Skip to content

Use Fields to Automatically Calculate Acres in AutoCAD

I am sure we have all had to calculate an area of a pond, footprint, or some other irregular shape in AutoCAD. What about those times when we need to convert to acres, simple – right? We just get out our calculator or use the onscreen calculator and do the math. Let’s let AutoCAD do that for us. We are now going to locate or create a closed object or polyline in a drawing and place a leader with mtext on an object and use a field to label the area (in acres) of the object. Let’s first drawing an irregular shape on our drawing. Next type the mleader command and place a leader pointing to the object as shown in Figure 1

Figure 1: Object – Mtext – Label



Notice how we do not have anything after the “=” sign for the area. Right click and highlight (red box) where you want the number to be in your mtext and select insert field as shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2: Right click-Insert Field 


You now need to change the field category to Objects (1) and then hit the Object type button (2) and you will be sent back to out to the AutoCAD screen to select the object.

Figure 3: Select the Object



Select the outer bold line (boundary) in your drawing. The field selection window will pop up. Select Area then Decimal. But wait, we want acres and this is in standard units 1-1 which would be square feet. We are assuming that the coordinate system is setup to decimal units or 1-1. Therefore the value displayed in the field will be in square feet and not acres. We just need to additional format to the field. Checking the coordinate system is very important for any type of calculation. Make sure you are in the correct coordinate system and your drawing units are correct.

Figure 4: Field selections


Select the additional format button as shown above in Figure 4 above and  another dialog box will pop up and you can add some custom formatting.  We need to convert the value to Acres and we also would like to add a suffix as shown in Figure 5 .

  • Step 1 you are going to divide the value by 43,560 which is how many square feet are in an acre.
  • Step 2 you will add a Suffix, in this case we are adding the word ACRES.

Figure 5: Additional Format

You now have linked a field with additional format to an object in AutoCAD. If you revise the boundary the field will automatically update with the new area shown in Acres. If you break the link between the object and the field, simply right click and reselect the object following the steps above. Your final output should look just like Figure 6 below. Don’t forget to change the precision to your desired output, you can change this in the additional format window as shown in Figure 4.

Figure 6: Area Calculation Shown



Publishing Sheets using the SSM in Autodesk AutoCAD

I am still working on a video file for No Sheet! You can do that with the SSM in AutoCAD, this cold Michigan weather has slowed me down a bit. If you attended Autodesk University 2014 you know I covered Sheet Sets and took it to the lab but was not able to cover all the material in my handout. I would like to review publishing using the SSM in Autodesk AutoCAD using a .dsd (publishing) file. What happens if I want to print some sheets 11 x 17 and the others 22 x 34? In the past I have used subsets and printed those sections at different sizes but let’s not forget about the publish dialog box.

Hint: The beauty of subsets is you can right click those and publish using an override and AutoCAD will just publish those drawings within the subset.

Within the publish dialog box we can create a .dsd (publishing file) and then just load that up and print using that file, similar to a one click on the page setup override. Click on the publish icon as shown below in Figure 1. Then select Publish Dialog Box…

Figure 1: Publish Dialog Box

01-Publish My Project

You will now see all of the sheets in your sheet set in a nice orderly fashion. Change the page setups as shown. HINT: If you do not see your page you will have to import the page setup into the template and/or drawing file.

Figure 2: Publish Dialog Box

02-Publish Dialog Box

Change one as shown in Figure 2 to 22 x 34. You will now be able to publish your drawing set using different sizes. Then save your publish settings file as shown in Figure 3 to your pdf folder for quick access the next time you need to print.

Figure 3: Change a file and save the publish (.dsd) file

03-Save the Publish File

Notes About Publishing (from Autodesk Help)

Publishing provides a streamlined alternative to plotting multiple drawings by providing compressed representations of drawings in a file that is easy to view and distribute. An electronic drawing set is the digital equivalent of a set of plotted drawings. You create an electronic drawing set by publishing drawings to a DWF, DWFx, or PDF file.

You can publish an entire sheet set from the Sheet Set Manager. With one click, you can create an electronic drawing set by publishing the sheet set to a single, multi-sheet DWF, DWFx, or PDF file. You can create a paper drawing set by publishing the sheet set to the plotter named in each sheet’s page setup.

Using the Publish dialog box, you can assemble a collection of drawings to publish and save the list as a Drawing Set Descriptions (DSD) file. You can customize this collection of drawings for a specific user, and you can add and remove sheets as a project evolves.

