Advanced Symbols – Part 6: Drawing Tools in the Symbol Catalog Window

One of the nice upgrades CC3+ brought with it back when it was released was the ability to include drawing tools in your symbol catalogs. Now, this is hopefully not news to you, as this is used quite a bit in the official symbol catalogs used in most styles. But this fact does make the symbol catalog window a bit smarter, since drawing tools can do quite a bit of things, like I discussed in my article about Advanced Drawing Tools earlier this year.

This means that the tools we add to our symbol catalog doesn’t have to be limited to drawing shapes that fit the theme of the symbols in the catalog, but also tools that can do powerful things like running macros to almost everything we want.

The feature of putting drawing tools into the symbol catalog is simple enough, it is the possibilities that this opens that make it exiting.

To add a drawing tool to the symbol catalog, it obviously need to exist first. Creating new tools is beyond the scope of this article, but this is covered in the CC3+ user manual if you aren’t familiar with the procedure. You can use custom tools you have made yourself, or existing tools supplied with CC3+.

Before we go ahead it is also worth remembering that to make changes to a symbol catalog, that symbol catalog must be opened the same way you normally would open a map, i.e. not simply loaded into the symbol catalog window as that only allows you to use the catalog. You can of course also start a new symbol catalog from the new map wizard.

After that, adding the tool to the catalog is simple enough. Go to the symbol manager, pick any one symbol, hit the options button, and place a check mark in the Drawtool option, and fill in the style and name of the tool, separated by a backslash (\) character. Bot the name of the style and the name of the drawing tools can be found by visiting the All Map Drawing Tools dialog. The style is the text in the style dropdown, and the name of the tool is written beneath each.

Of course, doing this to an existing symbol make that symbol inaccessible since checking that option basically replaces the symbol with a link to the drawing tool. So you’ll probably just want to make a new blank symbol first by clicking the New button in the Symbol Manager. Note that this means you must define a drawing widow for your new symbol, and then close it and go back to the Symbol Manger before you can proceed. A quicker way of getting a new symbol is probably just to clone an existing one in the catalog, then modify it. Finally, if you wish to import many tools from the same style, you can use the Import Draw Tools button in the symbol manager to import a folder full of tools, and then delete the ones you don’t need. Remember, the entry in the symbol catalog is just a link to the actual tool, so deleting it from the symbol catalog doesn’t delete the actual tool.

Multiple Styles

One nice thing you can do with editing the catalog this way is to add drawing tools from multiple styles into the same symbol catalog. This allow you to collect multiple useful tool into one place without having to remember where they came from. Since the syntax of the tool entry is style name\tool name as explained above, you can easily add tools from as many styles as you wish.

Note there is one downside of adding tools from multiple styles. The setting for the style for your current map automatically changes to that of the last tool used. So if you try to access the drawing tool window after using a tool from a different style than your map, you may find the window showing you the other tools from that other style instead of the ones belonging to the current map. It is easy enough to switch back using the dropdown in the dialog of course, and it won’t affect using the tools from the symbol catalog, since they specify both style and tool for each.

The tool preview looks wrong or doesn’t show up at all

One issue, especially when adding tools from multiple styles is that the preview for the tool uses the fill style from the map. You may already have experienced similar problem with drawing tools from a different style won’t work in your map. So if the tools you include need fills, then make sure the map you use the catalog with do already include these fills (Maybe you should make your own template with all these fills defined in addition to your own symbol catalog, especially if you include tools from several styles in your catalog). Also, when editing the symbol catalog itself, the symbol catalog file normally doesn’t include these fills, so the tools may look weird while working with the symbol catalog, but once the symbol catalog is loaded alongside a map that contains the required style, they will look just fine. Note that if you are using a drawing tool that contains a macro, CC3+ can’t automatically generate a preview, such a tool needs a simple CC3+ map with the same name as the tool placed in the same folder as the tool which will be used for it’s preview. This isn’t specific to including them in symbol catalogs however, this is also how it works in the standard drawing tools window preview, so if you include an existing tool as opposed to one you’ve made yourself, it will normally already have this preview file already in place. In short, everything that applies to the preview int he drawing tool window also applies to the symbol catalog window, it should look the same in both places, assuming the same map is loaded.

Custom Toolset

What I find useful for some workflows is to basically build a custom toolset, and then use the symbol catalog as a dynamic toolbar. For example, when I prepare submitted maps for inclusion in the community atlas, there are a lot of standard process I need to apply to them. To help me with this, I have written several macro drawing tools that do things I need to do, and then built a custom symbol catalog giving me easy access to these tools. For example, I have an export tool that automatically sets the export parameters, including the filename so I don’t have to click through multiple dialogs, and I have another tool that does initial map cleanup, like creating required map notes, deleting unnecessary ones, purging unused symbols from the map and fixing paths. This combination of good tools and having easy access to them in the symbol catalog window makes this process a lot more efficient for me.



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