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Stack layers, layer links etc

Keith W

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Still new, still learning...

I was talking with a more experienced user the other day, who said he didn't like and didn't use stacked layers often, because it didn't offer some of the advantages of layer links: the ability to dimension and thereby move things more precisely and understand spatial relationships better (the example given was running ductwork in a house).

Furthermore: I notice that layer links aren't completely "supported" in Designer, but you can convert design layer viewports to layer links, so it seems like they are still available...

I'd be very interested in any clarifications or opinions. I'd also be interested in hearing any related work habits/preferences.


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I'm not quite seeing what the issue is....

I used to be a layer linking fiend before viewports. Couldn't have imagined working without them. Haven't used one layer link since I stopped using version 10.

I can't think of any advantage layer links have over dlvps..... I haven't noticed any difference in the behavior of dimension objects, and dlvps can be moved as precisely as any object, including layer links.

I don't think the create layer link command is in any of the stock workspaces anymore, but I'm pretty sure it is still buried in the workspace editor as a "legacy" command.

I used Stacked Layers all the time. If you use layer Z levels Stack Layers is necessary to get your model to "stack up" correctly. And it's a nice alternative to the "Align Layer Views" command for working in 3D, even if you are not using layer Z levels.

It is a little annoying that Stacked Layers sometimes puts limits on drawing 2D geometry in 3D views. I'm sure there is a reason for it - and I'm hoping someone will share that reason here.

That could be what your friend is running into - trying to draw polygons to extrude. Or maybe s/he's trying to span a dimension between layers. But that could still be easily done with DLVPs or in the annotation space of a SLVP.


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Yes, I think the dimensions and polygon issues you mention are the type of issues I'm talking about. I guess it has to do with stack layers, not really layer linking and DLVPs... or, was it easier to do such things with linked layers than stacked layers? Maybe that's the question I'm getting at.


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Keith, I think you may be confusing two separate things. Correct me if I'm wrong, and bear with me if you know some of this already.

Layer linking has been essentially superseded by Viewports, which is a way to create "snapshots" of entire layers or portions of layers for use elsewhere in a project. There are Design Layer Viewports (DLVPs) and Sheet Layer Viewports (SLVPs). Each have unique functionality. Read the online help system for more clarification. I think you'll find that they are quite essential to a good workflow.

For an architectural project, a common use of SLVPs is to create final sheets for printing. For example, if a first floor plan is designed on a discrete design layer, one can then create a Sheet Layer Viewport of that layer and select which sheet to place it on. The resulting SLVP can be moved and positioned as precisely as any other object, in this regard behaving in the same way a grouped set of objects does. Of course, changes made to the relevant design layer are reflected dynamically in the VP.

Viewports' real power comes by being able to set the visibility of layers and classes all separately for each VP. To preserve the model built on a design layer, we'll do the dimensioning in the Annotation space of the SLVP, as Michael mentioned, rather than on the design layer. This way, dimensioning can be done between any of the layers that you set to be visible in the SLVP. A great way to think of viewports is to consider them as mirrors or, as the name implies, views of portions of your project.

Stacking layers is a way to "glue" design layers together visually. In the above example, I'll create three floor plans on three separate design layers. I then set each of them to be visible, click the Stack Layers button (next to the Render Mode menu in the Viewbar, or select "Stack Layers" from the View menu), and then when I rotate the model around using any of the 3D views and tools, the stacked layers will move together, preserving the relationships between objects on different layers. This gives the appearance of a cohesive model on screen.

After I'm done spinning my model around, I usually go back to Top/Plan view, then select "Align Layer Views" from the View menu, so that all the layers go back to their "flat" state and I can continue working without some surprises (try not doing this and see what happens).

So, you see they are two different functions. Viewports, nee layer links, are for "aliasing" sections of a project. Stacking layers is a model visualization function.

At least that's how I most commonly use them.

Finally, to address the dimensioning and polygon issues. Even when you've stacked layers and are in a 3D view, dimensions, polygons and polylines will remain in 2D because they don't have a Z-axis plane for VW to work with in 3D. This is another reason why it's better to dimension using SLVPs. This is not true of all kinds of modeling, but it is very true for architectural modeling. So, if you want an object such as a rectangle to work in a 3D relationship with the rest of your model, you must extrude it first. Select the rectangle, then select "Extrude" from the "Model" menu, give it a Z-axis height, then click OK. Then it will behave like a 3D object and work in proper relationship with the rest of your 3D objects.


