Multi-User Collaboration on Same File


njeff3368
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I just posed a question about collaboration with a tech support rep and she steered me here as she did not have and answer for me.  

 

Question:  Is there an efficient way to collaborate with colleagues on a single drawing file?  Ideally, we would like to store our Chief files on some sort of server that we can both access remotely without the ridiculous process we go through now (described below).  Tech support says they have seen many issues/file corruption with this type of system.  This seems crazy to me as team collaboration is commonplace in today's workplace. 

 

Note: We each have our own licenses on our own computers. We are a residential remodeling company and do a variety of projects (kitchens, baths, additions, decks, etc.)

 

Scenario:  In our office there are two of us who work on every project in Chief.   One person is responsible for all the structural components and permit drawing sets.  The other person is responsible for all the interior components including interior/electrical/cabinet drawing sets.  We find our current workflow cumbersome and are looking for a more efficient way to collaborate on our Chief projects.  

Here's our current workflow:

- Structural: Inputs the field measure info then has to export the file as backup, save to computer, send to shared drive. 

- Interior Designer:  Downloads file from shared drive, opens file on her computer, designs concepts for client review. After a concept has been accepted by a client, and some detail work completed, the file is exported as back-up again, saved to computer, sent to shared folder.

Structural:  Downloads the file, refines structural drawings to send to engineer.  Exports file as back-up yada yada yada........

 

This inefficient process continues back and forth multiple times until all the client requested revisions, structural revisions and details are done and the drawings are completed.  BTW, we also have to do this with our layout file as we want all of the information in one layout.  

 

This method has lead to multiple files and back-up files on each of our computers making it confusing which one's is current and which ones are safe to delete.  It got to a point where we just started using different files to complete each or our parts of the drawing sets.  This obviously leads to discrepancies in the final drawings.  So, we recently started doing the same program with the file saved to a physical thumb drive which we have to physically pass back and forth to each other (another inconvenience since we are not always working in the same office).

 

Frustrated, please HELP!!  We are eager to hear how others deal with this issue and appreciate any input. 

 

 

 

 

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I use Dropbox for my projects.  I have a shared Folder that other users have access to.  The main problem is that only one user can be using the file at any given time in order to avoid over-writing another users work.  As long as there's a check-out procedure used to enforce single user access it works seamlessly.

 

Unfortunately, Chief doesn't have any file locking mechanism built-in so the procedure has to be manual.  IOW, notify all other users that you will be using the file at x:xx for n hours - then notify them when you are finished. 

 

It might be possible to create a macro that would display "File in use by ______, Please wait until done"

I'm not sure if that would work.  It might require some really creative code.  It would probably be easier for CA to include a "Lock Code" in the file header.

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Chief has no auto process for sharing the same file

 

My partner and I add our initials and date to the file name so we know who last worked on the file

 

such as 123_Elm_MODEL_170825_1545_LB_X9.plan

 

LB = my initials - his were JK

 

MODEL = new build, REMOD = REMODEL  MOD01 or REM01 were for versions

 

clumsy but it worked

 

we use "save as" and use it often

 

we also save as 123_Elm.plan and 123_ELM.layout each time to keep plan in layout in sync

 

there is 3rd party software for checking software in/out - but cost ???

 

Lew

 

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Use Lews method for saving a backup copy.  I never change the name of the active file.  The file without a date is always the most recent version.  That way you do not have to re-link the plan file to the layout file.  The version number of the plan is put on the PDF file only.  It is also a good idea to do the work on the plan from your C drive.  At the end of your session, send it back to dropbox and overwrite the previous, now out of date, version.  Chief can not have two people working on the plan AT THE SAME TIME.

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I use Chief with two separate computers so I may have a few suggestions.

1. My primary suggestion would probably be the easiest for collaboration, though you will never be able to work on the same file at the same time in this manner. Run the application from a server workstation through a screensharing application. One computer, one file, one at a time.

2. work in layer sets tailored to set all changes to a specific layer and instruct the struc engineer to do all structural modifications with Cad lines until the final locations are put into place before modifying foundation etc. Joe carrick is an excellent resource for this, you can search his posts for relevant info.

3. if you setup your drawing page and show drawing page on the .plan file you can set off set reference points to the page sheet and snap new measurements using this cad point. Import measurements on a separate layer for better workflow. 

