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big projects and notes tool

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i think you?ll find it a no. Now the lnog answer is that you need to manage the keynotes carefully yourself. VectorWorks will not manage keynotes on several different files drawn by 4 different architects. you are best to se up a sheet layer with all the keynotes and assign the numbers there. Then the architects use the number that you give them.

What need is a CAD manager to manage your files for creating and printing, to make sure that when you need to print the document set that all the information flows...

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This sounds like a "standards of practice" type of question. It leads to the question, why would you want to continue sequential numbering across your printed sheets? If you do, then the "detail numbering" system might work better -- e.g., detail 23 on sheet A-96. But then, do you really want to tag all your notes that way? For keynotes, the numbers reference only items on the same sheet. Makes sense. For general notes, one may say, "look at general note #74." Period. You then go to the general notes sheet to read it.

Just my 2?.

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Good point!

Good example, too. I remember an old project with a similar dilemma.

I believe you would have to abandon the automatic and efficient built-in keynote numbering system of VW. Just create your own "schedule" of elevation notes and paste it as a symbol on each elevation drawing sheet. Then use another symbol with linked text as a "pointer" object on the drawing.

Unless there's a hidden feature with keynotes that I'm missing...

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this is what i am doing. it works great, but the set up of such a system is a bit much. just wanted to know if there was a better way.

an example of the system:

4.04 BRICK TIES (04082)




the number 4.04 is a symbol and gets placed on the drawing. then the number and the note (which is also a symbol) gets placed in a 4" wide column on the sheet. any detail that shows a brick tie gets marker 4.04 regardless of what sheet it is on. makes checking a lot faster

the problem is managing all of this.

it would be great to have a notes tool that could do all this.

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Sounds architectural to me (AEC to be more correct).

When it's an AEC drawing, the most common notation systems are either fully descriptive text blocks right next to the drawing with leader lines pointing to components, or...

Or tiny little numbers, perhaps inside ovals, taking up hardly any drawing space, pointing to the drawing components. The little numbers are keys. At the side of the drawing is a list of notes. Each note is numbered. When these numbers match the keys, you have a keynote system of notation.

What you describe seems to be some hybrid or half-way system where you want numbers and words here and there and they don't really mean much by themselves.

You just need to establish an "office standard." Create a list of notes. Turn the entire list into a symbol, which can always be edited and updated and imported. The oval is another symbol. Contain all your description in the list, then use ONLY the pointer oval on your drawing:


This is the AEC way.

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thanks for the imput. this is what i am doing. in the example i gave above the number 4.04 is the keynote just minus the oval. this takes you to the note;

4.04 BRICK TIES (04082)




this is the complete note for 4.04 because it is all related to the brick tie.

at any rate, the notes tool does not keep the same keynote for an item for different files such as the post for "Project Setup" hence the "make notes symbols" seems the way to go.

thanks for your input.

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i think we need something like this:

"The new keynoting system utilizes the AutoCAD 2005 field technology and uses keynotes defined in a Microsoft Access database, ensuring that they are standard notes controlled from a central location. The Reference Keynote tool can be used to quickly annotate 2D sections and elevations, detail components, and AEC objects in accordance with the centrally defined standards (see Figure 2). Additionally, because the keynotes use field codes, their display can be dynamically set to Key only mode, Note only mode, or Key and Note mode, as required for the task at hand. A separate tool is available to create sheet keynotes. Accompanying both kinds of keynoting tools are Legend tools for automatically creating and maintaining keynote legends, based on the new AutoCAD 2005 style-based Table object. You can generate a legend of one sheet or of selected sheets in a project."

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my 2 cents

when one does a lot of site visits and one talks to

the people that actually use the drawings to build things

the keynote system is the LOUDEST complaining that you will here on a job site

the call out that actually spells out what

things are is always appreciated on a job site

even by the contract administrators that have

to review the work and answer questions.

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So very true. They hate flipping through sheets, period. The concept of keynotes also seems too clever for some of them, like, "WTF do those little numbers mean?!" Then if the numbers sequentially cross multiple sheets or get repeated elsewhere, be prepared for some complaints, some confusion, some mistakes, some change orders, maybe some design changes... Owner ultimately pays, right? LOL.

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Mechanix, et. al.

