Bonus Tools, the Final Chapter

1 Jul, 1998 By: Lynn Allen

This month, we'll explore the remaining tools in the R14 Bonus menu, beginning with the Bonus Draw commands and ending with a potpourri of useful utility tools. As with my previous columns on this topic, I'll list the name of the Bonus tool and the tool's author in parentheses.

(Joshua Harris)

This is a clever routine. Think of using whiteout to cover up objects in your drawing. This whiteout, however, is magical because you can change your mind later and uncover those objects. The WIPEOUT routine puts a Wipeout object that matches the background color on top of the indicated portion of your drawing. The wipeout object is created using a previously drawn closed polyline as its boundary. This routine is so clever, you can change your background color and the wipeout will make the appropriate chameleon-like color change. To follow along with me, place a closed polyline over some objects in your drawing.

Command: WIPEOUT Frame/
New <New>: enter
Select a polyline:
Erase polyline? Yes/No <No>:
Wipeout created.

Notice how all of the objects below the wipeout are gone. If you prefer to eliminate the polyline, you can do so by telling AutoCAD to erase the polyline when finished.

The Frame option is important if you later choose to remove (or move) the Wipeout. You can't select an object you can't see, so you'll need to turn the wipeout frames On to select it.

Note: The closed polyline you use as the wipeout boundary cannot have any polyarc segments in it.

Revision Cloud
(David Harrington)

This certainly wins as the absolute cutest bonus tool! Those of you in architecture know the importance of a revision cloud, and you have probably resorted to a block to create such an object. The new REVCLOUD routine makes it easy to create your own revision on the fly.

Set arc length to 0.500
Arc length/<Pick cloud starting point>:
Guide crosshairs along cloud path...
Cloud finished.

Quick Leader commands
(John Freeman)

The QLEADER command claims to be the totally customizable leader command. AutoCAD users have never really reached a state of complete bliss with the standard LEADER command. This bonus routine seeks to be the icing on the dimensioning cake.

An Anatomy of a Leader header would better suit this dialog. Just about everything you've ever wanted a leader line to do is in there. The key to success here is to set your leaders up the way you like them in this dialog, then use the QLEADER command just to place the assorted leaders in your drawing.

A quick summary of the four tabs:

  • Annotation: this tab controls the leader line text and justification.
  • Points/Format: this tab controls the number of pivot points on your leader line and whether or not you want splined or straight leaders.
  • Angles: this tab gives you complete control of the angles for the first and second segment of your leader lines. You may find it useful to set your second segment to always be horizontal.
  • Attachment: this tab controls where the leader line attaches to the leader text.

Done correctly, you should be able to consistently eliminate a step or two with your leaders.

These commands are available only from the pulldown menu and the command line. AutoCAD R13 introduced a much more versatile Leader object, but the leader text wasn't attached to the leader lines. This problem could be very frustrating if you accidentally moved one without the other! Enter these three routines. Note: this routine is primarily for R13 leaders, since the attachment process was improved in R14.

  • QLATTACH is used to attach one leader object with the leader annotation.
  • QLATTACHSET is used to attach many leader objects with their corresponding annotation.
  • QLDETACHSET is used to detach many leader objects from their corresponding annotation.

Miscellaneous Bonus Tool Commands
A set of the Bonus routines in the pulldown menu appear as though they don't fit into a neat category, but they do represent a nice potpourri of useful tools. Let's explore them one by one.

Add a popup menu to your input device
(Henry Lee)

This command is available only from the pulldown menu and the command line.

I love this simple but powerful addition to AutoCAD. We know that we can access the cursor menu by holding down [Shift] and hitting the right button on our input device. This bonus tool gives us an additional cursor menu that displays when we hold down [Ctrl] and the right button on our input devices.

By default, the View pulldown menu is used as the extra cursor menu. This menu just wasn't happening for me, so I chose a different one by holding down [Alt] and the right button on your input device (confused yet?). A dialog box will display.

(Abhijit Oak)

Have you ever given a drawing file to someone only to find that you didn't give them everything that goes with the file? Maybe you forgot to include a text font or an external reference file? If you did, you're going to love this new routine. It puts all of the files connected with the designated drawing in one directory. Then, you can simply zip it and send it off. The Report that's created is nice because it contains instructions as to where the files need to go to function properly. You can display the files in listview or treeview format by using the buttons on top of the dialog box.

