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Autodesk University 2018 and a QAT AutoCAD Tip

I am off to Las Vegas again to present at Autodesk University 2018. I have been fortunate enough to have my proposals selected and have the opportunity to present again at the conference. I will be teaching and lab assisting as well as attending classes just like everyone else. I learn so much by teaching and the networking with my friends and peers is something I cannot explain. This time of year is a special time for me to connect with the industry find out what is new, what I am doing right, and what I should be doing. An all inclusive learning experience.

I am very excited about all 3 classes I am presenting. I really don’t have a favorite (OK, maybe I do). I am ready and have been for some time now. I have been practicing on the weekends and nights and recording the sessions. I need to do this to be prepared. Something always happens but I always look at this as a learning opportunity for all. If a command or a piece of code does not react the way you want to – then fix it and show your team (or audience) how this is done. I approach my work sessions as I do these at AU.

I have recently been added to a CAD Manager Panel which is an honor to sit next to some of the best in the business. I am the new guy to the group and honored to be there.

This class is about the experiences of a panel of diverse CAD managers who are widely respected as leaders in their field. Hear their unique perspectives and solutions to challenges faced by CAD managers from organizations of all sizes and backgrounds. Topics include understanding CAD standards, keeping up with rapidly changing technology, managing users, communicating with management and other nontechnical people, budgeting, and much more.

How about a CAD Tip before I go?

Let’s discuss the Quick Access Toolbar in AutoCAD or as many refer to it as the QAT. I had fun writing an article about the Quick Access Toolbar which can be found published in AUGIWorld November 2016. Seems like a long time ago but all of the principals still apply. This bar can be customized per workspace and can be very helpful to you while you work in different disciplines.

The Quick Access Toolbar is a customizable toolbar that contains a set of commands that are independent of the tab on the ribbon that is currently displayed. You can move the Quick Access Toolbar above and below the ribbon. Let’s review what I wrote and I have attached a video describing how you can create several different QAT’s linking those to alternate workspaces. Using the CUI (customizable user interface) you can create several QAT’s and attach those to different workspaces to help keep you productive in your workflow.

Check out this Screencast on how to add the layer combo control bar  to your QAT and give it a longer length.

That’s all for now.  I hope you enjoyed this post and have a great weekend wherever in the World you may be.

Until next month….or after AU…..or after the holidays……Sam

Import and Convert Text from a PDF in AutoCAD

As CAD managers, drafters, and designers, we all need at some point to look at a pdf file, import the file, and in some instances use and edit the text as well. This post will show you how to convert SHX font geometry to text after importing a PDF file in AutoCAD. You ensure good text recognition by specifying the SHX font name used. Unlike other fonts, SHX fonts import as lines, arcs, circles, and other geometry instead of text.

PDF files are the most common file format used when exchanging design information between designers, contractors, clients, and others. AutoCAD 2017 introduced the ability to import PDF files. The PDFIMPORT command imports PDF data into AutoCAD as 2D geometry, TrueType text, and images.

Let’s first import the data. On the insert tab of the Ribbon select the PDF Import button.

Notes: Adobe’s PDF file format doesn’t recognize AutoCAD SHX fonts. When a PDF file is created from an AutoCAD drawing, text that was defined with SHX fonts is stored in the PDF as geometry. When you import the file you get lines and arcs that define the text object. With AutoCAD 2018 you have a new text recognition tool that enables you to select imported PDF geometry representing SHX text and convert it to text objects. You can find this on the import tab of the Ribbon as shown.

After selecting the file you will see the Import PDF dialog box where you will have several options on how you want the file to be imported.

  1. PDF data to import: Options to select how your data will import.
  2. Do you want layers?
  3. Preview of the imported file.
  4. Import options – several options for blocks, hatches, and lineweights.
  5. Alternate options for importing the file
  6. Select OK.

Once you drawing is imported follow the workflow on the ribbon. Here is where you can recognize the SHX Text, Change Settings and Combine Text.

Here is a quick Video showing you how to import a PDF file into AutoCAD and then Recognize the SHX text changing those lines to editable text objects.

That’s all my friends – enjoy the rest your weekend and I will see you in Vegas at Autodesk University 2018!  This may be my last post for a while as I have to study, prepare, and practice on my weekends and nights while also spending time with my family and friends.

Have a great rest of the weekend and start to your week wherever in the World you may be!

Until next month, Sam

What is Midwest University?

I know, it’s August and I am finally writing this post. I wanted to write about a conference I attended in March of this year. I was very thankful I was able to travel to Minnesota to speak, learn, and network with my peers in the AEC industry.

