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A History Class

How about a little history lesson? Most Map3D users today forgot or don’t know how AutoCAD Map3D came about. So for today’s lesson we go back in time and look at a few key points in the life of AutoCAD Map3D. Of course my disclaimer is all this is from my memory and some creative use of the wayback machine to locate some info and is not the official history or endorsed by Autodesk.
Let’s start at the beginning August 9, 1996 with a quote from Autodesk themselves. “ Autodesk today took its first step into the fast-growing geographic information systems (GIS) market, as the company began shipping its first dedicated mapping and GIS product, AutoCAD® Map.”
The price for the software then was listed as $4,495.00 US  or an upgrade price of $365 to $995 depending on the users current version. The upgrades where from AutoCAD or AutoCAD Data Extension® (ADE). Now we all know what AutoCAD is but what’s this AutoCAD Data Extension program? Well in layman’s terms it was a OEM for AutoCAD, the simple API or code that you had to build the interface for. If you look at some of the commands that have around from day one still in the 2011 version today you can see the prefix ADE.
Another quote from the past “AutoCAD Map software focuses on five key areas: digital map creation; analysis; maintenance of accurate, up-to-date maps; data exchange; and publishing.” That statement is still true today.  If fact that statement and those five key areas is how MAP got the name MAP, it could have been named GIS Desktop or something else for all we know. After all this was the same time frame that Mechanical Desktop, Land Desktop and Architectural Desktop were being released. So why the name MAP? Simple someone there at Autodesk took a good look at what MAP did and put the pieces together in a nice acronym MAP. Manage, Analyze, and Presentation. Manage is the using of multiple drawings and updating all of them at one time and having multiple users working in the same drawings at once.  Analyze by creating the topologies and query objects based on extended data.. Presentation is the theme creation for those drawings and analysis preformed. 
The MAP acronym is still true today, 14 years later. We manage our drawings and data, we analysis that data and/or drawings and then we present those findings from the analysis. 
Lets jump ahead 6 months to May 28, 1997 to the next version of MAP (MAP2) unlike the first version of MAP which ran on the R13 AutoCAD, ran on AutoCAD R14. A much improved platform and the first taste of layouts. Here’s a quote from that press release “"Performance alone is a compelling argument to move to AutoCAD Map Release 2.0," says Steve Carter, Automated Mapping Project Systems Coordinator at PacifiCorp, the third largest electric utility west of the Mississippi. Carter currently uses AutoCAD Map 1.0, and beta tested Release 2.0. "Reduced start-up time, faster queries, and better draw and edit performance are noticeable in this new release."
Not only was the performance improvements  a big reason to move up to MAP2 but the listed price for it dropped to $4295.00. How often do you see that? A new and improved version for a lower cost?
MAP 2 also was able to import ERSI ARC Info/Coverage files and use solid fill for thematic mapping and supported raster files.
The next version, MAP 3, did not get released until  June 18, 1998. I was not able to find much information on this version. During this time period Autodesk was focusing on World Map, MapGuide and GIS Design  Server.
The next version MAP 4 or MAP 2000/2000i came out built on the AutoCAD 2000/2000i version. The I was for internet and again most of the new features were the standard AutoCAD features and/or some changes to the interface, layouts and plotting. It was released in the early year of 2000 then again later in the year as 2000i. As I remember it this was the same time frame that Autodesk was offering the VIP subscription as a way to budget the your software and get current releases. Again I was unable to find any information or press releases from that time but do recall signing up for the VIP program and getting MAP 2000 and then MAP 2000i in a short period of time. That short turn around, that I recall may have been the results that I was able to budget for AutoCAD MAP and get the company to upgrade at that time of the release cycle and going from AutoCAD to AutoCAD MAP.
MAP 5 (2002) was released around June/July of 2001. Build on AutoCAD 2002 it now offered support for MrSid and ECW files along with a connection to Oracle 8i Spatial database. 
I found some documentation on a MAP 6 also build on AutoCAD 2002 that was to be released later at the end of the year 2002. The key features of this release was “Classification”, “COGO” tools, “Annotation” and the new “Multiloop” Polygon. Now I am thinking that Map 6 was to become MAP 2004. About the time of this release is when Autodesk decided that the naming convection was misleading and decided to rebrand the verticals with the same version as standard AutoCAD. So I’ll say that MAP 6 was re-released a few months later in 2003 as MAP 2004 build on the new AutoCAD 2004 platform. In my research I found some archived web pages that contradict each other or where not complete so if I’m wrong on that I’ll let someone correct me.
The next version released in 2004 also had a slight name changed, it was now MAP 3D 2005. The addition of 3D was added to the name. This version had a little mix of Civil 3D in it. It allowed point groups, surface creations, analysis and visualization. It also had LandXML support.
The 2006 version MAP 3D 2006 gave us the first look of workspaces, a way to create a users’ interface the way we wanted. It also gave us a new Map Book tool. With a few standard AutoCAD feature like dynamic blocks there where some performance changes as well.
Then came AutoCAD MAP 3D 2007, a new way to work with GIS data, the FDO or data connect. Using some of the functions out of Map Guide we now have a method to connect with more data without having to use the old map import/export commands. Even though we could connect to Oracle, MySQL and ESRI SDE data in older versions the 2007 version made it a lot easier.  I like to say that the 2007 version takes us up to the current “modern” method of creating maps and data. The next few versions released added new features to work with the data connect/FDO data and brings up to the current version we are using today. 
So there you go a semi short AutoCAD MAP history lesson. If anyone finds any errors then free feel to point them out as I said this is an unofficial history and working with a 50+ year old mind it may be jumbled up at times.


