CADTutor: The best free help for AutoCAD on the web

Michael BeallMichael’s Corner #75
March 2009

Marching into Spring

by Michael Beall

Students in Angola

I know, that title is lame, but it is nice to see Spring on the horizon, nonetheless. A piece of my winter was spent south of the equator, as many of you know. So while my lovely bride of 23 years was taking care of our home in freezing temperatures, I was on a new adventure in Angola.

Several of this month's articles came up while I was there at Chevron's Malongo camp. It has been several years since I reviewed data extraction, so I have a simple overview of the screens you'll see for that process. I'm finally going to address the Double-Click action settings in the CUI this month, too… and this month will be our inaugural foray into the use of animation for an article!

I made an interesting discovery with one of the Chevron drawings involving a 2D Polyline, too, so that's in the Odd Spot. And one of the folks in my training was interested in the ability of splitting the Model view into viewports - a powerful feature that's been around for a really long time that warrants a Basic review.

All in all, it was a fabulous 2 week at Chevron's corner of Cabinda, and I'm looking forward to the possibility of a return trip to work with the many friends I made while I was there.

RSS FeedAs always, if you would like to be notified when Michael's Corner is posted each month, just subscribe to our mailing list and we'll be sure to let you know when this critter comes online. There's well over 2,000 of you now and it is an honor to be looked upon as a resource for your AutoCAD well-being. You can also keep in touch using the RSS feed. If you would like to contact me directly, you can do that also.

Blessings to one and all,
Michael

Extracting Attribute Data

Modify II Toolbar

Many of the drawing title blocks for the Cabinda Gulf Oil Company drawings are rich with attributes, including revision information, project titles and information, and approvals. One of their Document Control folks was interested in knowing if there was a way to extract that data and put it in an Excel sheet.

In July, 2003 I covered how to extract data from a drawing, but it's time for an update. These procedures work for A2008 & A2009; I haven't checked A2007.

Instructions to Extract Data From an Attributed Title Block

  1. On the Modify II toolbar, click Data Extraction to open the first page of the Data Extraction dialog box (or "Extract Data" from the "Blocks & References" tab of the Ribbon).
  2. For new extraction files [.DXE], click the radio button for "Create A New Data Extraction", then click Next to open the Save Data Extraction As dialog box. Enter a name for the DXE, then click Save.
Data Extraction - Begin
  1. For this application - where I'm only selecting the attributed title block - click the "Select Objects In The Current Drawing" radio button, then click the Select Objects button. After selecting the objects, click Next.
Data Extraction - Define Data Source
  1. In the Data Extraction dialog box, under Display Options, clear the check box for "Display All Object Types", then click the radio button for "Display Blocks Only". You can leave the other two boxes checked for displaying of blocks and objects. Click Next.

Note: If you use the Data source option of "Drawing/Sheet Set", you can Add Drawings to the extraction process.

Data Extraction - Select Objects
  1. In the Select Properties page (Page 4), under Category Filter, clear all the check boxes except for Attribute and Drawing. The resulting list will display all attribute and drawing-related information. Scroll through the properties and toggle off those you won't need in the final result. Click Next.
Data Extraction - Select Properties
  1. In the Refine Data dialog box, in the lower left corner, check or clear the desired check boxes, then click Next.
Data Extraction - Refine Data
  1. Choose the desired option - Insert a table into the drawing or save an external file - then click Next.
Data Extraction - Choose Output

Note: If you opt to insert the data as a table into the drawing, your next screen will give you an opportunity to choose the desired Table style and/or formatting structure. See August 2008 for coverage of the current status of Tables.

  1. At this point, you have completed all the requisite steps to extract data from your drawing and can click the Finish button on the final screen.
Data Extraction - Finish

Closing notes

Obviously, there is much more that can be done with this extraction tool and this has been just a quick review of the steps involved in accomplishing the extraction of data from a single attributed block in a drawing.

Also, if you find that the result is agreeable and you would like to repeat the process for another drawing or group of drawings, when you launch the Data Extraction dialog box, you will notice there's an option to "Use Previous Extraction As A Template".

Top of page

Power Tool

Double-Click to Edit Dimension Text

One of our readers contacted me recently regarding editing dimension text and commented that once upon a time you could double-click the dimension to edit the text. Nowadays, you double-click a dimension and get the Properties window for that dimension.

I figured this would be a perfect application for creating your own double-click action.

Keeping in mind that AutoCAD 2010 is on the horizon, you will want to set this action under CUSTOM in the CUI so it will translate over when you upgrade to the next version.