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There you go, you learn something everyday...i hadn't realized that the DLVP could be used as a Layer Link!

I was about to explain that i usually use Layer Link more often than Stack Layers, the reason being that when creating 3D renderings i usually don't want to have to put up with all the 2D info 'blocking' my view of the model, thus i usually create an empty layer called 3D-model and create a layer link with the layers i want in the rendering (remembering to have the 'project 2D objects' not checked) i then can introduce lights and props in this file so that my drafting layers don't get cluttered with these objects......i guess now i can use the same technique but use DLVP instead...the advantage of Layer Linking is however that it doesn't open the possibility of the layers 'moving' from their original positions in relation to one another.

lets summarize:

Pros Layer Link: No 2D clutter in 3D model

No accidental moving of layers in relation to one another

All 3D props/lights isolated to an 'empty (Layer Link) layer'

Cons Layer Link: Little flexibility ie. moving/rotating layers

Hard to show and hide individual layers once linked.

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Well, I THINK I knew all that about viewports, but I'm new enough that I may be missing a subtlety you're all trying to explain.

I am trying to make sense of an argument a more experienced user was making for layer links over DLVPs, so perhaps I'm missing some part of the picture, or perhaps he was.

Is it possible to select and edit objects (from multiple layers) in layer links in ways that one can not do in DLVPs? I think that's what it boils down to...

For example: if I had two objects in two different layers, and I liked their z-axis relationship to eachother, but I wanted to move them into some relationship with an object on a third layer...


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Sorry don't get me wrong.....everyone has his own way of working....i was just trying to communicate a reason why i consider the Layer Link function not redundant :) they suite my way of working very well

You must have misunderstood my point, DLVPs are more flexible, Layer Links are less so, i was just trying to explain what i consider the advantages of Layer Links (for me).

i was mostly reacting to the earlier post:

"I don't think the create layer link command is in any of the stock workspaces anymore, but I'm pretty sure it is still buried in the workspace editor as a "legacy" command."

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Hmm, thanks Vincent. Maybe I didn't understand something: why did you say "Layer linking doesn't allow layers moving in relation to one another"? Are the layers locked with respect to each other in a way that is not true in DLVPs?

Also, I think I'm understanding one source of my confusion: when you create a DLVP or SLVP, I believe, the layers are AUTOMATICALLY "stacked", so most of my comments about stacked layers are sort of not pertinent... at least that's how it appears to me.


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I've got something you all missed ..... I recently discovered that if you export a sheet layer viewport image in pdf format using stack layers, the exported pdf file will not allow the Adobe pdf file to use the "layers on-off" option. In my case, I wanted to send a Adobe pdf file of a multi-story building with different layers for each floor. With stack layers on, the Adobe pdf file does not respond to choosing each layer and showing only the floors that the pdf file holder would manipulate. I intend to submit this as a bug .... afterall it should work as I intended ......

(PS: I find a lot of users don't understand that Adobe pdf files can show layers .....)

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Again i must apologize Keith W, i guess i am a bit to ambitious in trying to help others sometimes...Layer Links are locked when created but you can just unlock them if you want, once this is done i guess they are very similar to DLVPs....so this kinda knocks the legs from under all my pros arguments for Layer Links. (With that i guess they are kinda redundant.)

Concerning the z values....i think (notice how careful i am now :) ) that all 3, Stack Layers, Layer link and DLVPs place layers 'on top of each other if you have given them different z-values.

Let the blind keep leading the deaf.....we'll get there in the end.

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There are three ways to show a view of your model that takes advantage of the Layer Z information. You can use Stack Layers, Viewports (sheet layer or design layer), or Layer Links.

Viewports (both kinds) are great because they have their own layer and class visibility setting (and you can actually do class overrides so objects will appear different than in the base drawing.)

Layer Links take the objects on a (single) layer and displays it on a separate layer at the correct (layer-z adjusted) height). While you can make multiple links with a single command, it actually creates a separate link object for each layer.

Design Layer Viewports are kind of like Layer Links on steroids. They can be cropped if you don't want to see the entire model and can have class and layer overrides applied, but are still limited to the scale, view and rendering mode of the layer they are on.

