Tekla Tip 63: Symbols

4min read+PDF+video

Symbols are everywhere. They are a universal visual language for communicating concepts and instructions without the need for text of one type or another.

Things are no different in Tekla Structures. But did you know there are two ways of using symbols in Tekla? Which technique do you use? Maybe it’s time to switch? You can watch the demo video, or read the article below.

Tekla Tip 63 - how to use symbols?

Today’s article is all about minimising mistakes in your work. Symbols are an essential component of what you do in Tekla, but even if you do everything right, things can still go wrong. Let’s find out why.

CONTENTS

1. WINDOWS CHARACTERS

The first method of working with symbols is using Windows characters.

It’s easy to open the Windows Character Map app; simply press the Windows key on your keyboard; type char; then press enter. You could also right-click the app and pin it to your taskbar if you’d prefer.

Image

Find the symbol you’d like to add to your work. Then, look in the bottom-right corner of the app to find the keystroke; in the case of the example above, it’s (left) ALT + 0177. If this is a symbol you need frequently, this will be the fastest way of entering it, and you will probably end up knowing a few of these keystrokes by heart.

Note that when entering the numeric part of the keystroke, it must be entered via the number pad on your keyboard; the numbers above the letters will not work.

Everything seems fine so far; so, what is the potential issue with this?

Well, it comes down to languages. Depending on your workplace, you could be dealing with different colleagues who have different languages active on their computers.

For example, in Estonia where I am based, it’s quite normal that I will have colleagues with their language set as either Estonian, Russian, or English. The problem is that many Windows characters have different keystrokes in different languages, meaning that if I enter a character using one keystroke – for example, the diameter symbol – and a colleague opens that same drawing with their language set to English, that character can change to something completely different 😱

EST-VS-ENG-characters

Obviously, this is not a good thing; so, if your work environment has this situation, then it is probably best not to use this method. However, if you are confident that everyone uses the same language, then it can be a good solution 👍

2. TEKLA GRAPHICAL SYMBOLS

The second option is to use Tekla’s graphical symbols.

Tekla already has a library of select symbols, and beyond that, you can use Tekla’s Symbol Editor to modify them, or create your own symbols.

Using these symbols is fairly straightforward. In drawing view, you put the mark, then choose the symbol you want. Select the symbol file, and from it, the symbol you need. Similar to Windows Character Map, each symbol in the file will have its own reference number.

It sounds good, and for the most cases it is; but the downside to using this technique is if you have custom symbols, and Tekla doesn’t know where they are – then unsurprisingly, you’ll have problems!

So in this case, it’s a good option to use this symbol file method, but keep in mind that – especially if you have custom symbols – every Tekla user needs to know where that file is stored. I recommend to keep this symbol file with each Tekla model and then let Tekla search for this symbol file from this model folder. Use “set DXK_SYMBOLPATH=…” in user.ini file to set the location of Tekla symbols. Read more from Tekla support article.

Why keep files in the Tekla model, and not somewhere else? Take a look at my other tips and tricks on where to keep your files; with the Tekla template model, in a firm folder, or somewhere else.

Firm Folder or Template Model Folder

3. CONCLUSION

So, did you learn anything today? I hope you got a good idea of how these different symbol methods work, and which of them you’d prefer to use.

Perhaps you’ll change what you do as a result of this? Or, you might gain the confidence that the current way you do things is the right option for you 👍


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In this article, we’re going to break down the pros and cons of using a firm folder and the template model, for storing all the various files and settings for Tekla Structures.

After exploring those options, we’ll give you our recommendations. You can watch the demo video, or read the article below.

Tekla Tip 01 -  Template Model VS Firm Folder

Additionally, download and print out this short and illustrative PDF one-pager that you can use to remind yourself to use these tips, or to help explain them to someone else.

CONTENTS

1. Making changes at the company level

(Template) model folder

The key benefit of using this method are that there is greater control over all the content, making it the safest choice.

This means all project models will always be the same as when you were working with them, and you can come back at any time and view it whenever you need to.

So what’s the downside? Well, it’s that it takes more time to set up and manage. Files must be copied, changed, and removed – precisely – in all the projects that you want to be affected. Depending on the number of projects, this could become quite a daunting task (if you don`t automize it)!

Firm Folder

As opposed to using a template model folder, the best thing about using a firm folder is that it’s much faster; you only need to cope, change, and remove files in one place; the firm folder.

The flip side is that sometimes, making those changes might result in some unwanted surprises in your ongoing connected projects, which can be tricky to resolve.

