Explaining the User Interface (UI) of n4ce
n4ce has been developed to allow users easy access to its functionality, whichever version you use, through its interface tools. Initially developed in an era of drop-down menus, dialog boxes and icons, and like many other windows applications, n4ce is now available with Ribbon Bars.
Two different UI versions of n4ce are currently being supported, namely the classic traditional dropdown menu version and secondly the Ribbon Bar version. This will allow both new and old users to feel comfortable with whichever version they prefer. There is NO difference in functionality only how users access the tools, but we do recommend new users to use the Ribbon Bar version.
Both versions will appear on the desktop screen after installing n4ce, with access through the appropriate icon, as shown here.
n4ce – Classic Dropdown Menu UI
n4ceRB – Ribbon Bar UI
n4ce can be considered a geomatics software toolbox, handling different data types within one unified environment. Observations, CAD, Models, Drawings, Images and Point Clouds are accessed from the same UI leading to what we call “field to finish solutions”. There’s no need to export digital data into third-party packages, like AutoCAD, for completion. Import and export options are available should the need arise, but we strongly advise keeping everything in n4ce. Comparisons or transfers between different data types are possible as are overlays using a very powerful feature called backcloths. If you’re into points clouds check out n4ce automatic feature extraction tools.
So how do you get the most out of n4ce? Drag and drop is supported for most data types, be it raw survey observations, CAD (DWG/DXF) or Excel coordinate files. Multiple data folders can be stored on the Project Tree and accessed either using a spreadsheet type editor or graphically. Double-clicking on data folders takes you straight into the graphics environment.
With n4ce’s multiple screen UI, data edited in one screen will be updated in other open screens, graphics or spreadsheets. And, at the end of a working session, data will be stored in a single file called an SDB. Point clouds and images are held externally to the SDB but referenced internally.
Copy and pasting between similar data types can take place within a project or between projects using the Windows clipboard. No need to create export files to move or copy data.
Note: it’s possible to open multiple projects at the same time. This allows for easy copy and pasting between projects. But if you open the same project twice, only the first one is editable, the second being a Read-Only.
A user-defined automatic backup facility is available during a working session saving your SDB into n4ce Temp Folder, accessed from the desktop icon. When opening an existing project and saving changes to the previously opened SDB is saved as a backup. These SDB.BAK files can be renamed to recover the previous project data.
A lot of thought has been put into making access to n4ce tools both quick and logical. User configurability has been built into the n4ce UI, allowing quick access to favourite tools. Hotkeys take this onto another level.
Configuring n4ce – Classic Version
When using the dropdown version of n4ce, you will see many shortcut options appearing, such as icons (left) or hotkey combinations (right), as shown below in the View menu. In essence, there would be three different ways of accessing these tools – menu, icon or hotkey.
CAD – Dropdown View Menu
Standard or default Icon bars will appear when opening graphics screens. These can be removed or supplemented with user-defined icon bars, docking them on the sides or top or bottom of the screen. This would then reduce your clicks from two to one when accessing commands from user-defined icon bars.
Note: not all commands are available with a shortcut icon, only the most popular!
The following customised procedure is available in CAD, Models and Drawings. The example shown here is for CAD, but the same would apply to models and Drawings.
The currently selected toolbars will appear in a list as shown in the following dialog and can be turned on/off by clicking on the relevant toolbars.
Currently Selected Standard Toolbars
A user-defined Toolbar can be defined by selecting the New button. You will be asked to type in a new toolbar name.
New Toolbar Name
A new Toolbar will then appear top left, as shown below. Next, select the Commands tab, followed by the Categories you wish to copy icons from. These can be dragged and dropped into the new Toolbar – be selective!
Customizing The New Toolbar
The new Toolbar can then be docked with other Toolbars, as shown here. Multiple new user Toolbars can be created and docked, left, top, right or bottom of the screen.
Docking of the New Toolbar
Note: you must use Save Toolbars otherwise they will be lost when exiting the graphics screen.
Before we discuss customizing the Ribbon Bar version it may help to look at a few options that appear differently in the two versions, as access to these is important.
