Revisiting Architectural Desktop 2.0's Layer Manager, Layer Standards and Layer Keys

In the last article on this subject, I simply attempted to create the most basic layer standard as a means to have a foundation to build upon.  As all architects know, it alllayermanager_1.gif (31445 bytes) starts with a solid foundation.  After having written two e-BOOKs on ADT and dealing with numerous complaints about the confusing aspects of ADT's Layering System, I have decided to revisit this story and try to make is easier for those struggling to comprehend it.

In the last go around, I made the mistake of insisting on creating a Layer Standard that ADT just can't support at this time.  Later, I discovered a way to manage a very simple Layer Standard in ADT but to do it you have to sacrifice the best automated features of the Layer System thus making it counterproductive.  As a result, I have simply adopted the AIA Long Format, with some modifications, and moved on.  The flaw in my previous Layer Standard design was in trying to find a way around ADT's Layer Standard's inability to manage a Layer Key with only single Layer Name fields; i.e., ADT 2.0' Layering System is really not capable of supporting single Layer Name fields, like "WALL", "DOOR", or "WIND", you really have to have two fields, like "A_WALL", "A_DOOR", etc.

You can have a really simple Layering System but then you have to use a "non-standard" Layer Key which will not be regulated by the Layer Standard.


1Designing a custom Layer Standard .
The first thing that you have to know about is what ADT uses to manage Layers in your drawings.

Illustrated to the right is one of the two primary control points for layer management.

The Layer Manager dialogue box, below right, offers an easy way to access the Layer Standards dialogue box and the Layer Key Styles dialogue box.  These two dialogue boxes provide access to the files that contain the data information for how your layers are supposed to work.

The Layer Standards are a set of rules by which you want your layers designed.  Think of the number of characters and delimiters you might want in your standard, for example. "A_WALL_ABOV" can be defined by a set of rules; the first character is "A" followed by an underscore "_" followed by four letters and so on.

The Layer Key Styles are the actual layers used in your drawing.   The term key should connote the concept of taking an object and associating it automatically to a specific layer.  Layer Keys should abide by the rules set forth by the Layer Standard but do offer the ability to make specific design changes, like color, linetype, lineweight, printing or non-printing and so on. 

layer_manager_standards_keys.gif (18354 bytes)
The second primary control point for layer management in ADT, is the Drawing Setup dialogue box, illustrated to the right.

On the Layering tab of the Drawing Setup dialogue box, you set the actual Layering Standard and Layer Key Style. 

If you don't set the Standard and Key Style correctly, you won't have anything but the default settings.

To me, the most interesting aspect of getting these various pieces of data to work correctly lie in comprehending that it is data and the data lives like a block in a drawing file.  In the illustration to the right, I show the Open dialogue box for selecting a new Layer Standard/Key File to Auto-Import because, as you can see, it looks for a drawing file.  The drawing file holds both the Layer Standard and the Layer Keys and can in fact hold as many of these as you care to have stuffed into one file.  

If you create a new Layer Standard and/or Layer Key Style, you can add them to a new drawing file or the default AecLayerStd.dwg by using the Import/Export... button on the Layer Standard dialogue box or the Layer Key Styles dialogue box - illustrated above right.

layer_drawing_setup.gif (25824 bytes)
Let's build a custom Layer Standard and Layer Keys.

Start a drawing from scratch.

Use Layer Manager ( _AecLayerManager <- this one, not the bonus one ) and go to Layer Standards.

Create New…

Provide a name like "ARCH_BASIC"

Do NOT use BASED ON, we want as basic a layer standard as possible.

Make sure this new Layer Standard is highlighted and pick Edit...

layer_standard_new.gif (15280 bytes)
Component Fields Tab
Editing a new Layer Standard in the Layer Standard Properties Dialogue Box.

On the Component Field Tab, change the Default Value text field to "Discipline"

Set Optional to "NO"

Set Max Width to "1"

Set Fixed Width to "YES"

Set Wildcard to " @ "

Set Match Description to "NO"

Set Delimiter to "None"

Set Default to "A"

layer_standard_properties_fields.gif (14436 bytes)
Now on to the actual layers:

In the Layer Standard Properties Dialogue Box, click on Add Below the selected Item (the one we just created) and create a new Field Name: call it "General"

Set Optional to "NO"

Set Max Width to "4"

Set Fixed Width to "YES"

Set Wildcard to " @@@@ "

Set Match Description to "NO"

Set Delimiter to "None"

Set Default to "WALL"

Next Layer Field ->


In the Layer Standard Properties Dialogue Box, click on Add Below the selected Item and create a new Field Name: call it "Specific"

Set Optional to "YES"

Set Max Width to "4"

Set Fixed Width to "YES"

Set Wildcard to " @@@@ "

Set Match Description to "NO"

Set Delimiter to "_"   I use the underscore. This has been a computing standard for as long as I can remember and the AIA use of a (-) dash is typically reserved for denoting ranges; i.e., 1-5

Set Default to "ABOV "

Edit Descriptive Fields Tab

On the Edit Descriptive Field Tab, create Field names that match your Layer Field names; i.e., "Discipline", "General" and "Specific".

Right-click on Component 1 for each of these Filed Names and pick on the matching Layer Field Name. In other words, two columns with matching names.

layer_standard_properties_descriptive_fields.gif (11949 bytes)
Edit Descriptions Tab

On the Edit Descriptions Tab, from the Field to Edit pull-down list, select "GENERAL" and add new basic architectural layer categories such as "STAR", "ROOF", "OPNG", "ANNO", etc. For each category, you will need to provide a generic description like "Stairs", "Roofs", etc.

