Vault—Configure Don't Customize: The Power of Custom Objects (Part 1 of 2)

This first of a two-part series explores how to use Custom Objects to extend your Vault to bring information currently stored in external Excel or Access files safely inside your Vault. We will show how to do this using Configuration instead of complex code that's expensive to write and needs to be rebuilt with each version upgrade.

Kim Hendrix explains how Vault can help your firm with data management and standardization.

Custom Objects Explained

Autodesk Definition

Custom Objects allow Vault administrators to use an extensible system to create new Vault entities to meet the needs of their team, organization, or company. An administrator can create an out-of-the-box Custom Object definition and assign it categories, lifecycles, and properties. Once the Custom Object definition is created, users can create instances of that Custom Object directly through the user interface. As with files and folders, users can perform many common Vault tasks with Custom Objects.

My Definition

Custom Objects can be defined as a table of information residing in the SQL database that allows you to manage lists and collections of information directly in the Vault interface. This allows for all your data to be managed in one central location.

How to Use Custom Objects

Quality Use Cases

Think of any list you currently maintain in Excel or Access; for example:

  • Naming system prefix
  • Legacy data from other systems (change orders, BOMs) 
  • Customer information
  • Project information
  • Task list/assignments

Do not limit yourself to free-standing bits of information if you reference a list to create a filename or you reference an Excel sheet to populate metadata on your drawing or title block. This kind of reference list can be managed inside of Custom Objects.

Find out what you can do with Custom Objects in Vault and how they give you power to work with your data.

Cascading lists can also be managed since you can link one Custom Object to another. You can create cascading lists for your Data Standards dialogs. We will explore how to extend Vault UI to support cascading list Custom Objects in Vault–Configure Don’t Customize: The Power of Data Standards (Part 2 of 2).

Custom Objects also work well with Vault Data Standards. You can create simple dialogs to add the metadata to the Custom Objects. You can also use the information from Custom Objects to populate Data Standard dialogs dropdowns for other applications.

Configure Custom Objects

Create the Custom Object

Vault settings.
Vault settings.

Tools -> Administration -> Vault Settings Vault settings 

1) Custom Objects Tab

2) Select Configure

Custom Object configuration.
Custom Object configuration.

3) Fill out Display Name

4) Fill out Plural Display Name

5) Configure Security if necessary (I use Lifecycles for securities)

6) Choose default Icon, or select a custom Icon file

Once the Custom Object is configured, it is technically ready to use; however, to make it more powerful some further configuration is necessary. The Custom Objects will be listed on the lower left of the Vault Client.


Set up a Category that matches your Custom Object Name.

Configure the Custom Object Category.
Configure the Custom Object Category.

Do not make this the default category, as you may create other Custom Objects, but do set up a rule that configures to this Category upon creation of a new entry in your Custom object.

Category Rule

Configure the Custom Object Rule.

1) Select Rules in Tools > Administration > Vault Settings > Behaviors

2) Select New

3) Name your Rule

4) Select the Property

  • a. Custom Object Name
  • b. Contains or is
  • c. [Name of your Custom Object]

5) Add the Condition

6) Check the box to apply rules on object creation

7) Click OK

Category assignment rules.
Category assignment rules.


You will then need to set up all the necessary data to make the Custom Object useful. In this example, we will be importing a list of Legacy ECNs from an Excel worksheet, so I will match all the properties to the data in the Excel sheet.

Legacy system export of ECNs.
Legacy system export of ECNs.


Property setup applied to legacy ECN Category.
Property setup applied to legacy ECN Category.

Detail Custom Objects Using Data Standards

After a minimal Data Standard setup, you can view the legacy information in a Datasheet view. When Data Standard is installed as part of the Vault Client, a Custom Object definition of Task is configured. By simply copying that setup, you get the results below.

Custom Object displayed with a Data Standard Datasheet.
Custom Object displayed with a Data Standard Datasheet.

Setting Up the Data Standards

Vault Data Standards comes preconfigured with a Custom Object called Task. The Data Standard extension requires three parts to support a Custom Object. The sample Task Custom Object shows what each of these are and where they need to be in the system folders.

1) Configuration Folder

2) Entries in MenuDefinitions.XML

3) PowerShell and XAML files for modification

Note: Context menu support for Custom Objects is only available if a custom object exists.

To configure a new Custom Object to work with Data Standards, copy the three components from the Task sample, and modify as needed.

MenuDefinitions File:


1) Copy the entries in the file and replace the work Task with the Display Name of the Custom Object (‘Legacy ECNs’ in this example).

Excerpt from MenuDefinitions.XML.
Excerpt from MenuDefinitions.XML.

2) Still in the MenuDefinitions file, copy the section for the Task, and modify it for LegacyECNs.

Excerpt from MenuDefinitions.XML.
Excerpt from MenuDefinitions.XML.

  3) Copy the folder: %programdata%\Autodesk\\Extensions\DataStandard\Vault\Configuration\Task

to: %programdata%\Autodesk\\Extensions\DataStandard\Vault\Configuration\LegacyECNs

At the simplest level, that is all that is required to get the DataSheet view shown above. To customize the datasheet and the menu options, you can customize the XAML file located in the folder, copied above in Step 3.

To learn how to set up Visual Studio to assist with modifications/creation of XAML files, see the AKN article, Autodesk Vault Data Standard – Configuration Editor.

Kim Hendrix discusses how Vault can help you achieve data standardization and why it's important.

Custom Objects to Populate Data Standard Dialogs

The Class Prefixes Custom Object is used in an item numbering or file numbering system. The Custom Object has properties to define a Class Name, Prefix, a Boolean option for Manual Allowed, and Digits. These properties are used to populate the automated numbering system generator.

Snapshot of Class Prefixes Custom Object.
Snapshot of Class Prefixes Custom Object.

The Data Standard dialog calls a PowerShell script function to read all the information from the Class Prefixes Custom Object and uses that information to populate a drop-down box for the app to generate the appropriate file/item number.

Snapshot of generating Custom Numbers.
Snapshot of generating Custom Numbers.

  The XAML File

The XAML file for the dropdown box makes a call to a function that is preloaded each time Vault executes in the folder:

%ProgramData%\ Autodesk\Vault 2020\Extensions\DataStandard\Vault.Custom\addinVault

The PowerShell Function

1) Get all the Custom Object Entities

2) Identify the Custom Object we are looking to use

3) Get all Properties associated with this Object

4) Use the API to do a search for all Objects

5) Return that list to the XAML file


Function to get a list of Objects to populate drop-down.
Function to get a list of Objects to populate drop-down.


Custom Objects are a powerful addition to Autodesk Vault that seem to be underutilized. Think of Custom Objects as a simple table in a database or a spreadsheet that can be related to other data inside the Vault by attaching files, items, or even other Custom Objects. Reference lists, legacy data from an old system, or a task that can be assigned to projects or personnel as other Custom Objects are all examples of quality uses for Custom Objects.

Want more? Continue learning with Vault—Configure Don't Customize: The Power of Data Standards (Part 2 of 2).

Based in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Kimberley Hendrix provides custom solutions for lean engineering using Autodesk products and industry knowledge to streamline design and engineering departments. Hendrix has worked in the manufacturing industry for over 30 years and she specialized in automated solutions for manufacturers. She has worked with Autodesk products since 1984. Hendrix is associated with D3 Technologies as a solutions consultant, focusing on data management and the customization of applications to streamline access to data across an organization.


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