Tipniques: AutoCAD Sheet Sets - Project Management Tool

January 24th, 2013

AutoCAD sheet sets are powerful tools in the hands of those that use them. Or at least they should be. Sheet Sets have been around since AutoCAD 2005 which was released in the year 2004. It's now the year 2013 and many, if not most, AutoCAD users still do not use sheet sets to their potential. Many don't use them at all. That's a shame because they are, in my opinion, the single most powerful and efficiency tool available in AutoCAD especially when working with many users on a project.



What is this Sheet Set Tool
Users access sheet sets through the sheet set manager. This manager is a typical AutoCAD pallet. It can be moved around the screen, docked, hidden, collapsed, anything that you can do to a pallet. The SSM (sheet set manager) displays the sets, subsets and drawings in your project. This provides access to all of the drawings for the project. Clicking on the drawing name will open the file in AutoCAD for you. No hunting or drilling down in a file explorer to find your file. Click the name and the SSM brings the drawing to you. Printing is just as easy.  Select the drawing or set of drawings you want to print and press the print button. These two easy to do features in Sheet Sets is why most of us use them.  They make getting to your files extremely easy and the ability to batch plot any of the drawings without ever having to retrieve them is fantastic.

Printing, File Access and Project Data Management
What are the three biggest advantages to using sheet sets? Printing, file access and project data management. Of course there are more tools available in Sheet Sets but these are the main three areas.  The advantages to printing via Sheet Sets becomes obvious very quickly.  It allows you to print any sheet combination without opening the files.  File access is great to.  Every drawing associated with the project (added to the sheet set) is listed.  Clicking the drawing name will open the file to the proper paper space tab.  No more hunting for the file.  No more opening the wrong file either.  The third area of efficiency improvement is in Project Data Management.  Sheet Sets can store and share project specific data across any of the sheets in the set.  Lets say that the project has a scheduled date of completion and you need to show that date on several drawings.  Things happen, as they always do, and the date changes.  You can go from sheet to sheet making the changes and possibly missing one or two, or even possibly making a mistake, or you can use Sheet Sets properties to manage that bit of data for you.  With Sheet Sets you can create a project database of information that can be set, and changed within the Sheet Set Manager.  Anywhere you need that data to display just insert the sheet set info.  When the Sheet Set data is changed so will the displayed data on your drawings.

Printing With Sheet Sets
Sheets sets are real easy to setup and use for batch print drawings. Select your drawings and click on the print button. If you do nothing else besides this that's ok. Sheet Sets make printing so easy.  You can print to specific media (paper), to PDF, to DWF, or to any type of output method that AutoCAD can handle.  Use the Sheet Set Page Setup Overrides and you can manage your Page Setups for the entire set.  You won;t be actually changing the page setups in the files, but you will have an associated template file (.DWT) that will store them for you. 

File Access
Sheet Sets get you to your drawings right away.  As stated above, clicking on the file name in the Sheet Set Manager will open the file the drawing is in.  This makes things very easy for users.  they don’t have to hunt for the right file.  This is a tremendous help when there are multiple departments working on a project.  Suppose that you are a land developer and you have an engineering team, land planning team, survey team, and landscape architecture team.  All of you are working on the same project but each of you contribute in different ways.  Often times you will need to access other members drawings.  Do you want to hunt for them every time?  Not at all.  Do you want to have to ask a team member for the file?  Do you know which version of the file is current?  You don't have to ask any of these questions.  Just browse to that department’s subset and click on the file you want to look at.  It saves hassle by eliminating questions and file sharing.  It saves time.  It ensures everyone can easily get to the most current and proper drawings.

Project Data Management
Sheet Sets can help you communicate and share project specific data between your team members.  Continuing with the land development example above, let's suppose that that the residential project you are working on has 300 single family lots.  Put that information into the sheet set manager.  Now the Land Planning team has that info and can put it on their drawings.  the Landscape architecture team has that info and can design their plantings accordingly.  If it changes their drawings will be up to date even if you fail to let them know of such an important bit of information.
More with Sheet Sets

We looked at the three major areas of efficiency improvements that Sheet Sets can help you with.  There are more of course and I would like to name them here quickly.  Named Views.  Named views are nice.  you have probably used them before.  But you can share these views within a sheet set which will give quick navigation for users.  Click the named views and the proper drawing is opened and zoomed to that view.  You can also create new files and folders from a sheet set.  This ensures that every team member uses the proper template file to make a new drawing.  It also ensures that the file is saved in the proper place on your company’s network.  Sheet Sets can also insert a standard view (cross section, detail, etc.) block and manage the view name.  Again, this tool helps everyone work more efficiently.

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About the Authors

Brian Benton

Brian Benton

Brian Benton is an Engineering Technician, CAD Service Provider, technical writer and blogger. He has over 18 years of experience in various design fields (Mechanical, Structural, Civil, Survey, Marine, Environmental) and is well versed in many design software packages (CAD, GIS, Graphics). He has been Cadalyst Magazine’s Tip Patroller, AUGI HotNews Production Manager, and is an Infinite Skills AutoCAD training video author and contributing author of the book Mastering AutoCAD.