Trainz/Content Manager 2.0--CM3.7
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Introduction To CM/CMPEdit
- Main coverage: Content Manager Plus, AM&C/Content Manager
- Background to the Content Manager and the DLS
Predecessors to CM or CMP were a stand alone utilities from Trainz 1.0 through TRS2004-SP4 (also named ContentManager.exe,. hence the 'Plus' of TRS2006's CMP) with which users could install new modeling assets. There weren't many options but installing assets. Other utilities performed some of the tasks (e.g. uploading) but Data Management was mainly manual by moving folders about. In essence the early simple ContentManager.exe programs did some simple file management and unpacked cdp files and tucked their contents away in a scheme using open folders, enumerated folder locations, and a data system that had no real data base to it. They could also create cdp files, allowing the early growing Trainz community to feast on shared creations. Eventually, the early Download Station was hosted by Auran and users could browse without much search capability much as one can on today's less sophisticated 3rd party Trainz fan-sites. Most of these are operated by an individual or a small group of Content Creators. Prior to TRS2004, the cloud services we know as the DLS was more list presenting access to a disorganized collection of zip and cdp files than an organized database with a built in search engine, FTP manager. It was a central repository but a chaotic one, and the chaos was converted into today's order when DLS was established during UTC's hey days (v1.5), a little before the time TRS2004 (v2.0) came about.
The need for CMPEdit
The early local Trainz install's database was more organized as groups of open files as well, and data corruption was thus more likely until TRS2004 evolved a better file structure and compressed data formats, which was best exploited with the advent of TRS2006 and its Content Manager Plus became a data base manager and search and access tool. With a database manager on the servers to handshake with on the DLS end, the more sophisticated user-end software became feasible and it arrived with trainz-build v2.5 (TRS2006 Content Manager—then retitled as Content Manager Plus (or CMP).
The powers of CMPEdit
CMP had capabilities unknown in the earlier Trainz 'Content Manager' which relied on a primitive region and type tags classification system for it's limited capabilities of asset grouping and searching. The earlier module was mostly a listing/cataloging utility allowing a user to examine her own inventory of assets, with no information from the DLS.
- CMP took on a whole host of additional capabilities formerly performed by several separate *.exe utility programs, including those of 3rd party providers, and incorporated a ton of new powerful search, classification, and asset management features such as:
- the ability to directly communicate with the Download Station (DLS) during searching
- could import content from installation to installation by direct file importing/parsing
- or via cdp importation,
- export a route or asset or
- upload it to share with others on the DLS
- manage asset editing
- manage and use archives and archiving
- search by combining criteria and classification
and generally became the center-point for asset operations not involving actually building a route.
CM/CMP (Content Manager Plus) is accessible via the Trainz Launcher screens or by directly launching the ContentManager.exe file from the Trainz installation's root directory \bin sub-folder (recommended, or by shortcut thereto). Many users with multiple Trainz installations will bundle shortcuts to launch the CM or Trainz launcher programs from a common Trainz folder. CM's primary purpose is to manage the data flow to and from the DLS and manage the local assets on your hard drive (located in your ..\UserData folder) and the sub-folders therein (such as the ..\local, ..\settings, ..\screenshots, ..\editing folders) as well as the Trainz release's special data base of built-in items. (See JA files and Libraries.)
Mainly Trainzer's use it to communicate and manage downloading from the DLS, and to select and filter assets for surveyor. TS2009 introduced enhanced filtering (selectable savable criteria were part of the T'06 CMP, but the way they could be combined was limited. In T'09, the new power was in the addition of new search-refining Boolean logic operators: OR, AND NOT, and AND [the latter of which is somewhat redundant in most uses[note 1]]) so power users will often define a search criteria, called a search filter, save that and then use that to trim down the list of assets one must look through to find a desired asset when route building.
CM/CMP has a sophisticated search facility and automatically identifies and downloads dependencies associated with each asset. CM/CMP is closely integrated to CCP and is also used to open assets for editing and committing them for use in Trainz. In TRS2006 and above, new assets and asset clones (copies with new kuids) are created via CM/CMP, though a route or session may be cloned using a Save As option in Surveyor.
Getting around in CMEdit
CMP through CM-3.7 looks much like a spreadsheet with relocatable columns (from CM-2.0 of TS2009) meaning columns selected for viewing in the 'main view' (the right hand part of the screen) using ALT+V can later be slide left or right and rearranged to suit the user preferences, or the type of task you might be about. For example, one day you might want to locate all the assets that were installed with the download of XYZ route and sessions, so want to see install date... an otherwise uninformative data column. Some days you want modification date, and on others perhaps, the regions, era or the trainz-build values are your primary sorting and searching interests. The check box in the ALT+V menu allow hiding columns or turning their display on, whilst dragging them allows you to rearrange them left to right.
- title bar notations
The notations CM-X.Y appears in the CM/CMP title bar after TC3 and after TS2009-SP3 the X.Y (initially just CM-2.0) was incremented with each code build and so displayed as a suffix to give a visual reminder of the trainz-build tag or 'version' of the Trainz software. It now signifies the trainz-build code an asset created or updated using Content Creator Plus (CCP) editing will be given.
- Editing modes
CM supports asset editing in two forms: CCP, which is a table-like fill in the blanks rigid form for getting the proper parts assigned to a new asset, or by free form editing using Windows utilities. For asset repairs, virtually everyone avoids CCP and uses a Windows Explorer editing folder with direct access to the files making up the asset. This folder and files can be opened in several ways:
- Hotkeys SHFT+CTRL+E directly opens a Windows Explorer folder with no processing, and it pops up immediately on top of other screen windows.
