Introducing Electra Symbol Search

Barely 30 days has passed since we released Electra E7, our brand new electrical, pneumatic and hydraulic CAD software and boy, have we got an update for you. The inspiration came from Eric at Double L who complains that Visio’s default shape search is unwieldy to say the least, as you would need to enable Windows Indexing Service and searches only the symbol name or prompt, and only on local drives, and not network drives. Can we do something to search these symbols correctly?, he asked. Errr…. we’ll try.

How to use Electra symbol search.

With this update (R101), when you open a new electra drawing, you will see a symbol search icon as shown below:

Electra symbol search icon

NOTE: If you are opening an older drawing, you will NOT be able to see this icon, until you have saved and re-open the same drawing.

Once clicked on symbol search, the search dialog will pop up as shown below:

Electra symbol search dialog

You can select to place search results in as many new stencils as required, which means you do not have to search repeatedly for the same thing. You can also save these stencils, so that you can work and organize your symbols the way you want, without the need for repeated searches even across projects.

How it works.

  1. Electra symbol search works on open stencils only, primarily because of speed considerations. Which means, if you want Electra to search your stencils, you must have it opened on your current drawing. You may need certain stencils on one project and other stencils on another, and since Electra only search open stencils, it will therefore only return symbols that you are currently interested in, and ignore the rest.
  2. All open stencils will be searched, irrespective of stencil file locations, be it on a local drive or a network folder that you have shared with your colleagues.
  3. Before searching for your symbols, Electra scans all open stencils and place search data into a database called “Search.accdb” that’s placed on the same folder as Electra6.mdb, your main component database, wherever you have set your database to be.

    How Electra symbol search works

  4. Each stencil’s last edited timestamp will be checked so that only recently updated stencils get scanned, while previously scanned stencils will be skipped. This ensures that Electra symbol search is really fast and speedy.
  5. Because the search database is placed on the same folder as your main Electra database folder, if you have set up a network folder to share databases, symbols and templates with your colleagues, this means even faster symbol searching as an update to the search database by one user, will mean an update for all users, without the need for re-scanning.
  6. For each keyword you search for, Electra will attempt to find the keyword in the following fields:
    • Master Name, Master Prompt, Master Keyword, Symbol Name, Symbol Reference, Symbol Description

    Electra symbol search fields

  7. The fields above are way beyond what Visio is capable of searching, and hopefully should serve our Electra users far better.

How to customize Electra symbol search.

If you wanted to mark certain symbols with your own keywords for faster searching, simply enter them in “Master Keyword” as follows:

  1. Right click on your stencil and select “Edit Stencil”.
  2. Right click on the symbol you wanted to modify and select “Edit Master”, then “Master Properties”.
  3. Simply key in your custom keywords and click OK.

    Customize Electra symbol search through keywords

How to maintain your search database.

As time progress, your search database will be filled up with stencil data. Some of these stencils may be deprecated and no longer used. To clean up and clear your search database:

  1. Click on Electra tab | Document Options | Miscellaneous | Clear search database.

Final words.

The entire process is pretty fast, and searches more extensively than normal Visio would, so please do give it a try and let us know if you have any comments or feedback. Thanks, Eric.

Prepared and proudly coded by Chan Pooi Kuan.

"Operation must use updateable query" error

Recently we tried to update our installer software, which unfortunately caused the installer to fail to set file permissions correctly during installation, and thus generated a "Operation must use updateable query" error. We have since fixed this, so please delete the C:\Program Files\Radica\Electra folder and re-download the installer to reinstall again, and the installer will set the correct file permissions to ensure smooth operations. Sorry for the inconvenience.

New in R219 & R220: Improved exporting to AutoCAD DWG and DXF.

It has been a while since we have blogged, so without further ado, the below are the list of benefits that have changed for these two releases:

  1. Automatic shape highlighting when double clicking on terminals.
  2. Automated terminal highlighting when double clicked.
  3. Smarter wire links.
  4. Updated wire links will now automatically pop up the pairing window if you have not paired the wire links. Once you have paired them, double clicking on them will let you jump to whatever target you're linked to.

    Smarter wire links that jumps when paired.
  5. Improved and automated exporting to AutoCAD DWG and DXF formats.
  6. Although Visio comes with built-in AutoCAD DWG and DXF exports, unfortunately it is limited to a single page export and fraught with rendering errors. After prolonged testing, we're happy to release tools that will allow users to export the entire document, without rendering errors.

    Accessing DWG and DXF exports.

Also included in these release, a host of updates and fixes that makes using Electra so much more easier. If you have no already, head on over to to download and run the update installer.

Proceed with caution on the new Visio 2013.

After testing Electra on the new Visio 2013, we are happy to report that Electra works extremely well with one single major caveat. Files that are saved in Visio 2013 will lose all functionalities, irrespective of whether if you save them into Visio 2013's new macro enabled xml format (.vsdm) or the older (.vsd) format. This is because Visio 2013 has a bug (confirmed by our correspondence with Microsoft), that causes all password protected macro documents to be unable to save properly without losing all macros (non password protected macros are not affected). So, in effect, this affects all add-ins, not only Electra.

As usual with Microsoft, we have no idea when this will be fixed, but we are not going to hold our breath until then. We felt that we owe our customers more speed and transparency, and have taken a few active steps, so that you can proceed with using Visio 2013, but with caution. Therefore, if you insist on using Visio 2013, here is what you have to do to ensure your files are saved properly without losing Electra functionalities:

How to use older drawings in Visio 2013.