Using AutoCAD MAP3D Document View

As promised here is a sample of using the Document View functions in Map3D. To set the stage for this we set the scenario as so. We GPSed the utility power line with a handheld GPS unit. As we GPS the pole we also took a picture of the pole, we tag or named the image file the same as the pole number. When we got back into the office we downloaded the images into their own folder on the server alone with the GPS points and data we collected in the field. We then imported the points and created the object data tables from the point data. So now we want to link those images to our points or poles block in the map so as we click on a pole we can view the photo we took in the field.

This is a good example of using the document view tool. The first step is making sure the OD table has the correct information and fields in it and that the images are in a folder that we can get to.



Looking at my example we see the OD table has a field value that matches the image file names.

Once those two steps are complete we have to define the Document View. In order to do this we need to be in the Classic Map workspace. Looks like whoever created the default Ribbons for Map3D forgot these commands or thought we didn’t need them. Using the Map menu pulldown select the Define Document View from the Object Data section.


In the Define Document View Dialog (Yes the old style dialog that you can not resize) We set up the parameters Map3D uses to open/display the images.


1. Give the definition a name and description.

2. For the expression in my example I use the PoleNumber field from my Pole_No_OD Object Data Table. You can use the Expression button to browse and select your expression. (Do not confuse that with the FDO expression builder)

3. Select the folder where your documents are stored, you can use the browse button to get to it.

4. Type in the file extension for the type of document you want to view. In my example its jpg but you can also use word documents or (almost) any type of document to view.

5. Next you need to provide the command line for the application used to open and view the documents. Again use the browse button and browse to the exe file that will open the document. With my example and images as my documents I selected my installed IrfanView application, I could used Paintbrush as well but I like the speed of IrfanView.

6. Click the ADD button to add it to the list at the top.

Now the Update button is nice if you need to go back and change one of the parameter. Nice to have for the first few tries, you do not have to start over if something does work the first time, edit and update.

Now that you have the document view defined, to use it select the View Associated Document from the Map menu Object Data section and select the object with the OD table attached. If everything works you should have that document open up in it’s own application.


The sample in action.

Greek or Nerd (Using links in OD Tables)

To start I’ll say I’m one of those geo-cache hunters that spends my free time looking for Tupperware hidden out in the woods using million dollar satellites. If you don’t know what a geocaching is here is a link. So thinking I would tie it into AutoCAD MAP3D and have a little advance over the next guy, I like viewing those little hidden treasure location in a map and see them all at once and in relation to each other.  As doing so I figured I would share a little solution that many Map3D users have asked over the years. That is how can I open a hyperlink from my data.