Once you’ve created a list of drawing sheets in the Publish dialog box, you can publish the drawings to any of the following:

  1. The plotter named in each sheet’s page setup (including drawings that you want to plot to file)
  2. A single, multi-sheet DWF or DWFx file containing both 2D and 3D content
  3. A single, multi-sheet PDF file containing 2D content
  4. Multiple single-sheet DWF or DWFx files containing both 2D and 3D content
  5. Multiple single-sheet PDF files containing 2D content
  6. Using 3D DWF publishing, you can create and publish DWF files of your 3D models and view them with Autodesk Design Review.

Attached please find the pdf files from the appendices from No Sheet! 

Appendix A: Using the Publish Dialog Box for printing your project

Appendix B: Placing Sheet Views from the Model Tab using the SSM

Appendix C: Archiving a Sheet Set

Appendix D: Sheet Set Fields – The template

Guide to use when creating fields linking to your title block

Guide to use when creating fields linking to your title block

Have a great week my friends!  Sam

Get your AutoCAD Projects Setup

After teaching a at Autodesk University 2014 and having my hands on lab class navigate to project folders was something I did not anticipate taking much time. With all those long names and paths we have for the datasets at AU2014 I soon realized that it can become confusing and hard to explain where the files are located. This all taking off valuable time I needed for the hands on lab. What people do not know is before my second lab I went into the room at 6am and setup the project folders. I knew I was already under a bit of pressure due to a 90 minute lab on Sheet Sets and I needed to get to the files quickly.

Here is what I did and what you can do to start your week of right with AutoCAD and it’s verticals.

Move to the Ribbon and select Open to launch the select file dialog box. Figure 1 shows that I simply navigated to my class folder at AU2014 then left-clicked the project folder and dragged and dropped right into the AutoCAD start up places on the left.  Simply hold down your mouse and drag that folder over there. I did the same for the start folder as well as the root class folder. This made things much easier for us to navigate through the files.

Figure 1: AutoCAD Open Dialog BoxAutoCAD Startup Pane

After the project folders are setup just hit Cancel and select Yes as shown in Figure 2. The next time you launch AutoCAD your folders will be located in the start up places.

Figure 2: Save my PlacesSave Places

That is it! When you arrive to work on Monday morning, look at your project list and setup the Places list in AutoCAD. It will save you a great deal of time trying to locate projects which are deeply nested on your company’s network drive.  Note: After you get all your projects setup they may be by a number or some other name of the folder. You can right-click that folder and select properties and rename the folder as shown in Figure 3. This only renames the folder in the AutoCAD places and does not affect anything on your network

Figure 3: Rename the Folder Rename my Folder

Look for my next post to be about my classes at AU2014 and Yes, I will provide that every popular word search puzzle I passed out at class. Setup your projects using Start up places and avoid searching your network for the files you need.

Dude, Where is My Favorite AutoCAD Command?

The Application Menu

Have you ever upgraded your software and things were not exactly where they were in the previous release? Where is that command I use all the time? It was right there? I just cannot find it anywhere on the Ribbon!  Many users I have talked with load up the menu bar and never even take a look at the application menu (the big red A).The AutoCAD Application menu is a great way to find a command if you cannot locate it on the Ribbon. Select the application menu as shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1: The Application Menu


First let’s take a look at some of the basic functions of the menu.  I have highlighted items 1 -3 below in Figure 2.  When selecting item 1 you will have an ordered list of documents that you had recently opened.  Hint: You can control the number of documents to be recently displayed by going into the options menu and setting that number. After selecting item 2 AutoCAD will display the documents that you have currently open. Lastly, item 3 is the window area where all of your documents you recently opened can be viewed as a thumbnail (by hovering) or opened by selecting the document. The pane on the left will give you some standard AutoCAD file management tools including drawing settings and export.

Figure 2: Menu Functions


Now on to the topic of this post. Let’s say you just cannot find your favorite command on the Ribbon. Type the command you are looking for in the search window of the application menu and like magic you have a list of all locations for that command including a best match. For this example we typed the Move command.

As shown in Figure 3, the move command can be found on the Ribbon Home Tab-Modify Panel-Move.

Figure 3: Find my command


The application menu also gives you other alternatives or related results with the move command involved. Review and look through the menu and see the power behind being able to find and access information that may have been lost in the upgrade.

