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AutoCAD Productivity Articles - 2005


December - A “Triple Play” Year

Michael speaking at Autodesk University 2005Autodesk University 2005 marked my third major presentation of the year, and it was pretty exciting. [Earlier this year I held a session at NeoCon World's Trade Fair in Chicago, then I presented an AutoCAD session and the Keynote address at the National Collegiate CADD Conference .] There were over 150 folks in my AU 'AutoCAD Toolbelt' session from a variety of disciplines.

I met some folks from Montana that did mapping for the phone company, a gentleman that taught AutoCAD to High School students, an assorted architect here and there, along with my friends from Southwest Airlines and Workplace Resource in Southern California. Everyone was very encouraging, laughed at the right time, and hopefully took a few things with them that will make them QBSF (Quicker, Better, Smarter, Faster). It was also great to meet one of the "Challenge" winners as we were making our way out of a lab on 3D, as well a couple readers from Washington D.C. who I met in the line to get hot pretzels.

This month, rather than have four separate sections, I'm just going to put a bunch of unwrapped AutoCAD gifts in the Christmas bag for all to enjoy along with some stocking stuffers. Wishing you all a blessed and safe Christmas season.

The 2005 AutoCAD Christmas Collection
Stocking Stuffers

November - Autodesk University Ramping Up

Autodesk University ( runs from November 28th thru December 1st and should be quite the event. At press time, I had just completed putting together the document for my AutoCAD Toolbelt session which will be held on Monday, November 28th. If I run out of things to say before my 90 minutes is up (right, like that's going to happen), at least I can jump over here and take a look at… the eTransmit feature. It's been around since A2000i and I'm surprised at the number of folks that aren't using it. I was also recently made aware (by a reader) of the "etransmit.txt" file you can make to be used for the transmittal notes. During another investigation recently, I found a way thru the maze that's required to get precision assigned to a table cell in A2006 that contains a summation. And finally, I'm always jazzed when I learn more about the A2006 dynamic blocks. Heidi Hewett (Autodesk's Technical Marketing Manager) had a webcast that I saw after the fact and she did a review on multiple insertion points of a dynamic block. And if you weren't sure about the difference between the backup file and the autosave file, take a run around this month's Basics section. And join AUGI today!

Dynamic Block Multiple Insertion Points
Precision Adjustment for Cells in A2006 Tables
AutoSave, Backup, & Drawing Recovery

October - Fun, Final, and Fundamentals

This month I'm going to wrap up my DesignCenter segment which grew to five installments; there's a lot you can do with that critter. By rights, I should do one more to cover the Online feature of DesignCenter, but I'll save that for another time. I think the A2006 "view transition" feature is kind of fun, but I know some of you may be looking for how to shut it off. A dimensioning feature that may be applicable to a good portion of you is how to create dimensions that display only inches. When I had questions about that from two different customer training sessions within one month, I thought it was time to "go global" with it. And for those of you with lots of plotting to do on any given day, the Publish command may be worthy of consideration.

Inches Only Dimensions
DesignCenter - Final Installment (…for now)

September - Oldies and Goodies

Every now and then I'm really glad Autodesk doesn't take stuff out of AutoCAD. OK, maybe they've taken out one or two things (like the plain old Text command; replaced with Dtext), but I think the Boundary command is a nice little routine that can assist in calculating square footages. Then I got an email from somewhere praising the merits of the Dline command, especially the ability to cut door openings in parallel lines. Little things like that are great to have at your disposal, and both of these features are available in LT!

And in yet another case of discovering applications while I'm "on the job", I was teaching some folks in Cincinnati and found a great application for graphically defining points when making a rectangle. Then finally, I wanted to remind the folks that are following my DesignCenter coverage about a great little feature called "Home". Oldies and Goodies: Gotta love 'em.

Boundary Creation
Graphic Rectangle Fit
Door Opening with Dline
DesignCenter - Part IV

August - Beyond “CADD”: not Just an Expensive Etch-A-Sketch

On Wednesday, August 10th I will be giving the Keynote Address at the National Collegiate CADD Conference being held at Iowa State University; quite the honor, to be sure. I will also be presenting a breakout session of tips and a day long venue of A2006 cool features. Just in case I don't make it to all of the topics I would like to cover, I wanted to put my overflow content out here for all to enjoy.

There are a lot of "automatic" things in AutoCAD these days. The automatic update of a field is of particular interest and the application I have highlighted this month is pretty amazing. One of the other cool things I learned over the last few weeks was how to globally update the path of the source file used for the entire block collection of a palette (compliments of Alan Henderson of ResourceCAD International, ). And I also discovered a way to globally update the Prompt for Rotation property of all the blocks in a palette. What a time savings that one is!

And finally, I have been remiss in not outlining the fundamentals of creating a layout. They have been around for years and I just wanted to give a fundamental overview of the elements of a layout in an effort to illustrate yet another area in which DesignCenter can be used to increase your productivity. There should be something in here for everyone. Enjoy!

More Fields in A2005 & A2006
Global Prompt for Rotate
Global Updating of a Tool Palette Source File
DesignCenter - Part III (Layout Fundamentals)

July - New A2006 Dimensioning Features, Fields and Backgrounds

Tool palettes will rank as "Best New Feature" for years to come, but I think Fields easily take second place. I'm learning more about them myself and I'll contribute insights to this column as time and space permits. On the design side of things, I'm finding more drawings with curved walls so the new A2006 dimensioning features relating to arcs come in very handy.

The ability to add a background mask to Mtext objects showed up in A2005, but the Text Mask Express tool has been out there since dirt so I thought I'd run down some comparisons for you so you can make your choice. If you have AutoCAD 2004 or Express Tools with A2002 or previous, you only have Text Mask at your disposal. DesignCenter Part II covers that feature as it relates to blocks and specifically tool palettes.

