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Data tag inside symbol but populate from record attached each instance

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Is it possible to pre-place a data tag in a symbol, but have it populate from the record on each instance?


For example, say I have a symbol that represents a box, and I have an attached record called "contents", I can add a data tag after dropping the symbol into the drawing and it will display the entered contents, but i'd like to have the data tag pre-placed in the symbol to save the last step? I can have a data tag inside the symbol and have it reference a record attached to the symbol itself, but can't figure out how to reference the record of each instance in the drawing without manually placing the data tag after.

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  • Vectorworks, Inc Employee

Hello @Danu,


I would advice you to avoid placing Data Tags in symbols, because this will lead to scaling problems too. The reason is the same as the reason why it is not possible to achieve what you have asked above: Symbols in the drawing are just views of the symbol itself. They know which is their source symbol but they do not have any graphics in them, just a view of the graphics. That is why, if you place a data tag in the symbol, it will not be able to know what data is attached to the symbol in the drawing and what is the layer scale of the symbol in the drawing, since the only thing it knows is that it is inside the symbol.


Long story short, better stick to the workflow of tagging the symbols in the drawing, as this is the working and safe way to go for this.


Best Regards,

Nikolay Zhelyazkov

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  1. Make a symbol you want to attach the data tag to with all the records attached as you require
  2. Attach the data tag to the symbol and make sure that it is reporting all the data as you want
  3. Select the Symbol and the data tag and convert that selection into a Blue Symbol (Create Symbol command and check the convert to group check box)

When the symbol is placed, the symbol is added to the drawing area along with the Data tag. Both of these items will be inside a group. The Data tag will be reporting the data that is attached to the symbol.


This way you should achieve the workflow you are looking for without the scaling issues that @Nikolay Zhelyazkov has pointed out.

Edited by markdd
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That’s very clever @markdd! I will use that tip.


@Danuthe other option is not to use data tags at all but just place some text in the symbol and use the “Link Text to Record” command (in the tools >records menu), to link the text to whatever record field you want. 

When you place the symbol in your drawing the text will display whatever default you set in the symbol definition but you can change the record field for each instance and the text will change. 

This is the old way it was done before the introduction of data tags. It doesn’t have the same graphic flexibility of data tags but it is simple and in the right circumstances it is just as good and quicker.

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@markdd That didn't quite achieve what I wanted, it either reported the data attached to the contents of the symbol, or I had to open the group after placement and edit the record there.


@Boh's method worked for me, in that the linked text reported the record attached to the instance of the symbol placed in the drawing.


I've actually ended up with a bit of a hybrid approach, using a data tag inside the symbol to report say, the type of container that is represented inside the symbol, and the linked text to display the contents of each instance placed in the drawing.


@Nikolay Zhelyazkov I've had no issue with scaling so far, i've got a data tag inside a symbol, which is a group of shapes and labels.



Another thing, is it possible to make text visible or not based on a true / false record attached to a symbol?




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1 hour ago, Danu said:

I had to open the group after placement and edit the record there.

You could do that though I suggest just hit ctrl u and ungroup each group as the symbols are placed. Your original question was how to avoid having to place a data tag with each placement of a symbol and Mark’s method does exactly that.


You could also set your default record data for your symbol definition to the most common settings to minimise how much post insertion record editing you need to do for each instance of the symbol. But no matter which way you do it you were always going to have to edit the record data to some extent after placement.


I often use worksheets for editing record fields attached to symbols. With worksheets you can edit the symbol record individually or you can summarise all the symbols with the same record and edit the records all at once. You can also locate a symbol directly from a worksheet. There is lots more they can do.


Re controlling visibilities with records. Yes this is possible with data visualisation. I haven’t used it that much myself so not too familiar with how best to apply it. 

Edited by Boh
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Hmm I might be wrong on the data visualisation controlling visibilities comment at the end of my last post. Data vis can control the attributes/ appearance of objects but I’m not sure  it can control their visibility. Best somebody who knows what they are talking about respond there.

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44 minutes ago, Boh said:

I had to open the group after placement and edit the record there.

@Boh What I meant was that the data tag inserted with the symbol / group didn't take it's data from the instance, but I had to edit the group and then the record attached to object inside the group, with the linked text method inside the symbol, it seems to take it's data from the instance itself. Yes to have to edit the record somewhere, and I could have ungrouped, but I wanted a way to do this with minimum steps.


With data visualisation perhaps I could adjust the fill to at least make it look like it was visible or not.


I need to get into worksheets in more detail to be honest, so yes that's an avenue I will be looking to go down. 


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Can you get data visualisation to act on an object inside a symbol based on the record attached to the instance?


@markdd I see you solved this another thread, using hatches and fore colour, but I don't seem to be able to get it to work from scratch in my own file.



EDIT: I couldn't get this to work with hatches but did with patterns instead (2021 SP4), editing a pattern to make a solid foreground colour. I would love to have the option of two colours, but the background colour affects the background everything in the symbol.


Is there any way to force a data record of an object in a symbol to take the entry from the parent symbol instance, or from another record?

Edited by Danu
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