Display Themes and You

February 20th, 2013

The Display Themes tool has been around since AutoCAD® Architecture release 2006, but it is not widely used and therefore under-appreciated by many.  Display themes will work with any ACA object you have created.   Manual properties of an object—such as a wall’s fire rating or a door’s manufacturer—are not typically visible in a drawing.  Display themes lets you incorporate such non-graphic data in your drawing (both 2D and 3D) by using certain colors, fills, or hatches to highlight objects that meet the criteria or theme rules that you have established in a display theme style.  For example, you could define a property named Function for room objects and then set up a theme rule that specifies that rooms with a Function value equal to “storage” will be displayed with a solid cyan fill.  A display theme can be activated in a drawing by using a display theme tool to insert a display theme legend, which explains the meaning of color, fills, or hatches specified in the theme.

It is important to note that if you use a display theme style that is provided with AutoCAD Architecture 2013, the property set definitions and property data formats for the style are already created for you. 

Creating Display Themes

Display themes are an effective way to present information during the conceptual design phase of a project or when working with construction documents.  With display themes, you can identify changes to a project that are not in the contract, identify the staging of a project, and identify objects that meet or do not meet specific standards.  If you use the drawing as an external reference (xref) in a project, the display theme is imported into the host drawing by default.  If the host drawing already contains a display theme, then the display theme in the host drawing overrides the display theme in the xref.  A marker appears over the disabled display theme legend.

Below is a simple, five-step process that you can follow to create a display theme.

  1. Create property data formats that you will use in your theme.  The formats you create will determine how your data is displayed in the display theme legend.
  2. Create property set definitions for objects in your drawing.  Here you will incorporate formats from step 1.
  3. Create a display theme style.  This will specify the format for the legend of your display theme as well as what objects will be highlighted in your drawing.  The legend is a key that will incorporate property set definitions from step 2.  It will specify which visual indicator will be applied to which objects in a drawing and what the content will be.
  4. Attach property set data to the objects for inclusion in your display theme.
  5. Activate the display theme by adding the legend to the drawing.

Now, let’s look at each of these steps in a little more detail.

Property Data Formats

The criteria for the display theme are based on the property data attached to the objects or object styles.  The property data overrides the display properties to produce the visual effects produced by inserting a display theme.  Property data formats are created and edited in the Style Manager under the Manage tab of the ribbon, Style & Display panel.  You can also enter the command AECSTYLEMANAGER.  To create a new format, expand Documentation Objects, right-click Property Data Formats, and click new.  Enter a name for the new format and click enter.  If you wish, you can also select an existing Property Data Format, right-click and copy, then paste and rename.

Now, click on the Formatting tab (see Figure 1).  Here, you will need to specify how you want the formatting to appear.  For example, if you want the text to appear in all capital letters, you would select “Upper” under the Case drop-down.  Fill in all information pertinent to the format you are creating.  Click Apply and then OK when you are finished.

Figure 1: Property Data Format

Property Set Definitions

Property set definitions are created and edited in the Style Manager under the Manage tab of the ribbon, Style & Display panel.  You can also enter the command AECSTYLEMANAGER.  To create a new definition, expand Documentation Objects, right-click Property Set Definitions, and click new.  Enter a name for the new definition and click enter.  If you wish, you can also select an existing Property Set Definition, right-click and copy, then paste and rename.

Select the Applies To tab and check the box next to each Object or Style and Definition that this Property Set Definition will apply to in the drawing.  Now you will want to click on the Definition tab (see Figure 2) and add Property definitions as needed.  Using the buttons along the right side of the dialog box, you can choose to add manual definitions, formula definitions, automatic definitions, and so on. The Automatic Property Definitions button is unique in that it brings up a dialog box of preset definitions. The values for each of these properties are obtained directly from an object or its style.  The properties available to select are dependent upon objects or styles selected on the Applies To tab (see Figure 3).

Figure 2: Property Set Definition

Figure 3: Automatic Property Definition

Display Theme Styles

Display theme styles control the visual change to the objects as well as the content and appearance of the display theme legend in the drawing.  A drawing must contain a display theme style to effect the visual changes or to add a display theme legend.  When you copy a display theme style into a drawing, property set definitions and data formats specified in the style are also copied.  Display theme styles are created and edited in the Style Manager under the Manage tab of the ribbon, Style & Display panel.  You can also enter the command AECSTYLEMANAGER.  To create a new style, expand Documentation Objects, right-click Display Theme Styles, and click new.  Enter a name for the new definition and click enter.  Enter a description for the Display Theme Style.  If you wish, you can also select an existing Display Theme Style, right-click and copy, then paste and rename.

