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AsOne

Reference Files naming and control

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I have been playing around with using the new Reference File feature.  In theory this is a great addition to FormZ.  For me it is lacking several key features.  Several requests so far:

1.  There needs to be a way to turn the reference file on and off.  Right now it seems to bring in ALL the layers of the reference file and drops them into the layers palette as if they were in the file.  VERY confusing and difficult in my opinion.

To make matters worse when you import a Reference file layer groups are deleted.  There ends up being a huge mess of layers with no organiztion.  Reference file and actual file layers are all mixed up.  If the Reference file is deleted the layers are still in the file.  One has to purge the file to get rid of them.  

I would expect the following:

1. Reference layers to be clearly labelled as part of a Ref. file.  

2. There to be a way to turn the Ref. file on/off easily.

3. Reference files should retain their layer groups as well.  

4. Upon deleting the reference file, Ref. file layers would disappear.

One way to do this would be to have the Reference file layers come in bundled together in a group.  One could turn the group on/off to control the Reference file.  

For example:  Vectorworks does also not add the layers to the Vectorworks layer palette (they call them classes).  Not to say it should be just like Vectorworks, but the Ref. file layers stay with the Ref. file and have independent controls to display Ref. file layers.  I believe AutoCAD works the same with XREF's, but it has been a while since I used it.

 

2.  Same thing for Materials.  Materials are brought in as if they are part of the actual file.  I would expect the exact same things for Ref. materials as I mention above for layers.  Materials are duplicated.  In other words, if I have the exact same material in each file (reference file and actual file) with the same name, I end up with two of the same material.

I also ended up with several HUNDRED empty material groups when I referenced a file with a few material groups.

 

3.  There seems to be no way to know if the reference file has been updated.   The auto update feature is pretty cool.  However, the current notification system is disruptive to workflow in my opinion.  I would rather just see some indicator - one that I can choose to look at or ignore.  For example in Vectorworks there is a Reference File palette.  When the file is out of date the reference file name is displayed in red.  When it is up to date it is black.  One can go in and manually update the file if need be.  

 

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EDIT:  PLEASE IGNORE my comments on Materials ending up with several HUNDRED empty groups.  That was operator error!

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Posted (edited)

I realize that if I organize my own layers in the reference file this is possible.  For example I can name them all XREF-doors, XREF-wall, etc...

Then once referenced it is possible to group all of these together.  If you group layers in the reference file so far it seems those layer groups are lost when referenced.  

I will keep testing to see how best to use this exciting new feature.

Edited by AsOne

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Posted (edited)

I have been playing with the demo version of v9 since it was released (got 6 days left) and the reference file feature was the one I was most interested in - I have to be honest I have found it to be more than a little buggy and totally lacking in usability and features.

The bugs are there even with the most basic and simple test files, so I wouldn’t have the confidence to use the feature for any proper work.

Take a simple cube - divide a face and then add object symmetry and play around with a few faces with the reshape tool. Then save the file and add it as a reference to another file. Add some rotation (it can be on any axis -it doesn’t matter) - Bug - the reference file will not rotate ( it shows some odd lines on some of the faces) until the file is saved, closed and then reopened. Then the rotation is shown, but only until the first tool is chosen at which point it rotates back to its original position.

This isn’t just a bug with object symmetry - try it with some bulge reshaping added to a cube and the same non rotation happens.

If you just try with a simple cube then the rotation works, it works right away after exiting the reference file dialog box and stays rotated - handy if you only ever place cubes in a file I suppose.

As I said i have only tested with very simple objects and am consistently getting the bugs.

As to the features and usability what I would like to see:

1. Self referencing. A file can be referenced back into itself singly or multiple times to make more complex layouts.

2. Nested referencing. (let’s say based on the little street graphic shown on the formZ pro feature page) - the reference file would be called street.fmz and be an empty file. But referenced into street.fmz would be separate files for each house, say number1.fmz, number3.fmz and so on to make up the street scene. Then attaching street.fmz as a reference file with a nested attachment of 1 would also attach the houses as references as well.

If the original number1.fmz, number3.fmz house geometry files also had reference files attached - let’s say some interior furnishings, then in the scene file attaching street.fmz with a nest depth of 2 would add the street, the houses and the furnishings.

3. Logical names - not just the name of the file but an additional name used for recognising and sorting reference files - back in 1. with the self referencing, let’s say the file was the structural layout and was a beam and column model. It was then self referenced multiple times to form a layout  (and each reference moved into place) - each reference then could be given a logical name , say the layout grid reference.

4. Moving , rotating and scaling of references graphically rather than just through the dialog. Working from a dialog gets tedious pretty quickly.

5. Identification of layers, views etc with the ref file name (and also the logical name as an option - see 3.) and the sorting of such in the various dialogs and palettes.

6. Being able to switch off reference info in palettes - not switch off the reference(s) in graphics, but a simple one click button on the relevant palette to not show any ref file information. Sometimes you want the graphic window to show the references but not be interested in showing layers, views etc in palettes.