From 31 years with a license to "practice" and 45 years in the construction field I would like to say that there are several things which get you into trouble on construction documents. Note blocks and duplicate callouts are among them.

? Note blocks which are on one sheet and referred to by several sheets via keynotes. The rule for construction drawings is say it once and where it should be expected to be. On sheet 'A-ExtElev-1' (however your firm numbers them) If you call out what the gutter is or the fascia there it does not have to be repeated through the rest of the elevation drawings. In the detail showing the gutter, call the gutter out as "See exterior elevation A on sheet 'A-ExtElev-1'".

Make your notation system convenient to the construction guy - he makes more per hour than you do - and always complains. I have one contractor who tells me he hates to read notes. Use simple notation and industry standard. There is of course no completely universal industry standard. What he considers industry standard are the way that unlicensed residential designers and now retired architects who mentored him used. However he says that to annoy me. My notes have bailed him out of sticky supplier and subcontractor situations. Because my notes are:

1. As simple and complete as possible.

2. Always occur on the same page as the areas they address. e.g. electrical circuit notes on electrical, Elevation notes on the Key elevation where all materials are labeled. (Yes there are other note blocks on other elevation sheets because materials change - not a perfect world.)

3. Point or refer unambiguously to the item they describe.

4. Are only given once and located where I have found by years of experience that a contractor, estimator, building inspector, plan checker, etc. will expect them to be. - Why the once rule - read the literature put out by the professional liability insurers and researched studies put out by Guidelines Publications (Fred Stitt). Lawyers drive big settlements through ambiguous and/or conflicting notes on the drawings.

How you do it? - Keynotes are not bad if they are close to the area of the drawing the actual key symbols are used. 1/8" plans are hard to annotate without keynotes. No matter who grumbles in the field - consistent systems of notations on the same sheet are readily understood by construction people.

One liner callouts should only occur where they are expected to be. Certainly one line callouts are preferred by construction people in the field. (Users of CONDOC System take note: Go into the construction trailer and see how the General C has noted up your cool number system. If only you could see the notes on the copy in their lawyers office!)

One final note - some of the notes/callouts we put on construction documents are nuisances to both us and the constructors. That is the wordy notations we often add to drawings which quote verbatim sections of the building code or are "required" on the drawings by the plan checker's comments. My friend the Contractor and I agree that I need to invent a consistent way of placing these notes so that the inspector/plan checker is happy and the constructors realize that they better pay attention and read it. No matter how much it hurts their eyes.

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bclydeb, thanks for your input.

i think people are missing my point.

when an office has a pig project and many people are working on it. one runs into the problem of keeping the notes uniform. hence, the question about the note tool referencing a master file that everyone could access. (i never said anything about having all notes on one big drawing sheet and only keynotes everywhere else) if a change needs to be made, one just needs to change the master file. then all the drawing notes update throughout the office. like WGR. hence, the reason for the AutoCad post above.

as to Fred Stitt:

my keynote example above "4.04" is right out of his "joy of drafting" book.

and "C1 WATERSTOP 03150" which is another type of keynote, is from his book "Standard Notes & Keynotes"

neither of these keynote systems can be used with the notes tool.

(Markers for Keynotes see pervious post)

as for "duplication leads to error" not true. IF your notes are symbols or managed by the notes tool.

so, on a big project if you want to control the notes, one needs to use symbols which are then referenced and not the notes tool. the notes tool will give you the same note but use a different keynote # which would make checking a nightmare.

i thank everyone for their input.

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I also appreciate bclydeb's comments. When looking at the bigger picture, his point may be quite on the mark.

...the question about the note tool referencing a master file that everyone could access. (i never said anything about having all notes on one big drawing sheet and only keynotes everywhere else) if a change needs to be made, one just needs to change the master file. then all the drawing notes update throughout the office...

Your original post:

... numbering system [that] needs to be the same on all files.

At first I thought you were talking about sequential keynote numbering across sheets. Then I thought you were talking about projects where you need to call out unique siding materials in large elevation drawings that occupy several sheets.

Now I'm not sure what you're talking about.

Are you suggesting a change to the Text Database feature such that it can be updated and modified outside of VW? I've caught a glimpse of that wish item somewhere. It's a good idea. An overhaul and cleanup of the general notes/ keynotes/ callouts may be just what's needed!