A few more years down the line, it’s likely that there will have been changes made to the various files stored in the firm folder. That can mean that you won’t be able to view a model in the same shape as you made it in the past, in case you believe that will be important to you.

2. Different requirements for different customers

(Template) model folder

Using the template model folder method allows you to create country- or customer-specific setups, in much the same way as Trimble does different template models for engineering, precast, steel, etc. All the files remain in one place.

This means you have better control of which files and settings are seen, and therefore usable in the model.

Firm folder

Things start to get more complicated using the firm folder method.

For each customer or country you have, you’ll need to use separate project folder settings. This results in some files being stored in the firm folder, while others are taken from different project folders. Having the files in different locations makes things more difficult than they need to be.

The end result is that unnecessary firm folder files will be shown/included in these projects.

3. Making changes at the model level

(Template) model folder

With everything in the one place, making changes at the project or model level is super easy. All the files are just in the model folder!

Firm folder

When making changes on a model level, you can only do it within model folder files.

But remember – now you’ll have some files (e.g. template files) in the firm folder, other files in the project folder, and even more files in the model folder.

Sometimes, even more folders are used, and it really gets complicated for the user to know which file and where it’s being used!

4. Working remotely or sharing model

(Template) model folder

Easy; just copy and send all the model files, and it works so well because everything is already included!

Firm folder

If you opt for remote work, you’re going to need a VPN connection to your firm folder. But remember – without internet access, you won’t have access to these critical files.

There’s also the chance that some files will be missing, and then everything won’t work correctly.

5. Speed

(Template) model folder

If you are using the single user model, then all the files you need are stored locally on your computer. This is by far the fastest way to go, because you don’t need to fetch any information from remote sources.

Tip: For multi-user projects, we recommend using Tekla Model Sharing.

Firm folder

Even with a fast in-house server and speedy connection, retrieving assets from a network location is still going to be slower than if you had it all stored on your computer.

Of course, it gets even slower if you need to use a VPN connection.

6. Security

(Template) model folder

Here’s one area where the model folder falters somewhat.

Say for example an engineer leaves your company, or worse yet, decides they want to share your company-developed files externally. Well, it’s going to be easier to do that, because all your content is nicely kept in the one place, ready to go.

Firm folder

The inherent nature of the firm folder method is that it’s more complicated, as the files are stored in multiple locations. This means that it’s somewhat more difficult to get all the necessary files together in order for them to be shared.

7. Model size

(Template) firm folder

The model size is overall a little bigger, because all the required files are in the model folder.

Firm folder

As some key files are stored in the firm folder, the model size tends to be a little smaller.

When it comes to the firm folder

The firm folder can be located in several different places, including:

  • On the company server (for bigger companies the most used option and in this article used case)
  • Hosted in cloud-based file sharing services like Google Drive and Dropbox
  • On every user’s computer
  • In Trimble Connect

Considerations when using Google Drive, Dropbox, and others

These services constantly update the files on the local computer, which is great, though it does require an internet connection.

We and CS Wilson (CS Wilson Draws-Tekla Tech Talk: Episode 03) recommend to pause the updates for working, or you may have unintended conflicts arise.

Considerations when the firm folder is stored on the local computer

When there’s only one user, there’s no problem storing it this way.

Keep in mind, though, that when there are multiple users, then you must make sure that everybody’s firm folder is kept up to date, otherwise it could result in errors.

Our recommendations

As a best practice, we recommend storing as many files and settings as possible in (template) model folder. And template model is located in firm folder.

Then, apply “read-only” permissions to the firm folder for protection. Make a rule that only one person – the BIM manager – can add, modify, or delete its contents. Or it gets very messy fast, if everyone will start doing their modifications.

When one person has control over what’s going on in the firm folder, there is much bigger possibility that things are being kept consistent and clean.


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Selecting objects in models, drawings, and lists is an absolutely fundamental action in Tekla Structures.

So much so, that learning the most effective ways to do so will save you many hours in the long run! You can watch the demo video, or read the article below.

Tekla Tip 36 - Selecting Objects Tutorial

Additionally, download and print out this short and illustrative PDF one-pager that you can use to remind yourself to use these tips, or to help explain them to someone else.

CONTENTS

1. AREA SELECTING DIRECTION

There is a difference if you area-select objects in a model or drawing from left to right or from right to left. But there is no difference if you start picking the area from top to bottom or bottom to top.

  • If you select the area from left to right, Tekla will select only the objects that are entirely inside that area
Left to right
  • If you select the area from right to left, Tekla will select all objects the area touches.
Right to left

2. SELECTING WITH CTRL / SHIFT

This tip will work in models, drawings, lists, and even in Windows generally (e.g. selecting files or folders).