To start here’s a look at my map and the object data I have attached to my geocache points.


The points are the standard AutoCAD points with object data attached. The data contains a field with a value to a web site page. So how can I open the web page up to view it with out the old copy from the OD table and open my web browser and paste the value into it. Simple. Just use a little lisp routine that I’ll show you how you can customize to fit your Object Data table and fields names.

Here’s my version of the lisp file;

(defun c:FL (/)
  (setq ent (car (entsel “\nSelect point to follow link”)))
  (setq link (ade_odgetfield ent “waypoints” “url” 0))
  (command “Browser” link)

All you need to do  change the table name and field name to meet your meets. In my sample my table name is WAYPOINTS and field name is URL. Just write your lisp file with those changes after the (ade_odgetfield ent in line 3 of my example. Save the lisp file, load it in your drawing, then use the command FL to Follow your Links.

Now if you need to link to a image file or another file on your network I will post about using the object data document view tools that works for those later.

A quick video of it in action.

AutoCAD Map3D 2011 and Raster Design OE

Anyone that uses MrSID image files in their Map3D or Civil 3D know that you  need to install the Raster Design Object Enabler or Raster Design installed to insert them with the Map image insert command. Problem is right now there is no Raster Design OE for the 2011 versions. However thanks to a geeky customer there is a work around.

The first step is you need a working version of an AutoCAD 2010 installed on your workstation. This can be Map3D, Civil 3D, Standard AutoCAD of the vanilla favor or even the water down application named TrueView. Now if you are running on a 64bit OS I was told you can skip the 2010 products but with a 32 bit OS you need one of those install.

Next download and install the 2010 version of the Raster Design OE. Located here A reminder you need administrator rights to install it and follow the standards to install any of AutoCAD applications, in other words shut down any apps you have running and shut down you anti-virus software for the installs.

The next step is you need to open the windows registry. To do this the simple way is from the START button > Run and type in regedit for the “open”  then click the OK button. Now a disclaimer, if you don’t feel comfortable working with the registry then call some that does. Do not blame the Murph if your PC starts to act up later because you messed up the registry.

With the registry open navigate/browse to the


key. Select it, right click, and select Export. Save the exported registry key to a folder that you can get to, the name for it can be any name of your choice (provide you follow the naming convections enforced by Microsoft).


Now browse to the folder you saved the exported key to and open it in a text editor (Notepad works best). With the file open edit the first line (not the top header line) so it reads as 


Just change the R18.0 to read R18.1. Save the file and close it.


Next step is to double click on the file in Windows Explorer. This will import the registry key into the registry.  If you get the Warning Message / Registry Editor


just click the OK button.

Now if everything worked you should be able to open up Map3D or Civil 3D 2011 and use the Mapiinsert to insert a MrSID format image into you projects like you could before.


First this is a hack to get the SID files in the 2011 versions, it is not supported by Autodesk so if something goes wrong don’t expect help from your support team. Second anyone that knows what all those numbers mean in the registry will see that the imported registry key is for the 2011 version but still points to 2010 Raster Design OE, if you try to install the supported version of Raster Design OE when it gets released you may get the message saying it is already installed. You may have to delete that key for the official supported version to install and work properly .

AutoCAD MAP 3D 2011

In case you have not heard, the newest version of AutoCAD MAP 3D has been released. By now all subscription members should have it available for download from their subscription site. For those that have not or have not had a chance to install and dig around with it I will show a few of new features.

The Grid and Graticules feature allows you to create a grid references system in paper space. It uses the Military Grid Reference System (MGRS) and updates as the model space changes.


You need to assign a coordinate system to your map before using it but once you create the grid you can edit the labels, they are plain mtext objects so if you need to use large text for certain labels you can.  The grid also works with map books to use it just create the grid in your map book layout template file.


Speaking of grids and coordinate systems the new version of Map 3D now allows you to track coordinates in multiple  coordinates systems. So your map can be in State Plane and you can see what a point or location is in Lat/Lon or any other coordinate system  to include the MGRS.