Both Viewports and Layerlinks are kind of designed to be presentation devices.

Stack Layers on the other hand is designed as a way to "stack" (use the layer z heights) while you are still working on the model. It is really just an ongoing Align Layer Views coupled with correct Z heights.

If you don't use one of these three methods and you use layer z heights, you can look at multiple layers at the same time, but they will all start at the same zero point and overlap.

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Whew! Thanks so much to everyone for all the clarifications. I think I've had my fill for the moment, time to go "back to the drawing board" and mull all this over. I think this has helped clarify things for me.

I really appreciate everyone's help and insight.


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I often use layer links because they can provide some important (to me) capabilities not available in DLVPs.

Suppose I'm in the midst of a quick design session for a three-story building, and I want to see what the building would look like without the middle story, and with the top level sitting directly on the first. With a layer link arrangement, I unlock everything, click on the middle layer and hit delete. Then grab the top layer and simply drag it down.

With a DLVP, I have to go to the OI Palette, hit the Layers button, select the middle layer and make it invisible, and then hit Edit. Finally, with the layer selected I enter the Edit Viewport Design Layers dialog, and alter the Z height; click OK and then click OK again. Only now is the result visible. If I lowered it too much, I must start the whole thing all over again till it's aligned properly.

Another example: suppose I'm working on the model, and would like to separate out the three different levels, and show them with 10 or 20 feet between one and the next (an exploded view). This could be useful when trying to understand vertical HVAC chase locations, for example. Again, with a layer link, I unlock everything, switch to front view, select the desired layers, hit command-M and enter the distance. That's it.

One more example. We can crop individual layer links; this works even in 3D; even in_rendered_3D, which is something really phenomenal (go to Help for a very good description of cropped layer links). This means that in a multiple-part linked layer model, I can switch to an isometric view, select the middle layer, crop it to display only a portion of it, then render the entire wedding cake. If you have structural elements that span the three levels you can make a portion of the exterior building envelope disappear in order to reveal the inside structure this way (as long as the structural elements are not on the same layer, of course). As far as I know you can't do this cropping thing with DLVPs, since a DLVP crop affects the entire viewport and not only individual layers within it (although you could accomplish something similar with classes, possibly).

I'm only saying that layer links have certain advantages not shared by DLVPs; each has a different function. Having both available expands our horizons considerably, and there's still a viable role for the layer-link capability beyond what's already been described in previous messages.

Dan J.

Dan J.

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That's what i thought, i did indeed add it to my workspace when i installed 2009, together with the other extras ie vectorbits, windoor etc.

....I am a little 'different' i guess, i work with ArchiCAD as well so i've been forced to do quite a bit of customizing to make the Workspaces as similar as possible ;) , it's not cool trying to change from one program to the other daily and remember all the different shortcuts and keep them apart i can tell you!

Edited by Vincent Cuclair
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Ha ha thanks guys, don't worry i really appreciate the 'new' DLVP capabilities and i am already using them extensively i promise ;), i hadn't realized until a couple of days ago that it was possible to change the view of the DLVP after it is created. ........it's also hard to change old habits sometimes in the heat of the moment.....

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You can have as many DLVPs you want on any design layer. You can Copy/Paste any DLVP to the same layer or another design layer, it automatically renames itself. DLVPs are objects, just like symbols or any other PIO. You can Lock them in place, change/override all their visibility attributes. You can attach Record Formats to them, just like symbols.

I used DLVPs extensively in the Ellicott Heights BIM in Practice project. Every level of the main building was modeled in a separate file. The parking garages were each modeled as separate files. The site was another file. Then, in a centralized model file, I created DLVPs on each design layer to 'compose' the building on the site.

Then, I used DLVPs to insert the residential unit plans on the residential floors. Essentially, each unit plan (four of them) was 'imported' once, but copied, mirrored, rotated and, uniquely named (using a nomenclature system to track the unit type and number and address). The naming allows me to schedule the units, quantifying them in various ways.

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Thanks Jeffrey, i must be missing something here though, example: if i take my story 1, activate left isometric view, create viewport (on to another layer), the viewport shows plan 1 in top view?! (When creating the viewport all options below the classes button are grayed including view settings? Any tips?

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