On the Edit Descriptions Tab, from the Field to Edit pull-down list, select "SPECIFIC" and add new specific architectural layer sub-categories such as "RAIL", "DOOR", "WIND", "GNOT", "BLOW", etc. As with the last set, you will need to provide generic descriptions.

layer_standard_properties_descriptions.gif (27414 bytes)
Description Specification Tab

We can Skip the Description Specification tab.

OK your way out and you should find yourself bak on the Layer Manager dialogue box.

Layer Manager

Back on the Layer Manager, we can now pick on the Layer Keys button.

On the Layer Keys Styles Dialogue Box, pick the NEW… button.

Type a name for your Layer Keys like "ARCH_BASIC_KEYS".

Check the "Make the Layer Key Style Current" box so this will be current when we exit.

On the Use Layer Standard Drop-down list, pick the Layer Standard we just created - "ARCH_BASIC".

Do NOT check the Load From LY file:

layer_keys_new.gif (19758 bytes)
Layer Keys Styles

Back on the Layer Keys Styles Dialogue Box, highlight your newly created Layer Key Style ("ARCH_BASIC_KEYS") and pick the Edit button.

On the Layer Key Style Properties Dialogue Box, pick the Keys tab.

These are your basic object layers; the default set.

Scroll down to the "WALL" Layer Key and Description and pick on the area that has three dots " " next to it (under the Layer Column).

You should now see a "Layer Name" dialogue box with the three fields that we designed earlier. Value and Description should be blank for our "WALL" layer on every Field. In the "Discipline" row, pick on the three dots ". . ." next to the Value column and assign it a discipline letter (like "A").  In the "General" row, use the same technique to set the  "Value" text field to "WALL".  And, in the "Specific" row, you will probably want to leave this Value field blank but this is where you could add _ABOV or _BLOW.

Repeat this process for as many layers as you wish to play with. For the "DOOR" Layer Key, you can make the "General" text field "OPNG" and the "Specific" text field "DOOR". For windows: "OPNG" and "WIND", etc. ---Or go by your own creations.

layer_keys_new_settings.gif (22093 bytes)
Making Sure ADT is using the new Layer Standard

You can verify things by using the Desktop pull-down menu to Layer Management to Select Layer Standard… Under Layer Key Style, you should see "ARCH_BASIC_KEYS *current drawing".

If you draw a Wall, Door, Window, Stair or other object you should see that they land on the newly created layers. If you're getting good results that you want to keep, you will need to export the Layer Standards into a new .dwg file and then Export the Layer Keys into that very same .dwg file.

Now on to the second problem in this article:

Getting walls to land on the "A_WALL_INTR" layer.

Since Wall Objects are one type of object, it seems unreasonable to assume that you can get them to reside on two different layers from the Layer Standards and Layer Keys (automatically, that is). Yes, I could create a Layer Key that has a "A_WALL_INTR" layer but how would my single smart object, Wall, know when to be on one layer versus the other. We can switch layers or use Overrides but what I really want is a wall type that knows it belongs on the "A_WALL_INTR" layer every time it is used.

Here’s what I have done:

Create a new Layer called "A_WALL_INTR" with the regular layer command and give it a unique color.

Use Wall Styles… to create a NEW… wall, name it something like "INTR_GYP_04" and then set the appropriate Components. I made one Component, for example, named it "GYP", set the Priority to 60, Edge Offset… to "0" and Width… to "4".

On the Display Props Tab, make sure PLAN is selected in the drop-down list. Then, highlight the "Wall Style" Property Field and Attach Override.

Pick the Edit Display Props… and on the Layer/Color/Linetype Tab pick on Layer 0 for the Shrink Wrap, set to the "A_WALL_INTR" layer we created earlier.  For Boundary 1 (GYP) row; you may also want to set this to the "A_WALL_INTR" layer so you don't accidentally end up with Boundary lines turned on when you turn off "A_WALL_INTR" layer. Set the Color to "bylayed" for both changes and OK your way out.

If you draw "INTR_GYP_04" walls now, they will land on the "A_WALL_INTR" layer and have the color of that layer. You can turn off the interior walls by turning off the "A_WALL_INTR" layer or by turning off the Layer Key "WALL". In this way, "WALL" is actually the object layer and "A_WALL_INTR" simply a property layer. And, to support my methodology here, if you work with the Wall Styles that come with ADT 2.0, you will see that that is how they work as well (try a concrete wall, for example).

If you export this wall style and import it into a new drawing, it will create the "A_WALL_INTR" layer and layer color. I find this similar to creating a block on a given layer with a given color that is inserted on yet another layer that acts as the insertion layer.


The Override Technique

If you also want doors and other objects to be specific to the interior, I think that using a Layer Override is probably a better solution. To do this, first create a new Layer Standard Description by using the Layer Manger and pick on the Layer Standard Properties button; go to Edit Descriptions Tab and set the Field to Edit drop-down list to "Specific"; now create a new text field called "INTR". OK your way out. – Confused?, see top of article and Edit Descriptions Tab.


Now, from the Desktop pull-down menu to Layer Management to Layer Key Overrides. Set the "Specific" key to "INTR" and make sure to check the Enable Overrides check box. From this point on, everything you create will be on a "General" layer with a new "Specific" override of "INTR".