For those that installed the Subscription Advantage Packs for 2010 you know about the LiDAR features. They in 2011 and work the same way as before. The only differences the commands are now on the insert tab of the ribbon. Once you create an index you can add the point cloud to create a surface or filter by classification.

The other thing that is new to AutoCAD MAP 3D are the FDO Providers for SQLite and POSTgreSQL databases. Both of those database are free open source and work great for the users wanting to get into data stores and spatial databases.

Now for power users of Map3D the Workflow Designer has more activities to add to your workflows. When it was introduced last year it had limited activities now there a good number to select from to include standard AutoCAD commands that means you can now use lisp routines as part of the workflows. If you can type the command on the command line then you can put it in your workflow.



So that’s the new stuff in AutoCAD MAP 3D and you may of seen them already, BUT……… what about some standard AutoCAD core features. Things we can use in Map3D.  How often have you wanted to create some parcel maps and have an image under them. You always had to leave the polygons unhatched or use some dots hatch patterns then scale the dots up to appear as transparent or you used FDO. Now anymore, you now have a transparency control for layers and hatch. So if you want to work with standard AutoCAD polygons to theme on your data you now have the same features that FDO stylization does.



The Before Look



The After Look with 2011

You also have an option to set a background color to any hatch that is not solid. Now the one thing is the Map Polygon (mpolygon) fill options do not have the same properties or allow a background color. Maybe next year we will have that. Just beware the hatch interface is all on the ribbon now. You can open up the hatch dialog  by entering Ton the command line but once you get used to the new interface you may not want to waste the real estate for the big bulky dialog. Give it a few test runs and see how you like it. The other AutoCAD feature we now have is the select similar command. Now using that you need to type in the command “SELECTSIMILAR” unless someone else finds it on the ribbon or add the command to one of your existing ribbon panels.  

As time goes by I’ll blog a little more on each new feature but that’s the run down on the new 2011 version of AutoCAD MAP 3D.

Map3D and 64bit ODBC Connections

So with more users upgrading to 64 bit operating systems more are failing to connect to their access or excel files. Maybe you try to drag and drop a mdb file on the Map Explorer or tried to use a ODBC connection in the Data Connect. Did you get one of these messages to popup?


DataConnectFail   FailToConnect

Well the problem is Windows 64 bit does not have any ODBC drivers for Access or Excel files. If you look at the ODBC connection manager all we see are the drivers for SQL. 


So what is a user to do? Well we can not throw out the new OS and reinstall a 32 bit OS, but we can do  something else. If you are on subscription you can still install and run AutoCAD Map3D 2009 which is a 32 bit application and will run on a 64 bit OS if you install the correct version that needs to be downloaded. Check with your reseller on getting the link to download or contact support on your subscription site. Once you installed the 2009 version on your 64 bit system you can now make an ODBC connection to our files. However you can not use the ODBC Connection Manager from the control center. You need to use the ODBC Connection Manger for 32 bit. Browse to the folder  C:\Windows\SysWOW64 and locate odbcad32.exe. This will allow you to set up your ODBC connection for a 32 bit application.


Now you can use your mdb and xls file again. Just remember you need to use AutoCAD Map 3D 2009. Obvious you do not want to use 2009 forever otherwise you would not have updated, so now may be time to start looking at copying your data to SQL databases. And before users start complaining that Autodesk is not taking care of it’s long time users and leaving them out in the rain, I can ensure you that Autodesk along with other software developers are on Microsoft’s case trying to get ODBC drivers for 64 bit OS.

What’s on Your Screen?

No! Not the screen door but on the AutoCAD Map 3D User’s interface. Guillermo Melantoni one of Autodesk’s employees involved in the next version of AutoCAD is wanting to know how users are setting up their workspaces, ribbons, toolbars and all that fun stuff. So if you are wanting a say in the next few versions of the software sent a screen capture of your UI to with the subject line as MyUI. For more info you can read a post on his blog ”What a Mesh”.


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