- RMBH+drag+Open With accesses one of the PEVtools or other batch utility that has been installed in the \bin\...\Tools sub-folder. Thusly, for example, if a repair requires accessing textures (say in the error message you see an alphamask and it's base texture don't match in size, so one needs re-sized) one can open the asset with PEV's images2TGA utility and be ready to fix the problem immediately. In this case the window will often be behind or other another Windows application window depending upon your video set up and the biases built-in to Windows. If running a dual or three monitor system, often these can be biased to open in the other screen(s) from CM, so will open where it can be seen immediately.
Left hand panesEdit
For the moment, notice the default tabs along CM's top of the main view each load a search criteria in the Search pane when pressed; and also that by using Tab ↹ (Toggles) one can hide or open the left panes. The How-To Search efficiently in CM
tutorial & reference will allow us to cover tips and tricks in depth outside this survey topic. (You didn't want to read that here, now anyway, did you?)
As can be seen in the image below and left, each left hand pane has a little click icon to open it or close it, and in normal operations, one will be the DLH (Download Helper) pane, another the Asset Details pane, and as needed, the Search pane, or other combinations (uploads, archive, and pick list) based on what you are doing that give you the desired flexibility. Each can be closed when set up and still have effect, or the whole set of panes can be toggled open or closed with commensurate widening or narrowing by alternate presses of the Tab ↹ key. Other panes shown are for uploading, archiving, and so forth, but like the DLH pane, these are used primarily by dragging and dropping from the Main View into the pane, so must be open to be in actual use. Play a bit and read the manual, whether printed or in pdf format, then re-read it. Wait a month and read it again. Each time will give you the power of additional knowledge and insights as to the capabilities shedding further light on what we present here.
Download Helper (DLH)Edit
You should always give the DLH some 'few minutes' of time to settle before hitting Start, but once it's cranked the top of your list for a couple of minutes, these days hitting start seems risk free, unlike some of the instabilities CMP used to exhibit as are alluded to in the CMP article. True, CM-2.0 may suffer some of the same issues, but CM-3.3 and after offload much of the data management to a better implementation of TADdaemon.exe which gates data to and from the DLS whilst TrainzUtil.exe manages adds, extractions, and so forth to the database proper; both being invisible in the background save to power users. The TS12 TADdaemon is much improved over that of TS09 & TS10s shared technology.
To pick something for download, one sets up a search criteria (see image left) then clicks on one or more assets to select them (Highlighted, colors of CM and highlighting are as you set them in your Windows theme) then drag them into the DLH pane. As you add more you'll likely note some activity going on, part of which is CM and the DLS are filling in dependencies—sub-assets the asset you selected depend upon as parts, for example the bogeys, wheels, or couplings of that railcar type, or textures, etc. which are parts of the assets you selected. As you add more by drag and drop, the list will grow a scroll bar and grow longer as dependencies are identified and added.
Buttons are straight forward, Start, Clear, Stop, and +/- to add/delete a new 'filter-line' (API data window). With nothing in the pane, it's already cleared.
|Example of DLS 'Unexpected Consequences'|
|One problem with DLS Route downloads:|
Grabbing a Route or Session can bring
in 'bunches of tonnes' of dependencies!
(And their faults, if they use an old kuid!)[note 2]
Perils of DownloadingEdit
New Trainzer's need be aware of the perils of downloading too much too soon. There is a smart way to proceed, and ones less effective. The Table at right illustrates this point. Six assets were listed as downloads in the DLH pane. When the dependencies were added by CM, the download was 36! A sixfold increase, and this is a mild example. Downloading a session will bring in a route, the route (and since Layers were introduced in TS10) and sessions might both have several thousand or several hundred asset dependencies respectively.
Perhaps even more than the DLH the Search Pane will likely receive your most frequent attentions.
Notes, Footnotes & ReferencesEdit
Config.txt files are endemic and ever present in Trainz assets, for no asset can be defined without this type of Computer Science container. The keyword-value_of_key pairing must always be kept in mind in editing or creating Trainz content. The TrainzBaseSpec contains values and containers which are most common in asset defining config.txt files.
- ↑ AND Boolean Operator: Is rarely needed in simple filters, for two filter entry windows entered (stacked) one-after-another automatically combine in a Boolean AND. Hence, It's usefulness comes mostly in filter formations using the AND NOT operator first with a conditional linked to a second or third criteria separated by an OR operator.
- ↑ On Download unexpected consequences:
In my experience, Surveyor and CM don't update a Session or Route kuid-table (dependencies) when saving an asset, if a newer Kuid2 or Obsolete-table entry replaces it. That action seems to happen only at load time. Hence, even an updated 'face-lifted' route may call for older KUIDs... and if your system doesn't have the latest update, the old one's come down as well.
This necessitates a version check of each missing dependency and a subsequent download. A 'How-To' process we'll cover elsewhere in depth.
- ↑ TANE CM/SP1-Situation normal: Announced in the planning by Tony Hilliam in early August, without any expected publication date/deadline.
- Trainz printed or pdf file Manuals, applicable version - usually in the ..\extras or ..\extras\manuals folder
- TrainzOnline Wiki Config.txt file page and various other pages
- TrainzOnline Wiki: Content Creator's Guide pages (various)
- Various CCG and Auran websites