AutoCAD 2015 Focuses on User Comfort12 May, 2014 By: Lynn Allen
Circles and Lines: The updated workhorse CAD program features a passel of UI updates that will make your day-to-day work easier and more efficient.
Are you one of those bleeding-edge AutoCAD users who eagerly anticipate each year's version release? When spring rolls around, do you find yourself hoping that your AutoCAD prayers have been answered and your feature wishes have finally been added into the product? While I can't cover all the new features inside AutoCAD 2015 in one column, let's take a look at the key user interface (UI) enhancements that encompass a majority of the improvements — maybe they're just what you've been hoping for!
Darker Color Scheme Equals Less Eye Strain
So many AutoCAD users sit and stare at the screen all day long — here is some relief, finally! AutoCAD 2015 introduces a cool-gray interface that is intended to reduce eye strain (figure 1). Die-hard traditionalists can change the screen back to a light theme by setting COLORTHEME to 1 or by using the Color Scheme control on the Display tab of Options.
Figure 1. The darker interface theme is easier on the eyes.
One of the first things you'll run into when you launch AutoCAD 2015 is the New tab (figure 2). The traditional empty screen has been replaced by this tab, which makes it easy to begin a new drawing or open an existing one. The New tab also appears whenever you select the "+" symbol on the File tabs (to add a new drawing) or use the Ctrl+T keyboard shortcut.
Figure 2. The New tab now displays when you launch AutoCAD, making it easy to open a new or existing drawing.
The New tab is made of two pages: Create and Learn. The Create page (default) offers quick access to things such as sample files, recent documents, templates, and Autodesk 360. The center column displays as many as 10 recently viewed documents, and icons at the bottom of the column control how they display. By clicking these icons, you can choose to view thumbnails, thumbnails and text, or just text.
You will also find a variety of notifications such as hardware acceleration, trial periods, and offline help information on the Create page.
By switching over to the Learn page, you can access tools that help you get to know AutoCAD 2015. You can explore the What's New section, watch videos to help you get started, or look up tips and online resources.
Note: If you decide you'd rather not deal with the New tab, you can set NEWTABMODE and STARTUPMODE to 0 to restore AutoCAD 2014 behavior.
Time to Embrace the Ribbon
I do have a bit of bad news for you ribbon rebels: AutoCAD 2015 no longer provides the AutoCAD Classic workspace option (but there are workarounds if you just can't cope). To make the adjustment easier, AutoCAD points to the tool you're looking for in the ribbon when you select the Find option in the Help window (figure 3).
Figure 3. Can't find a tool in the ribbon? AutoCAD Help to the rescue!
If the tool isn't accessible or is hidden in the current workspace, a tooltip in the Help window tells you where you can find it.
Figure 4. Grab content faster with the new Galleries option built right into the ribbon.
I will say that the context-sensitive ribbon is so powerful and efficient that I can't imagine going back to the AutoCAD Classic workspace. Maybe it's time for you ribbon rebels to give it a try!
Galleries are a highlight of AutoCAD 2015. A variety of content, such as block definitions, is displayed directly on the ribbon for speedy access (figure 4). These new galleries are also available for quickly recognizing styles such as dimensions, mleaders, text, and tables. One less step means getting your jobs done faster!
Badges? Maybe We Do Need Some Badges!
AutoCAD 2015's contextual badges provide additional feedback right next to your cursor (figure 5). Selection badges pop up to indicate crossing vs. window selections. Inspection badges appear when using inquiry tools such as Distance, Area, and List. Copy, Move, Scale, and Rotate badges appear during editing, as do Zoom and Erase badges. All these visual badges should make it easier to ensure you are in the right command at the right time!
Figure 5. Badges provide contextual feedback while drawing and editing.
What You See Is What You Get
In the past, complex linetypes didn't display as you drew or edited them. Now you can see the complex linetypes in their entirety as you draw, move, copy, or rotate them. Also, lines and plines now display their color, linetype, and lineweight as you draw them. Selecting objects is more obvious because they appear thicker and darker during the preselection process (or lighter, depending on your background color). Objects actually change color when you select them, provided hardware acceleration is turned on. All these little changes contribute to accurate results.
As AutoCAD users, we are used to diagonal lines appearing jagged, as well as circles and arcs that look a little rough around the edges. AutoCAD 2015 offers a new capability that smoothes all your objects so they look much better on the screen. This feature can be turned on and off in the Graphics Performance dialog box (under the Systems tab in Options), but ultimately it shouldn't affect AutoCAD performance.
I loved the command preview that first appeared in AutoCAD 2012. In AutoCAD 2015 you will find that Trim, Extend, Lengthen, Break, MatchProp, Fillet, Chamfer, and Offset all share a handy preview of the results before you actually select an object. Ultimately this should yield fewer mistakes — not to mention giving the Undo command a rest.
Round 'Em Up!
Use the new Lasso selection option in AutoCAD 2015 to round up objects that don't fit neatly within a rectangular area. Access the Lasso option by clicking on a blank area of the drawing and then dragging the cursor around the objects (figure 6). Quickly switch to a Fence by hitting the spacebar. You can still get to the traditional rectangular window and crossing selections by clicking and releasing at each corner. You can turn this feature off in the Selection tab of Options, but give it a try first!
Figure 6. Use the new Lasso selection for non-rectangular selection.
Figure 7. The new Isometric Drafting tool in the status bar supports easy isometric drawing.
Do you use isometric mode in AutoCAD? A new tool in the status bar makes it easier than ever to switch to isometric drawing mode and to move from one isoplane to the next (figure 7).
You Must Try the UI Updates
The user interface in AutoCAD 2015 has many improvements that are certain to improve your drawing productivity. In keeping with AutoCAD tradition, you can turn off most of these new features, but promise me you'll give them a chance first. With a little time you'll comfortably ease into this new release and be glad that you did! Until next time, happy AutoCAD-ing!
Autodesk Technical Evangelist Lynn Allen guides you through a different AutoCAD feature in every edition of her popular "Circles and Lines" tutorial series. For even more AutoCAD how-to, check out Lynn's quick tips in the Cadalyst Video Gallery. Subscribe to Cadalyst's free Tips & Tools Weekly e-newsletter and we'll notify you every time a new video tip is published. All exclusively from Cadalyst!