Midwest University 2018 is one of North America’s largest professional development conferences focused solely on the AEC industry where attendees learn about new and emerging technologies. It is held at Mystic Lake Hotel and Casino, in Prior Lake, Minnesota

I was fortunate enough to present a class on Plan Production Tools in Civil 3D. My class ended up being in the top 10 which makes all the effort worthwhile.

Midwest University is a short two-day event held in March of each year. The general sessions and networking opportunities allow you to share ideas and insights with your peers, network with experts in your field, and explore the latest trends and technologies.

Think of Midwest University as a smaller version of Autodesk University. Each day started with a General Session, followed by two classes before lunch. After lunch there were four more class slots, user group meetings and a social mixer. What I enjoyed the most was the small class size and you sit at a table where you can spread out your stuff! If you guys know me I like to have all sorts of papers and notes around me when I work. The classes were limited to 45 minutes which go by very quickly. There are over 160 classes, ~500 attendees, 1 social mixer, 2 general sessions, 20 exhibitors, Sophia, and 1 exhibit hall.

The staff of CAD Technology Center, who puts on this conference was well prepared and very helpful. If you are interested in attending in 2019, go to the Midwest U website link and sign up for email updates to attend.

I did have the opportunity to meet an AI robot named Sophia while I was there!  I was very determined to get my photo with her.  I hope to attend again next year and possibly speak on topics within the AEC industry.

If you are looking for a smaller conference with a similar feel to Autodesk University, then Midwest University is the conference for you.

On a final note, I will be teaching this year at Autodesk University!!! – If you would like to learn more about Plan Production in Civil 3D, Managing Sheet Sets in the Lab, and Leveraging those linetypes in AutoCAD then look me up. I am very excited about these classes; I plan to make them fun and informative.

I have an article coming out in AUGIWorld in the September issue on Tables – be sure to check it out and if you are not a member of AUGI – join today – great way to network with your peers.

Until next month – maybe sooner with a CAD tip – Sam


Autodesk University 2018 – Last week to Vote!

The annual Call for Proposals  for Autodesk University closed on Monday June 11, 2018. When the deadline arrived, Autodesk received over 2000 proposals from people all over the world. I have submitted proposals for the past six years (excluding last year). My thought process is based upon workflow and production and what have I found to be valuable and trending within the industry. My classes are based on real world examples and are my way of documenting my findings on how to become more proficient with the software.

AU is about YOU so now is the time for you to vote for your favorite classes and what you would like to see presented. Take a look at what I am proposing and if you find valuable send a vote my way. I can promise you that I will provide you a comprehensive handout and a passionate presentation on the topic provided. I focus on AutoCAD and Civil 3D. I believe in hard work and dedication and that will show in what I present.

My proposed classes:

Managing your Sheets with the Sheet Set Manager – A Beginners Guide

Managing your Sheets with the Sheet Set Manager – An Advanced Guide

My sheet set classes are Hands on LABS. I have taught sheets sets before and realized that people were at all different levels and the best way to present in a lab is to split these up into two separate sections. At the office, I would dedicate over a half day maybe more just to train people on the Sheet Set Manager. This is an extremely valuable and important topic that drafters, designers, and managers need to understand.

Getting Productive with Plan and Production in Civil 3D

When working on a large mining project we soon realized we needed profiles and site plans over a very long roadway. This is where Plan and Production saved us some time and kept the project more efficient.

Leveraging Linetypes in AutoCAD

OK. I have to admit.  One of my favorite topics is linetypes. Why there have been no new ones added since, let me think??? I am not sure there have been any updates to the acad.lin file in over 10 years.  That’s OK, because in this class we will explore this and show you how to make your designs stand out in the crowd.

Making your Mark with a Map Book in Civil 3D

I recently had a project in Civil 3D where I just needed tiled viewports of a large area and a key map. I created a Map Book saving me time and providing value – I will show you how I did that.

Managing Standards with the CAD Standards Manager

Nuff said – CAD Standards.  Let’s discsuss how a tool that has been around for years can help you maintain and keep your company standards.

Don’t forget to Vote by Friday July 13, 2018 and stay tuned to see if any of my proposals will be accepted.

You ask why I do this? I do this because I feel I need to share what I know. I have been working in the industry for a long time and realize you can’t do it alone, we all need help, mentorship, and guidance along the way.  I have many friends who I see once a year and it is awesome, words can’t explain the respect and friendship we share.

My employer, Haley & Aldrich sees the value of continued learning and development and we share what we know within our design team and throughout the company.

I hope to see you all in Vegas again – I plan to be there and if you see me don’t hesitate to talk to me or ask a question.

I’ll shoot a CAD tip along soon…..been very busy at the office and at home.



AutoCAD 2019 – There can be only ONE

It is that time of year again. The time of the year Autodesk releases new versions of our favorite products. This year is no different with the announcement of AutoCAD 2019.

