By Tim Schurr
Have you noticed the “.aproj_data” folder that always appears along-side your Leapfrog project file?
If you’ve ever had to move or copy a project to another location, you’ve probably come across it, opened folder using explorer and discovered a whole raft of sub-folders and files and thought “What’s all of this? Is this really my Leapfrog project?”
In this article, I will explain the reason why Leapfrog saves projects in seemingly such a bizarre way, then I’ll give you a couple of tricks on how to get the best performance and reliability out of your Leapfrog projects.
Optimised for performance
The reason Leapfrog products save their projects to disk in this manner is to optimise performance. In other words, it is built this way so you don’t have to wait any longer than what is absolutely necessary when dropping a new wireframe or block model into the scene. In fact, the way the software is designed means that the only limiting factor to how fast these operations work is quite literally how quickly your computer can move your project data directly onto its graphics card. This is great because it means that the performance you experience in the software scales with the computer hardware that you feed it.
Let’s compare another way AGL could have engineered this: by storing pieces of the project on disk in their native formats. Say you import an *.obj wireframe, Leapfrog stores an *.obj wireframe in the project folder on disk. Now, every time Leapfrog needs to use that wireframe, as an input to a model or even just for viewing in the scene, the software must load the file, convert its format and add colouring and shading modes, then push it onto the graphics card. For large objects, this can use up many valuable seconds of your time over and over again every day.
Instead, Leapfrog stores your project in pieces that are efficient for the disk, using internal formats that are optimised for direct access using memory mapping, which all means the software performs like a rocket, especially when you consider how much is going on behind the scenes while you’re modelling.
Behind the scenes
Even for simple tasks like processing drilling data and making wireframes, Leapfrog software is constantly reading and writing to your project on disk. This is why the software doesn’t have a save button: every triangle and every parameter is saved to disk automatically, all the time.
With this in mind, you can see how working with Leapfrog projects stored on poorly connected disk drives might have a substantial impact on the performance of the software, both from a visualisation and modelling perspective. For example, if you’ve opened a project directly from a network disk, the software is suddenly hindered by the slower transfer speeds in every aspect: when processing a model, when importing, when visualising components.
Furthermore, due to the way USB thumbdrives and network drives can easily become disconnected from your computer, you’re putting your project at risk of corruption should the connection drop while the software is writing.
Given that we always want to keep our projects fully intact and functioning as quickly as possible, there’s a couple of simple things we can do to keep us on this path.
Work from your computer’s disk
You might’ve already guessed, but the best thing you can do to make Leapfrog software run fast and protect your projects from unwanted corruptions is to work from projects that are on your local hard disk. This is not to say that projects cannot be stored and transported on Network and USB disk drives, but instead these projects should be copied to a local working directory prior to opening. And there’s a couple of nice ways to do this.
Save a zipped copy
Leapfrog Geo, Hydro & Geothermal all feature a handy function on the main application menu that allows you to easily compress your project into a zipped archive. If your project needs to go to a network or USB drive this is easily done directly from the software. When you need to move an archived project from a network or USB drive, just unzip it directly from the network into a working folder on your PC and you’re set to go.
Store your backups
In your organisation, it’s worthwhile putting in place some simple processes for storing projects on your company’s network drives. This might include the method above for storing projects and working on Leapfrog projects, but another thing you might consider is maintaining an historical archive for each of your projects. With just a few folders and file naming conventions, you can easily have all of your previous models and projects at hand for revisiting decisions and the like.
For the future
AGL is constantly searching for ways to improve our software to make your work easier. We know that storing and sharing projects in an organisation can make for some tricky file operations and we are working toward some great workflow-based solutions to this in the future.