It works both ways; you hold down the CTRL or SHIFT key, and then select objects one by one with your mouse (or use area selection to select multiple objects with one go).

The difference between holding or without holding CTRL or SHIFT key down is that if you hold one of these keys down, Tekla will keep previously selected objects still selected.

  • Holding down CTRL while selecting inverts the selection, meaning if the object was not selected before then it will be selected, and if the object was selected before then now it will be deselected.
CTRL
  • Holding down SHIFT while selecting will select the object in any case. It doesn’t matter if the object was selected or not before; after selecting with holding shift key down, it will be selected.
SHIFT

3. SELECTING WITH CTRL / SHIFT IN A LIST

  • Using the SHIFT key in lists is a little different. Select one object in a list, then hold down the SHIFT key and choose any other object in the list. As a result, Tekla or Windows generally will select these two objects and all other objects between them.
SHIFT List
  • If you hold down CTRL then Tekla or Windows will select or unselect only the object(s) chosen using area selection.
CTRL List

4. SELECTING ALL WITH CTRL + A

This keyboard combination works in Tekla models, drawings, lists, and in Windows generally.

Sometimes there are too many objects and it may be time-consuming to zoom out in the model or drawing space, or do a lot of scrolling in order to select all objects.

Instead, you can just press CTRL+A and all objects will be selected. In the model space, you can use also selection filter with Tekla selection switches in order to select only one type of object in the whole model.

5. USING A COMBO

  • There are many cases where you might select all objects using CTRL+A or many objects using the SHIFT key, and then unselect unwanted objects by holding down CTRL key.
Combo

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We’ve helped produce one Tekla official environment, and since 2017, more than 10 company level localizations.

From producing these localizations, we’ve helped companies get started from scratch and quickly get the output the market is demanding from them. Later, seeing the value, we have brought up their Tekla efficiency to the next level.

Over years doing this work again and again, we have noticed a pattern and we have developed our extensive (more than 20 pages long) “Tekla Implementation Checklist” that we’ve used both for doing an audit or implementation plan with:

  • new companies starting out with Tekla Structures in their organization, and want to get going as quickly as possible, and,
  • companies already using Tekla Structures that want to find ways to improve their system and make it more efficient.

Now we’ve decided to make this checklist public and share it with you for free. Use this checklist to evaluate your company’s Tekla situation and we’re sure you’ll get some new ideas on how to improve the system and get Tekla working better for you.

Keep reading about our three step implementation process that has evolved with years of experience, and how to use this checklist on the way.

CONTENTS

WHY IS LOCALIZATION IMPORTANT?

Tekla Structures is not the cheapest software on the market, and for most new users, it may be a little difficult to see a good return on investment.

Often they say that the price is higher than other systems and it still takes the same amount of time – or even more – to get the same project done. But other companies who have used Tekla Structures for some time realize the benefits and laugh at the thought of going back to CAD software!

So why do some companies get more value from Tekla than others?

I believe that the difference is because of two main factors:

  • People – what people are used to working with, how they feel about it and how good they are with the software. Some people adopt new ways of working faster than others, but if there is a combination of motivation to use Tekla and good training with lots of practice, they will become effective.
  • Software – Tekla is a very powerful tool that has many possibilities, but out of the box it doesn’t do everything for you automatically. Ultimately, Tekla needs to be configured and tailored to your company’s needs. It’s your job to tell Tekla how you want things done. You need to customize and automate it according to your needs, in order to let it automatically do as many tasks as possible for you.

At Tekla HQ in Finland they have developed this fantastic tool and offices all over the world have done ~30 environments to customize it for local area needs.

Still, every company has its own specific needs, and in order to get most from it, localization at the company level is heavily recommended – or in some cases even inevitable.

The good thing is that you do the implementation only once, and all your future jobs will be affected positively without any extra effort. Tekla automation will help engineers be more productive and at the same time, the project quality will increase through the reduction of mistakes.

STEP 1. MAP THE SITUATION

The first thing that needs to be done is to map the current situation.

With a new Tekla user, this task is easier, as they are starting with a clean slate.

With an existing Tekla user, a full audit needs to be performed by following all the steps outlined in this document. It’s necessary to have a good overview of what has been done already to see what is missing, and at the same time, we want to reuse all the work that has been already done as much as possible.