Speed up your work with specialized features and libraries for mechanical design, architecture, 3D mapping, and more; enjoy greater mobility with the new web and mobile apps; and take advantage of new features and performance enhancements, included with new subscriptions to AutoCAD 2019 including specialized toolsets.

Increase Productivity With Specialized Toolsets

With access to 7 specialized toolsets, subscribers have more than 750,000 intelligent objects, styles, parts, features, and symbols to choose from when drawing. Designers can automate floorplans; quickly draw piping, plant equipment, or electrical panel layouts; incorporate GIS data into the planning process; edit scanned drawings and convert raster images into DWG objects all while working in a familiar AutoCAD interface.

I wanted to list the toolsets and provide links to each one to make it easy for you to review these new features.

When you subscribe to AutoCAD 2019, you will gain access to the following toolsets:

Architecture Toolset: Use specialized building design features and 8,000+ intelligent architectural objects and styles to speed architectural drawing and documentation.

Mechanical Toolset: Use specialized mechanical design features and 700,000+ intelligent manufacturing parts, features, and symbols to speed product design.

Electrical Toolset: Use specialized electrical design features and 65,000+ intelligent electrical symbols to boost productivity for creating, modifying, and documenting electrical controls systems.

MEP Toolset: Use specialized MEP engineering features and 10,500+ intelligent mechanical, electrical, and plumbing objects to draft, design, and document building systems.

Plant 3D Toolset: Use the specialized plant design and engineering toolset to efficiently produce P&IDs and then integrate them into a 3D plant design model.

Map 3D Toolset: Use specialized mapping features to incorporate GIS and CAD data to support planning, design, and data management. Access spatial data stored in files, databases, and web services, and aggregate it with your AutoCAD design data.

Raster Design Toolset: Use raster to vector tools to help you edit scanned drawings and convert raster images into DWG objects.

Check out the full AutoCAD 2019 Preview Guide to learn more about new features, how to access them and why we think you’ll love them.

AutoCAD 2019 does have some nice new features, check it out today and use the toolsets to help you become more productive with the software.



Show or Hide Viewport Controls in AutoCAD

Someone asked me “Sam, How do you turn off those text notes on the top left of my model space?” I thought yes you can do that but let’s first explain what these controls are and show you what those controls do.  Note: The images are linked to knowledge network articles on the subject matter.

Viewport controls were first introduced back in AutoCAD 2012. These controls let you add viewports and control the visual display of your model very quickly. The controls are placed on the top left corner of the viewport. When you select each element on the controls a fly out menu will show up with various options for you to view your model quickly.

I am a Civil 3D designer which makes these controls essential when I am looking at my surface and changing views. To control the visibility type VPCONTROL at the command prompt and set the system variable to 1 or 0. You could put a macro on your tool palette to toggle the the system variable on and off. Simply create the button and paste this code (shown below) into the macro section and you will now have a button to toggle the variable on and off.


To control the visibility in the options dialog box type options at the command prompt and switch to the 3D modeling tab and check/uncheck the “Display the Viewport Controls check box” as shown below. Click on the image for additional information about this tab.

To change the color of this go to the options tab and select display and find the viewport controls color on the menu as shown in the video.

That’s it.  These controls are great to have available; make sure you check them out while you are working in AutoCAD and Civil 3D or another vertical product.

I am excited to present at Midwest University this coming week. I have been preparing on my weekends and am ready to present Plan and Production in Civil 3D. Look for me to post tips and tricks on how to use this important tool and become more efficient in Civil 3D.

That’s me getting ready to present my class!

Have a great weekend wherever in the World you may be.




AutoCAD Layers in a PDF file

Viewing layers within a pdf file can be extremely useful to managers and clients who do not have access AutoCAD or a viewing program. Sometimes a client may have a specific request to view the layers of the drawing giving them the ability to manipulate the file. Drawings that use the DWG to PDF driver (from Autodesk) have the ability to turn on the layer control by following these three steps.

There are several ways to do this but the easiest would be to just type PLOT at the command prompt.

Set your plotter to the DWG to PDF.pc3 file as shown below, then select properties.

Layers in PDF-1

You can follow the same procedure using the additional Autodesk Supplied .pc3 files.

Highlight custom properties on the files tab and select the Custom Properties button.

Layers in PDF-2

After selecting the Custom Properties button the following dialogue box will appear. By default the include layer information is checked.  Simply uncheck that box and hit OK.  The settings will be saved to the printer driver and you are ready to go.

Layers in PDF-3

That’s it! Simply open your drawing in Adobe or another PDF reader and you will notice you have full control over your layers.

Be My AutoCAD Valentine

What is Valentines Day?

Well, I looked it up like everyone else does on Wikipedia and this is the definition.