Firstly, the Pick, Lock and Draw options. In the Classic version, these are accessed via a menu bar, as shown here.
Pick, Lock & Draw
Secondly, Backcloths and then Layer Overrides used in models.
The backcloth tool allows you to overlay models, CAD, images & alignments to a current view. This tool is used elsewhere to extract CAD data into models.
Queries between overlays are also possible. In this case, you may select which overlay has precedence, using the first three icons.
Layer Override is part of layering and can be accessed through the layer’s icon.
Layers Dialog – Note Override Button
When you select the Override Button a new Dialog box will appear.
Layer Override Dialog
Models contain coded coordinate data that are cross-referenced to a Code Table, which in turn defines graphical features, which may look like CAD but is much more intelligent!
Each model has its own Dedicated CAD backcloth that overlays the model. It’s here that n4ce draws its tables, fills in features and allows other CAD detailing like dimensioning. Models are fully layered with the Dedicated CAD Backcloth, sharing the same layers as the model. Layers can be turned on/off but with Overrides, objects and the Dedicated CAD Backcloth likewise turned on/off irrespective of which layer they appear on. You will also see a Grid Lines option here.
Note: Direct access to the Layer Override is best done through the ALT+F9 hotkey combination
Configuring n4ce – Ribbon Bar Version
The Ribbon Bar version of n4ce has a different way of accessing tools. For example, the tools discussed above are now available in a Properties Panel, shown here on the left, with other settings.
Model Properties Panel (left) & Dropdown Menu
When selecting a Category (tab) different Ribbon Bars will appear. Some of the tools may have multiple options that can be accessed via drop-down menus as shown above. Again, you will see icons alongside some of these tools. How can we use these?
Ribbon Bar Quick Access Toolbar Customization
The large icon top left is called the Jewel which changes depending on which Category you have chosen. This is equivalent to the File menu in the Classic version, containing options such as Save, Save As, Print etc.
Jewel (File) Options
The Icons to the right are popular user-defined icons and, in this example, contain New, Open, Save, Print and Undo/Redo. The dropdown arrow is where you can customize this Quick Access Toolbar (QAT), which can also be docked at the bottom of the Ribbon Bar.
Having selected the Customize option it's now possible to make your own QAT. A dialog box will appear, as shown below, allowing you to choose the category containing tools that you wish to add to the QAT. This is done by highlighting the tool in the commands window and using the Add button to move it to the right window. Up and down arrows are available to move the chosen icon along the QAT. Please note that some tools are multiple choices and when selected from the QAT will produce a mini menu.
Setting up The Quick Access Toolbar (QAT)
Note: if you change the licence of n4ce from a Designer to Professional or Professional to Lite these Quick Access Toolbars will be lost and will need to be reformed.
Further Useful n4ce Tools
When working in graphics, it’s possible to turn on a tooltip option. This will highlight detail you hover over and provide additional information and may negate the need to query detail before editing. The icons which control this tool are shown here.
In the example used below, from the Classic UI, we hovered over a point with a photo attached. This shows the image and further detail including point code, number, xyz and in this case height difference between the point and a DTM backcloth.
ToolTips in Action
Note: Access to the Layer Override and Tooltips in the Ribbon Bar version is through the properties panel, on the left of the graphics screen, using on/off ticks.
Cursor Settings – Ribbon Bar Properties
During a working session in n4ce graphics, the last 10 commands are stored in an action list allowing you to recall previously used commands. A mouse right-click will step back one action and tapping the space bar will step forwards one action on the list. This can be very useful when editing height text in a model. The first action could delete text whilst the second could be move text.
This will only work with the two adjacent actions at the top of the tree. Further right-clicking will take you further down the tree, but is there a quicker way to access previously used tools? Well of course we’ve thought of that too, using the ALT+M hotkey combination.
Last 10 Commands Menu (ALT+M)
In this UI overview, we’ve explored just a few of the fabulous tools found in n4c to make your experience using n4ce more enjoyable. There is much more to explore in n4ce and we invite you to explore the hotkey options found elsewhere in this article here.