Next, click on the Design Rules tab (see Figure 4) and click the Add Component button on the right side of the dialog box to create a new theme setting.  This will create an unnamed theme setting with an index number of one.  Now you can create the settings for the display theme, which will control the type of highlighting in the style.

Next, you can create theme rules for each theme setting, which will determine specifically which objects will be highlighted using each setting.  When you create a theme rule, you will see an index number, which corresponds with the theme setting.  If you wish, you can create multiple rules for each theme setting.  For each theme rule you create, you can select a property set definition, a property that is contingent upon the property set definition you selected, and a condition that is contingent upon the property set definition and property you selected.  Then you will enter a value appropriate to the condition you selected and select an operator appropriate to the formula you are creating for the theme rules.
Next, you will specify the format for the design theme legend by clicking on the Legend Format tab.  Enter in the information that is pertinent to your style.

Last, you will specify the display properties for the display theme legend by clicking on the Legend Display Properties tab.  You will then select the display representation on which to display the changes and select the Style Override.  The display representation in bold is the current display representation.  Click the Layer/Color/Linetype tab, select the component to change (if any), and select a different setting for the property.  Once everything is finished, click OK twice.

Once your display theme style is created, you can drag and drop it onto the tool palette for future use.  Doing this creates a display theme tool.  Once it is placed on the tool palette, you can right-click on it and click on properties to add a description, change the scale of the legend, and more.

Figure 4: Display Theme Style Design Rules tab

Attach Property Set Data

Now that you have created everything you need for your display theme, you will need to attach property set data to objects in your drawing.  Select the objects to which you will be attaching property set data, right-click, and select Properties.  On the Properties Palette, click the Extended Data tab (see Figure 5).  Next, click the button at the bottom of the palette to add property sets.  Select the property sets to attach to the object and click OK.

The property set is now attached.  You will find that the values for automatic properties are already filled in.  At this point, you can enter data for manual properties for each object.

It is important to note that if you select more than one type of object, you can attach only the property set definitions that apply to all the selected objects.  For example, if you select doors and windows, you can attach only those property sets that apply to both doors and windows.

Figure 5: Properties Extended Data

Display Theme Legend

A display theme legend provides a key to the display theme, mapping specific colors, fills, or hatches to properties of objects in a drawing.  You insert a display theme legend into a drawing to activate a display theme and visually change the appearance of objects by overriding the current display properties.

The tools provided let you quickly place display theme legends by selecting a display theme tool with a specific display theme style and other predefined properties.  When you place display theme legends using display theme tools, you can use the default settings of the tool or you can change settings for the display theme properties.  You can also use display theme tools to apply the settings of a display theme tool to existing display themes.

The default Scheduling palette in the Tool palette set contains three sample display theme tools that you can use and customize as needed.  Custom palettes created by your CAD manager or other users may also contain display theme tools with display theme styles and properties that are customized for your projects or office standards.

Activate Display Theme

The display theme legend activates the display theme in the viewport and identifies the meaning of the different colors, fills, or hatches used in the theme.  The data for the display theme legend is collected from the property set data attached to the objects or object styles, as specified in the display theme style.  When you add new objects to a drawing, data is added to the legend if it meets the criteria you specified in the display theme style.

At this point, you are ready to add the theme you created into your drawing.  The display theme is added to the drawing through either the scheduling tool palette or the command DisplayThemeAdd.

Open the tool palette that contains the display theme tool you want to use and select the tool.  In the drawing area, specify the insertion point for the upper-left corner of the display theme legend.  Then specify the lower-right corner of the legend or press enter to scale the display theme legend to the current drawing scale.  The display theme is now activated.  At this point, you will notice that the objects affected by the display theme visually change in the drawing as indicated by the legend. 

You can add more than one display theme to your drawing, however; only one theme at a time can be active.  If you add a display theme to a drawing which already contains a display theme, the older theme will automatically be disabled when you add the new one.  If new data is added to your drawing that meets the criteria of your display theme style, it will be added to the legend.

Conclusion

After creating your first display theme, you will notice at each use that inserting a display theme style in a drawing is a lot quicker than inserting hatches and color fills separately for each object in a large drawing.  This is a great way to get presentation style drawings quickly and efficiently!

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About the Authors

Melinda Heavrin

Melinda Heavrin

Melinda Heavrin is a CAD Coordinator & Facility Planner for Norton Healthcare in Louisville, Kentucky.  She has been using AutoCAD Architecture since release 2000.  Melinda can be reached for comments and questions at melinda.heavrin@nortonhealthcare.org.

 

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