The most requested feature for Flatter Files since the launch of the service has been the ability to add annotations to your drawings while viewing the drawing. Today, I am very happy to announce the availability of annotations for iPhone, iPad and Android devices. Now whenever you are viewing a drawing, if you see a mistake or want to make an addition to a drawing, you can immediately add it directly to the pdf while viewing it. The annotated drawing is then uploaded to Flatter Files and is available for viewing. In addition, specific users within your company can receive an email notification when an annotation is created. This makes it quick and easy for viewers to add annotations that are easily accessible by the appropriate technical staff.

Annotations work slightly differently depending on whether you are using an iOS device (iPhone/iPad) or an Android device. For iOS devices, the updated application requires a one time in app purchase of $9.99 to enable the ability to create annotations. All other functionality remains free. Each user within your company that needs to create annotations will need to purchase this in app upgrade for their device. To purchase the upgrade, tap the new annotation button that is shown when viewing a drawing. A dialog will appear with the option to purchase the upgrade or restore a previous purchase. Once purchased, tapping this icon will display the annotation toolbar.

To create an annotation in the iOS application you simply add the annotations and then save the annotation to Flatter Files. This is shown in the video below using an iPad. The same functionality is available for the iPhone.

The annotation created in the video above is now available for viewing on all of your devices. In addition, an email can be configured to be sent to specific users notifying them that a user created the annotation. This provides a great way to facilitate potential changes directly from the viewers of the drawing to the appropriate engineering or design team for review. The first video below highlights how to view the annotation on the web application and the second video demonstrates how to view the same annotation on your android device.

Anyone within your company can create annotations but only users that are granted access can view the resulting annotations. This is simply a user setting that can easily be enabled for any users that need access.

Annotations can also be created on your Android device but it works slightly different than on the iOS application. The PDFs on Android are displayed using your device's default PDF viewer. If this PDF viewer includes the ability to add an annotation, then the resulting annotated PDF can easily be uploaded to Flatter Files. The added benefit to this method is that you can try out multiple PDF viewer and annotation tools from the Google Play store to find the one you prefer and use that in conjunction with Flatter Files to create the annotations. The video below shows how to create an annotation using Flatter Files and the free Adobe Reader Android app.

As you can see, creating annotations within Flatter Files is a powerful and easy way to mark up drawings in a complete paperless workflow. This results in quicker improvements to the design and improved communication between engineering, design and everyone else within your organization.

Smart Libraries

Flatter Files now includes the ability to create Smart Libraries.  Smart Libraries contain all of the Drawings and Assembly Views within your account that match a specified search query.  For example, if you want a library that displays all of the currently checked out items in your account, you can simply create a Smart Library for this search and the library will always be shown such that you can easily view all of the items currently checked out.  Just like other custom libraries, you can control who within your account has access to this Smart Library.

With this latest update, when you create a new library you are shown the additional Smart Library options.  To create the Smart Library, you simply enter the library name, check the Smart Library option, and then enter the desired query.

To create a Smart Library that will display all of the checked out items for your account you would do the following:

  • Enter the library name.
  • Select the Smart Library option.
  • Enter the query "checkedout:yes" into the field.
  • Click Submit.

The image below shows the inputs to create the Smart Library for checked out items.

The library has now been created and the image below shows the result.  As you can see, the Smart Libraries appears just like other libraries except that the count for the number of items does not exist since this number can continually change.

This new Smart Library can still be renamed or deleted just like regular libraries by right clicking on the library and then selecting the desired option.  In addition to the standard options, the Smart Library query that is used to generate the content in the library can be edited and the result in the library can manually be refreshed.  These right click options for the Smart Library are shown below.

Smart Libraries are a powerful way to quickly provide access to specific search results.  These Smart Libraries appear just like regular Libraries and are accessible within the web application as well as on the mobile viewing applications for both Android and iOS.  Access to the Smart Libraries can be controlled just like regular libraries.  If you have any questions regarding Smart Libraries or other features of Flatter Files please do not hesitate to contact us at [email protected].

