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AutoCAD Productivity Articles - 2007


December - Five of 25… and No End In Sight

A quarter century is a long time to be in the CAD training profession, but it's been a fantastic ride and for 1/5th of that time I've totally enjoyed bringing AutoCAD insights to you from Michael's Corner. And here's what you'll find this month…

With all the Windows-compliant procedures, I just think the hyperlink is a wonderful feature to help keep track of other documents. This month there's a curve in associating a hyperlink with a block on a palette that I thought you should be aware of. The customized palette button this month is one that incorporates a few other features that I have covered in these pages having to do with the UCS, so I think you'll really appreciate the boost you get when you add it to a button or two. The Viewports dialog box brings some interesting to the table, especially when you're doing 3D-views in a layout tab. For the Basics this month I wanted to bring your attention to some "system management" issues you may be able to handle on your own having to do with the backup and autosave files.

Also, I just want you to know that I will be taking a break in January and will be back in February with a new collection of insights for 2008 (the year, not necessarily the version).

Hyperlinked Block on a Tool Palette
Custom Button #3: Automating UCS Object & UCS World
Purpose Served: The .BAK, .SV$, and the .DWL

November - AutoCAD Back Roads

It seems like this month's collection consists of items you don't find on the main AutoCAD road of life… but may find a bit useful. The Odd Spot and the Basics address two areas that catch even veteran users by surprise. The inadvertent invocation of the Cleanscreen command and how to enable two very important Pick- variables that may have mysteriously became disabled.

In my series on customizing buttons, this month I cover how to make a button so you can just click an existing object and turn it into a Revcloud. Pretty fun! Then in the opening article, I cover how to protect a drawing with a Password. Not something you encounter every day, but something that has come up in my training sessions on more than one occasion.

Drawing Encryption
Custom Button #2: Revcloud from an Object
Cleanscreen… or Open a Drawing?
Pickadd & Pickfirst

October - Customizations & Conveniences

Customizing AutoCAD is not really that difficult. I'm not talking about anything fancy like Lisp routines or VBA, just using the features that are available to tweak a few more RPM's out of this thing. For example, if you want to populate all the title blocks on the various layout tabs with the project name automatically, how would you do that? Take a look at the opening article. Then in the Power Tool I propose a method to get the same arc length(s) for a revision cloud every time on any drawing life throws at you - and on the proper layer, even if the layer isn't in that drawing. Not rocket science, just eliminating the aggravation we encounter every now and then.

Then I wanted to follow-up an article from a couple years ago on cycling through stacked objects. Autodesk decided to make it a bit like rubbing your belly and patting your head; you'll see what I mean if you look over the Odd Spot. And then I have been remiss in not letting you all know how to lock the viewport display so you don't obliterate the plot scale when you roll your wheel mouse in a viewport.

Now go out there and share what you've learned just so you can brighten up somebody else's day. You'll be their hero.

Drawing Properties to a Field
Custom Button #1: Consistent Revision Cloud
Cycle Thru Follow-Up
Locking a Viewport

September - Learning Curves

In my copious "free time" I promised myself to look into material mapping. Well, push came to shove and I needed to get on the learning curve and figure this out, so that's what's front and center this month. My friend Lee Ambrosius [] has authored the "AutoCAD 2008 3D Modeling Workbook for Dummies", just in case any of you want to take what you see here and continue your own learning curve.

The remaining articles are things I had in my "To Cover" list and in my recent training sessions, customers have bumped into some things that I needed to clarify… so hopefully the coverage on Copy with Basepoint, Otrack, and a really cool trick to run 3D Orbit will bring joy to some faces. Which is the point of this whole exercise.

Applying an Image to 3D Objects in A2008
Copy with Basepoint
Hidden 3D Orbit
Object Snap Tracking (F11)

August - Annotation & Customization

AutoCAD 2008 really is a nice piece of work. They made some nice refinements in the Mtext routine and gave us the ability to add columns, then gave us some flexibility with the Dashboard so we can customize it with our own commands. In the Power Tool I pass along an answer to one of the emails I received about adding some color to an area of a floorplan, then while I was working on the title blocks for one of my customers, I came across a feature in the Block Attribute Manager (Battman) that I wanted to remind you about.

Version conversion note: I don't usually do product promotions in these pages, but I think it's important to get the word out about Autodesk's TrueConvert product. With so many versions out there at this point, this utility is a "must have" for all offices.

A2008 Mtext Multiple Columns
Getting Your Hatch in Order
Battman Follow-Up
A2008 Dashboard Custom Panel

July - More AutoCAD 2008 Insights

The more I work with AutoCAD 2008, the more I find to be excited about. This month I cover the Layer Override by Viewport feature which, for my customers, I think is the most immediately useable new component of the product. Then this week I was training in Los Angeles, and we were reviewing the Express feature of Layer Isolate… and discovered that Layer Isolate now comes with a Settings option that incorporates the new A2008 Lock and Fade feature. Whoa! Cool!

In the Basics I figured I may as well keep going with the general A2008 theme, so I offered up an introduction to the Dashboard palette. The Odd Spot is the odd man out; that's the only topic this month that doesn't have a specific A2008 element to it. I just found it interesting that Ortho tends to creep into areas that you wouldn't expect, so I wanted to share those with you… and how to temporarily disable (or Enable) Ortho as needed.

If you feel so inclined, email me and let me know how you're using the things you learn in these articles. It's always great to hear of practical applications.

AutoCAD 2008 Layer Stunner
A2008 Layer Isolate Settings
Ortho Intrusions
The A2008 Dashboard

June - But wait, there's more!… at NeoCon® 2007

On June 11th, I'll be presenting my AutoCAD Toolbelt Seminar at the NeoCon® 2007 World's Trade Fair. This is the fifth year in a row that my CEU seminar was selected for presentation at this prestigious conference held annually in Chicago.