A final note about Autodesk University 2014

I will be teaching two classes at Autodesk University 2014 in December this year.  My first class is a hands on lab using the Sheet Set Manager in AutoCAD. I have always believed in the power and efficiency of the Sheet Set Manger and will teach a hands on lab named: No Sheet!  You can do that with the SSM in Autodesk AutoCAD.  I plan to setup a project with you and go through some of the benefits of using the Sheet Set Manager.

My second class:  Mighty Macros: Pumping Up Productivity One Character at a Time: In this session we will go through the action recorder, tool palettes and finally dive into the CUI to pull out some code and create some cool new macros that you can use back at the office to make your every day design and drafting just a bit easier.

Autodesk University 2014

Autodesk University 2014

I look forward to meeting new friends and colleagues at AU2014 in December.  See you in Vegas!

– Sam

Thumbs up for Previews in AutoCAD

Have you ever looked at the drawing preview window or the view within the SSM (sheet set manager) and noticed that it does not display the correct drawing?  There is a quick fix. Go into Tools and Option (or right-click in the command area) and move to the Open and Save tab. There you will find a button for Thumbnail Preview Settings.

Figure 1: Open and Save Tab



Click the Thumbnail Preview Settings as shown above. Thumbnail previews are stored as PNG images, providing higher-quality thumbnail previews in a smaller file size. Image resolution is still controlled by the THUMBSIZE system variable.

We are now going to go through each section and explain what these variables and buttons control. Figure 2 shows the standard dialog box when selecting the Thumbnail Preview Settings.

Figure 2: Thumbnail Preview Setting Dialog Box

04-Thumbsave Window

The following list corresponds to the Red bullet numbers within Figure 2.

  1. The system variable that stores the thumbnail preview in the Windows registry is THUMBSAVE. This system variable replaces RASTERPREVIEW. By checking this box the variable is set to 1 and a preview will be generated.
  2. Defines the current view of the drawing as the home view.  A preview of the current view will be generated for the image.
  3. Resets the Home view back to default.
  4. Controls the updating of thumbnails for views and layouts.  These Settings are stored in the UPDATETHUMBNAIL system variable. The settings is stored as a bitcode using one of the following values.
0 Does not update previews
1 Updates previews for model space views
2 Updates previews for layout views
4 Updates previews for layouts
8 Updates previews when layouts or views are created, modified, or restored
16 Updates previews when the drawing is saved

These previews are displayed in the Sheet Set Manager. Sheet previews are displayed on the Sheet List tab, sheet view previews on the View List tab, and model space view previews on the Resource Drawings tab.

Hit OK and save your settings.  One last item you may want to check is when you are saving a drawing notice the update thumbnail check box right under your preview as shown in Figure 3a. If you HIT this and run a save on your drawing you will notice on the status bar that the previews are being generated.

 Figure 3a: Check that Preview Box


 You will notice when saving your drawing or saving an entire Sheet Set that the Previews will be updated as shown in Figure 3b. This may take a few seconds longer but it is worth the wait.

Figure 3b: Check that Preview Box



The background color, though, is taken from the drawing view when a drawing is saved. For the background to be saved as white in the thumbnail, the drawing needs to be on a white background when it is saved. The background color is selected on the Display tab in Options.

Note: if you are looking for more information on preview images in Widows explorer please visit R.K. McSwain’s blog CAD Panacea at  There are many instances in AutoCAD 2013 and 2014 where this can be corrected by changing a registry setting or even running a lisp routine at startup.  To check this go to a folder and set the list view to large thumbnails as shown in Figure 4.

Figure 4: Windows Explorer Views


Check your previews and give yourself a thumbs up!  The next person who loads the file(s) will be thankful you took the time to be sure the correct images are displayed when opening a drawing file.




Put a Mask on that Symbol

Have you ever moved a block attribute (text) around to an area that is open and you have no lines or objects crossing the text? I bet some of you have even trimmed the area to the block or created a wipeout to mask out behind the text and/or the symbol. There is a solution. We want to take one of our standard symbols and create a new block. We are going to use a standard boring symbol location as shown below. Make sure this object is exploded as we are going to create a block.01-Symbol

Next we are going to create an attribute but this time we are going to check the box for multiline text as shown in Figure 1. Type ATTDEF at the command prompt and enter the data as shown below. Note: we are not going to click the annotative button for this example. Yes, you can do that but we need to start with the basic symbol to see how the mask works.

