In Project files we establish the overall form and structure of the building with a series of Levels and Column Grids; not every building has column grids, but many of them do. Such Datum Elements are not available in the Family Editor. All Model Families do include one or two Reference Levels; it really depends on the actual template you start, whether you'll get one or two. In the Family Editor instead we use Reference Planes. Reference Planes are what are going to determine the overall structure and form of our Family.
We started with the two, here in the center, and what we're going to do here in this movie is we're going to add additional ones to represent the overall shape and size of our table that we're drawing. So to do that, I'm going to start here in Floor Plan and I want to draw a series of four Reference Planes to represent the four sides of the table. So I'm going to go to my Home tab and there are actually Reference Lines and Reference Planes, I want you to make sure that you're choosing Reference Planes. We will discuss Reference Lines in a later chapter. Let me choose Reference Plane.
There are two ways to draw them; you can either draw them point by point or by picking other geometry. The choice is really up to you, but I usually just draw these point by point. I'm going to start here above my existing Reference Plane and just draw horizontally across the top. Then I usually like to click the dimension and set that to some rational value, like maybe about 2 feet here. I'm going to draw another one running vertically this way, rationalize that value, and then I'll click my Modify tool to get out of there.
Now this is a little fussy thing that I like to do. I usually like to adjust the lengths of these things a little bit, and let me mirror them to the other side and then I'll talk about why I like to adjust the lengths of those. So I'm going to select this one, mirror it around the center, select this one, and mirror it around the center. I'm going to temporarily maximize this Floor Plan and zoom in on it. What we can't do in the Family Editor is change the color or line type or anything like that, of individual Reference Planes.
I could change all the Reference Planes, but that really wouldn't serve the purpose that I'm looking for. What I'm looking for is some sort of visual hierarchy on the screen. So if I leave the overall Center Reference Planes longer, and take the ones that I'm drawing and maybe make them a little shorter, but make them match one another, you see how they kind of snap here, this is a way that I can establish this visual hierarchy on screen, even though what I'd really like to be doing here is changing the color or the line type of these things.
So this may seem like a little fussy step and it's certainly not required. I don't want you to think that you have to do that. But personally I like to do that because I think that gives me a little bit of visual hierarchy, and at the moment we've only got four Reference Planes, but as we start getting dozens of them, you're going to appreciate having some way to go to quickly identify them. Now the other thing you can do is you can name them and we'll get to that a little bit later, but that's another way that you can help to identify them on screen. So I've got the four and that gives me the overall basic footprint of the table, the next thing I'm going to do is add some dimensions.
I need four dimensions. I want one that goes from the left side to the center to the right, and I'm going to make that equal and do another one here. It's kind of the same from top to center and to bottom, make that one equal as well, and then I want two overalls, one that gives me the overall width, and another that gives me the overall height, and I'll place each of those and then click my Modify tool. At the moment what I have is, this dimension is actually now a Constraint and this one is just a dimension, it's not anything yet.
So what I mean by that is if I took one of these Reference Planes and I dragged it either to the left or to the right, it doesn't really matter which way I go, you're going to see that the other one on the opposite side is going to move the same amount. I'm going to undo that with Ctrl+Z and that's because of the equal equal. That's what we refer to as a Constraint. We're constraining the position of the two outside Reference Planes so that they have to be equal relative to the center. What I want to do next is take the two outside dimensions and turn those into what we call a Parameter.
A Parameter is going to be a value that my end-user is going to be able to type something into. So this is going to be length of my table. This is going to the width of my table and I want to make both of those values editable values that the end-user can manipulate. So we do that by making those into Parameters and the way we do that is a pretty simple process. I'll go ahead and select the overall dimension here and we're starting to see some common terminology that we've seen elsewhere in the Family Editor. If you recall from the Annotation Families, we were able to add labels which were intelligent pieces of text that were linked to some Parameter in the object.
We can now label dimensions and when we label dimensions, we will have a choice here where we can add a parameter and what we're going to be doing in this case is giving this dimension a label; in this case I'm going to call that Length. I can make either Type or Instance; I'm going to leave it Type for now. We'll talk about Instance Parameters a little bit later. We'll accept the default for now and when I click OK here what you're going to see is that Length is going to be applied in front of the dimension. That is now a Parameter. It's a driving value.
That value, Length, is actually driving the size of the dimension. Let's go ahead and label this one and I'll illustrate what I mean by that driving behavior. Let me call this Width; accept all the defaults, click OK, and I now have it labeled here and here. The next step in the process is to do what we call flexing. Flex is where you test out your flexible Parameters, and make sure that they're working the way you expect. How do we do that? We come up here to the Properties panel and we click the Family Types button.
When I click that button, I get this dialog. I'm going to move it out of the way a little bit. Each of these parameters corresponds to the two dimensions. Here's the Width; you can see it highlighted over here on the left-hand side. Here's the Length; you can see it highlighted up here at the top. So that if you've lost track of which Parameter belongs to which dimension, you can just simply select it and then here in the Value field I can try another value. So I'm going to try 3 feet for the Width and maybe 7 feet for the Length, and when I come down here and click Apply, you're going to see both of those values adjust and this is what I meant by those Parameters are now driving the value of that dimension, and in turn they are moving the corresponding Reference Planes as a consequence.
So I'm going to go ahead and change these values back. I always like to change them back to my starting values. I like to think of these as my home values. Click Apply, everything really adjust back the way that it started, and I'll go ahead and click OK and that's what we mean by flexing the Model. It's a good idea after each iteration in your Family to go in and do a flex to make sure everything is working the way that you expect. It's going to very difficult if not impossible to track down a problem if you set up a couple dozen Reference Planes, a couple dozen parameters then go to Family Types, change all the values and the whole thing fails and breaks on you and you'll have no idea which Parameter is actually causing the problem.
So this is why we recommend frequent flexing of your Model, in order to make sure that everything is working correctly. So this gives us our basic formwork and a structure for our new Family. As you can see, we can add Reference Planes, Label and Constrain them to give them a little bit more smarts and intelligence. In the next movie, we will begin adding geometry to the Family and attaching that geometry to this formwork of our Reference Planes.
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