Northwest 1st Street East.  Ever been in a town where street after street was named like that?  It is a bit unconventional for those of us who grew up in suburbs where winding, tree lined streets with names like Bellwood Drive, Marigold Road, or Buck Springs Trail were the norm.  Ride into a big city and suddenly there are more people, more buildings, more streets, and less visibility to the next road over where you might be headed.  In such an environment, efficiency is important, things move fast.  If I am on Northwest 1st Street East in an unfamiliar city, and I need to get to Northwest 5th Street East, I only have to go 1 block over to know if I am headed in the right direction or need to turn back the other way.

As your D-Tools database of products, packages, and shapes grows in size it becomes like a big city where efficient and accurate navigation is vital.  Sales Staff, Designers, the Engineering Department, and Project Managers will all be navigating different neighborhoods within D-Tools as projects move through their life-cycle in our company.  Beyond learning to navigate D-Tools itself, our staff must learn to navigate the database we build.  D-Tools SI software gives all of us users a great platform for organizing Product Data using Category and optional Type designations.  For other areas of the database, we are on our own to make the database reflect our company’s unique System offerings, Package structure, and Shape usage.  So, where do we start to make our database efficient as it grows into what is like a big city with lots of users?

Setup – ‘The Roots’

Within the Setup section of D-Tools is the Zones List.  This is the best place to plant the seeds which become the roots of names used to identify packages in your database.  I refer to the items in the Zones List as my Company’s Named Systems, as it all starts there.  We have all been asked the question, “So my friend, what does your company do?”  After we give our elevator pitch, our answer usually includes a list that could be summed up in the table below.

Develop your Zones List of Named Systems to review with Sales, Design, Engineering, and Project Management in order to get agreement on the names and a full understanding of what each of these systems includes in the way of features and specific products.  Then, plug those names and brief descriptions of each into the Zones List of D-Tools SI5 and use them in your packages.

Packages – What’s in a Name?

Packaging in D-Tools is the process of taking items in the database, and placing them into Modular Assemblies called Packages.  Unlike Product items in the database which can be sorted and filtered by Category and Type, Packages are all placed into one table and sort within the D-Tools database alpha-numerically.  Therefore, to make Packages easy to find and use, it is vital to have a Naming Convention for Packages and follow it when adding new packages.  Make note of the Package name below and how it references the Named System for which it is used.
Wiring Package Example

Within D-Tools, Packages have no classification for Category or Type, but we can use a naming convention for our Packages that contain a Category, Type, and Keywords within the name.

Wiring Package – Distributed Audio – Speakers and Source Control
Category                       Type                                Keywords

This approach will enable Sales Staff to locate and use pre-engineered packages during project development which leads to more consistency in design, efficiency in installation, and succinct client proposals.  It is common to find 40-50 packages in an Engineered Database for D-Tools, so package structure is vital to efficiency.  Since Packages are selected through drop down windows in D-Tools the name of the package is the primary key to understanding what the package contains.

The table below shows a package structure that uses a planned naming convention and another that evolved through attempts at creating a naming convention.  Note that each table is sorted alpha-numerically to illustrate how they would appear in the drop window of the ‘Add Package’ function in a project, which structure do you find easier to navigate and discern?

Shapes Too! – Look How Much They Do!

Each Product Category in D-Tools has a corresponding Stencil with Shapes for use on the four page types found within the Visio template used in D-Tools projects.  D-Tools Visio Shapes can be used on any of the four page types, Line, Elevation, Plan, or Schematic, yet each shape has a specific page for which it was designed.  In addition, each shape may have one of four behaviors as well, including: Default, Icon, Scale, and Annotation.  Once a database is built to include your core Products, Accessories and Packages, the selection of the symbols (Visio shapes) that shall be used to represent the items in Line, Elevation, Plan and Schematic views is the next task required in order to build efficiency into the design process that flows right to efficiency in the field.  After all, items of like Category and Type should be represented by like symbols on your design documents.
Tip! Any D-Tools Visio stencil may be opened for editing which allows modification and renaming of the existing shapes, and the addition of new shapes.

With all the attributes that a shape can have in D-Tools, along with a name that indicates what the shape is to represent, shapes need naming conventions too.  D-Tools SI5 includes lots of great shapes, and as your database becomes a reflection of your unique system offerings and product mix, adding shapes to the stencils is common.  Creating new categories and corresponding stencils is common among D-Tools Power Users, further necessitating the need for naming conventions within shapes.  To map the new or existing shapes to specific items in the database is similar to working with packages in that the user selects from a list of shapes in a drop down window that is sorted alpha-numerically as seen in the screen shot below.
Changing Shape using the Process DSG Enhanced Stencil Suite for D-Tools SI5

The table below shows the shapes that are named within the Distributed Audio Stencil of the NEW Process DSG Enhanced Stencil Suite for D-Tools SI5 and a user Distributed Audio Stencil that evolved through the addition of shapes to meet the needs of a specific company’s database and symbol legend.  Note that each table is sorted alpha-numerically to illustrate how the shape names appear in the drop down window of the ‘D-Tools > Change Shape‘ function and in the Visualizations tab of the Product Data drop down windows.

Distributed Audio Stencil

The naming convention for the shapes in the NEW Process DSG Enhanced Stencil Suite for D-Tools SI5 give users a clear guide for which page type any given shape is designed, as well as the behavior of the shape with regard to scale, icon, or annotation, followed by a description of the shape.  Other enhancements include a ‘drag and drop’ legend for each stencil and over 25 highly requested icon shapes fully resizable for plan views.  The Process DSG Enhanced Stencil Suite is available to all D-Tools SI5 users, for more information visit our Forum Knowledgebase and download a FREE Enhanced Stencil!

About Process Dealer Services Group
Our mission is to increase our clients’ profitability by building efficiency into the sales design process – the very root of success in our industry.  To contact Process DSG, call: (805) 275-2308; email:; or visit our website:

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