Figure 1: Attibute Definition Dialog Box

02-Attribute Def

Your geometry should look like what is shown in Figure 2. Double-click the attribute (text) and then click the ellipsis (…) as shown.  You will now be taken to the text formatting editor.

Figure 2: Edit Attribute Definition


Right-click on the attribute (text) and select background mask from the menu as shown in Figure 3.

Figure 3: Background Mask


Apply a background mask and select Use drawing backgrond color as shown in Figure 4.  Of course you can select an alternate color if that is preferred.

Figure 4: Apply the Mask

05-Background Mask

Almost done.  Complete the symbol by typing the block command to create your new block. Enter the name SB and select all of the objects on the screen and use the base point as the center of your symbol. Figure 5 illustrates how to name and add a description to the block.

Figure 5: Create the Block

06-Create Block

You have now created a block with a multiline text attribute that has a background mask as shown in Figure 6. Note: as with multi-line text you need to check the mtext width, the background mask will be applied to the entire width of the text (attribute). Adjust that accordingly in your design to produce an effective looking scenario. Remember, create a new symbol and check the annotative button for the same properties to be developed with an annotative block.

Figure 6: Test your new block

06-Final Block

Get the Data Out

I bet is safe to say at some point in time you were asked to extract coordinates from a symbol on a map. In the older releases of AutoCAD we would use the list command, ID, or even a lisp file to get the data we need. In AutoCAD 2014 you can use the data extraction wizard to extract all types of data from objects within your drawing file. Open up any drawing which contains objects or data you wish to extract. For our example we are going to use an existing map with 3 blocks representing monitoring wells placed at different locations and elevations as shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1: Base Map with Boring Locations


On the Ribbon move over to the Insert tab then across to the Linking and ExtractionTable as shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2: Linking and Extraction


After selecting the button the next steps will take us through the data extraction wizard. If you have not used this take the time to get to know how this works.  You can extracts all sorts of information from any object contained within your drawing file. Step 1 is to create the extraction.

Step 1: Create the Extraction File


You will need to create the data extraction file (.dxe). Place this file in the project folder along with your drawing file or if preferred in a folder named data extraction as shown below.


Now that we have our extraction file created we have to select the items which we need to collect information from. In Step 2 we can select the entire drawing and/or sheet set or select the button as shown to pick the objects.

Step 2: Define the Data Source


After selecting the 3 monitoring wells (blocks) we are presented with Step 3 asking us what data do we want to extract from those 3 objects. At this point we want to uncheck everything except for our block as shown below.

Step 3: Select the Objects


After selecting the data we need (monitoring well block) we then hit next.  Take a look at all the data we can extract as shown in Step 4. Select (on the right below) what we want to extract from our blocks. In this exercise we want the X,Y,Z and the attribute name (i.e. MW-01).  Take time to scroll down and look at all of the options available to extract.

 Step 4: Select the Properties


Remaining on Step 4 we are going to uncheck everything in the Category filter (right below) except for the geomoety and the attribute. We need the coordinates as well as the name of our well.


Now that we have defined what we need we hit next and you will be presented with Step 5 to refine the Data. Notice how you have a table with all of the items you have selected and defined within your drawing file.  At this Step you can remove the Count and Name columns by unchecking those as shown below.

Step 5: Refine the Data


We are almost done. Step 6 gives us the option of putting the data in a table on the existing drawing or outputting to several formats including Excel and Access. You can have both checked as I have and AutoCAD will write the data file and also place the table within your drawing.  Step 6 shows us the dialog box that pops up asking the user if we want to write the data to a file.

Step 6: Choose your Output


The file has been saved to our folder and table style dialog box pops up. If you extract data frequently you could setup a table style to assign to this task each time you get coordinates for wells. For this example we are just going to choose the standard table style.

Step 7: The Table Style


Almost done, Step 8 has us select the finish button and then we will be asked where to place the table within our drawing file.

Step 8: Finish the job


The last image is our original base map with table as inserted next to our monitoring wells.

Figure 3: The Final Output


This wizard or tool is extremely powerful and useful with AutoCAD.  Many people are not aware that you can extract data from objects and rely on third party software or apps to get the job done. Use the tools you have to be more efficient and producive and you will be recognized as that go to person in your office.

Copyright and Trademark Symbols

AutoCAD has the ability to create exponential text values with Mtext using the carat (^) character. Simply add before or after the text you wish to stack and highlight and right-click. What about special characters including registration, trademark and copyright as shown in Figure 1?