Converts standard pre-R14 polylines into lightweight polylines
(Jerry Coley)

This command is available only from the pulldown menu and the command line. The new lightweight polylines are awesome! They improve performance everywhere you turn. By default, AutoCAD will automatically update all of those old heavy polylines and turn them into the new lightweight polylines (the R14 diet plan). However, it leaves any polylines with extended entity data as they were. The CONVERTPLINES command will update those as well. After AutoCAD successfully executing this command, it will display the following message:

This will convert all polylines to lightweight unconditionally. It removes all xdata on existing polylines and may cause third-party applications reliant on this data to fail.

If you're using third-party applications that rely on R13 information to perform correctly, you might reconsider using this function.

As a safety precaution, this command forces you to jump over a small bar to execute:

Type YES (all caps) to proceed:
Enter YES to convert polylines to lightweight polylines.

Failure to key in the word YES in all caps will terminate the command. I especially enjoy the rather drastic *Aborted* that displays when you don't adhere to the requirements.

Gets a specific selection set
(Dominic Panholzer)

Note: This routine did not originally work as it appears in your copy of R14, but you can download the corrected version from Autodesk's Web site. This command is available only from the pulldown menu and the command line.

This nifty little tool silently sits in this section. It permits you to easily grab all of a certain type of object on a specific layer. For example, I've accidentally placed all of my text on the wrong layer. It could be difficult to select just the text on that incorrect layer to move it to another layer. GETSEL saves the day.

Command: GETSEL
Select Object on layer to Select from <*>: (enter will select all layers)
Select type of entity you want <*>: (enter will select all objects)
Collecting all TEXT items on layer DWGTEXTURE...
25 items have been placed in the active selection set.
I could then go into an editing command and use the Previous selection set to modify these objects. For example:
Command: ERASE
Select Objects: P
25 found

You could also use this routine to easily grab all of the objects from a certain layer for editing. The FILTER command in AutoCAD works along the same premise.

A custom alias editor
(Jason Pratt)

This command is available only from the pulldown menu and the command line. I absolutely love this one! It's always been so cumbersome setting up the AutoCAD aliases via the acad.pgp file. This quick and easy interface makes it a snap.

For those of you who are new to AutoCAD, an alias is an abbreviation of a command. Some examples are L for Line and C for Circle. Since many of us still type in the commands rather then pick them from a toolbar or menu, these aliases are valuable time savers.

To add an alias, simply pick the Add button. You will be prompted for the Alias and the associated AutoCAD Command. To modify an existing alias, select the Edit button. Remove will eliminate an existing alias. All of these values are written out to the acad.pgp file for you. And to make it even more convenient, there's no need to reinitialize AutoCAD, the Alias Editor does it for you!

Here's a tip for you. Since there are some very long lists in the dialog box, you can get near where you need to be quickly by selecting anything and then typing in the first letter of the alias or the command.

Those of you old timers will remember the nifty SHELL command. This pre-Windows command lets us shell out to DOS and execute a variety of basic DOS commands. The Shell Tab in this dialog still permits you to add DOS and Windows commands.

System Variable Editor
(Jim Sudduth)

This command is available only from the pulldown menu and the command line.

This bonus tool is a nice way to assign system variables. The friendly System Variable Editor dialog displays with a brief description of each system variable. I wish it would let you select only among valid values for each variable (hint hint). That would make this command extremely valuable.

If you change your system variables often, you can save them out to an SVF file with this command. An existing file automatically gets installed in the BONUS directory and contains the standard AutoCAD settings. The Help file issues a friendly warning to notify you that you'll lose your current settings if you restore the selected variable file.

Dim Export and Dim Import
(Kurt Chase)

This command is available only from the pulldown menu and the command line.

Though it can be a time-consuming undertaking, setting up proper dimension styles is very important to AutoCAD. After you go to this trouble, unfortunately, there is no easy mechanism to transport these styles to another drawing. Enter the DIMEX and DIMIM commands. DIMEX uses a dialog box, to save your Dimension style to the hard drive; DIMIM brings the style into another drawing. The file created by this process is a DIM file (no points for originality here). You can also save Text Style information in the DIM file if you so choose (a clever bonus).

Note: I definitely noticed that the last few commands in the Bonus pulldown menu didn't rate high enough to get their own toolbar icon-not in my book, though.

Whew! I thought I'd never make it through all of the Bonus tools.

Now for the Easter Egg I promised in the first column of this series. Go to the Bonus pulldown menu and select About Bonus.

In the center of the letter o of the word Bonus you'll find a red dot. Click on the red dot and you'll find the Easter Egg!

I hope you've enjoyed this tour through the awesome Bonus Tools of R14. A special thanks goes out to all the people who contributed to these great routines.

AutoCAD Tips!

Lynn Allen

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!
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