This month I decided to grab the bull by the proverbial horns in a couple areas. First, the Annotative Text in AutoCAD 2008 is, in my estimation, the big dog of this release. It's a bit complex, but given the right setup and conditions, I think you will all appreciate the power it packs. The other major hurdle I addressed was the creating of a Plot Style that pre-A2008 folks can use to highlight certain objects when they plot. For those of you with AutoCAD 2008, next month I'll be covering the (extremely) cool features found in the Layer Properties Manager.

In the Odd Spot, I addressed the importance of the position of the Alignment Parameter since there have been a couple instances in the last few months where I overlooked emphasizing this in training causing the alignment feature to misbehave. This month's Basics is being driven by customer questions, too, since sometimes you may get, shall we say, "unexpected results" when using the Layer Freeze feature from the Layers II toolbar. My hope is that it clarifies some of the things you may have encountered.

Have a wonderful summer!

The Big Dog: Annotation in A2008
Plot Styles to Punch It Up
Alignment Parameter Set to 0,0
Freezing Individual Layers in a Single Viewport
Export AutoCAD 2008 Settings

May - AutoCAD 2008 Bits & More Palette Pieces

I want to start weaving some AutoCAD 2008 bits into the Corner, beginning with a quick overview of the Leader Style feature along with the small but integral feature of a much more intuitive method to copy and move layout tabs. The other two articles cover my favorite area of palettes. I apologize for not telling you how to export a tool palette until this month. I've been sharing this with my customers for months but just recently realized I never put the "how to" up here. Those of you who like to customize should be able to put good use to the Power Tool I have for you this month, too.

Now, go out there and be an inspiration to others!

A2008 Multileader Styles
Pushbutton Mtext for Model or Paper Space
Move or Copy a Layout [pre-A2008 vs. A2008]
Exporting a Tool Palette

April - Introduction to Sheet Sets & Some Customizing Insights

When AutoCAD 2005 was nearing completion, Autodesk approached me to write a book for them on transitioning from AutoCAD 2000 to AutoCAD 2005. Released as Autodesk Official Training Courseware (AOTC), it included coverage on the new features of tool palettes, gradient hatches… and sheet sets. This month I thought I would at least introduce you to what that Sheet Set Manager window is all about. When you get your new software this month (as many of you are moving from A2004 up to A2007 or A2008), I also wanted to introduce you to those dynamic blocks on the sample tool palettes, specifically the one that has a built-in bubble with a number and you can edit the length of the line after you add a title and a plot scale.

In the Odd Spot, I wanted to follow-up on my coverage in August 2006 on adding a command to the tool palette by showing you how to add a blank button to a palette. Once you have one of those, you can copy it to other palettes and customize the command string of that blank button to do anything you want. Quite Quul (I just made that word up; you can use it). And finally, just a final word on adjusting the dimensions in a drawing by changing the value for the Overall Scale Factor.

So, You Want To Know About Sheet Sets?
Dynamic View Labels
Follow-Up: Blank Tool on a Palette
Dimension Scale

March - Annotation Objects & more 3D from AutoCAD 2007

This month I decided to investigate a couple things that I had been wanting to learn more about, so I'm passing my findings along to you. That DUCS button that first showed up on the AutoCAD 2007 Status bar got my curiosity up, and now I'm a true devotee! Then, I will admit to not fully understanding why a Linear dimension is referred to as a "Rotated" dimension in the Properties window. Take a look at the Basics section to see what I found out.

The Power Tool this month is a great little feature from the Express Tools collection that enables you to align text along an arc and has quite a powerful array of features. This came up when a reader from Fullerton College emailed me about how to "bend" text. Then I think I was on the AUGI website ( when I read about the Convtosolid command that lets you take a closed polyline with thickness… and basically fill it with concrete! (It creates a solid).

This month (as with just about every other one) was quite enjoyable to write… mostly at 35,000′ traveling across the country.

The Dynamic UCS
Arc-Aligned Text
Aligned and Rotated Dimensions

February - States, Styles, and Follow-Ups

50th CornerWhen I looked back over the last few month's articles, I realized there were a few loose ends along with some follow-up comments I wanted to pass along to you all. The coverage of Layer States is one that I have been meaning to elaborate upon, especially since it is so easy to make a macro for a tool palette to recall layer states. Then I remembered that many years ago, when I was publishing the AutoCAD Toolbelt newsletter, that I had written about how to lock a palette, so I wanted to pass that along, too. Ironically, in my training at University of Michigan this week, one of their CAD managers was asking how to maintain the integrity of a tool palette.

The Odd Spot this month is dedicated to a few follow-ups that were brought to my attention that I think you will find useful. And finally, I have written about the faithful Text Style dialog box. That's just one of those features that I thoroughly enjoy teaching since it clarifies one of the important fundamentals of using AutoCAD. And that's what it's all about; giving you all the tools you need to get your job done as efficiently as possible.

Layer States Manager
Locking a Tool Palette
Creating Text Styles

January - Off and Running in 2007

Happy New Year to one and all! This month I have a solution for those of you who have attributed blocks scattered all over a drawing… and you need to add another attribute to a block so that all the references of that block are updated with the additional attribute. Ah, yes, and do it without exploding and remaking the block. I also have a couple routines that involve the lowly Ctrl key. One involving grips, and another involving layout tabs. Quirky, but fun. Then the Odd Spot this month shows you how to enter the Euro sign in Dtext or Mtext… but can't be done when you're using a laptop!

Adding Additional Attributes
Paging Through Layout Tabs
Euro Sign in Text
The Increment Lock

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