Easily modify all your MicroStation tags with just a few mouse-clicks

By Rick Sewell
It seemed a typical day as I manned Axiom’s Technical Support phone lines. Calls were coming in with the usual questions. Yes, Global File Changer will replace cells in all of your files in one shot. Yes, FileFixer will repair your file. Then I received a call from a fellow with a question that was quite out of the ordinary.

Changing tags in hundreds or thousands of design files can be done quickly and easily if you have the right tool.

He was looking for something that would allow him to extract tag values from his design files to an external database and also allow him to manage the tag values from there. He needed to do this not on just a single project either but “thousands of DGN files,” he said. “A real, hairy-monster of a job.”

My first thought was that we could likely custom program something to do the job. I didn’t know of any Axiom tools out of the box that would do it. Needing more information in order to give the problem a proper assessment, I had the customer send me some sample files to analyze.

As I opened each sample DGN file, I noticed that all the files were nearly identical. Each file contained a series of cells with five tags associated with each cell. They looked like a bunch of baby title blocks. Title blocks? That’s it! Title Block Manager has the ability to extract tags directly from MicroStation and copy them into Microsoft Excel! [Editor’s note: “Tags” are database-like elements that may be attached to graphical elements in design files in order to provide more information about the graphical element (or elements) tagged. Tags can be displayed graphically.]

Just as the name indicates, Title Block Manager was designed to handle title blocks. The initial Title Block Manager release didn’t handle tags. However, it was later discovered that a number of customers used tags in their standard title blocks. To accommodate those users, we enhanced Title Block Manager to extract selected tag values (instead of extracting only regular Title Block Manager text elements from title blocks). This is when the universe opened up.

The new tag handling feature in Title Block Manager isn’t limited to just handling tags in title blocks. It allows you to extract tag values from any tag set in any set of design files! It’s like we have another application entirely living inside of Title Block Manager. We should call it “Tag Manager”. [Editor’s note: A “tag set” is a set of associated tags. Each and every tag is part of a tag set.]

Check it out. Figure 1 shows some tag values within a DGN file. In this file, the tag values represent unit numbers in an apartment building.

Figure 1. In this sample design file, the number on each apartment door is a value of a tag. With the right tool, you can extract all your tag values from all your DGN files and have them automatically entered into a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet. Once there, you can quickly modify as many tag values as you like and put them back into your design file.

This design file contains six occurrences of a tag set (the same tag set is attached to each apartment door). This particular tag set contains three tags. One of these tag names is “Unit Number”. Each tag in a tag set can be given a different value. In this case, the tag values of each of the six “Unit Number” tags are “101”, “102” “103”, “201”, “202” and “203”.

Title Block Manager will take each of these values and place them elegantly into a spreadsheet (or a database) by creating a row in the database for each occurrence of each tag set that was placed in the DGN file. Figure 2 shows the actual tag data extracted from the sample design file. Each row in Figure 2 is a record of an instance of a tag set attached to an element. Column B, with the header “TBlockID”, contains the name of the tag set (in this simple example, we are using only one tag set, named “Apartment”). The next column shows the element ID number of the element that was tagged. The heading of each of the next three columns (in Figure 2) contains the name of each tag in the tag set. Notice that the tag set “Apartment” contains three tag names — “Unit Number”, “Size” and “Resident”. Each tag name becomes a column heading in the Excel spreadsheet. Within each field under each tag name, you see the value of that tag for the given element. For example, for element number 461 (the lower left apartment door), the tag value for tag name “Unit Number” is “101”. For that same element, the tag value for tag name “Size” is “2-Bedroom”, and so on.

Figure 2. Title Block Manager automatically, elegantly places all of the essential tag data into an Excel spreadsheet.

You can process all your design files and have a complete library of all the tags used in your files. Being able to do that is pretty impressive. But that’s just the half of it. You can also modify your tag values in the spreadsheet and write the modifications back to your design files!

In Figure 3, I’ve changed all the tag values listed in the spreadsheet under the “Unit Number” column heading from “101”, “102”, “103”, “201”, “202” and “203” to “1A”, “1B”, “1C”, “2A”, “2B” and “2C, respectively.

Figure 3. Title Block Manager lets you quickly change tag values in Excel and then easily write them back to your design files (compare the above to the values for “Unit Number” in Figure 2)

With nothing more than a few mouse-clicks, Title Block Manager will write the newly changed values back to the design file. Here is the result (Figure 4):

Figure 4. Tag values are updated in all your design files in about one second per design file modified.

Remember, you can process all your design files here. So go get your tag-laden design files and start having some fun with them.

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