Valentine’s Day, also called Saint Valentine’s Day is celebrated annually on February 14. Originating as a Western Christian feast day honoring one or more early saints named Valentinus, Valentine’s Day is recognized as a significant cultural, religious, and commercial celebration of romance in many regions around the world, although it is not a public holiday in any country.

Those of you who know me remember “Linesanity”. It was my class at Autodesk University 2012 and we discussed linetypes in AutoCAD.

This post focuses on how to create a custom linetype for that special person in your life or just to show you how to incorporate already defined shapes via the webdings font into your custom linetype.

Check out my video on how to create a Heart Linetype in AutoCAD for your favorite Valentine!

This older video will help you define your linetypes using fonts.

Have a great February everyone!  Until next month or at Midwest University 2018 in March. Check out my class Getting Productive with Plan and Production in Civil 3D.



Fields to Calculate Areas in AutoCAD – Part 2

It’s a cold  Saturday morning in Michigan. As I am sitting here drinking my coffee I wanted to respond to a question on a post I wrote about using fields in AutoCAD. It was one of those moments where I thought…..hmmm yeah you can do that with AutoCAD fields.

Part 1 below is my original post about using fields to calculate an area and add to a label. A direct question came to me about saying “Sam, it would be nice if you could have a field to add up areas of several objects.” The answer is yes, you can with a table or a mathematical formula right in the field. Move to part 2 for the explanation and a video explaining both processes. I am going to focus on the portion without the table then show you a quick demonstration on how to add the areas in a table.

Figure 1: Total Area in a field (left image) and total area in a table (right image).

Part 1

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 2.

Figure 2: 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 3.

Figure 3: 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 4: 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 5: Field selections


Select the additional format button as shown above in Figure 5 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 6: 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 6.

Figure 7: Area Calculation Shown


Part 2

We have our areas again just like in Part 1.  Except in this example we have 3 separate areas that we would like to calculate the square footage individually and also add it to a field which will update if any one of the 3 areas updates. Simply follow the steps in part one selecting each object (in this case the polyline) and adding some additional format as shown in Figures 1 and 2 below.

Figure 1: Object – Polyline – Preview

At this time we do not want to add any additional format until we get to the last field added.

Step 1: Select the object or outline of the pond. It must be a closed polyline-then make sure the object type is area as shown.

Step 2: Change the units to decimal with the precision of 0.0.

Step 3: Drag your mouse and copy the field selection

Step 4: Go to the formula and paste in the number and add a + after it.

Figure 2: Adding all 3 formulas to one Field in a Formula

After completing the first one then go back to the object tab and get the area for the second object. Your final Formula section should look like what is shown below.

Once you get all 3 in there go to the additional format section again and add your custom prefix and suffix as shown.

Figure 3: Add those areas including additional format

You now have a field based off 3 objects that will add up if the geometry of those objects change. The following video will go through all the steps on how to have these areas calculated automatically.

This year I am speaking at Midwest University and my class is Getting Productive with Plan and Production in Civil 3D. This is such a cool topic and I am looking forward to presenting. At Haley & Aldrich we have had some projects over the past year that included very long alignments and roads. The plan and production tools worked great and we were able to streamline the process of setting up our sheets.

That’s all for now, you all have a great rest of your weekend wherever in the World you may be.

Until next month……Sam



Custom Arrowhead Styles in AutoCAD

When I was teaching a class at Autodesk University 2016 someone asked me a question and started the question by saying “Sam, we have some very creative users”. I laughed and still think of that moment since it was a clever way as a CAD manager to describe a person who just loves customizing AutoCAD and trying out new features.

Now that being said, it is great to be creative and have passion but please stay within the boundaries of your CAD standards. I am sure many CAD managers like myself welcome the opportunity for others to share what they know to appease their creative site and keep things interesting. This post is all about being creative. I actually had to create a custom arrow head for a dimension on a project and incorporated into our company standards.

Let’s first discuss the 19 arrowheads that are available for leaders, multileaders, and dimensions. These blocks will be added to your drawing when you launch a dimension command, leader, or multileader command. You can modify these blocks to custom arrows to align with your business needs.

The following video will show you how to create new arrow styles in AutoCAD. I start out with the blocks already provided and go through steps on how to create new styles.

This second video I created for fun. It’s hunting season in Michigan and I have this unique photo of an arrow head (thanks James!). I wanted to show you how to take an image, import into AutoCAD, and create a custom arrow style based off the object in the picture.

That’s all for this month – time to go finish up decorating the house for Christmas.

I will post after the holidays about Autodesk University 2017 – It was another great year of collaborating with design professionals from all over the world. I saw some old friends and met some new ones. I am very thankful for having the opportunity to be a part of such a wonderful event.