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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

The_Big_RedA

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

The_Big_RedA-1

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

Find_Move_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

01-Thumb-options

 

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

02-Thumb-window

 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

05-Save_Percent

 

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 http://cadpanacea.com/node/434.  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

03-Thumb-window-folder

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

03-Attribute-Def2

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

Figure 3: Background Mask

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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

Data-Extract-0jpg

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

Data-Extract-1

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

Data-Extract-2

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.

Data-Extract-3

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

Data-Extract-4

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

Data-Extract-5

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

Data-Extract-6

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.

Data-Extract-7

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

Data-Extract-8

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

Data-Extract-9

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

Data-Extract-9-1

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

Data-Extract-9-2

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

Figure 3: The Final Output

Data-Extract-9-3

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

01-Trademarks

 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

02-Righclick-Symbol

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

03-Character_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 WordPress.com 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

Table-cell-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

Table-cell-prop

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.

www.augiworld.com

 

Oh No, I Can’t Double-Click Edit!

Over the past few weeks I have been working in Civil 3D on a large design using the sheet set manager to populate data on the sheets and in the table. If you are not using the sheet set manager in AutoCAD or Civil 3D please give it a try, you might be surprised at how efficient you will become. When I went to edit the table (shown below in Figure 1 ) I could not double-click to edit the field or change the text.  What happened?

Figure 1:  Double-click text editing

dbclk-01

Somehow my PICKFIRST variable changed. The PICKFIRST variable allows you to select objects, then start a command and apply to those objects. If PICKFIRST is off (set to 0), you have to start the command first then pick the object. Setting PICKFIRST to 1 or enabling it gets you back to the behavior where you can select the object then launch the command (double-click).  Below is a snapshot from AutoCAD help.

Figure 2: AutoCAD help

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How do we change this?  You can simply type PICKFIRST at the command prompt and change the value on that line as shown in Figure 3.

Figure 3: Command Line Entry

dbclk-03

You can also bring up the options dialog box. There are several ways to accomplish this. You can type options at the command prompt or simply right click in the command area to name two. Navigate to the section modes section and check the Noun/verb selection as shown in Figure 4.

Figure 4: Options Dialog Box

dbclk-04

Now when you double-click on objects that have specific editing tools you will be able to perform the functions necessary to complete the task.

Where are my Tool Palettes?

Have you ever changed the tool palette path and wondered where did all my default palettes go?  Sometimes those locations can be tricky when trying to find the default location. We put the path in a text file, a note on the desktop, or maybe a macro to bring it back.  There is a much easier way. Type Options, Config, or right click in the command area and select options to bring up the Options dialog box as shown.

tool-palette-01

Navigate to the tool palette file locations section and expand the + then delete the path that is shown in there.  Next, when you hit apply AutoCAD will bring up the following dialog box indicating that the default tool palette directory will be used.

tool-palette-02

Simply hit OK then Apply and your tool palettes will be restored.  A simple tip on how to get those palettes back to the default setting as shown below.

tool-palette-03

Don’t forget to register for Autodesk University 2013!  Registration begins in 10 days, September 12, 2013.  Join me for Mighty Macros: Powerful Commands to Pump up Productivity on Thursday 12-5 at 2:30.  My goal is always to provide you with some useful knowledge that you can take back to your employer to help you excel within your field and become more productive with AutoCAD.  See you in Vegas!

AU13-Speaker-275x250

Delete Stubborn Layers

I am sure all of us have been in the situation where we could not delete a layer.  For some reason AutoCAD will not remove the layer when running the purge command. This is where we take a look at the layer delete command. The LAYDEL command has been part of the express tools since AutoCAD 2010. Type LAYDEL at the command prompt.

01-layerdel

Remember to always look at the command line.  Since AutoCAD 2013 there have been some significant improvements to the command line.  Select Name as shown above or type N and hit Enter. AutoCAD will bring up a list of layers to chose from. Simply select the layer you wish to have deleted then hit OK.

02-layerdel

Tip:  You can use windows selection methods.  Hold down the CTRL key to add more layers or the SHIFT+CTRL key to add a selection of layers (select one, hold down shift, then select another on the list).

Remember!  If you have objects on that layer they will be removed along with the layer.  It is always good practice to run the Layer walk command prior to deleting any layers.  You can find the layer walk command on the ribbon in the layer panel.

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