Instructions to Modify the Double-Click Action for Dimensions

  1. Open the CUI, then go to the bottom of the tree view and expand the Partial CUI Files, then the CUSTOM node.
  2. Right click the Double Click Action node, then click New Double Click Action.
New Double Click Action
  1. You now have an opportunity to name your action; I named this one "DimEdit".
DimEdit
  1. On the right hand side, under Properties, set the Object Name to DIMENSION.
Command List
  1. Under Command List, drag Text, Edit onto DimEdit action.
Dimension Text Edit

Bom! (That's a little Portuguese I learned from my friends in Cabinda)

Free Video Offer!

If you prefer your tutorials in video format, take a look at the Double-Click Action for Dimensions video tutorial (opens in new window). This is an experiment and we'd be interested to know what you think, so let us know.

Top of page

The Odd Spot

2DPolylines vs. Polylines

Quick Select

The Chevron Facilities Engineering Department at the Malongo camp in Angola receives hundreds of drawings from outside contractors. One of the drawings was nearly 90Mb but contained very little geometry; truly perplexing.

Selected Polyline

Using the Quick Select window (QSELECT command), I noticed in the list an Object type called "2D Polyline".

Note: Many versions ago, Autodesk optimized polylines in drawings, so now when you List a polyline, you see it's referred to as an LWPOLYLINE (Light-Weight Polyline). By default, when an older drawing is opened, the old polylines are automatically converted into the new LWPOLYLINE.

Curiously, AutoCAD's Help feature adds this tidbit regarding old polylines… "Polylines containing curve-fit or splined segments always retain the old format."

Dilemma: I have several polylines that were obviously created with a curve-fit or splined segments.

Solution: The EXPLODE command; seriously. If you Explode one of these fat polylines - depending upon their original creation method - they may revert to lines or arcs (which you could then Pedit back to normal polylines). In the figure below, the curved shape on the left is an old polylines. When exploded, it becomes a series of arcs… and the file size becomes smaller.

Explode Polyline

Obviously, this is not a desirable solution for every circumstance, but simply something you may want to consider.

Credit: As I was completing this article, David Watson (the intrepid captain of the CADTutor ship), passed along the optional use of the Convert or Convertpoly commands. Both of these commands should be considered as you seek to optimize your drawings… and I was not familiar with either one of them! Thank you, David!

Top of page

The Basics

Split Viewports in Model Space

Whether you're working on large drawings, or simply have a need to be zoomed in to more than one area in the drawing at a time, one approach is to split the Model space window using the VPORTS command. [View ViewportsNew Viewports]

3 Model Space Viewports

When I was training the CABGOC team in Angola, Maria, Mateus, and Pedro found this feature particularly useful for working on their 3D piping drawings.

Viewports Toolbar

Instructions to Use Multiple Viewports in Model Space

  1. While in Model space, on the Viewports toolbar, click Display Viewports Dialog ("Named" on the View tab of the Ribbon) to open the Viewports dialog box with the New Viewports tab current.
  2. the listing for Standard Viewports, you will see several arrangement options.
Standard viewports

Note: The arrangement named "Three: Left", means Model space will be split into three viewports, with the big viewport on the left. The illustration with the floorplan shows that arrangement.

  1. After choosing viewport arrangement, click OK and your Model space screen will split per your selection.
  2. Activate one of the viewports, then zoom or pan to the desired location. Each viewport can have a separate display of the same drawing.

Note: You can launch an edit command such as Move, in one viewport and select the objects and specify a basepoint, then click in another viewport to place the objects (you may want to turn off Ortho).

  1. Open the Viewports dialog box, then click in the "New Name" field and enter a name for this arrangement as shown in the illustration, then click OK.
New name
  1. the list of Standard viewports, click "Single" then click OK to return to the normal Model space configuration.
  2. To restore the named viewport, open the Viewports dialog box, then click the Named Viewports tab to display a list of named viewports in this drawing.
  3. Select your named viewport, then click OK to display the saved viewport arrangement.

Top of page

Left Field

Fruit BatsFruit Bats - The fruit bat is the largest of bats, and one of the most important to humans. Many of the fruits and vegetables we enjoy on our table would not exist without these bats. They disperse the seeds and pollinate the flowers of many plants. My visit to the Cabinda Gulf Oil Company base in Malongo was punctuated by the presence thousands of fruit bats in the morning and evening.

Share this page:

Share at Facebook Submit a link at Reddit Share at StumbleUpon Share at del.icio.us Share at Technorati

Local Navigation

Sponsored Links

Accessibility statement

Valid XHTML 1.0!Valid CSS!Creative Commons Licence