All older drawings made using Electra will have their macros password protected. To save properly, you will need to use the following steps:

  1. Open your older drawing in Visio 2013.
  2. Press F11 to open the Visual Basic Editor.
  3. Click on “View” and select “Project Explorer” as shown below:
  4. Open VBA Project Explorer
  5. On the “Project” panel, double click on “Electra_Template” as shown below:
  6. Electrical Software Template
  7. You will be asked for a password, and if you don’t have one, please do email us at [email protected] and we will be glad to supply you with a password.
  8. Right click on the “Electra_Template” and select “Electra_Template Properties” as shown below:
  9. Template Properties
  10. Click on the “Protection” tab:
  11. Protection Tab
  12. Uncheck “Lock Project for Viewing”, delete password for “Password” and “Confirm password”:
  13. Protection Settings
  14. Click “OK” and close the Visual Basic Editor then save your drawing.

Essentially, you will have to unprotect your older drawing for it to save properly without losing Electra functionalities.

How to start a new drawing in Electra.

If you have not done so, please go to our Support page and download the latest Electra update (R219). After installing this update, the “New Electra Drawing.vst” template will be essentially non protected, and all files created using this template will not have problems saving in Visio 2013.

We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience, and will keep all of our customers updated on this issue as soon as we get some news.

Compile Error after Windows Update on Jan 10th, 2013

Update 3: We have confirmation that the below will solve this compile error problem.

Update 2: We are still awaiting some confirmation, but we believe the below will solve this problem:

  1. Re-download the Electra software (release or trial) and re-install Electra using the latest version.
  2. Remove .exd files and re-start Electra. More information on how to do this is available here:

Update 1: At this stage, it seems only Visio 2007 has problems, and Visio 2010 with Electra is working fine.

Unfortunately, after this Windows update, Electra has been broken again. We are throwing all our resources at this at the moment and hope to have a solution soon. New updates will be posted here in this post, so we would recommend NOT updating Windows at this stage.

New in R218: Exporting and Importing the Component Database.

As you use Electra to build up your Component Database, it's clear the interface is best suited for single component only. Try copying, adding or editing multiple components and you will soon find the entire process troublesome. In this release, we make the process of editing or adding multiple components into the database, a breeze.

  1. Exporting Component Database to Excel.
  2. Click on Electra tab/menu, then Export | Component Database, and the content of your component database will be exported to an Excel file. The entire database will always be exported and you cannot export only part of the database.

    Exported Component Database in Excel

    Once exported, you can then proceed to modify, add or edit accordingly.

  3. Importing an Excel file into the Component Database.
  4. To import an Excel file back into the Component Database, we strongly suggest that you use the template as it is exported above. After modifications, simply click on the Electra tab/menu, Import | Component Database.

    Import Component Database Window

    Click on the Browse button to browse for the Excel file, an then click on the Import button. The status of the import will be visible on the status window.

  5. Important points to note during import.
    • Component information will NEVER be deleted during import.
    • Because the entire database is exported, you may find it easier to work with your data by deleting part of it in the Excel file. When the same data is imported, the deleted data are simply ignored, and no deletion will be performed on the database. This ensures that the database is not accidentally deleted or overwritten.

      To delete information from the database, you will need to use the Electra interface or modify the database directly by opening it in Access.

    • The header (first row) of the Excel file must be exactly the same as it is exported.
    • For Electra to understand the data, the header or first row of the Excel file must be exactly the same as it was exported. This ensures that your data are consistent and easily readable by Electra, and correctly imported into the database.

      Exported Excel File Header

    • Duplicate component information will be ignored.
    • Before Electra modify or add component information from Excel back into the database, the information is checked, to see if they already existed in the database. If duplicates are found, then these information are ignored and the user notified accordingly on the status window. This is to ensure that the database stays small, fast and very usable, without duplicates.

In addition to a host of other things that we've done in this release, we sincerely hoped that you can now modify component database information much more easier, faster and your productivity greatly improved.

How to download Visio 2013 Trial.

For new users who do not have a copy of Microsoft Visio on your PC, you would need to download a Trial from Microsoft, here's how:

  1. Go to
  2. Click on the “Try it” link as shown below:
  3. Visio Home Page
  4. Click on the "Get Started Now" link as shown below:
  5. Start to Download Microsoft Visio Professional 2013 Preview
  6. If you have a Hotmail account, or a Windows Live ID, sign in and skip to step 8. If you don't have one, click on the “Sign up now” link as shown in red below:
  7. Sign in Hotmail Account
  8. You will be asked for your email address and a new password for your Windows Live ID. Fill in all required fields. You also will be asked to review Microsoft services agreement and privacy and cookies statement. To agree and continue, click the "I accept" button as shown below:
  9. Create Hotmail Account
  10. Microsoft will send you an email for verification. Access your email and click on the verify your account link.
  11. After verifying your account, click “OK” button as shown below:
  12. Verified Account
  13. You will now be presented with a page where Microsoft will ask you to fill in some profile information as below:
  14. Fill in Information
  15. Fill in all the information as required and click “Continue”.
  16. Select a language for your Visio Professional 2013 Preview. Click “Download 32-bit Software” button as shown below and you are done.
  17. Download Microsoft Visio Professional 2013 Preview

If you have any trouble when downloading Visio Trial, please email us and we will be glad to help.