(Part 3 – Adding your own custom attribute columns to the AutoCAD Electrical Excel spreadsheet, add data, then trigger drawing update)
Autodesk’s Nathan Eliason hosted a webcast last Wednesday that focused on AutoCAD Electrical’s ability to use Excel to edit its drawing sets. I helped put the demo together and was responsible for real-time Q & A support while Nathan was “on stage”.
This posting is a brief summary of what Nathan covered in the mid-part of the hour-long webcast – using Excel to quickly revise a copied project but enhancing the Excel sheet with some custom attribute columns. It might serve as a simple overview / tutorial of this AutoCAD Electrical feature.
Part 1 of this tutorial, here, demonstrated the following sequence:
- 1) Copy existing project and drawings to new names,
- 2) Export the project drawing data “To Spreadsheet”,
- 3) Open Excel spreadsheet and edit, edit, edit
- 4) Push the edited data back to the drawing set using the “From Spreadsheet” utility
Part 2 of this tutorial, here, demonstrated how to go beyond just writing edited values back to existing attributes on the drawings. It showed how to trigger actual block swaps in the target drawings by editing the block name field in the Excel spreadsheet.
Part 3 – Adding custom attribute columns to the Excel spreadsheet
Now, Part 3 will demonstrate that you are not limited to the preset list of attributes that AutoCAD Electrical pushes out to Excel. You can go back in, after the spreadsheet is written, and customize it with additional columns. These can then be used to push additional attribute data back out to the project drawings.
Maybe we’ve modified our library symbols. We’ve added in some extra attribute definitions that are not standard AutoCAD Electrical. For example, on panel footprint symbols for pilot lights we’ve added a “COLOR” attribute to show a color abbreviation. For example, “R” for red, “G” for green, “A” for amber.
But there is no “COLOR” column extracted by the “To Spreadsheet” command. So there is no place to type in a different value for the color attribute value. We don’t have an option to push Excel-edited values out to non-supported attributes.
Are we out of luck here? No, there’s a work-around.
After the Excel spreadsheet is created, we can add some more labeled columns to it. We can insert a new column with a column label of “COLOR” and then type new values into it !
Then, any non-blank values entered into this new column will attempt to find and update the attribute whose name is at the top of the column.
So our non-blank values in the “COLOR” column trigger the Update “From Spreadsheet” utility to look for the target attribute “COLOR” on each component. If present, then the attribute COLOR is updated.
In our example here, the pilot light panel footprint symbols in our project are updated with new color codes pulled directly from our column-added spreadsheet.
Conclusion / Summary
You are not limited to the attributes that Autodesk defined in the “To Spreadsheet” utility. You can add more attribute columns “after the fact” (i.e. after the initial version of the spreadsheet xls file is written out by AcadE). Add data to these new columns. These then become active when you later run the “From Spreadsheet” utility to update the project drawing set.