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AutoCAD Productivity Articles - 2006


December - 2D and 3D Presents for the Holidays


I hope you all are looking forward to the upcoming holiday season, no matter what hemisphere you're wandering around in at this time. In an effort to brighten your AutoCAD day, I wanted to bring you another 3D treat from A2007. The Presspull command is pretty simple and has quite a bit of potential. Some of that potential can be reviewed in the Help screen… which just happens to be the coverage in the Basics section this time.

As for this month's Power Tool, regardless of your take on that annoying DYN button, it does have some pretty useful stuff incorporated into it, especially when you are querying information about existing objects. And for all of us who have been diehard fans of the Express Tools Layer Manager, heads-up. Take a look at the Odd Spot and make plans to redirect your layer state efforts toward the Layer States Manager.

By the time you read this, Autodesk University 2006 will be in the archives and Las Vegas will… still be Las Vegas. There are, however, numerous sources from which you can acquire significant AU content. First, take a look at to see what's available for browsing or download. You may also want to take a look at the AU blog of my friend Shaan Hurley,

Have a blessed and safe holiday season, one and all!

Another A2007 3D Feature: PRESSPULL
That DYN Button
Save your Layer States
The HELP Feature: Use It!

November - A2007 Visual Styles & Text Stuff

That's a rather odd combination of topics, admittedly, but I think you'll find them worth the browse. With much ado, AutoCAD 2007 was heralded as having all these wonderful new 3D abilities. It is, in fact, quite exciting, however all of the 3D-related features are not necessarily "New". There has always been the ability to apply materials, position lights, generate 3D solids and run the Boolean routines of Union, Intersect, and Subtract. In this month's main article I just wanted to quickly pique your interest and show you the Visual Styles you can use to view your 3D objects in AutoCAD 2007. If you want me to send you the drawings shown in this article, email me at and I'll send them your way.

As I was working with A2007's Mtext the other day, I was quite pleased to see the Line Spacing option, so I wanted to bring that to your attention. Then when I was working in a drawing someone sent me, I was unable to edit the height of the dimension text and I knew at that point that the text Height had been preset in the Text Style. This is something that I will occasionally get emails regarding, so I wanted to illustrate why a preset text Height is not always a recommended approach when creating the text style.

Finally, I was surprised to see that I hadn't covered the Distance command in the Basics section over the last nearly four years (!), so in a rather uncharacteristic manner, I used an engineering drawing to illustrate this powerful feature. Now I have an article to reference when I'm on the road and people ask me how to find distances!

A2007 3D Visual Styles
Mtext Line Spacing
Dimension Text Height
The DISTANCE Command

October - Some “Off the Beaten Path” Tidbits

As I completed this month's articles, I realized that all of them were just a wee bit less than obvious. For example, on any given week, when you work with drawings, stuff happens. Directories change "Folders" for those of you who have only heard of 'DOS'), names change… and when it involves Xrefs, it's not always pretty. This month I wanted to mention the Reference Manager that lots of folks don't realize is out there… simply because it's not in the menu structure of AutoCAD, you access it from the Autodesk item found under Programs from the Windows Start button. Yep, they buried it.

Then I decided to show you something I cover with a lot of my interior design customers regarding the attributes of blocks and the Block Attribute Manager, a feature that relates to the block definitions, not the block references. Read on and you'll see what I mean. The Odd Spot highlights a tidbit regarding dynamic blocks, then I finished up in the Basics covering a technique I use regarding variables to help folks who contact me about problems they're having.

And for those of you who are regulars at Michael's Corner (sure sounds like you should be able to order some java, doesn't it?), you will notice a new interface enabling you to more easily access my archived articles dating back to January 2003, as well as an improved method to email me if you would like to be notified when Michael's Corner is posted each month.

I think this new look is fantastic and hope you will join me in personally thanking my very talented friend and CADTutor webmaster, David Watson, for his steadfast devotion to this site and for making it all happen.

Reference Manager to Update Xref Paths
Battman (seriously)
Dynamic Block Alignment
Wildcard for System Variable Searches

September - A Couple Hidden Xref Items, Hatches, & Keeping Order

External references can be confounding sometimes (OK, most of the time), so I'm thankful when a customer reminds me of where they can be tamed. The Xclip feature has been around for a long time, and then I remembered the Express tool that enables you to convert a block to an Xref. Hopefully, you will find them to be useful tools in your toolbelt.

