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AutoCAD Productivity Articles - 2008


December - Merry Christmas 2008!

As the Christmas season approaches, I want to let you all know I'm very thankful for each one of you and your interest in the tidbits I post in this monthly column. I'm honored to have been a part of the CADTutor team now for 6 years. I have a couple ideas for the New Year, and will keep you in the loop as those ideas develop.

This month, with the exception of the lead article on customizing a flyout button on a toolbar, all of the topics are AutoCAD 2009-specific. There was no real reason for that, but sooner or later, you're all probably going to be able to benefit from these insights.

Wishing you all a safe and blessed Christmas season and a fabulous New Year!!

Creating a Custom Flyout Button on a Toolbar
Customizing the A2009 Quick Access Toolbar
Locked Layers Fade Value
A2009 File Preview Images

November - Actions and Edits

Regardless of the state of the world's economies these days, those of us on the CAD crews still have to be efficient and get the job done. In an effort to support those efforts, I thought I'd take a look at the Action Recorder which can really make repetitive tasks go quickly. I would love to hear how you are using this new A2009 feature, so send me a quick email on the series of commands you're automating.

In the remaining articles, we take a look at an extremely clever use for Alternate Units in a dimension (thank you, Alaska), as well as how to edit the cells in a Table (a question from one of our loyal readers). In the Basics section I am answering a question that typically comes up in training as I'm covering layer states, and that is how to edit a layer state if the layer condition of that state needs to be modified. This was a fun bunch of features to cover.

Wishing all of my fellow Americans a Happy Thanksgiving and may we always remain thankful for the many blessings the good Lord has bestowed upon each one of us.

Action Recorder in A2009
Feet & Inches + Inches, Too
Copy Table Cell Contents
Updating an Existing Layer State

October - QBSF*

My birthday is on traditional Columbus Day, so I would first like to send out birthday wishes to all of you October 12th folks. 55, thank you… and cards are welcome.

Customizing takes over again this month as I bring my monthly Tool Palette button to the front of the pack in an effort to help those of you who are doing area hatches for Phasing or Departments on a floorplan. Then I was thinking about how to automate the cool Quick View Drawings command without putting it on a palette… and thought it would be cool to put it on a Function key, say, for example, that one we all love to hate - F1.

In the Odd Spot I make a quick mention of one of those things that will mess with your head until you finally realize what's going on (see below), and then I wrap it up with a review of the Perpendicular object snap in the Basics.

* Quicker, Better, Smarter, Faster. I made that up. You can use it.

Select Objects for a Hatch on a Button
Quick View Drawing to F1
Locked Vport Layer
Snap to Perpendicular

September - My Customers Rock!

As I was putting this month's column together, I realized that each one of the featured articles were insights that my customers either suggested in training or discovered on their own as they were going through the training workbook. As a matter of fact, I typically encourage my students to show me things that they may have found as they were working through a training exercise.

I will readily admit the CUI is sometimes a mystery to me, but I knew RJ (Sheppard's Business Interiors in Omaha) would have an answer on how to export a toolbar. For the tool palette button this month, the wonderful ladies that oversee all things facilities-related at Lawrence Berkeley Labs asked me if they could put the Express tool feature of Enclose Text With Object on a button… so we did! Then I was training the folks responsible for the space planning of the corporate facilities of Union Pacific Railroad in downtown Omaha, and they encountered a few other things that comprise the remaining topics of interest this month.

Finally, I want to thank Herman Miller for inviting me to speak at their first-ever North Area Design Forum in Chicago later this month. I'll be covering the AutoCAD and furniture-specification areas of interest and I'm looking forward to seeing all those who will be in attendance, many of whom are existing customers.

Bonfires, S'mores, and roasted marshmallows are just around the corner!

Exporting Your Custom Toolbar
Custom Button #9: Enclose Text with Object
Update: A2008 & A2009 Import Layer States
Triple Scoop

August - Tables Revisited Circa 2009

First of all a huge "thank you" goes to my friend and colleague - Professor/Webmaster/Photographer/Gardener - David Watson for stepping in to spot me the month of July. His coverage was mighty timely and I hope you all found it as helpful as I did in coming to grips with the Ribbon of A2009.

This month I had intended on presenting my typical four articles, but as I got into my review of the current state of the AutoCAD Table, it consumed the entire month… just like it did when I covered the same topic in January 2005. Clearly it was time for an update.

Next month I promise to have the full compliment of articles along with maybe an extra one here and there.

AutoCAD 2009 Tables

July - 2009 Ready or Not

This month, Michael is taking a break (don't worry fans, he'll be back next month) so you'll have to put up with me. To be honest, I've quite enjoyed putting together this month's Corner. Hope you like it and maybe learn something new.

I've been putting off the move to AutoCAD 2009. Well, I have a couple of long-running projects and the transition will disrupt my workflow. On the other hand, what productivity gains am I missing out on? Also, come September, I have to begin teaching AutoCAD 2009 to CAD newbies; I really ought to take a look. This month, I'm bringing you my thoughts (good and bad) on the dreaded ribbon.

I'm also taking a look at Autodesk Freewheel. Never heard of it? You will - it's probably the most exciting development in interactive web-based drawings since… well, you know - the web. In the Odd Spot, I've got some news for people with Quadro FX graphics cards and in The Basics this month I'm telling you how to get your hands on free copies of AutoCAD (no, really).

Don't Fear the Ribbon
Autodesk Freewheel
AutoCAD Performance Driver
Free AutoCAD

June - NeoCon 2008 Bonus Round

This month I'm speaking at the NeoCon World's Trade Fair in Chicago for the sixth year in a row. The Merchandise Mart is swarming with folks from every facet of the contract furniture industry as well as those industries and vendors that support it… and it's great fun!

