5 Design Productivity Enhancements that Every Designer Needs to Know When Using MiTek Sapphire

I like to think of myself as a regular guy who likes to design trusses. I don’t claim to know all the correct methods or technical lingo, but I do seem to have some skill in regard to speed and accuracy. I have been asked multiple times to observe other team members and point out ways to enhance their efficiency. I wanted to share with you a few tips that I recommend to help.

1. Use at least two monitors.

  • Every time I design, I open the plan on one monitor, and MiTek Sapphire on the other monitor.
  • Today, we don’t have paper plans like we did in the past. Most customers provide a plan in a digital format. Rarely do we have the luxury of seeing a paper plan, so we need to work well with what we have.
  • By keeping both the plan and the layout open separately, you have the next best thing to a paper plan.  You can double-check elevations and dimensions with a quick glance instead of risking costly mistakes.

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2. Be smart about calculations.

  • Buy a Construction Master Pro calculator (around $50), or go the affordable route by choosing the Construction Master Pro app on your iPhone or Android phone ($19.99).
    • These calculators can help you quickly find roof pitches, diagonal lengths, and hips and valleys.  They can also convert feet to inches and vice versa.
    • When you learn how to properly use this tool, you won’t be held back by missing numbers on your plan.  You can simply and quickly figure them out for yourself.
    • Sure, MiTek comes with a free calculator (MII), but it is not nearly as efficient or robust as a Construction Master Pro.
  • When you are inputting walls, you can easily add dimensions to find the overall dimension of the wall.
    • Instead of entering a dimension as you normally would, start with an equal (=) sign.
    • Enter your string of dimensions, and press tab when you’re finished. This will give you the overall dimension.  Just hit enter, and you will have quickly entered a wall that has many dimensions but lacks an overall dimension.

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3. Combine TIFF and PDF files.

  • It is a serious nightmare to get a plan that has 100 separate TIFF or PDF files. You can breathe easy once you learn this clear cut technique for combining them.
  • I recommend that you purchase a full version of Adobe Acrobat to do this.
  • Highlight all the files you want to combine. Right click, and choose ‘Combine supported files.’

4. Import PDFs into Sapphire.

  • I’m kind of a tech “nerd”, so every time a new version of MiTek comes out, I read the “Release Notes” to find out about all the new features (You can find these for yourself under the “Help” tab). By far, this technique is the best resource I have found.
  • Importing your plan into your layout program really helps eliminate errors.
  • You cannot snap to points (unless you convert it), but you can see when you have something input incorrectly.

5. Master the art of Keystrokes.

  • Keystrokes are faster than pointing and clicking. If you don’t believe me, start counting your mouse clicks. If it takes you two or more clicks to complete an action, you would have saved time with a one-handed keystroke.
  • If you want to be fast, keep one hand on the keyboard and one hand on the mouse, and never move them.
  • Sapphire comes pre-configured with basic keystrokes.  Here are the ones I use most:
    • ‘W’ will bring up your Wall dialog box.
    • ‘T’ will bring up your Truss input dialog box.
    • ‘Ctrl+T’ enters you into Top Chord edit mode.
    • ‘Ctrl+B’ enters you into Bottom Chord edit mode.
    • ‘Ctrl+S’ saves your document.  (If you’ve been designing trusses for any length of time, you know this is needed, often.)
  • To identify the keystroke for an action, you can hover your mouse over the button you would normally click.  If it has a keystroke assigned, it will display.

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  • You can find a complete list of pre-configured keystrokes by going to Setup > Program Settings and selecting Keyboard Shortcuts.
    • Once you’re there, you can also assign a keystroke for virtually any task you do regularly, and you should.

In the business of component design, efficiency is the key. Why not do it quickly, but more importantly, accurately? What tricks have you found to help you increase your speed?

Tyler Martinez – Design Professional

Gould Design, Inc.