When bringing you these AutoCAD insights over the last several years, I try to present them in the form of an application that you can relate to; or at least make the mental leap and discern how it could be used in your industry. Recently one of you sent a suggestion of using a hatch pattern to accomplish the placement of blocks within an area, so I thought I'd pass that along; it was pretty clever. In the Basics section, I thought I'd address that Draw Order toolbar that, for some reason, Autodesk insists upon having as a default toolbar.

Sorry to see Summer fade out, but Fall is a wonderful time of year. But that's just if you're up here on this side of the planet. I'm sure those of you down under are glad to see Spring.

Clipping an XREF
Convert Block To Xref
Snapping to hatch patterns
Draw Order

August - Some AutoCAD 2007 Insights Not Related to 3D

If you are now the proud user of A2007 and really don't have a practical need for all the new 3D-related bells & whistles… this issue is for you. There have been several articles in Michael's Corner regarding named views, so I have updated the knowledge-base with a quick overview of the features found in the new View Manager. A2007 also corrected the missing piece of the CUI that enabled customization of the double-click action. (Can I get an "Hoorah" for that one!?) Take a look at how to get the Refedit dialog box to come up when you double-click a normal, non-attributed block.

Slowly but surely Express Tools features and commands are making their way into the core product, Revision Cloud being the most obvious; all the way from the old R14 Bonus collection. In addition to creating a whole new toolbar ( Layers II ) for the formerly-Express layer-related routines, A2007 now includes Change Space which you will find in the Odd Spot this month. And last but far from least in my estimation, is the ability to add commands to the tool palette, directly from the CUI!! No, really, you can now drag commands out of the CUI! Gotta love that one.

Updated View Command in A2007
Observations regarding blocks in AutoCAD 2007
Change Space
AutoCAD 2007 & the Tool Palette

July - Summer at the Beach

This month's tips are like those special items you may find as you walk along the beach; not exactly part of your daily regimen and it depends on when you take your walk. My customers are driving these tips again, too. I did some training in Dallas for a US Defense contractor and decided to customize the training on the spot… and learned something along the way (which is always an added blessing to any training session).

Then after my NeoCon 2006 AutoCAD Toolbelt presentation, Lee Ambrosius came by to say hello and answered a question of one of the attendees; thank you Lee! [If you're looking for a good AutoCAD reference book, check out the book Lee recently co-authored when you get a chance: AutoCAD and AutoCAD LT All-in-One Desk Reference for Dummies]

And finally, the Basics this month covers a procedure I don't typically promote, and yet there are times when it can make sense. Specifically, dimensioning Model Space objects in Paper Space. That will make many of you cringe, but take a look and see if, for certain applications, it may not be a bad idea.

Dynamic Blocks: Visibility Parameter
Dynamic Plot Scale Text
Don't like the new combined Xref dialog?
Dimensioning Model Space Objects in Paper Space

June - AutoCAD Yard Sale

Last month we did some Spring cleaning, this month we're going to have a Yard sale. Here in the US, when things pile up in the basement or garage, we put them out on the garage apron or out in the front yard near the street. This month we have Estate Items which are things I should have covered long ago that are legendary features that still have many versions left in them.

Then we have the Fix-It Table and Odd Lots which both contain a few items you may find useful and informative when things aren't coming out as you had hoped. Pots and Pans of course are fundamentals that have their place even if it's not every day… but they probably will be. Thanks for hanging with me this month as I just needed to get this information out to you and giving you just four this month wasn't going to cut it.

Bargain tips and tricks I
Bargain tips and tricks II
Bargain tips and tricks III
Bargain tips and tricks IV

May - AutoCAD Spring Cleaning

Getting organized is something that the Spring season just evokes in most of us, even if it's nothing more than organizing your tackle box, patio chairs, tack room, or charcoal grill utensils. AutoCAD 2007's tool palettes is one of those features that begs for a bit of arranging, especially if you are not especially keen on all the new materials stuff. I think I'll be able to help you in that area this month.

You'll also find a nifty trick to transfer named layer states from the Express Tools Layer Manager, along with a solution to why your attributes are still visible even after you set the Attdisp variable to Off. And my apologies to all of you for not covering the Stretch command before now. Every one of the five CAD programs I have instructed in the last 24 years has had this command and it is an absolute gem when you need to make positional changes in your geometry.

Carry on!

Palette Groups
Transfer Named Express Tool Layer States Between Drawings
“Invisible” Attributes
The Stretch Command

April - Got new software?