So just in case I finish going through my handout too early or I run out of things to say (…right), I can refer to this month where I begin my articles on AutoCAD 2009 and how we're just going to have to deal with it and jump right into the Help features. Of course a new button on a palette is in order and this month we automate the M2P feature, compliments of a little brainstorming with customers in Dallas. I also share the little nugget on the status bar to lock a viewport as well as a reminder about the Select option of the Dimension Continue command.

As always, if you want to be notified when Michael's Corner is posted, click the Subscribe button over on the left pane. Hopefully these insights will give you a bit more peace of mind as you make your way through your AutoCAD In-box.

See you in the Elevators! (it's a Mart-thing)

AutoCAD 2009: Dealin' With It
Custom Button #8: M2P, ready to go
Lock Viewport on the A2008 Status Bar
Dimension Continue

May - Memorable May

One of the reasons I enjoy writing this column each month is that I get to learn about features that I had always wanted to look into but never had the time. The Layer Translator has been around for several versions and is something that those of you receiving drawings from outside sources may appreciate. My customers have - once again - come up with questions that brought me to the two legacy variables as well the variable to enable AutoCAD to remember the folders from which you open drawings. And, of course, there's another tool palette button idea for you, too.

I hope these insights bump your productivity a bit today so you can have a few more minutes with your family or favorite activity.

Layer Translator
Custom Button #7: Dimensions on a Button
Legacy Settings

April - Customizing and Discovering

As you know, I'm passionate about palettes (professionally speaking), so I have finally gotten around to covering how to add another block as a visibility parameter on a dynamic block (which imminently ends up on a tool palette). I'm also keeping the ball rolling with yet another custom button on the tool palette; this one you can call "Wall Maker" or "Duct Worker" or whatever suits your particular application.

The discoveries I wanted to pass along are those related to layer filters and PDF files. I read an article in an eNewsletter that I subscribe to through Cadalyst which spoke about the Filters command that can be used to keep or delete layer filters you may encounter in a drawing you receive. Then one of my students was asking about bringing a PDF into AutoCAD, and when you think about it, it's nothing more than inserting it as an OLE object. Both of those I thought were pretty slick and I hope you agree.

I hope these insights bump your productivity a bit today so you can have a few more minutes with your family or favorite activity.

Adding Another Block as a Visibility Parameter
Custom Button #6: Double-Line [Dline]

March - Just Call 'Em “Tenured”

Fields are relatively new to AutoCAD, but this month I also cover three other commands that have some tenure in AutoCAD. From a dusty bin on your tool bench, the Global Attribute Edit routine can be really useful when working with attributed blocks. And once upon a time, when dialog boxes were in their infancy, just about every procedure was command line-driven… and occasionally they creep back into our daily grind and need to be put back in their place. Cmddia and Filedia, specifically. And finally, one of my favorites, the powerfully functional utility of tiling the drawings so you can copy objects from one drawing to another in a snap.

I hope these insights bump your productivity a bit today so you can have a few more minutes with your family or favorite activity.

Global Attribute Edit (aka Gatte)
Custom Button #5: Plot stamp Field on a Palette
Tile Vertically

February - It's all about Shortcuts

First, I want to thank Lee Ambrosius for stepping up to the plate for the month of January where he took our understanding of customizing up a notch and gave us some pretty cool insights into writing AutoLISP and Scripts routines. He humbly failed to mention that he is the co-author of the "AutoCAD and AutoCAD LT All-in-One Desk Reference for Dummies" book, and you can read a few chapter excerpts on his website,

Sometimes when I'm training, I tell my customers that my goal is to help them go home sooner than they would have if they didn't know the shortcuts I'm there to share with them. I'm just there to help them learn how to shave moments off their daily routine. Like your waiter shaving a pile of parmesan onto your pasta, I'm there to pile up the shortcuts.

This month has what I would consider to be three shortcuts along with an opening article on a practical application for the Wipeout object.

Now go out there and make somebody's day by being the most gracious and devoted AutoCAD user on the planet!

Including a Wipeout Object with a Block
Custom Button #4: Pushbutton Linetypes in a Viewport
Orthogonal Pan
Grip Copy for a Leader

January - Great Mysteries of AutoCAD

Congrats to Michael and his achievement of writing this column for the past 5 years. After 5 years and 60 articles later, he has decided it was time to take a break. So while Michael is enjoying his time off and being away from his computer (I know time off for me equals more time with mine), I was asked to step in for this month (no small task I must say). So on with the show…

Customization or programming are often two of the great mysteries of AutoCAD; many people do not know about it or they want to learn to do it, but decide it is not for them before they even try it so it is often left to what seems like a select or "elite" group of users. Being able to change the way you work in AutoCAD is one of the benefits to using AutoCAD; not only can you decide where or how you might access a command, but you can create your own commands. This month, I am going to pop open AutoCAD's hood and take a look around and you might just be surprised how easy some of the things can be when it comes to customization and programming AutoCAD.

In the main article I am going to look at using AutoLISP to batch automate the draw order of single line and multiline text in all the drawings located in a specified folder and then in Power Tool I am going to talk about a utility called ScriptPro which allows you to run a script file on a set of drawings in a slightly different way to batch process drawings. I then round off this issue with creating simple custom commands with AutoLISP to run commands with options which cannot be done with command aliases alone and how to create a basic script file that can be run on a drawing or as part of ScriptPro.

Batch Automating Draw Order
Running Scripts like a Pro
Command Aliases and Options
Getting AutoCAD to Follow a Script

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