I am a big fan of Middle Atlantic Products (MAP) and have been using their products for around 15 years.  When I was a system integrator I used to pour over their catalog looking for unique equipment rack and storage solutions for my clients.  One of the first Visio SmartShapes I created was an intelligent rack shape that would change size based on the overall height and width of the shape without changing the top and bottom dimensions.  This was done so I would not have to draw every freaking rack size and model individually

Exactly 10 years ago (+-) with the help of the (pre Microsoft) Visio corporation I launched version 1 of what would eventually become the D-Tools SI product line at the CEDIA trade show in New Orleans.  During that show I met the MAP Director of Marketing, Mark Tracy.  He was impressed with some of the work we had done with rack shapes and eventually we worked out a deal where we modified our current software to just support MAP Rack shapes.

This was called RackTools and it was a huge boost to my fledgling company.  Not only did they pay us a tidy sum to create RackTools but we got to ride on the marketing coat-tails of a very well known company for many years.  Looking back this was probably one of the keys to our success in the early years.

Over the past five years or so we have primarily focused our efforts on our SI product line and have not done any outside consulting.  During that time MAP switched from Visio to a proprietary system for RackTools and the Visio version of RackTools soft of languished in software limbo.

That is until now.  I just got a marketing email from MAP announcing among other things “The Visio Blocks are Here”  I was intrigued, so I downloaded the file to check out.  This is not the same as the previous or current RackTools products which are more complete programs with code and databases.  This is basically a collection of very well done Visio Shapes organized into a stencil set with a template.

Like I mentioned these are very well done shapes and leverage the Visio ShapeSheet to provide a nice level of automation without getting too complicated.  Any student of Visio shapes or any manufacturer could learn a lot from how these shapes/blocks are built.  I will put off the technical analysis of these shapes for another post but stay tuned for Part 2:  “How to add and link the the New Middle Atlantic blocks (shapes) to a D-Tools project, stencil and database.”