodesk thought there had to be something better out there as well. They found a product that they had already developed called Vault. Vault is "A data management tool that helps manage and securely store design data…" (from Autodesk.com). They built Vault right into Civil3D using Vault to manage and control data shortcuts. This was much more than most organizations needed so with SP3, Autodesk has reinstituted the ability to work with Data Shortcuts. However, the format of the data shortcut file had changed so any data shortcuts coming from Civil3D 2006 had to be rolled into Vault or rebuilt. Also, data shortcuts now became more like pointers. Pick the data shortcut to get the link information from and store that data in the application. Once you reference the data shortcut, then store the data shortcut data in the drawing. Thus, editing a Civil3D 2007 data shortcut file did not get you far a lot of times.
Data shortcuts are now in their third generation (and their third format). They come a long way baby!!
We will talk in more detail about working with Civil3D 2009 in an upcoming blog but some improvements:
- User interface improvements
- Built-in directory management
- Create shortcuts for objects in multiple places/ways