Figure 1: Special Characters


 Last week I came across a drawing file that used Trademark and the Copyright symbol within mtext. The problem was the user created two separate pieces of text instead of taking advantage of AutoCAD’s special characters and stacked text function. Let’s take a look at how this can be done. Figure 2 shows the Autodesk name with the registered trademark symbols next to it in one piece of text.

Figure 2: AutoCAD Mtext Object

02-AutoCAD Registered

Let’s type Mtext and add the word AutoCAD as shown in Figure 2 above. When you are at the end of the last letter perform a right-click to bring up the shortcut menu as shown in Figure3 below.  Select Symbol – Other – as shown.

Figure 3: Right-click menu


The next image you are going to see is the special character map (Figure 4) which will give you the ability to visually see and insert those special characters into your piece of text. We are now going to follow 5 simple steps to get what we need.

  1. Find the symbol you are looking for (Registered Trademark).
  2. Select the Symbol.
  3. Copy the Symbol.
  4. Get out of the Character Map
  5. Paste the character into your text string

Figure 4: Special Characters Map


 Figure 5: Paste into the Mtext object 

03-Paste in   


All looks good as shown in Figure 6. We have our symbol in there but we still need to superscript that symbol placing it just to the top of the text. Using the Multiline text editor add and the carat (shift+6) just following the special character as shown below.

Figure 6: Symbol add – Place carat

06-AutoCAD Reg

Next, left click, drag, and highlight the registered trademark symbol and the carat, then right-click to view the shortcut menu as shown in Figure 7. From the shortcut menu select STACK. This will stack the symbol just above the AutoCAD piece of text.  You can do the same for superscript just place the carat in front of the symbol and follow the same procedure.

Figure 7: Stack menu

07-Stack Menu

To have additional control over the stacking features, simply select the stacked text and right-click again. From the shortcut menu and select Properties. TheStack Properties window will appear as shown in Figure 8. You can now control the appearance as well as the position of your stacked special character.

Figure 8: Stack Properties dialog box

87-Stack Properties

Keep those Mtext Objects together by using special characters, take a look at all of the symbols in the character map. You may be surprised at what you find. This stacking technique does not work with text created by the commands TEXT, DTEXT or RTEXT, just MTEXT.

Note: As a reminder for those Microsoft word users you can add special characters in word by using the following keyboard shortcuts.

In Microsoft Word the following keyboard shortcuts will insert special characters:

Copyright Symbol: Alt + Ctrl + C

 Trademark Symbol: Alt + Ctrl + T

 Registered Trademark Symbol: Alt + Ctrl + R

 If Autocorrect is turned on (which it is by default), you can enter the following text and Word will automatically convert it to the desired symbol:

 Copyright Symbol: (c)

 Trademark Symbol: ™

 Registered Trademark Symbol: (r)


2013 in review for CADProtips

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 4,500 times in 2013. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

My Rows, My Columns, My Table

With a follow up to my pickfirst example I wanted to show another quick tip which can clean up those tables on current projects. A table is a compound object that contains data in rows and columns just like Microsoft Excel. Similar to excel you can set the rows and columns to the same height and also put an indent in there for your page sheets on the project.  Figure 1 shows a table where we use the properties dialog palette to ensure that we have consistent sizes for the rows and a good indent for the drawing sheet list. Item 1 shows an indent of .18 and Item 2 shows a consistent row height of .3. How do we make sure those values are the same in the entire table?

Figure 1: Title Sheet Table


Select all of your cells in the table using a window or crossing (just like excel) and hit ctrl+1 or bring up the properties palette as shown in Figure 2. Here on the palette you can change a number of items within the table.  With the properties palette you can change the alignment of text, add a background fill, and even change the lineweight of the table cells. These are only a few of the many options available.

Figure 2: The Properties Palette


Make your edits as shown in the properties box and your table will change and be ready for final review.  I also have attached The Power of Properties article I wrote in the AUGIWorld September issue. I keep the properties palette open all of the time on my second monitor, you might be surprised at some of the items you can control and or change with that simple palette. 

That’s all for me until Autodesk University 2013!  As I said in the article I look forward to meeting new friends and collegues during the most wonderful time of the year.

AUGIWorld – Power of Properties (2013-0906)

AUGIWorld is the official magazine of Autodesk User Group International (AUGI). Published every month, it is distributed to AUGI members around the world. Join AUGI and become the newest member of the most active Autodesk related community on the planet.



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 146 other followers