Shared Items - Stats

Flatter Files has recently been updated to allow you to retrieve specific stats regarding the links that you share outside your company.  Stats for your shared items provide a great mechanism for ensuring that the vendors or partners that you have shared the item with are actually accessing the item as it is updated.

Right clicking on a shared item now includes two additional menu items.  The first is Access Stats and the second is Update Stats.  The image below shows both of these new menu options.

Access stats show how many times the shared link has been accessed by each email.  The image below shows a table listing each email that has access to the item, the last time they logged in, and the number of logins in the last 30 days.  Additionally, a log of each individual login can be displayed by clicking View, which is shown in the second image below.

In addition to the access stats, you can also view an update log that shows when and what was updated with regard to the particular shared item.  For example, one of the drawings might be listed as updated or if you add items to a shared link the item added will be listed as being added.  An example update log is shown in the image below.

A monthly shared item stats email that summarizes the stats for all of your shared items can also be configured to be sent by the account administrator.  To configure, go to your Dashboard, click Settings, and then click Company. There is an option under company settings that allows you to turn on and then enter the email addresses that should receive the monthly email.  This email is sent on the first of each month.  The option for turning on the email is shown in the image below with the blue box around it.

Easily creating and controlling shared links is a big part of Flatter Files.  With these new features, not only do you have complete control on who can view your content but you can now find out if they are actually accessing the item when they say they are accessing it.

SolidWorks World 2014

Flatter Files will be at SolidWorks World 2014, which is being held in San Diego, CA at the downtown convention center.  The show starts on Sunday January 26th and wraps up on Wednesday January 29th.  If you are planning to attend the show please stop by our booth.  We would be happy to show you Flatter Files.  Our booth number is 739-G.

Value of Flatter Files to Existing EPDM Users

Ever since we integrated Flatter Files to work with EPDM, we have often gotten the question of why should an existing EPDM user add Flatter Files to their implementation.  This blog post will specifically outline the major benefits, which includes access to your content for everyone and everywhere, all content in a central location that is searchable, assembly views, and shared links.

Once everything is set up, all content is available by anyone within your organization that has an internet connection and a web browser at no additional charge.  In addition, a free mobile app for iPhone, iPad, and Android can be used to access the content on your mobile devices.  This means that you no longer need EPDM view licenses for everyone that simply needs access to the data (managers, salesman, purchasers, etc...).  In addition, companies have found that the amount of training and maintenance for employees that only need access to the drawings is also much lower when using Flatter Files.

An unlimited amount of content can be uploaded to Flatter Files.  Thus, no one ever has to wonder where the drawing is kept or ask the CAD team to find a drawing for them.  They will simply go to Flatter Files and the drawing will be there.  All property data associated with the drawing is uploaded and searchable.  Making it super fast to find the drawing you need.

If your models consist of quite a few assemblies then Flatter Files can save you a lot of time.  The Uploader app not only creates and uploads a PDF of each drawing but it also uploads the bill of materials data.  Once the data is uploaded, assembly views are then automatically created.  An assembly view contains all of the individual parts and sub assembly drawings needed to make a specific item.   Many companies spend many hours creating a PDF that contains all of the drawings in an assembly.  With Flatter Files these PDFs are automatically created.  In addition, as revisions are created to the individual drawings the assembly view PDFs are automatically updated.

Flatter Files also provides a really convenient way for drawings to be shared with vendors or other partners outside your organization.  Instead of emailing a PDF or drawing file, you send a link.  This link provides password protected access to the content, which can include multiple drawings and/or assembly views.  Optionally the CAD files and previous revisions can be included.  Once the link is created,  it doesn't change.  Meaning that as you create new revisions the vendor can simply return to the same link and the latest version is always available.  This can save your purchasing department a lot of time if you work with lots of outside vendors.  At any point the link can be deleted removing access to the content.  You can also track the number of times each person is accessing the link to ensure it is properly being used.

Those are the main benefits for existing EPDM users.  If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us at [email protected].

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