Every time I think I know Inventor inside and out, I learn something new. I discovered something very exciting today that for sure would have stayed buried if it wasn’t for my prying nature and an overdose of coffee. First, let’s start with some background information. I have been asking Autodesk for many years now for an improved drawing text editor. Anybody that has ever used Inventor to create a drawing with complex notes can understand that Inventor is no AutoCAD when it comes to text editing. I always thought it would be great if there was a little more intelligence around adding notes to a drawing. The ability to add notes as smart bullet lists with the ability to embed symbols within the note, such as surface finishes, feature control frames and toleranced dimensions would be very beneficial.
This brings me to my discovery of what Autodesk has provided to the lucky people who use the GOST standard. There is a hidden gem of an add-in that is not enabled by default within Inventor called. “ESKD Support”. You can enable it by opening the add-ins manager from Inventors “tools” menu. Check the “Loaded/Unloaded” checkbox and the “Load on Startup” checkbox.
Once the add-in is loaded and you have a drawing open, the “Annotate” ribbon menu appears as “Annotate (ESKD)” with a few extra options. Most notable is the “Technical Requirements” function.
This technical requirements tool is basically a note editor on steroids. The tool allows for the following additional functionality:
- Adding a new note to the list with one click button or by clicking the enter button. Notes act like bullet lists.
- Undo/Redo functionality.
- Move up/Move down tool for re-ordering the notes.
- Added stacked dimensions, surface finishes, feature control frames.
- Break notes into subsections.
- Automatically create new columns when the quantity of notes exceeds the set limit.
- Set the note column width to a hard value. This allows for precise control over the width of the columns.
- Save notes as templates to use on other drawings.
- Link balloons to notes. Updating the balloon number also updates the number in the note.
So now that I have seen what is possible, I’m wondering why doesn’t Autodesk expand this functionality beyond the GOST standard? This is almost exactly what we have all been looking for. With some minor updates, this could be a really nice main stream tool to use within all of our Inventor drawings. I did however, find a few things odd or insufficient. The size of the feature control frames and other symbols was a little on the small side. Also, the font used in the dialog windows was a little hard to read. It really would be nice to incorporate the standard dialogs for surface finishes and feature control frames used elsewhere for this technical requirements tool. The lack of the ability to embed custom sketched symbols is also lacking. I personally have a need to flag note numbers with a triangle. This denotes the note applies to a specific feature on the drawing and is more than just a general note. The ability to link notes to custom symbols would really be a fantastic feature as you can do with the balloons.
Beyond the “Technical Requirements” tool is a really nice title block editing tool that allows for property input to the title block through a dialog window that represents the appearance of the actual title block. If our standard iProperty editor could be customized in similar fashion for use with our own custom title blocks, this would bring smiles to many Inventor users’ faces. We all would like Autodesk to embrace the “delighting the customer” approach. Nothing delights us more than to improve features that persist as being cumbersome from release to release.