7. An overarching ‘show refs’ button to switch of all reference files in graphics (put it next to show axis and show grid buttons in the display palette).

8. A snap palette tool to ignore references wholesale (and more fine grained control over individual references - say like on the inspector palette attributes for layers and objects).

9. Views to optionally control reference visibility (in whole and by layer). And then with a toggle to apply to references or not - ie when a view is saved the actual state of the graphics is saved, if then references or reference layers are switched on and off the view can optionally change the visibility or just change the camera.

10. A correct reference file section in the online help.

 

I have to say at the moment (even without the bugs) it is very simplistic and if it remained like it is now with no further development then nearly unusable.

 

 

 

Edited by danshaw

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Posted (edited)
21 hours ago, danshaw said:

I have been playing with the demo version of v9 since it was released (got 6 days left) and the reference file feature was the one I was most interested in - I have to be honest I have found it to be more than a little buggy and totally lacking in usability and features.

The bugs are there even with the most basic and simple test files, so I wouldn’t have the confidence to use the feature for any proper work.

Take a simple cube - divide a face and then add object symmetry and play around with a few faces with the reshape tool. Then save the file and add it as a reference to another file. Add some rotation (it can be on any axis -it doesn’t matter) - Bug - the reference file will not rotate ( it shows some odd lines on some of the faces) until the file is saved, closed and then reopened. Then the rotation is shown, but only until the first tool is chosen at which point it rotates back to its original position.

This isn’t just a bug with object symmetry - try it with some bulge reshaping added to a cube and the same non rotation happens.

If you just try with a simple cube then the rotation works, it works right away after exiting the reference file dialog box and stays rotated - handy if you only ever place cubes in a file I suppose.

As I said i have only tested with very simple objects and am consistently getting the bugs.

As to the features and usability what I would like to see:

1. Self referencing. A file can be referenced back into itself singly or multiple times to make more complex layouts.

2. Nested referencing. (let’s say based on the little street graphic shown on the formZ pro feature page) - the reference file would be called street.fmz and be an empty file. But referenced into street.fmz would be separate files for each house, say number1.fmz, number3.fmz and so on to make up the street scene. Then attaching street.fmz as a reference file with a nested attachment of 1 would also attach the houses as references as well.

If the original number1.fmz, number3.fmz house geometry files also had reference files attached - let’s say some interior furnishings, then in the scene file attaching street.fmz with a nest depth of 2 would add the street, the houses and the furnishings.

3. Logical names - not just the name of the file but an additional name used for recognising and sorting reference files - back in 1. with the self referencing, let’s say the file was the structural layout and was a beam and column model. It was then self referenced multiple times to form a layout  (and each reference moved into place) - each reference then could be given a logical name , say the layout grid reference.

4. Moving , rotating and scaling of references graphically rather than just through the dialog. Working from a dialog gets tedious pretty quickly.

5. Identification of layers, views etc with the ref file name (and also the logical name as an option - see 3.) and the sorting of such in the various dialogs and palettes.

6. Being able to switch off reference info in palettes - not switch off the reference(s) in graphics, but a simple one click button on the relevant palette to not show any ref file information. Sometimes you want the graphic window to show the references but not be interested in showing layers, views etc in palettes.

7. An overarching ‘show refs’ button to switch of all reference files in graphics (put it next to show axis and show grid buttons in the display palette).

8. A snap palette tool to ignore references wholesale (and more fine grained control over individual references - say like on the inspector palette attributes for layers and objects).

9. Views to optionally control reference visibility (in whole and by layer). And then with a toggle to apply to references or not - ie when a view is saved the actual state of the graphics is saved, if then references or reference layers are switched on and off the view can optionally change the visibility or just change the camera.

10. A correct reference file section in the online help. 

 

I have to say at the moment (even without the bugs) it is very simplistic and if it remained like it is now with no further development then nearly unusable. 

 

 

 

 

Edited by jldaureil
argh

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On 3/16/2020 at 7:34 PM, danshaw said:

8. A snap palette tool to ignore references wholesale (and more fine grained control over individual references - say like on the inspector palette attributes for layers and objects).

OK -  I just realised the fine grain control can be achieved by switching off the snap icon on the object palette.

I'll add an:

11. In place editing of reference files - turn off the padlock icon on the object palette for full control and editing of the reference file. A dialog warns the user if this cannot be achieved - if say another user has the file open.

and for 7. As well as the overarching 'show refs' icon it might also be handy to be able to drag references into object groups - this to be able to control ref visibility and snapping across user configurable groups of references.

Also right clicking on a reference on the object palette opens the context menu which allows a reference to be duplicated - but this is not reflected in the reference files dialog box (transformation can be applied by double clicking on the dup ref name) and disappears after a file save, close and reopen - I assume this is a bug and the duplicate shouldn't be allowed or is it a feature?

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