Cadence review of BLOCK Librarian

AutoCAD Block Managers

Organizing your symbols

by Scott Sawdy
Blocks are both a blessing and a curse. After a few months on a project, you've probably developed hundreds of blocks or integrated hundreds of pre-built symbol blocks into your bag of tricks. But managing all these blocks can be a problem. What can you do? Well, you could turn to block-management software such as Block Librarian and BlockBase.

Before we examine these products in depth, let's examine some of the features you should look for in a block manager (see Table 1 for details). A key factor in deciding whether to use a block manager is the amount of effort it requires to categorize your existing blocks. You'll also want to know how easy it is to add new blocks to the database.

Most of the time, you'll be searching for blocks or viewing them. Look for a block manager that allows you to view more than one block at a time (so that you can compare and choose), offers DWG and/or SLD viewing, and has an interface that's easy to learn and use.

One warning: the better your block manager, the more blocks you're likely to use or create. That's great: the more blocks you have, the less time you have to spend drawing out details and duplicating efforts. On the other hand, the more blocks you have, the more trouble you'll have organizing them and the more likely they are to get lost or duplicated.

Block Librarian


Block Librarian is easy to install, and adding new and existing blocks to its database is simple. Block Librarian features a full page graphical interface that lets you group and view you symbols according to your needs. For example, you might want to group all of you electrical schematic symbols on one or two pages, your fasteners on the next two or three pages, and by fastener type per page on another. You can store 100 symbols per page and as many as 100 pages per book, totaling 10,000 blocks per library. Of course, of that is still not enough, you can have as many as 50 libraries for a grand total of 500,000 blocks. No block is ever more than three picks away form insertion and the help screen is always one key away. The layout for the Block Librarian is a menu down the left side and the rest of the screen is divided into four quadrants of boxes that represent pages and blocks.

The initial layout shows each of these quadrant boxes as numbers. You can change these to symbols that represent the page; for example, fasteners might have a bolt-head symbol. You can zoom in on each quadrant to see the finer details of an icon. The menu commands allow you to navigate to different books, indicate what page you are on, define a new block, replace an old block, select a block by its attributes, or edit a blocks attributes. Inserting a block is as easy as picking the icon. Finding the block is accomplished by paging through your books or by attribute selection.

Selecting a block by attributes is accomplished by means of an external database, which contains fields for block number, description, manufacturer, part number, and last date updated. You can edit all fields except for the last update field, and all of them can be included in your block as invisible and constant attributes. This process is accomplished by using a separate utility, bl.exe, while outside of AutoCAD to include the database information into the block.

While Block Librarian's interface does not use any of Release 12's dialogue boxes, it still provides very fast access to a large number of blocks and can work with earlier version of AutoCAD. Block Librarian is available for AutoCAD Releases 9 through 12 for DOS.


Company			SoftSource			Advanced Cadd Productions
Product			Block Librarian			BlockBase
Platform/Price		Release 9 to 12 		Release 12 for DOS/$395
			for DOS and Release		Release 12 for Windows/$495
			12 for Windows/$495
Max. # libraries	50				500
Blocks per library	10,000				500
Total # of blocks	500,000				250,000
Keyword Searches	yes				yes
Store database
  info with each
  block			yes				yes
View multiple blocks
  simultaneously	yes				yes
Maximum number		100				12
Share the block 
  database over a 	yes				yes
Symbol libraries	yes				yes
Define blocks
  parametrically	no				yes
Related pages...
*Info on BLOCK Librarian
*Return to Softsource Home Page