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Fred Stitt is a great resource. However, the CONDOC notes numbering, no matter how great the idea was, has slowly but surely been abandoned by all the practicing architects that I know (if it was ever adopted in the first place). I appreciate bclydeb's comments. Always easy to spot the architects that have either done construction themselves or have spent a lot of time in the field interacting with the trades (I think its easy for the builder's to spot too!).

We're all looking for the most clear cut way of relaying information to the builder.

Having said that, I think there's a lot of room for improvement int the way that VWA implements notes/callouts.

cheers, mmm

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thanks for all your comments. below is a explanation of Freds noting system.

this i would like to do but as we already know the notes tool does not work well with this system. such a system would be very useful on big projects as well as small.

from the book "Standard Notes & Keynotes" by Fred Stitt


Construction drawings commonly have an average of three to six significant errors in each working drawing sheet. For many years, we've found this to be true in drawings for projects of all types and sizes. Some firms have many more errors on average; some have virtually none.

Most of the errors are notation errors: omissions, contradictions, mis-identifications, over-notation, duplication or conflict with specifications, and misspellings.

A standard notation system is the first step toward eliminating these errors. It's also a significant step toward reducing drafting time, clarifying drawing content, and improving overall coordination among all the construction documents.

A standard notation system has other advantages:

? Standard notes serve as checklists of drawing content. Standard lists of drawing notes help avoid omissions in drawings and instruct drafters in drawing content.

? When combined with the CSI MasterFormat specification numbers, standard notes are a guide to all items that will require specification. They show the contractor exactly where to look in the specs for additional information.

? In addition, when combined with the five-digit CSI MasterFormat numbers, the notes are automatically linked to standard detail files.

? And perhaps most usefully, they provide the basis of a master keynote system.


The first rule of efficient notation is to start with "identification notes" rather than "assembly notes." In other words, most notes in the broadscope drawings (plans, elevations, cross sections) just name objects and construction materials.

Once items are identified, information can then be added relative to dimensions, assembly instructions, etc. But such added notes are not to overlap, duplicate, or substitute for written specifications.

Over-elaborate notation is the most common cause of errors and contradictions in working drawings. Senior drafters and project managers often want to explain their construction intent in considerable detail, and it's hard for them to resist doing so. Sometimes notes will extend into full sentences, even paragraphs. While their intention is to clarify the drawings, long notes have the opposite effect.

We urge users of our system to start with simple "identification notes." Use them as keynotes, and elaborate on them later as necessary, with "assembly notes" wherever appropriate in the fields of the drawings.


Here are the most efficient ways to use standard notes:

1) Drawings should start as raw line data, without notation. Notes should not be started until line work is well under way. If a drafter observes an important note that should be included, it can be jotted down and added later.

2) Whoever is supervising and/or checking drawings should use the standard notes list as a working drawing content checklist for each particular sheet.

3) When the supervisor or drawing checker finds a note that should be included, he or she can write the keynote prefix number on the check print.

Thus if the note "R21 GRADE SLOPE AT BUILDING LINE" should be included in the Site Plan, only the "R21" needs to be written in red on the check print, with an arrow pointing at its object.

The drafter will then refer to the same standard notation list and either copy the complete note into the field of the drawing, or onto the keynote list on the right-hand side of the drawing sheet. Or the supervisor may be primarily responsible for managing the final keynote legend.

Details of systematic notation procedures and other options will become clear as you use the system.


This Guidelines Standard Notation and Keynotes System introduces a new alpha-numeric approach to keynote numbering.

Instead of abstract numbers, each keynote is preceded by a letter (or pair of letters) that indicates the type of construction being noted. All are based on the CSI MasterFormat divisions and subdivisions.

These letters are:

G General Notes -- general identifications and instructions to contractor.

