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Introduction to Synergis Adept Engineering Document Management System, Pt 2

By Rande Robinson, September 11, 2012

A Sample Session

You access Adept from within many applications - like AutoCAD, Inventor, or Solidworks - by first installing the plug-in appropriate for the software. I have never used Solidworks or Inventor and it has been years since I last used AutoCAD, and so I tested Adept with MicroStation. While Adept does work well with MicroStation, Adept does not have a plug-in to work inside MicroStation, which meant that instead I worked with the Adept client interface to manage my files.

(I did try accessing files using Adept's AutoCAD interface, which allows users to perform most document management activities inside the CAD program. I found, however, I preferred the stand alone client for a number of reasons: lots of users don't pay attention to where files come from and where they go, and so forcing them to start from the client helps solve this problem; there is a delay from when a new CAD program is released to when third-party software is updated; and sometimes vendors can get at odds over who is responsible when add-on software doesn't work inside the CAD program.)

Logging into the Adept client is as simple as clicking on the desktop icon, and then waiting for the program to launch. The interface is a series of configurable windows for finding, managing, and reviewing files whose metadata has been stored in the Adept database. (Metadata is information about your files, such as size, location, and content.)

Adept stores several types of metadata:

It stores all the metadata in libraries. Each Adept library corresponds to a folder location on the network; in this way, it makes use of whatever filing system you have in place. This should make installation easier and get Adept running more quickly, because you won't need to alter the location of the data. In addition, keeping your folder structure gives you the ability to find files the old way, when necessary; just remember that doing so defeats the purpose of a document management system.

From what I gleaned while using the software, reading the documentation, and checking out online videos is that the sky is pretty much the limit as to what you can store and track with Adept. See www.synergissoftware.com/resource_center/demo_center .

The Adept client interface consists of the parts shown in Figure 1:

Figure 1: Adept screen open with three windows

FileGuide - Library Browser window provides a hierarchical directory structure view of the data.

Work Area window shows the files in a specific work area, and allows selection of the work area to which to check out files.

The third window is the Relationship Browser which shows the child-parent relationships between the selected files in the Library Browser.

Figure 2: FileGuide window showing parent/child relationships

I'm not sure how important the child window is to a SolidWorks or AutoCAD user, but to us MicroStation users it is extremely important, because our design files tend to have lots of files referenced to one another, making it difficult to keep track of what goes where. Adept understands the relationships between files and so displays the appropriate ones for users. When I check out a file that has others attached to it, Adept gives me the choice of checking them out as well. (See Figure 2.)

The windows can be configured just about any way I want. For example, Figure 3 shows the window tiled horizontally, but they can be configured vertically, cascaded or user arranged.

Figure 3: Different ways to configure client windows

Once I was comfortable with my interface setup, I employed two basic ways to find files. One way was to use the File Guide-Library Browser to search the vaults in hierarchical arrangements or by predetermined views -- set up previously by the system administrator. (See Figure 4.)

Figure 4: Library browser views

In the other way, I simply selected the Search button from the Adept menu bar, and then filled out the necessary search informaton. (See Figure 5.)

Figure 5: Client Interface buttons

I also had the option of using previously set up search cards via the data card dropbox, as shown in Figure 6.

Figure 6: Library search cards

Regardless of which search card I used, the results appeared in in a separate window. From here, I selected the file or files I wanted to check out to my personal or shared workspace; to do so, I right clicked and then selected the appropiate action. In this case Sign Out, as shown in Figure 7.

Figure 7: Results of a search

After I selected Sign Out, another window appeared asking me how I wanted to handle parent-child relationships the file might have, as shown in Figure 8. In this case, Adept recognizes that the DGN file I selected had a reference attached to it. By selecting All, Adept signed out the selected file and all its attachments. (If I want to check out only the one file, I would have selected the 1st Level Only button.)

Figure 8: File sign out dialog showing child relationships

Once the files are signed out to the proper work area, it is just a matter of launching the desired application. Again this is done using a right click of the menu and selecting Launch. (See Figure 9.)

Figure 9: Launching the selected file

Checking a file back into the system is just as easy: return to the Work Area window to select the file or files I wish to check in, right click, and then select Sign In. See Figure 10. A window appears showing me which files will be signed in and where they are going. Additionally, I can also choose a workflow for the file to follow.

Figure 10: Checking in a file

There you have it. From the viewpoint of the average user, Adept is an easy system to use. I point this out, because no matter which EDM software you chose, if it isn't easy and unobtrusive to the average user, then your firm is wasting its time and money.

Overall Impression

My overall impression of Adept is positive, in that the system is easy to use and seems to have more than sufficient features for most engineering environments. Specifically, here is what I really like about software:

Figure 11: AutoVue displays hundreds of file types

Was there any thing that I didn't like about the software? Not really, but then I was only looking at it as a user and not from the administrator's point of view. Because I did not have to install it, I cannot tell you how difficult or easy it might be.

In speaking with Synergis over the course of the review, I got the feeling that most users of the software get paid-for help initially to get the system up and running. If my dealings with Synergis are any indication of their customer support, then I would say they go out of their way to make sure the product is installed and running successfully.

Final Thoughts

There are several document management and engineering document management systems out there. While Synergis may not be the largest or even the best-known EDMS vendor (I had never heard of them before this review), they make a solid product and so deserve an in-depth look by any firm wanting to install an independent, flexible, and scalable engineering document management system.

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About the Author

Rande Robinson has over 24 years of experience in IT, construction, bridge and roadway engineering with 2 state departments of transportation and several community colleges. He trains and supports users with engineering and design applications. Rande holds a civil engineering degree and has written several articles on the use of IT in engineering. More...

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