In mid-June I received a notice from Autodesk that my AutoCAD Toolbelt seminar proposal was accepted for presentation at Autodesk University this year. There were over 1000 submissions from more than 400 individual presenters, so I am quite honored to have been selected. This year it will be held at a Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin resort, Orlando, Florida: November 28 - December 1, 2005. For more information, go to My seminar (presently) is scheduled for Monday, November 28 from 1:00 - 2:30. If you are able to make it down there, please come by and say hello; I love to meet my readers!

Introduction to Fields in A2005 & A2006
Arc Dimensions in AutoCAD 2006
Background Mask: Mtext feature or Express tool
DesignCenter - Part II

June - Sidebars for Xrefs, Palette Dimensions, and more

The ability to access named objects from other drawings is extremely important in a productive production environment. Named objects are Blocks, Layers, Text Styles, etc. Categorical definitions we create to prepare the drawing for the geometry which ultimately takes their name. I am constantly amazed at the number of folks who either A) Don't use it, or B) Don't know about it … therefore, A. This month I am going to begin my introduction of DesignCenter in the Basics section; sorry I didn't get to this earlier.

There are a few other things I want to turn you onto involving Xrefs, another feature that I hope you find useful having to do with Tool Palettes (post-A2004), as well as a little dimension tidbit. And, as promised, I will give you some suggestions on the files you may want to find before you migrate on over to your next version.

On a personal note, due to the extensive resources for AutoCAD information scattered about the Internet on blogs and other very informative sites, the "AutoCAD Toolbelt" newsletter will breathe its last at the end of June, Issue 0503. It's been a good six year run (since I began writing it in March, 1999) and I thank those of you who have faithfully subscribed over the years. Therefore, with no offer of a newsletter, the CAD Tutor Monthly Challenge will be discontinued. It was a delight to hear from those of you who contributed your answers over the last couple years.

Xref Open & Tree View
Palette Flyout
Move Dimension Text with Leader
DesignCenter - Part I

May - Filters and Settings

In an effort to find a few bright spots in the Layer Properties Manager introduced in AutoCAD 2005, this month I look at a couple workable features in the Filter Tree side of that dialog box. And since very few of us work in a vacuum, somewhere along the line you will receive a drawing using a different plot style table than yours. There's a very simple solution to that. There's also a very simple solution to drawing and editing objects without using @distance<angle for angular cursor motion. Take a look.

Effective Xref Layer Filter
Layer Group Filters
Converting Plot Style Tables
Additional Polar Angle Settings

April - Views, Layers and 3D in LT?

The features this month are some of those things that are buried more than one level deep or just don't lend themselves to being the most obvious. For example, creating named views: Check. Naming a UCS position: Maybe. Combining the two: Seriously? Oh, yeah. Then there's the whole Layer State thing that has now been relegated to a graphic button in AutoCAD 2005/2006, rather than the text "Save State" as in previous versions. A feature that doesn't really come on to the radar when you're in that dialog box.

And then there's AutoCAD LT. Not "Lite" by any stretch, just a moniker that originally stood for "LapTop" when first released but got turned around to "Lite" since it had a reduced command set than the full version. (At the time when it was released, laptops had whopping 10Mb hard drives and you paid dearly for a meg of RAM so there was no way the big dog was going to operate smoothly in that environment). I've been doing quite a bit of training on LT for my customers across the U.S., so I thought I'd tell you about the little-known fact that AutoCAD LT is actually a 3D environment… and I'll prove it. Let me know what you think.

Saving Views with the UCS
Maximize Viewport
AutoCAD LT is 3-Dimensional
Saving and Restoring Layer States

March - OLE and Assorted Snapping

Given where it started, this product with which we spend a serious percentage of our lives has actually come quite a long way. I was first introduced to OLE when I was a co-author on my first book for New Riders Publishing, "AutoCAD Release 13 for Beginners". Since that time they have made significant improvement. I particularly like the A2005 feature that automatically turns incoming Excel data into a table. This month I also took a look at a couple features that essentially enable you to snap to mid-air. Read on and you'll see what I'm talking about. And finally, I'm surprised I haven't given grips but one comment in the previous 104 tips. I corrected that this month and we'll see where it goes from there.

Excel and AutoCAD: OLE
Snap From or… “Put it this far from here”
M2P (midway between 2 points)
The Lost Art of Grips

February - Taking Advantage of the Power

Global updates, sweeping edits… and an idea on how to find that "lost drawing" on the Model tab. Once again, the features I cover this month are a result of questions and applications I encounter at customer sites.

Although editing an xref in-place is what many folks use Refedit for, it is also the "go-to" command if you need to globally modify block geometry. And rather than finding the distance between objects for an array, just pick the points graphically. Nobody said you had to have a number for the X and Y offset.

And finally, I continue to get questions and emails about drawings "disappearing" on the Model tab, but it looks just fine in the viewport on the Layout. While I was onsite in Colorado this week, I came up with something that I hadn't used in years that may solve that problem with the "mystery dots" on the edges of the drawing. I'd be interested in hearing how any of you solve that problem, too.

Refedit for Blocks
Array by Example
Qtext for Mystery Dots
Polar Snap

January - AutoCAD 2005 Table Review

We have Dimension Styles, Text Styles, and AutoCAD 2005 introduced tables which are optimally implemented by defining a Table Style. Similar to styles relating to text and dimensions, a table style defines the parameters of the table. Tables are great for any number applications: Parts lists, Bill of Materials, Legends, and imported Excel files.

In this month's column, I present a few of the key procedures and features of a Table.

Table Style Setup Features
Table Insert and Edit Features

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