Aside from investigating the Tekla-specific system setup, it’s very useful to get an overview of the company and its clients at least at some level. It’s also useful for the next steps – offering improvement options, prioritizing them, and finally combining them to into one structured and prioritized development plan. Depending heavily on the company type and specifics, the process usually looks like this:

  • We go through the current workflow from beginning to end. We don’t consider ourselves to be business consultants, but in many cases we can provide some good ideas that we have seen working well in other companies on how to get more benefits from the software for the whole workflow. There may even be changes we recommend at a higher level in order to obtain maximum benefits to your company as a whole, and subsequently for your clients.
  • Looking at the areas that you see the most problems in, and where you are looking for efficiency improvements. These two points should be always be kept in mind, in order to improve the company. How can we improve our efficiency and minimize project mistakes?

Finding the things of extra value that you can offer to your clients which your competitors don’t provide. We can’t always raise the prices for our work, but by offering this extra value, we will stand out from our competitors. The aim is to get a better reputation and get more work offers without lowering prices.

In your checklist

Write a number between 0-5 to rate your current situation and add comments below, like this:

1 Current Situation

STEP 2. IMPROVEMENT POSSIBILITIES

After mapping the current situation, it’s time to brainstorm or map all the improvement possibilities.

The base idea or usage of Tekla Structures is the same everywhere, but given that it’s such a capable and customizable software, it can be interesting to see how different companies are inventing different ways of getting more benefits from the same system.

If you already have this top-notch tool, using it to its full potential will ensure it’s as useful and profitable an investment as possible.

In your checklist

Write all the ideas you can think of to improve; something like this:

2 Improvements

STEP 3. PRIORITIZING

The last step before implementing changes and improvements is to prioritize the tasks.

The crucial tasks should be addressed first, followed by the tasks that provide the most value or benefits with the least time/money investment.

Our main goal is to ensure you will get more value and maximum return on your investment.

Each company case will be different, but often the priority order at a high level will look something like this:

  1. Getting Tekla Structures and licenses working on the company system and on everyone’s computer.
  2. Set common modelling rules and the most important guidelines.
  3. Essentials to fulfill basic market needs and get at least the same output as you got before with AutoCAD. This includes drawing and report templates with printing and exporting to DWG or PDF.
  4. The extra value that you can provide to your clients, without extra effort – e.g. OpenBIM IFC model or some other export formats, or additional information (Excel table/paper, or even in a visual way).
  5. Automate drawing creation: the drawing style, marks, and shop drawing dimensions. Usually, we start with general arrangement drawings and continue with shop drawings. The aim is to get drawings as fast as possible and minimize human errors. Some degree of human intervention is always needed, but utilizing the speed and ability of the computer to do the work according to the rules is a great productivity gain.
  6. Automated modelling: create pre-saved settings for existing tools or develop new custom components/macros/OpenAPI development tools to get more things done automatically and faster, with fewer errors. With different tools and settings, we can also speed up the modelling component and minimize possible errors or inconsistencies in the model.
  7. Documentation, e.g. rules, checklists, instructions, and examples. Document and standardize the processes to ensure that all projects will be done in the same manner. This is how every teenager working at McDonald’s restaurants can produce burgers with exactly the same taste and quality anywhere in the world.
  8. Training materials and video tutorials, especially for new employees. Once you have a successful system, very soon you need more and more skilled employees.

In your checklist

You can prioritize each topic, or even better, add priorities to each idea in this topic (if you have there more than one). Something like this:

3 Priorities

BONUS – RECOMMENDATIONS

In the planning stage, we highly recommend including people with experience in setting up Tekla environments, and anyone with knowledge on best practices or possible mistakes made by other companies. It’s far more efficient to include these people in the planning stage in order to avoid additional work down the line.

Spending a little more time on planning and getting it right the first time saves you a lot of time and money later. This principle is demonstrated well in construction, where spending more time on decisions at the beginning are much cheaper than having to make remedial changes later. Remember – measure twice, cut once!

Doing the situation audit and plan is only the first step. Without any action, it will remain on paper as a cute plan without any practical value. Use the momentum that you have right now and start with the first small steps as soon as possible. Based on priorities divide your plan into smaller phases that is easier to start and complete. If you don’t do it right away, the probability will rise that you will not do it in the future either. Every month that you don’t use Tekla to its full potential means your engineers and detailers are also inefficient and not as profitable.

We understand your situation and want to help. That’s why we provide this most important checklist without cost. Use it wisely, and if you have any questions, feel free to contact us contact@tsguide.eu – we’re more than happy to assist!

If there are no highly skilled Tekla ninjas in your company or they are quite busy with ongoing projects then go and check out how we could help you – https://www.tsguide.eu/tekla-company-environment/


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