R Reference Notes

T Temporary Facilities (CSI Division 1: General Requirements)

E Earthwork (CSI Division 2: Site Construction)

FN Foundation (CSI Division 2: Site Construction)

U Utility Materials & Services (CSI Division 2: Site Construction)

D Drainage & Containment (CSI Division 2: Site Construction)

P Pavements & Appurtenances (CSI Division 2: Site Construction)

S Site Improvements/Amenities (CSI Division 2: Site Construction)

L Landscaping (CSI Division 2: Site Construction)

C Concrete (CSI Division 3: Concrete)

M Masonry (CSI Division 4: Masonry)

MT Metals (CSI Division 5: Metals)

W Wood, Rough Carpentry (CSI Division 6: Wood)

WF Wood, Finish Carpentry (CSI Division 6: Wood)

WW Wood, Architectural Woodwork (CSI Division 6: Wood)

TM Thermal & Moisture Protection (CSI Division 7: Thermal & Moisture Protection)

DR Doors (CSI Division 8: Doors & Windows )

WN Windows (CSI Division 8: Doors & Windows)

F Finishes (CSI Division 9: Finishes)

SP Specialties (CSI Division 10: Specialties)

EQ Equipment (CSI Division 11: Equipment)

FR Furnishings (CSI Division 12: Furnishings)

SC Special Construction (CSI Division 13: Special Construction)

CV Conveying Systems (CSI Division 14: Conveying Systems)

PL Plumbing (CSI Division 15: Mechanical)

HV Heating & Ventilation (CSI Division 15: Mechanical)

EL Electrical (CSI Division 16: Electrical)

These keynote letters are listed throughout the standard keynote lists and are easy to recognize and remember after they have been used a couple of times.

The keynote numbers are consistent throughout the various types of drawings. For example, the "FN4 CONCRETE PIERS" keynote number is the same on the Site Plan, Foundation Plan, and Cross Section drawings.

An alternative, commonly used system uses short reference numbers preceding a note and categorized by CSI division.

For example, concrete notes are preceded with a 3, such as: 3.3 Reinforced concrete Slab; Masonry notes are preceded with a 4, like this:

4.1 Brick

4.2 Brick wall

4.3 Brick cavity wall

This is a good system, but it has a limitation: The same keynote numbers often won't be usable for the same objects on all drawings. The new Guidelines system presented in this manual has eliminated that problem by using alphabetical prefixes.

A few firms use another method: They use full five-digit CSI MasterFormat numbers as keynote numbers. Some offices use this system and say they have no problem with it. But most architects and contractors prefer a simpler method that doesn't require people to remember a five-digit CSI number as they scan from a keynote in a drawing to a keynote legend. This system is unwieldy for most users and unlikely to be widely adopted.

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For what it's worth this is what I've adopted for residential projects. Years ago I was exposed to an old architect who had figured out on his own the short reference system noted above. I took it one step further and simply use a one word keynote to describe a given material. Instead of 4.1 Brick, I use the word "Brick". If there's more than one type, its "Brick(type 2)" etc. The builder appreciates the simplicity of the notation. Its dumb but it works. Furthermore, and this is huge, and while probably not for everyone, I print sets in color. The builder's love it. Materials are fully rendered which clearly identifies them (and therefore there is a lot less need for notation), the drawings are cleaner, there's less redundancy (and therefore chances to get sued), its efficient, and tradesmen can easily follow the scope of their work. Each set also has the specifications in the set, or at least each one word notation, organized into their respective CSI divisions is fully described in one place, usually on sheets at the front. This probably doesn't work for large commercial projects, but it has proven quite effective for houses. The color is a little cartoon like, but appreciated. As color equipment and production becomes more affordable print shops will eventually offer it at a reasonable cost.

As for keynotes, the only place I have seen it work very effectively is in DETAIL magazine, published in Germany. I'm jealous of the clarity and simplicity of notation in the wall sections they are able to publish. One of my goals as an architect is to produce a set of drawings equal to their quality.

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In 1992 I went to a talk on Project Management given by Charles Chief Boyd (he subtitled himself as an "American Profit Motivated Native American Aborigine"). He made an awful lot of sense, and it was one of the better talks I have attended.

One of the key points he made in the general discussion afterwards was the importance of clarity and unambiguity in contract documents, and pointed out that you need to be mindful of your target audience and use language and terms appropriate to and understood by them. He stated that at that time the average level of literacy amongst US construction workers was about grade 6. ie well below the average. That situation pretty well paralleled the situation here and I am sure not a lot has changed in the last 14 years. Keeping it simple and straightforward makes a lot of sense.

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