Circles and Lines: Tackling Text in AutoCAD 2006

15 Jul, 2005 By: Lynn Allen Cadalyst

Have our dreams finally come true?

For the past three releases of AutoCAD, MText has promised to be WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get). But we all know that wasn't exactly true! The text displayed in the MText dialog box and what we actually ended up with in our drawings were not always the same (making for a great betting game). The frustration continued when we needed a specific outcome but couldn't figure out how to achieve it (since the dialog box didn't always display the actual result). AutoCAD 2006 finally got it right -- what you see is REALLY what you get now ( I promise!).

AutoCAD 2006 also includes a couple of nice additions to the MText command (even a couple of changes to the standard Text/DText commands). Since annotation is inevitable in every discipline, let's review.

Pan and Zoom
The first clue that the new MText command is truly WYSIWYG is the fact that you can pan and zoom while in the editor. The editor displays at the exact location of your text as opposed to that mystery location it often appeared in previous releases (figure 1). You might also notice that Mtext looks more like Microsoft Word. Now you have quite a few more options in the MText editor tools.

Figure 1. The MText command includes many improvements like true in-place text editing.

Auto Lists
One of the biggest improvements to the MText command is its ability to add bullets, letters and numbering. It's even smart enough to permit deleting or adding of numbers to an existing list. You can even restart the list along the way! For those of you who have fought with MText when creating your own manual list, you're going to love the time this new feature will save you.

To take advantage of this shiny new feature, simply select the bullets or numbering tools in the MText editor, and you'll see that the desired bullet, number or letter with display. You can also highlight existing text to get the same results (figure 2). Try deleting an item from the list, and you'll experience the automatic numbering compatibility (which occasionally has a mind of its own). And on a slightly different note, hopefully you've discovered that you can stretch the ruler bar at the top to dynamically change the width of the text (also shown in figure 2). And of course you can still add in those great tabs and indents into the ruler bar.

Figure 2. The new automatic numbering makes it easy to create lists.

New Symbols
A few new symbols (figure 3) were also added to the MText symbol list in AutoCAD 2006 (which is so much easier than playing that search-through-the-character-map game). The initial length symbol, as well as cubed and squared, were added by popular demand. If you don't know what the initial length symbol is, I'm guessing you don't need it! (But figure 4 displays it anyway.) You're much more likely to use the initial length symbol while dimensioning.

Figure 3. MText's symbol list includes a few new symbols.

Figure 4. The new initial length symbol in AutoCAD 2006.

Text Formatting
You'll see many new additions to the text formatting toolbar too. Now it's easy to control the justification after the fact (left, right, center) as well as the vertical positioning of the text (top, bottom or middle). A new Insert Field button makes it easy to add in one of the powerful new field objects that came out in AutoCAD 2005 (also available from the right-click menu). Also new are the text width (width of each character) and tracking (distance between each character) values for absolute control of the text spacing. Overlining, the @ symbol and obliquing angle were added as well as the ability to turn off the ruler bar if it's bothering you (but why would you?).

Text Masking
For those of you who skipped over AutoCAD 2005, you'll find the new textmasking capabilities a nice addition to MText. Now you can easily apply a background mask to text making it easier to see. Simply highlight the text, and select Background Mask from the shortcut menu (figure 4). You can control the distance around the text the mask covers, as well as the mask color (you will typically want to use the background color). And magically as you move the text around, the mask will kindly follow, masking anything it lands on top of. How do you get rid of the background mask after the fact? Simply reselect the text and uncheck Background Mask from the dialog box.

Figure 5. Adding a background mask can make it easier to visualize text strings.

You'll also see that everybody's favorite DText (or Text) command is also truly in-place editing. Now when you double click on existing text to edit its contents, you will be editing it in its exact location. This should also eliminate any needless surprises!

I think you'll find the new friendly MText and DText options make annotating your drawings just a little bit easier. No more hassles fighting with the MText editor to get exactly what you want, and the new additions give you much more flexibility. Now if only it could have an automatic spell check. Ahhh, we can only dream. . .

Until next month, Happy AutoCAD-ing!

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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