First Look Review: SmartBLOCKS for AutoCAD

19 May, 2006 By: Patrick Davis

Mask drawing objects without all the work.

SmartBLOCKS for AutoCAD
Pros: Quickly masks drawing objects; works with multiple versions of AutoCAD.
Cons: Similar drawbacks to Wipeout command; for example, the draw order must be set to Front for the SmartBLOCK to display properly.
Price: Ranging from £5.99 and £7.99 (approximately US$11 to $15) per set of SmartBLOCKS.


Wouldn't it be nice to define blocks that automatically masked drawing elements behind them? Think of the time and money that could be saved. Luckily, SmartBLOCKS for AutoCAD can do just that.

Users can insert and manipulate SmartBLOCKS just like normal AutoCAD blocks. The difference is that SmartBLOCKS can mask or hide drawing elements behind the SmartBLOCK that wouldn't normally be visible, without trimming or erasing those elements. As long as users don't explode a SmartBLOCK, it can be moved around the drawing using normal AutoCAD commands without affecting the underlying drawing.

Here's a sample AutoCAD drawing with a SmartBLOCK car and man inserted, masking the geometry behind them.

SmartBLOCKS work similarly to the AutoCAD Wipeout command. As long as the SmartBLOCK is on top -- that is, the draw order of the SmartBLOCK is set to Front -- the SmartBLOCK object works properly. If a user draws new objects on top of a SmartBLOCK, those new objects aren't hidden by the SmartBLOCK. Unlike AutoCAD Wipeout objects, SmartBLOCKS function properly across different AutoCAD versions.

You can purchase a limited number of SmartBLOCKS of vehicles, trees and people from the company's Web site. As a service, the company also converts existing block libraries into a SmartBLOCK library. Pricing for this service varies greatly based on the complexity and number of blocks. Contact the company directly for details.

Using SmartBLOCKS requires no special software: Users just copy them where other blocks are stored. SmartBLOCKS are compatible with all full versions of AutoCAD 2000 and higher and AutoCAD LT 2004 and higher.

If you spend a lot of time inserting and trimming objects such as trees, cars and people to dress up drawings, then an investment in SmartBLOCKS will definitely pay off in saved time and money.

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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