 

All in all I think layer set management is your best collaborative solution

 

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Assume both systems are running Windows (I believe a Mac could also do this) and both in the same office. 

 

This would work with 2 or more systems and optionally a local server.

 

Working with multiple copies of the same file leads to problems.

 

Keep all Chief data files on one system. This could be a server or a users PC, as long as it's left on.

 

Windows has a linking facility built in for doing this. It allows you to move files off of a PC and place them on another computer, but have the program accessing them think they are still local.

 

I do not know if Chief locks files other than .plan and .layout. It might be possible for 2 users to change the library at the same time, for example.

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16 hours ago, lbuttery said:

Doesn't "Use File Locking" do that?

 

Glenn:

 

probably does on your PC

 

but if someone else is working on the same file on PC B

especially if it is a copy of the plan

I don't think it helps

 

Lew

 

Lew,

File Locking prevents another copy of Chief from opening the same plan or layout file at the same time.

So...if File Locking is checked, someone else on PC B wouldn't be able to open the plan if you already had it open on PC A.

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Quote

unless they already had a copy on PC B

Well Lew,

Isn't that a different file?

I thought we were talking about opening the SAME file on a different computer - not a different file (even if it contains the exact same data).

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File locking would not work with Dropbox or any other cloud services.  It would only work if someone on PC B connected directly to PC A and opened the file from there and not a local copy on its own drive.... Assuming it was already opened by one of the computers.

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Isn't that a different file?

 

Glenn:

 

of course it is

 

but, just pointing out that doing file locking on PC A doesn't affect PC B

 

so if both plans are worked on separately, there is no way to prevent that

and there is no way to "merge" the two plans together either

 

just clarifying the point I made in my first post

 

my partner and I had to do the "baton carry" method of file sharing -  since Chief has NO other method

whoever had the "baton" could do the editing

 

Lew

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On 8/26/2017 at 11:11 AM, Richard_Morrison said:

I'm not sure that I would try it with any other program like OneDrive, though.

 

 

19 hours ago, jbaehmer said:

File locking would not work with Dropbox or any other cloud services

 

 

Both Dropbox Business and OneDrive (via Office 365 Business and SharePoint) offer advanced file library features.  Not sure about GoogleDrive, as it's been years since I've used them, but I would imagine their business service has similar offerings.  That said, CA is not engineered for multi-user collaborative operations.  Therefore, any efforts will always be a kludge.  Backup early and often.

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21 hours ago, jbaehmer said:

File locking would not work with Dropbox or any other cloud services.  It would only work if someone on PC B connected directly to PC A and opened the file from there and not a local copy on its own drive.... Assuming it was already opened by one of the computers.

 

Jared,  how do you respond to Jon Caffee's statement in regards to advanced features?

 

Would file locking work?

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The biggest danger I've seen with file locking is that the copy in the cloud becomes locked, and no one can open it, forcing the user into opening a previous version.

The safest method is a check-in, check-out process.

 

Most cloud-based file sharing services have some sort of revision history (example attached).

 

The complexity come in when you start importing external files such as PDF's, and images for new materials. This is where the '3D> Materials> Create Plan Materials Library' can come in handy. You can update and re-export a plan specific library file so that anyone who is checking out the project can import the latest version of the library.

 

In the end, it all comes down to communication between team members.

drive-history.png

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2 hours ago, jcaffee said:

Both Dropbox Business and OneDrive (via Office 365 Business and SharePoint) offer advanced file library features.  Not sure about GoogleDrive, as it's been years since I've used them, but I would imagine their business service has similar offerings.  That said, CA is not engineered for multi-user collaborative operations.  Therefore, any efforts will always be a kludge.  Backup early and often.

1

 

I do not have Dropbox Business.  Requires 5 users from my research and it is just me and another person.  I don't believe it is possible, but since I don't have the "Business" version, I can be wrong.  I do have Onedrive, and I don't see where I can lock the files.  I would love to know how.  If you are at the UGM, maybe you can show me.  I do agree though that CA is not setup as a multi-user system.

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Jared, sorry won't be at UGM--bad heart and all that it entails.  DropBox Business now requires 3 users, not 5.  OneDrive library features are only available through Office365 Business with SharePoint.  (SharePoint Online may be available separately, but I haven't looked into that in quite awhile.)  I'm fairly sure that https://chieftalk.chiefarchitect.com/profile/75-johnny/ 's firm is successfully using SharePoint, perhaps he will chime in.

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