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Design History
by Marc Thomas - 13 September 2006

I take the view that Design History should quietly get on with recording changes, providing unlimited undo as a fringe benefit, and not get in the way. The kind of set up where Design History continually prompts for input will just irritate users. From this base you can then start to use the increasingly flexible and powerful features this toolset offers.

The ability to go back through Design History and have all the changes made displayed is obviously useful both for users at the CAD face and managers trying to keep track of what is going on in project data. The option of rolling back to a particular point and then going off in a new direction is also enticing.

In MicroStation XM a feature has been added that is absolutely key to effective management of project data, particularly in the production phases. We can now attach reference files by a Design History Revision stage (or Design History Tag). This is supported by essential tools that allow Design History to be managed. Major Revision points can now be set, intermediate revision stages can be combined into one and the revision numbering can be formatted to display a wide range of established sequences.

If Design History has been disabled at the system level by the configuration variable MS_DESIGN_HISTORY = 0, remove this entry to enable it.

What follows is a scenario where Design History is set up so that users only need to interact with it when they want to note specific revisions and change major revision status and Design History formatting is applied to help identification of data types.

This means setting up your configuration at the system level with a “stealthy” implementation and training the users to commit changes with appropriate notes at times when they need to record revisions.
These may be developmental revisions or design change/issue revisions.
Users will need to know when and how to set a major revision stage and for ease of use, how to filter the Design History’s list. They will also need to know how to combine revisions.

System Configuration:
In the System Configuration set configuration variable:


These settings allow users to edit descriptions, combine a sequence of several revisions into a single revision, delete history and set major revision versions. Note changes to Design History are recorded and viewed through the audit command. Autoupgrade=1 will upgrade the Design History in any existing files to the current level. Note this changes Design History data and is not a file format change.

The “stealth” setting is:


That’s it!
The other configuration variables are irrelevant when this is set.

Note commit on close only adds a revision if changes are made to a file. Simply opening and closing a file is not a revision.

Seed Files:
In your seed files initialise Design History and set the Revision display format if appropriate. In this scenario, I want number format for masters, which is the default, but letter plus number format for sheets. The object here is to display revisions to Master and sheet files differently to reinforce the distinction between the model revisions, which are always work in progress and sheet files which are contractually issued drawings.

Whilst a format can be set at site or project level, if different formats are going to be used it is more flexible to set them in the seed file.
I want to have all sheet file revisions formatted in a manner similar to accepted UK practice, ie Revision A, B, C etc.
Extensive formatting options have been added to Design History during the XM beta stages, the relevant options for this situation are:
• AB/AA formatting choice to cover revisions going beyond one letter.
• Omit letters I and O
These are set by the following key-in:
history manage set revisionformat {0,letter,AB,omit i,omit o}.{1}

To set the basic number format if you have a system config that sets another format:
history manage set revisionformat {0}.{1}

Each seed file has revision 1.1 or A.1, with the description “file created”. This is unavoidable due to the structure of the scripting used. The idea of a formatting option that displayed the revision times -1 to allow revision 0 to be displayed was suggested, but that sounds too confusing to me.
Master files proceed on a numerical revision with versions being set as appropriate at key stages in the project. These milestones can also be marked by Design History Tags.

Using these two types of file:
The master files proceed in the usual manner. Revisions are numbered from 1.1 onwards. The project team need to discuss and agree what constitutes a major revision and how this will be applied to all master files in the project. Major revisions in the Master files will not necessarily always coincide with the issue of sheet files.

Sheet files will be numbered A.1 onwards. Major revisions will be set at the point when the sheet files are issued as drawings. There should be no need for other revision points for sheet files. Major “work in progress” changes to masters can be recorded in the Master’s revision history with no need for an equivalent sheet file revision.

As the master proceeds it will be referenced into the sheet files. At present we are doing this in the old fashioned way, 1:1 references with drawing borders in cells scaled up to the appropriate size. When attaching the master use the Revision pop-up menu to select the specific revision or revision tag that you want. This is set by default to latest, a setting that replicates previous behaviour.

Instead of this default selecting the revision that you want isolates that sheet file from work in progress on the master files, fixing one of the biggest management problems we have with CAD data. When the sheet file needs to be issued next, the reference attachment is changed to the current revision. Previous versions of the sheet file are available by going back through it’s Design History (as well as by referring to the PDF that you issued!).

The beauty of referencing a specified revision is obviously that the sheet file stays fixed at that version until you specify another.

Once a reference is attached its Design History will be displayed in the Design History listing as well as the active (sheet) file’s Design History. The Design History formatting will be displayed in the format set in each file, so in this scenario, the sheet will be in the A.1 format and the master in 1.1 format. All revisions in all files will be shown. Note that once a reference has been attached a new icon appears in the Design History dialog allowing ref Design History to be toggled on/off.

Design History Tools:
To set a revision go to the Utilities menu > Design History > Set Revision Number or key in “history manage set version n.n”. You have to have already committed any current changes before doing this. At this point you may wish to add a Design History Tag as an additional identifier of the revision stage. Utilities menu > Design History > Tags or key-in “history tag dialog”. Click the new tag icon and select the revision stage you wish to tag.

Revisions can be filtered in a similar manner to the filtering in Levels dialogs allowing us to navigate through complex design histories.

To Combine intermediate revisions, go to Utilities menu > Design History > Combine. This opens a dialog listing the current Design History. Simply select the sequence that you want to combine, add a useful and meaningful description and click OK.