Last weekend a bunch of us guys helped a friend and his family move to their new place. We all know how that goes: You get to their U-Store location and they open the door and you go, "What was I thinking??" That's how some of you may be approaching your new version of AutoCAD. Be it A2006 or A2007, you've got a few things to consider before you make that move. Take a look at the suggestions I have in case there's something you have missed.

As always, this month also contains a thing or two that I found useful at my customer sites during training. Practical applications such as using Layer Walk in combination with Layer Previous or, after making a custom toolbar in the A2006 CUI, where did that critter go if I closed the toolbar? And then in the Basics section I address something that most folks just go along with but don't know how to fix: displaying dashed (or any non-continuous) linetype in a viewport. I have also included a couple AutoCAD 2007 Sidebars for things I discovered that you might find encouraging. I'll do an AutoCAD 2007 column soon.

Files of importance when upgrading
Layer Walk - Previous
CUI toolbar tip
Paper Space linetype scale

March - More 3D Orbit, more programming… and an AutoCAD 2007 tidbit

Yep, there's a new kid on the block; AutoCAD 2007 was released to the world on March 1st. You will find all kinds of information at the mothership,, as well as the AUGI website,

In the meantime, for those of us in the trenches, I wanted to elaborate upon my 3D Orbit article a bit by showing you a little-known procedure that enables you to generate interior elevations. AutoCAD 2007 is chock full of 3D related features … material libraries, sample libraries, light placement, etc. … so I hope this review will help you become a bit more 3D savvy. The A2007 tidbit I threw in was the fact that A2007 now has a DWG to PDF driver for plotting. But for those of us needing to send a drawing to folks without AutoCAD, I think the WMFOUT routine that has been around for many versions will be one you may want to consider.

This month I also follow-up my review of the ACAD.PGP file with how to capture your AutoCAD variables, then reinstate them if you have to re-install AutoCAD. The routine has been around for quite some time. Those of you jumping on the A2007 bandwagon will also find it useful to capture your variables once you load up A2007 and get it just the way you like it. And finally, something that came up in training just this week regarding palettes that I wanted to make sure everyone understood. Specifically, the importance of a unique source file for your palette blocks.

Elevations Using 3D Orbit
Retaining System Variables
AutoCAD and the Windows Metafile format
The Importance of the Palette Source File

February - 3D Orbit, Programming, and Some Useful Techniques

If it weren't for my customers, I don't know where I'd come up with all the stuff I put in this column each month! All of the topics this month came up during training at the two offices of Interior Investments in Chicago last week. [Thanks y'all!] It seems that I never have enough time to show folks 3D, so this month I thought I'd show you the fundamentals of 3D Orbit. Then we were talking about what are commonly referred to as the "shortcut" keys but that are technically called aliases. I used to go through Express Tools to do that, but I have since learned a more elegant approach. Under the general heading of "Technique", I realized that I hadn't covered the Wipeout object yet. Fabulous alternative when it comes to phasing or if you have a large drawing but you only want to view a certain portion. Another Technique item is covered in the Basics this month where I mention the ability to lock the display of a viewport in the layout.

Getting Familiar with 3D Orbit
Command Aliases
Locking the Viewport Display

January - Resolve to Learn Some New Stuff!

I have an idea. Those of you that would like me to send you an email each month as soon as my monthly column is posted, send your email address to me using the contact form and as soon as it goes up, I'll send you a link to Michael's Corner. Why? Because you all get busy and don't necessarily remember to run out and check when my column is posted. But one of the few things you DO check is your email. Just a thought to help you get faster quicker.

This year, if you have AutoCAD 2006, definitely resolve to learn more about the Customize User Interface, the CUI. Last month you were introduced to it when I showed you how to customize your F1 key. This month I show you how to make a new custom toolbar as well as how to make a custom button that you can also add to a tool palette. Very useful stuff.

This month is rounded out with a quick comment about the Find utility along with the first installment of what may turn into a series on layout viewports. The idea was prompted by a guy that admitted to ignoring layouts as long as possible, but now found himself in a position where he really had to face the music. Another situation may be those of you in school or just starting out in AutoCAD and trying to learn it yourself. I hope this month's Basics section will get you on your way to a clearer understanding of layout viewports. Ah, yes… and a Happy New Year to each and every one of you and yours!!

Making a Custom A2006 Toolbar
Blank Button on the A2006 Tool Palette
Find & Zoom To
Viewports in a Layout

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